Elk Creek – 08/28/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Backcountry in Colorado

Elk Creek 08/28/2019 Photo Album

I fished this remote backcountry stream twice previously with the most recent visit on 08/06/2019. During that trip I hiked 2.1 miles from the trailhead, and after fishing for .4 miles I entered a canyon with very steep sides. In order to return I was forced to wade along the edge of the stream, until I reached my original entry point. Upon my return home I pulled out a topographical map and researched the area, and I noticed that the trail veered away from the creek at my starting point, and then after approximately .5 miles it made a big bend and merged back with the blue line that represented the creek. I concluded that I should have pressed on, and in doing so I would have intersected with the trail, and this would have enabled an easier return hike.

Since I was camping within a reasonable distance of Elk Creek, I concluded that this allowed for an early start, and if I moved at a steady pace, I could achieve my goal of fishing through the canyon to a point, where access to the trail made my return hike a relatively reasonable proposition. The most interesting aspect of my fly fishing outing on August 28 was the contrast between my plan and the circumstances that actually unfolded. The fishing was superb, and I will get to that later in this post, but first an account of my exit adventure from a remote high country stream.

I began fly fishing at the 2.1 mile mark, just as I did on 08/06/2019. As I planned, I moved at a steady pace, and by 2:30 I advanced beyond my farthest penetration on my last trip. The area that I entered was characterized as a massive boulder-strewn cascade with steep canyon walls on both sides. The only way to advance upstream was to clamber over the huge rocks, and the difficulty of this process was enhanced by the cold water that spilled and sluiced through the gaps in the high gradient setting.

Nymph Grab Under Roots

During the early phase of negotiating this terrain I paused at nearly every attractive plunge pool to fish, and the results were impressive; however after an hour of this I glanced at my watch and noticed that it was 3:30, and the boulders were not going away, and the canyon walls were not becoming more gentle. I was faced with attempting to press on to find the trail or reverse direction and wade back down the cascade to my entry point. I tend to be a very goal oriented person, so I opted to press on…for awhile.

The difficulty of this task swelled exponentially. The canyon narrowed, and this topography concentrated the water in the center of the boulder field, and the boulders became larger. I found myself, at times, climbing waterfalls. Fortunately I was wet wading, because my waders would have filled with water during many of my climbing maneuvers. On several occasions I placed my fly rod on top of a large rock, and then I used my arms to pull my body weight up to a point, where I could extend one of my legs to the crest of the rock and pull myself over the top. My net, wading staff and fly rod constantly wedged in crevices or snagged on sticks and branches, and this slowed my progress and added to my frustration. By four o’clock it became apparent that reaching the point where the trail bordered the creek would remain an unfulfilled goal. The cascade and waterfall stream structure was not changing as far as I could see, and the east wall of the valley that bordered the trail was unrelenting in its pitch. I surrendered to the backcountry and decided to reverse direction.

Up Close

Even this decision was fraught with downside. The waterfalls and cascades that I worked so diligently to climb now posed serious threats to my safety, as I slid down churning chutes and falls. Again I used the technique of lowering my body to within a couple feet of the water and then dropped the final distance to the creek bed, while water gushed against my backside. At one point I thought I found a place, where I could scale the steep angled bank, but after scrambling up the slope for ten feet, I realized that farther progress required me to traverse an extremely narrow ledge above a steep section of loose soil. I wisely came to my senses and gave up on this risky course of action.

Picture Perfect

Progress was slow, but I reminded myself that plenty of daylight remained, and I moved on with caution. Once again I stared at the east bank, and I found another place where the angle of the slope was less than other insurmountable places. The impediment to this path was a fifteen foot section that was quite steep, but if I could attain the crest, it appeared that the slope diminished beyond. I decided to give it a try, and I chose a line, where I could grip sturdy saplings and a curved tree stump to pull my weight upward, while I dug my toes into the loose ground. It worked! I crested the bank and anxiously peered upward to assess my next move. I was now committed to continuing the search for the official trail, since sliding back down to the creek was not a safe option.

Carrying Some Weight

Where to Cast First

My next obstacle was a large area covered with scrub oaks. Scrub oaks are low trees that rarely grow to a height of more that fifteen feet. They spread out and possess very stiff limbs with rough bark, and I began to wend my way through the forest of scratching, grabbing scrub oak trees. The coarse limbs poked me and clutched at my net and fly line, but I gradually found a path through the shortest of the obstinate trees. After fifty yards of strenuous ascent through the thick woods, I spotted some tall evergreens, so I veered to the right and managed my way through some taller oaks by holding my fly rod as high as possible above the branches and foliage. During this entire time I checked my hemostats, nipppers and floatant tube every few seconds to make sure they were not confiscated by the unrelenting brush.

Phew. A Handful

I made it to the tall evergreen trees, and they were situated in a small gully, and the tall trees apparently provided shade, and this reduced the density of the vegetation. I made a sharp left turn and proceeded upward through the depression for thirty yards until I once again crested a short bank and found myself in a clearing, and running through the center of the open space was the trail!

I heaved a sigh of relief and gulped ten swallows from my hydration bladder and began the return hike. I used my Garmin watch to clock the return trek, and I arrived at the trailhead parking lot after 2.5 miles. This meant that I only covered .4 miles during my upstream progression, and I faced a minimum of .2 miles, until I met the trail. I failed to incorporate climbing waterfalls and scrambling over huge boulders into my plan.

So Fine

Was the risk and strain of this adventure worth it? Allow me to return to the fishing. When I arrived at the stream after the inbound 2.1 mile hike, I configured my line with a tan pool toy, ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph. I spent twenty minutes prospecting the likely pools with these offerings and managed to land two small brown trout on the salvation nymph. Unfortunately these positive results were overshadowed by the frequent refusals and long distance releases that plagued the first twenty minutes on the creek. I was passing through quality water and had very little to show for my efforts.

I paused and decided to make an adjustment. I swapped the pool toy for a peacock hippie stomper and retained the salvation nymph in a single dropper set up. I hoped that the smaller stomper would be more acceptable to the small stream residents and additionally would not disturb the pools as readily as the size 8 pool toy hopper. The single nymph was a hedge in case the trout opportunistically favored subsurface food items. I am not sure whether my reasoning was sound, but I persisted with this lineup throughout the remainder of the day. I built the fish count to twenty-seven, and the species split was five rainbows and twenty-two brown trout. The hippie stomper and salvation nymph accounted for landed fish in roughly a 50/50 ratio.The catch rate was steady, and enough larger than average trout approached my flies to maintain my vigilant focus.

Mountain Ash Extends Over a Gorgeous Pool

Toward the end of the day I encountered a very deep plunge pool in the center of the boulder field. A large plume of water spilled over some large rocks and cut a deep frothy run through the center of the 15′ X 15′ pool. A small slow moving 4′ X 4′ eddy existed on the side nearest to me, and a more appealing shelf pool spanned out from the center run on the opposite side. I had my eye on that area as the prime fish holding location, but I decided to drop an obligatory short cast to the nearby eddy. The hippie stomper stalled in the eddy, and as I looked on, a huge head and mouth slowly appeared and drifted up to nip the foam attractor. I waited for a split second, and then lifted the rod and connected with the brown trout for a split second. I was certain that this fish was put down for at least a week by my premature hook set, but for some reason I dropped another cast into the tight pocket. No response confirmed my suspicions, but for some inexplicable reason I executed a few false casts and placed the hippie stomper back in the eddy. The same large head reemerged but at a somewhat faster pace, and a seventeen inch brown trout engulfed the size 14 peacock stomper. The large combatant put up a brief tussle within the confines of the small pool, before I hoisted it into my net. The fact that this trout ate a second time after being pricked on the first attempt indicates to me that fishing pressure is nonexistent on this backcountry stream. The image of this large brown trout in the tiny plunge pool still sends chills up my spine.

Wide Shoulders

But what about the size of the other landed fish? I landed six fat browns in the thirteen to fifteen inch range in addition to the big boy, and these were also impressive fish in the small stream environment. But what about the plunge pool and large boulder area? I landed nine fish from this type of stream structure, before I quit at 3:30, and this included the beast of a brown trout and most of the other larger browns. I suspect that fish in that area were seeing a fly for the first time. I am not sure if the results were worth the risk and extreme effort, but the fly fishing was superb and one of my best backcountry small stream outings during my many years.

Fish Landed: 27

Lake Creek – 08/27/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Backcountry

Lake Creek 08/27/2019 Photo Album

I began my hike to another high country stream never before fished at a trailhead that displayed a sign. I knew from my review of the topographical map that a trail followed the creek, and I assumed that the marker identified its starting point. After .4 mile, however, I encountered an extremely steep ascent on loose soil, so I backed up and retreated to the stream. Normally I favor hiking much farther from a trailhead, but my lack of familiarity with the area and my concern for safety dictated, that I violate the distance from parking lot doctrine.

Typical Section

I cycled through more than the normal number of flies during my day on the new stream, as I was unable to reach a combination that yielded confidence. For the surface component of my dry/dropper systems I experimented with a tan pool toy hopper and peacock hippie stomper. When I elected the solo dry fly approach, I tested a parachute green drake, Jake’s gulp beetle, and a user friendly green drake. For dropper nymphs I turned to the salvation nymph, beadhead hares ear, bright green go2 caddis pupa, ultra zug bug, and prince nymph. By far the most effective dry was the pool toy, and it was featured on my line on three separate occasions. The salvation duped a couple fish early as did the go2 caddis pupa. The prince produced a very memorable twelve inch brown trout that was tucked tight to an exposed boulder. The ultra zug bug yielded four trout during the afternoon when combined with the hopper.

Another Hopper Victim

Between 10AM and noon the fish count mounted to eleven, and at that point I broke for lunch. Most of the morning trout crushed the hopper or nabbed the salvation or go2 caddis pupa. The action was steady, but I moved at a fairly fast pace and only allocated three casts to most locations. For the most part the willing eaters emerged from expected locations that provided depth near cover.

Butter

After lunch I experimented with the hippie stomper. Although the hopper delivered fairly regular results, it also initiated a decent number of refusals. The hippie stomper performed well on my previous three stream visits, so I wanted to assure myself that I was not overlooking a very productive fly. After twenty minutes as the top fly with a prince nymph as a dropper, the stomper accounted for three fish, but it was not on fire, nor did it outperform the pool toy.

Yummy Hole

I revisited the hopper for improved buoyancy and visibility, and it proved its worth. The prince meanwhile produced a gorgeous brown, but then it ceased to contribute, so I replaced it with an ultra zug bug. By 2PM the sun was high overhead, and its impact raised the temperature to the mid-80’s. It seemed that the fish took siestas, as I suffered through my longest dry spell.

The Fly Savored

My confidence was ebbing, as the fish count stalled at eighteen, so I decided to try some alternative dry flies. I speculated that something smaller might be more in favor. I began with a Jake’s gulp beetle, and it produced a small brown in a marginal spot along the edge, but some drifts through quality runs failed to produce, so I made another change. I opted for an olive size 14 stimulator, and it also contributed a couple fish, but it faltered in some prime spots and got waterlogged.

Attractive Water Ahead

It was at this time, that I observed a solitary green drake, as it slowly fluttered up from the creek. Since I was in a slow period, I had nothing to lose and knotted a parachute green drake to my line. Voila! The fish liked my move, and four additional trout found a home in my net. The parachute also sopped up water; and, in fact, the last fish gulped the mayfly imitation after it sank. I decided to try a user friendly green drake, since it possessed a foam strip for buoyancy, and it added a small brown, but then a small wave of refusals ensued. I stuck with the green drake theme a bit longer, and switched back to a fresh parachute, but suddenly the trout were not interested in the large olive mayflies.

Let Me At It

For a third time I elected to drift the pool toy hopper, and the ultra zug bug was my choice as the dropper. I approached a very deep triangular pocket in front of an exposed boulder and dropped three casts in the center. All were ignored but not the fourth. No sooner had the hopper splashed down, when a missile of a trout exploded on the foam terrestrial. I set the hook and immediately realized that the object attached to my fly was the best fish of the day. It raced back and forth, but fortunately never left the small pool, and after some tense moments I lifted its head into my net. There before me rested a fifteen inch cutbow that possessed ample weight. This was number twenty-five and a fitting exclamation point on a fine day of fishing.

Only Fish That Was Not a Brown

I managed one more medium size brown, and then my watch displayed 3:30PM, and I was unsure of my exit strategy. Finding a way out of remote fishing locations has become a repetitive theme on my backcountry adventures. I angled up a relatively steep but short bank that consisted of loose soil. When I arrived at the top, I proceeded at a ninety degree angle from the stream through some spaced trees and brush, until I arrived at a clearing. Miraculously I spotted a defined trail, and I followed it for .8 mile through pinon pine, juniper and sagebrush vegetation, until I met the creek just below the road. The trailhead was unmarked and fifteen yards below the sign, where I began my morning hike.

Stimulator Eater

The fisherman trail involved a stream crossing, but I now know where to embark on my next visit to Lake Creek in order to gain deeper penetration into the backcountry. I landed twenty-six trout on Tuesday, and all except the cutbow were brown trout. The brown tally included a pair of fat thirteen inchers, four twelve inch beauties, and the remainder were in the eight to eleven inch range. I felt like the fish density lagged other comparable small streams; but this may have been influenced by the sunny hot day, the more wary nature of brown trout, and my failure to hike deeper and away from an area that probably receives heavier fishing pressure. Now that I know the path logistics, I am anxious to give the newly discovered creek another try.

Fish Landed: 26

Beaver Creek – 08/26/2019

Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: .8 mile from the trailhead and then upstream for .4 mile

Beaver Creek 08/26/2019 Photo Album

I set out on my three day two night camping/fishing trip with guarded optimism. I planned to camp and fly fish on three different backcountry high elevation streams, and two would be first time exploratory ventures. I was working with minimal information, and that always elevates the risk of such undertakings; however, positive results make such remote excursions even more gratifying.

I made my first stop on Monday at small and tumbling Beaver Creek, and I am pleased to report, that it was an unqualified success. The weather was bright and sunny and very warm with the high temperature close to ninety degrees, and landing a decent quantity of fish in these challenging weather conditions was a testimony to a productive stream.The creek was very clear, and I had no basis for comparison, but it seemed that flows were nearly ideal.

Nice Depth on a Small Stream

I began fishing with at 11:45AM, and I landed a pair of rainbows, before I found a nice space for lunch at 12:05PM. I was off to an auspicious start. My quest for trout began with a solo peacock hippie stomper, but after lunch I sensed that I was passing through productive water with no positive results. In response I added a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph, but this combination was too long and cumbersome in the narrow and tight quarters of Beaver Creek. I responded by taking a break from scrambling over boulders and logs and removed both nymphs and then knotted a salvation two feet below the hippie stomper. The two fly dry/dropper began to produce, and the fish count mounted to eight fish, when a small fish somehow separated the two flies from my leader. I suspect an old abraded knot was the cause.

Pleased With This One

I Did Not Overlook the Foam

I was not anxious to sacrifice another peacock stomper, so I tried one with a silver ice dub body. This hippie stomper remained on my line for most of the afternoon, and since I was building my lineup anew, I replaced the lost salvation with an ultra zug bug. I was convinced that the small stream residents were not choosy, and my thought process was subsequently validated. The fish count advanced to twenty-two, and by 3PM the shadows grew, and I struggled to track the hippie stomper in the alternating glare and shade. I reacted by replacing the hippie stomper with a Chernobyl ant, and the yellow foam indicator was marginally easier to follow, but the large terrestrial was not as popular with the trout.

Emerged from Beneath the Froth

Once again I initiated a change, and I sought a fly that was large and visible, and the choice became a size 10 tan pool toy hopper. I soon rued my failure to go this route sooner. A couple rainbows aggressively crushed the hopper, and then a nice trout mauled the terrestrial in a very attractive deep pool. After I set the hook, the fish immediately streaked under a large rock and wrapped me around some submerged logs. I was unable to retrieve the flies intact, and they broke off.

Scarlet on This Larger Than Average Bow

Most of the late action was on the hopper, so I replaced the lost foam top fly with another and skipped the dropper. The last hopper accounted for two trout before four o’clock arrived, and a very steep side wall on the trail side gave me concerns about my ability to return.

Tight Quarters for Casting

Beaver Creek was a clear success. I landed twenty-seven trout, and I estimate five were brook trout and twenty-two were rainbows. The rainbows were mostly in the 9-12 inch range, and a couple of thirteen inchers were highlights.

Small Beauty

The day was not all easy pickings. I probably experienced as many long distance releases as fish landed. Quite a few fish nipped the dry fly but dropped off quickly, when I raised my rod to set. The tight quarters made executing a swift set difficult at times, and casting around branches and overhanging bushes was an ongoing challenge. Perhaps the greatest hurdle to success was simply wading. I frequently adopted the position of a contortionist in order to move under, over, and around stream obstacles. I never fell into a confident rhythm, yet the catch rate was steady, and I was pleased with the results for a first time visit.

Fish Landed: 27

South Boulder Creek – 08/24/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/24/2019 Photo Album

My son, Dan, and I planned a rare fishing outing for Saturday morning, August 24. Dan is at the stage of his life, where he constantly juggles competing priorities, so a day on the stream with him is time to treasure. I offered Dan several options for fly fishing destinations, and he quickly chose South Boulder Creek. This was music to my ears, since I was itching to return after a fabulous visit on August 15. Green drakes were on the menu, and I was fairly confident that they would remain a significant food source for South Boulder Creek trout.

Dan and I met near the intersection of Coal Creek Canyon Road and CO 93, and we car pooled to the upper kayak lot below Gross Reservoir. We quickly put on our gear and assembled our rods and hit the trail. I chose my Orvis Access four weight to minimize arm and shoulder fatigue. Six other vehicles were parked in the kayak lot, so we knew that we would enjoy the company of other anglers.

Amazing Place

The flows were 117 CFS, and although higher than ideal, they were lower than at any time over the recent months. The sky was overcast, and this resulted in an air temperature in the low sixties, when we departed; however, by noon the sun burned through, and the air temperature soared into the eighty degree range.

Dan Begins His Day

By 10AM Dan and I were situated in the stream and ready to pursue hungry trout. Dan progressed along the north bank of the creek, while I cast to the left side. I suggested that Dan begin with a parachute green drake, and I provided him with three of my winter ties. I watched as he hooked and landed a pair of small browns, but the drake failed to generate interest in some very attractive runs, so I opted for a dry/dropper approach. I knotted a tan pool toy hopper to my line for excellent visibility, and beneath the large foam fly I added a prince nymph and a salvation nymph. These two flies were intended to imitate the nymphal stage of green drakes and pale morning duns.

Another Wild Brown Trout

Very Fine Rainbow Joins the Parade

By 11:45 I recorded eleven landed trout, and Dan was in the five range. The action was decent but not as intense, as that which I experienced during the morning on August 15. The prince nymph and salvation accounted for all my fish in roughly equal proportions. Unfortunately our lunch break occurred on a stretch of the stream, where it was narrow and high velocity, and this prevented us from crossing to eat together. Dan found a nice perch high above the creek, while I occupied a 5′ X 5′ flat rock along the south bank.

So Green

Green drakes had not made an appearance by the time I finished munching my lunch, but I decided to join Dan in prospecting the large mayflies with the hope that the trout possessed long memories. Ironically Dan observed my higher paced action before lunch, and he converted to a dry dropper with a fat Albert and prince nymph! I suppose this is an example of the “grass is always greener” adage. I landed a few trout on the parachute green drake in the early afternoon, but Dan went on a tear and jumped his fish count to nine.

Magazine Cover

Happy Fisherman

I was disappointed in the performance of the green drake, and naturals were absent, so I reverted to the dry/dropper technique. Unlike the morning, however, I switched the pool toy to a peacock hippie stomper, and I substituted a hares ear for the prince nymph. I hedged my bets a bit with the peacock hippie stomper, as it is a reasonable approximation of a green drake. Only the width of the body and the peacock color represent a slight deviation from the user friendly green drakes, that I tied over the winter.

Salivating for a Shot at This Pool

Between 12:30PM and 3:00PM Dan and I migrated upstream, and we each enjoyed steady success. Most of Dan’s landed fish snatched the prince nymph, so perhaps my relegation of that fly to my fleece wallet was premature. I, on the other hand, incremented my fish count to twenty-five, and the hippie stomper and salvation nymph were equally effective. I was particularly pleased with several chunky twelve and thirteen inch rainbows, that slashed the stomper; but some deep butter-colored brown trout were also appreciated.

Width and Spots

Speckles Galore

By three o’clock we approached an area where the creek narrowed between large boulders, and the character of the stream converted into deep pockets and large plunge pools. By now a few natural green drakes made an appearance, but we only noted a random rise or two. We decided to circle around the narrows, and we quickly moved upstream to a gorgeous pool. The main current divided the pool in half, and very attractive shelf pools beckoned our flies on each side. As I gazed upon the alluring pool in front of us, several lumbering olive mayflies elevated skyward, and this observation was accompanied by a burst of splashy rises along the main current seam as well as within the side pools. Needless to say our heart rates elevated, as this scene unfolded. Dan and I each began with parachute green drakes, but the fish continued to feed with no regard for our low riding slender imitations.

Scene of Green Drake Hatch

I decided to switch to a more robust green drake model and chose a size 14 comparadun with a maroon thread ribbing. This fly possesses a very full deer hair upright wing, and I speculated that it might be a key triggering characteristic. Once the comparadun was on my line and amply dabbed with floatant, I lobbed a cast to the shelf pool on the left. Thwack! A thirteen inch rainbow trout gulped it like candy. I was very pumped at this turn of events. I quickly sopped the moisture from the body of the comparadun, dipped it in dry shake and flicked off the white residue. My fly was back in floating condition, and I dropped a second cast to the left side of the main current seam. Wham! The second thirteen inch rainbow actually raised its head above the water and ate the fly on its way down. What a visual! I managed to guide another thrashing pink striped fighter into my net.

Dan was a keen observer of these developments, and he switched to a comparadun as quickly as he could. I ceded the left side of the stream to him and moved to the right. The right side contained a large exposed boulder, and a portion of the creek curled around the large rock and then flowed into a shallow pool, before it merged once again with the main channel. I focused on the trout in the shallow right pool section, but these fish were more educated or more than likely obtained a better look at my fly due to the slower and smoother water.

A Jewel

As I suffered through some ignominious refusals, Dan’s comparadun caught fire, and he landed a batch of eager feeders from the full length of the shelf pool on the left. I surrendered to the picky eaters in the shallow pool and turned my attention to the faster current to the right of the center run. This ploy paid off, and I landed two more trout to jump the fish count to twenty-nine. The rises ceased on my side of the stream, and Dan had more prime water to cover, so I waded to shore and circled around to two nice pockets above the main pool. In these locations I was able to net two additional trout, while Dan concluded his assault of the left shelf pool. By 4:15PM we encountered less attractive water, and we realized that time rushed by, so we resumed our return hike to the car.

Hook Removal

Wow, what a flurry of action at the main pool between 3:15PM and 4:15PM! This was exactly the scenario that I hoped for but never dared to expect. Dan experienced the excitement of casting large mayfly imitations to ravenously feeding fish, and he loved it. It is hard to adequately describe the intensity and adrenaline rush that accompanies a scene headlined by large hatching insects, eagerly feeding trout, and an angler with the correct imitation. In my mind it is the zenith of fly fishing, and the scenario that keeps bringing me back.

Fish Landed: 31

Cache la Poudre River – 08/23/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Lee Martinez Park in Ft. Collins

Cache la Poudre River 08/23/2019 Photo Album

Sometimes being flexible is a necessity in the world of fly fishing, and today was one of those occasions. I enjoyed an excellent session on South Boulder Creek last Thursday, and after a somewhat disappointing outing on the Taylor River on Tuesday, August 20, I was anxious to return to the nearby tailwater below Gross Reservoir. I tentatively scheduled Friday, August 23 to be that day.

On Thursday I texted my son, Dan, and suggested that we do a joint fishing adventure before the weather turned cold, and he replied back that Saturday, August 24 was a good time for him; since Ariel, my daughter-in-law, had to work. Furthermore when I presented him with several destination options, he chose the relatively nearby South Boulder Creek. Not wanting to fish South Boulder Creek on back to back days caused me to reconsider my plan, and I decided to return to the Cache la Poudre River in the canyon west of Ft. Collins.

I packed most of my gear the night before and departed from Denver just before 8AM, and this allowed me to reach the lower end of Poudre Canyon by 9:30. Unfortunately as I approached a ninety degree bend just below the diversion structure, I was forced to stop at the end of a long line of stalled vehicles. I was perplexed by this turn of events, as I did not encounter any road construction signs in advance of the halted traffic. I waited for fifteen minutes, as the backup increased behind me, and several passengers jogged ahead to determine the cause of the traffic stoppage. I was by myself, so I was reluctant to leave the car unattended, and I was out of cell range, so information from that valuable resource was unavailable as well. Quite a few of the passengers returned and climbed into cars, and they then executed U-turns and reversed direction.

I decided to cut my losses, and I followed the other cars with a reversal and decided to return to Lee Martinez Park in Ft. Collins. I fished the area once several years ago with my friend, Trevor, so I had some familiarity. In addition Trevor adopted the town section of the Poudre as one of his favorites, and he is a trusted evaluator of quality water.

By the time I drove back to Ft. Collins, parked, assembled my Sage four weight, and walked to the river, it was 10:30AM. Cloudy overcast skies gave way to bright sunshine, and 71 degrees quickly elevated to the upper seventies. The river was very clear, and the flows were in the 100 to 200 CFS range. I struggled to recall the path to the pedestrian footbridge, where Trevor and I began the last time, so I began hiking on a concrete path in a westward direction. After a short jaunt of .3 miles, I spotted a wide dirt trail that appeared to angle toward the river, so I made the turn and arrived at a high bank next to the Poudre. From this vantage point I could see the footbridge, so I returned to the wide dirt path, and in a short amount of time I crossed the bridge.

A young woman was seated on the bank next to the river just below the bridge, and as I ambled to a position on the bank, she remarked that she could see fish in front of her position. I decided to begin my attempt to hook one of the notoriously picky eaters with a size 18 black parachute ant, and as I knotted the small terrestrial to my line, I asked the young lady if she could see what the fish were eating. I was actually teasing her, and she laughed and replied that she was unable to see that well.

I began fishing to a spot twenty feet below the bridge, where several concentric rings appeared, but the ant represented no attraction to the feeding trout. Next I turned my attention to a pod of rises thirty feet below me, and despite some well placed drag fee downstream drifts, the lower fish also ignored my tasty offering. I was in danger of squandering valuable time on the selective feeders, so I decided to move on to some faster water. In the process of casting to the lower dimples I slid down the bank into very deep water that covered my legs up to the mid-thigh level. Now I was faced with the task of extricating myself from a difficult position. I found a toe hold for my left foot and then searched for something to grab in order to pull my weight up, and as I was doing this, my new found friend offered to help pull me up! As she made the offer; however, I found a solid exposed tree root that I could grasp, and I quickly muscled my torso up and forward to a standing position atop the bank. This was yet another example of the need for flexibility in fly fishing.

Deep Run Over Dark Green Bottom Produced the First Brown Trout

I now migrated upstream past the footbridge and above the huge slow moving pool to some faster water that deflected off the opposite bank. I made a few casts with the tiny parachute ant, but it failed to attract interest, so I shifted gears to a dry/dropper configuration. I hoped that the fish were interested in a larger piece of meat, and I noticed quite a few grasshoppers in the tall grass on my way to the river, so I tied on a tan pool toy hopper. Beneath the foam terrestrial I added a beadhead hares ear nymph, and I knotted a salvation nymph after that workhorse fly .

Number One with Sparse Spot Pattern

I began to probe the deep run along the far bank, and on the sixth cast the hopper dipped, and I landed the first fish of the day, a nine inch brown trout. It was small, but at least I was on the board. For the remainder of the morning I progressed up the river, until I approached a bridge that had CFS markings on the concrete support along the north side of the river. During this late morning time period I added three rainbows to the count. The largest at thirteen inches crushed the pool toy, a twelve incher snatched the salvation nymph, and a smaller bow nipped the hares ear. All these trout emerged from a stretch that I was about to skip. The water was characterized by a wide riffle with a depth of no more than three feet, but the rainbows were there, and they responded to the dry/dropper presentation.

A Rainbow with Bright Red Fins

Another Respectable Rainbow

Just before the aforementioned bridge with water level markings, two women dressed in pioneer garb were seated in front of easels, and they concentrated on painting their landscape scene. I was tempted to ask whether I was part of their scene but then thought better of it. I stopped on the west side of the bridge and savored my lunch break content with the knowledge, that I registered four trout in 1.5 hours of morning fishing.

How Accurate Is 200 CFS?

By now the sun was sending down strong rays from its position high overhead, and my choice of wearing waders was looking questionable. I also sensed that the toughest part of my fishing day was just ahead. I continued to move up the river with the dry/dropper, but I was disappointed to land only two small trout over the next hour in spite of covering quite a bit of the river. One of the fish was a rainbow, and the other was a brown, and both barely exceeded my six inch minimum. My confidence sank in direct proportion to the rising temperature.

The Top Left Part of This Run Produced a Nice Brown Trout

At 1:30 I arrived at a gorgeous long deep run that fanned out to a nice riffle of moderate depth. I was certain to resume my fish catching ways, but in spite of thorough coverage, I was unable to connect with a fish. Just above the long run and riffle the main channel of the river deflected against some large exposed boulders that were placed there for stream improvement purposes. At the end of the line of rocks the river spread out a bit and tumbled over some submerged rocks. I paused to assess this section as a possible casting target, when I heard a voice from the top of the bank. A park worker was emptying the trash can, and he asked me how my fishing was going. I replied that I landed six fish so far, but it was slow going particularly the last thirty minutes. He responded that he fishes in the canyon and never fished in town, and I related my intention to fish there as well and told him of the traffic block and my subsequent presence next to him.

Displayed for a Small Girl on the Bank

At this point I directed his attention to a very narrow slot between the rocks fifteen feet to my right, and I remarked that it was a marginal spot, but not unlike some places that yielded rainbows earlier. I asked, if he would cast there, but it was somewhat of a rhetorical query, and before he could respond, I unhooked my flies and flipped a cast to the top of the slot. Two more cast failed to produce, but the fourth landed in a perfect position at the center of the narrow deep spot and just as the hopper arrived at the very tail, it paused, and I responded with a quick hook set. Almost simultaneously with my instinctive set, the man above me shouted, “you got him!” I quickly netted the fine thirteen inch wild brown trout, and I was very pleased with this sudden dose of good fortune. I was even more proud of the expert fly fishing demonstration, that I performed for the onlooking park service worker.

13 Inch Brown Caught with the Park Worker As a Witness

Unbeknownst to me a couple passed by and saw my bent rod, and as I was turning on my camera, the man asked if I could hold the fish up so “she” could see it. I only saw his wife on the bank high above me, and I agreed to display it, after I snapped a photo. While I struggled to get a grip on the brown trout, the couple retreated, so they were next to me, and now I noticed a small girl, so I held the trout for a few extra seconds, before it squirmed free and returned to its river home.

Again I moved up the river, and my next encounter was with a young man wet wading in his shorts. We exchanged greetings and shared what flies were working, and he invited me to prospect the next nice moderate riffle section above him. He mentioned that he caught six there the previous evening during a caddis hatch. I thanked him for allowing me to move in above him and moved on to the attractive stretch. Unfortunately it produced only a four inch brown trout, and I again moved on to the next similar wide riffle section of moderate depth.

In this area I gradually moved from the bottom to the top and thoroughly covered the likely feeding lanes with long casts. Toward the top as the hopper drifted through a bump in the center of the run, a loud gulp sound was accompanied by a splashy refusal. My heart stopped momentarily with this surprise interest from a likely larger than average fish, so I decided to try a different dry fly. I removed the dry/dropper components and knotted a red hippie stomper to my line. I was unable to coax further interest from the loud refuser, but miraculously on the sixth upstream cast to the top of the riffle the stomper disappeared, and I quickly landed a nine inch rainbow trout. Shortly after this fortuitous turn of events in the midst of the warm afternoon, I noticed a fleet of college age women in flotation devices, and they slowly drifted in my direction. It was two o’clock, and I decided to exit before the splashing women arrived.

I climbed up the short bank and walked along the south pathway with the intention of returning to the parking lot, but when I arrived at the wide dirt path, I decided to take another look at the large pool by the footbridge. It was a few minutes after 2PM, so plenty of time remained to renew my efforts.

Zoomed on the Mouth

When I arrived at the footbridge, I was pleased to notice, that I was the only fisherman. I once again took my position on the high bank thirty feet below the bridge, and this was nearly the same spot that I occupied upon my arrival in the morning. In another similarity to the morning experience rises appeared twenty feet below the bridge as well as in the center of the pool thirty feet below my position. I covered both sets of surface feeding dimples with the red hippie stomper, but my casts were fruitless. I suspected that the trout were sipping tiny midges in the surface film, so I added a Griffiths gnat on a six inch dropper behind the hippie stomper. When I completed the addition, I cast the duo of dry flies to the upper fish, but the drift yielded no response, so I allowed the flies to continue directly across from me.  Suddenly I saw two fish, as they raced toward my flies, and I was shocked to see the larger one crush one of my flies, and I assumed it was the Griffiths gnat. I quickly set the hook and realized that the brown trout on the end of my line was the best fish of the day. When I netted it, I was very surprised to determine, that it smashed the red hippie stomper, and it was a solid thirteen inch wild brown.

Stretched Out

I continued my efforts to fool the wily pool feeders for another fifteen minutes, and I swapped the hippie stomper for a Jake’s gulp beetle, but by 3:15PM I concluded that double digits was out of reach. I returned to the car with the fish count stalled at nine, but pleased with the memories and stories accumulated on a late August summer day. Flexibility served me well on the my trip to the Cache la Poudre River on August 23.

Fish Landed: 9

Lottis Creek – 08/20/2019

Time: 3:00PM – 4:30PM

Location: Near Lottis Creek Campground

Lottis Creek 08/20/2019 Photo Album

As I reeled up my line in a state of frustration with the slow fishing on the Taylor River, I decided that I was not ready to quit for the day, so I remained in my waders and returned to the campsite. I found Jane reading her book in the shade, and I informed her, that I planned to sample Lottis Creek for the remainder of the afternoon.

I ambled across the dirt road that leads to the South Lottis Creek Trailhead, and then I continued through some spaced bushes, until I intersected with Lottis Creek just below a beaver pond. I continued fishing with the yellow stimulator that remained on my line from the Taylor River, and it attracted the interest of a small brown trout in some riffles at the inlet to the beaver pond. When I moved above the pond, the stream morphed into a more normal fast flowing creek, and I switched to a size 10 Chernboyl ant and a beadhead hares ear nymph in an effort to create improved visibility.

Typical of the Water I Fished on Tuesday Afternoon

In the Sun

I persisted with this combination until 4:30PM, when I reached a cattle bridge that spanned the small waterway. During this time I fooled six additional trout with the hares ear, and they were all brown trout, with the largest approaching twelve inches. The successes were accompanied by quite a few refusals to the Chernobyl ant. The trout density was not great, as I covered a decent amount of stream real estate between hook ups. Although the fish were small, I enjoyed the fast paced action and the improved catch rate on the small tributary as compared to the larger fast flowing main river.

Fish Landed: 7

Another Decent Brown Trout

Taylor River – 08/20/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Between North Bank and Taylor Reservoir

Taylor River 08/20/2019 Photo Album

Normally in August I begin visiting tailwaters in Colorado, because the freestone rivers and streams warm to temperatures that make fishing harmful to the trout, and even in the best case scenario the fishing slows down considerably during the middle part of the day. During 2019 the deep snowpack and late run off translated to higher flows and excellent water conditions in August; however, I decided to shift to my normal routine of favoring high elevation streams and tailwaters.

Jane was anxious to complete another camping adventure, while summer temperatures remained in the comfortable zone, so we selected a trip to the Taylor River tailwater during the week beginning on August 19. Jane loves the Taylor and Fryng Pan destinations, because they are close to the towns of Crested Butte and Basalt, and these small mountain resort villages provide alternatives for her, while I fish.

When Jane and I undertake our camping trips, she and I spend a couple days hiking or cycling, and I am allotted a day of fly fishing, while she pursues other areas of interest. During our trip to the Taylor River area, we completed a four mile hike in the Fossil Ridge area on Monday, since it was a short detour from our route over Monarch Pass. On Wednesday we back tracked a bit to Crested Butte and completed the Lower Loop mountain bike trail and followed that up with a tasty lunch at Teocalli Tamale.

As you probably surmised,Tuesday was my fly fishing day. It was a bright cloudless sky all day on August 20, and the air temperature rose to the upper seventies. Flows were 405 CFS, when I checked before our departure, but they seemed higher, when I was actually faced with wading and fishing the river. I checked the flows on the DWR site upon my return to Denver, and they did in fact remain in the 405 CFS range. I am convinced that I enjoy more success on the Taylor River, when I fish the bank opposite the road, but when I attempted to make the crossing on Tuesday morning, I completed 80% of the journey, before I was intimidated by the swift flows and returned to my starting point. I suspect age has added additional caution to my thought process, and that is probably a sensibility that I should appreciate.

Nice Taylor River Shelf Pool

I began my day with a yellow fat Albert, prince nymph, and salvation nymph; and I fished for twenty minutes, before I finally landed a small brown trout. Red flags surfaced in my brain, but I convinced myself that the bottom release cold water made the river residents lethargic in the morning hours. I moved along quickly and covered a substantial amount of water, before I broke for lunch next to the car a bit after noon.

Best Fish of the Day

By this time the fish count was perched on four landed trout, and the tally included a chunky fifteen inch rainbow that proved to be the best fish of the day. During the morning I switched from the salvation to a hares ear and then an emerald caddis pupa. The prince nymph accounted for two brown trout, and the emerald caddis pupa registered the prize rainbow and another brown.

Prince Nymph Spent Time on My Line

After lunch I decided to experiment with a green drake. This ploy paid major dividends on the Cache la Poudre River and South Boulder Creek, and I knew green drakes were present on the Taylor River. I began with a green drake user friendly, and the foam fly generated a quick pair of refusals, and then it induced an aggressive slam from a chunky twelve inch rainbow trout. In the process of releasing the rainbow, the user friendly stabbed the little finger on my right hand, and I paused on a tiny island to find a bandage in my backpack and applied it to stop the bleeding. It was another example of my inability to establish a nice rhythm on Tuesday.

Unfortunately after my short first aid rest the user friendly ceased to be of interest to the river residents, so I converted to a peacock hippie stomper with an iron sally and salvation nymph. I was hopeful that the hippie stomper would be a reasonable approximation of a green drake, and the iron sally and salvation were hedges against yellow sally and pale morning dun emergences.

Emerald Caddis Pupa Fooled the Rainbow Trout

The salvation yielded three small brown trout between 12:30PM and 2:00PM. I moved upstream along the right bank and cherry-picked the obvious fish holding locales, but the catch rate was glacial, as the bright sun warmed the atmosphere, and insect activity was virtually nonexistent.

Between 2:00PM and 2:30PM I approached a very attractive long run and riffle, and I spotted a random rise. Almost simultaneously I saw the only natural green drake of the day, so I combined these factors and switched to a parachute green drake. My thinking was sound, but the parachute mayfly was rudely ignored, and this prompted me to try a size 14 yellow stimulator, since I observed a couple yellow sallies earlier. Again the fish treated my fly with disdain. At 2:30PM my confidence was at a low ebb, and I was bored, so I exited the river and returned to the car.

Tuesday on the Taylor River proved to be a challenging day. It would be easy to blame my mediocre success on my inability to cross the river; but in reality the bright sun, warm temperatures, and lack of available food organisms were probably the true reasons. I did manage to land a quality rainbow trout, and a second rainbow ripped off thirty yards of line, before it shed the hook, as I ineffectively scrambled to follow it down the river. The other seven fish were smallish browns with one or two extending to eleven or twelve inches. I experienced too many quality outings on the Taylor to rule it out after one off day, and I will surely return at some future date.

Fish Landed: 8

 

South Boulder Creek – 08/15/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/15/2019 Photo Album

Green drakes and South Boulder Creek were on my mind, as I planned another day trip for Thursday, August 15. I searched this blog using the key words, “south boulder creek green drakes August”, and I quickly found my post for August 9, 2018, and sure enough green drakes emerged with relative regularity between 3PM and 5PM on that date. During 2019 South Boulder Creek was steadily flowing in the 150 – 166 CFS range for most of July and August, and this level was higher than I prefer, but I reasoned that a green drake hatch would prompt the stream residents to move to the surface for their meal. I could not resist the urge to fish to the large western mayflies and decided to give South Boulder Creek a try at higher than preferred flows.

I got off to a reasonably early start, and after pulling on my waders and assembling my Sage four weight, I hit the trail at a steady pace, and I was able to arrive at the streamside by 10AM. Thursday was a warm summer day with clear blue skies throughout and very little cloud cover. I suspect the air temperature peaked in the low eighties, but I was immune to the heat, and in fact had to exit the stream several times to allow my frozen feet to thaw.

First Fish

I began my fly fishing exercise with a yellow fat Albert, size 12 prince nymph, and salvation nymph. I reasoned that the prince nymph was a close approximation of the green drake nymph, and the salvation imitated the nymph of pale morning duns. I was hopeful that these two mayfly species were active in the bottom release waters of South Boulder Creek.

Whether my theory was correct or not remains unknown, but I landed fifteen trout between ten o’clock and noon, and 75% grabbed the prince, while the remainder nabbed the salvation. I had an enjoyable two hours of solid action, as I popped the dry/dropper configuration to all the likely spots. Runs and pockets of moderate depth were the most productive; however, some very respectable brown trout emerged from some fairly shallow riffles. I am always amazed by the brown trouts’ ability to camouflage in these situations.

Melon Colored

I casually consumed my light lunch and pondered my next move. I spotted very little insect activity besides some tiny midges during the morning hours, and I wondered if the green drakes had made their seasonal appearance. I decided to experiment with one. I could always return to the dry/dropper should my test prove premature. I began with a size 14 2XL parachute green drake with a white turkey flat wing. I tied some of these over the winter and used the turkey instead of white poly to take advantage of the lighter weight.

Money in the Bank

My bold decision proved to be a winner. After a refusal on the first cast, the other stream residents inhaled the low floating drake with confidence. Between 12:15 and 4:00PM the fish counter soared from fifteen to forty. I frankly could not believe my good fortune. All twenty-five of the afternoon fish except for one gulped a green drake imitation, but the parachute version was not the only style used. It was the most popular, as fifteen were fooled by it, but six craved the user friendly version, and three mauled a comparadun. One aberrant trout slammed a size 14 yellow stimulator.

Convenient Rod Holder While I Release a Fish

By 2:30PM I began to observe quite a few golden stoneflies and yellow sallies, and I switched briefly to a size 14 yellow stimulator. One small brown trout crushed the heavily hackled dry fly to affirm my move, but then almost immediately I noted a flurry of rises. I placed casts of the stimulator in the vicinity of the rises, but it was totally ignored. In concert with the sudden surface feeding I noticed several large natural green drakes, as they fluttered up from the stream. A few pale morning duns also made an appearance to further confuse the situation. I concluded that the rises were attributable to the green drakes and returned to my dependable parachute style, but surprisingly the fish ignored it. How could this fly perform so well in the pre-hatch time period, and now prove ineffective?

Nice Width

I quickly swapped the parachute for a user friendly, and this fly duped one, but it also was then treated like inert debris. I carry four different styles of green drake in my fly box, so I dug in and plucked a size fourteen comparadun with no ribbing and knotted this variation to my leader. Voila! Three nice trout crushed the low riding comparadun with a prominent wing, and I was pleased to temporarily solve the riddle.

Zoomed on the User Friendly

Temporary was the key word, as the trout once again changed their preferences. I vacated the picky eaters and moved on. The comparadun body became waterlogged, and I reverted to the parachute style, and during my remaining time on the water, it served as my mainstay fly and enabled me to net a few additional trout to move the count to forty.

Double Pool Ahead

Thursday was a strong testament to the value of this blog, and more importantly to actually utilizing it to recall what was hatching and working at similar times of the season. I landed forty trout, and although many were in the six to nine inch size range, I also slid my net beneath a pair of thirteen inch rainbows and quite a few eleven to twelve inch brown trout. All the trout were extremely healthy, wild fish, and it was a pleasure to spray dry fly casts to the many prime spots and find willing takers. High stream flows are a secondary consideration, when strong hatches activate the appetites of the resident trout.

Fish Landed: 40

Cache la Poudre River – 08/13/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of the Narrows.

Cache la Poudre River 08/13/2019 Photo Album

The Cache la Poudre River reinforced itself as one of my favorite streams in Colorado. The fish are relatively small; but how can one not admire the canyon setting, the nearly endless miles of public access and the high density of fish? I was very anxious to pay the northern front range freestone a visit in 2019, and Tuesday, August 13 became that day.

I struggle to translate the DWR water gauge readings for the Cache la Poudre, but the fly shop reports were glowing; and my friend, Trevor, provided convincing testimony to the merits of making the trip. I departed my home in Denver a bit after 7AM and arrived at a paved pullout across from the river by 9:30AM. Traffic volume was a bit heavy, until I traveled north of suburban Denver. I glanced at the dashboard temperature reading, as I traveled west in the canyon and noted that it was 66 degrees, so I chose to wear my waders and new Korkers wading boots, although the air temperature eventually spiked to around 80 degrees.

Near the Start

The flows remained higher than normal for August 13, but I was actually pleased with the river conditions. High flows translate to colder water temperatures, and they enable closer approaches than are necessary at seasonally low summer flows. Clarity was excellent, and I marveled at the crystal clear water, as it tumbled over the many rocks and boulders in Poudre Canyon. The river conditions on August 13 reminded me of those that I generally encounter on July 13 in normal years.

Wild Poudre Brown

I chose my Sage four weight because of the higher flows, and when I was prepared, I sauntered down a bank across from the Santa Fe and began fishing. I knotted a yellow size 14 stimulator to my line and began to prospect likely fish holding areas, but I was unsuccessful in the first ten minutes, so I initiated a change. I swapped the stimulator for a peacock body hippie stomper and added a beadhead hares ear on a relatively long dropper. This combination produced results, and I landed two small brown trout that snatched the hares ear.

When I plucked the hares ear from my fleece wallet, I noted that my supply was shrinking, so I climbed the steep bank and returned to the car to restock from my boat box. When I arrived at the car, I decided to drive west closer to my anticipated exit point, but when I returned to the river, I realized that moving the car distracted me from my initial mission of augmenting the hares ear supply! I resumed fishing for a short distance, but then I once again scaled the bank and replenished my supply of hares ears in my fleece wallet.

Side Channel Yielded a Couple Trout

With the hares ear episode finally behind me, I returned to my last exit point and resumed my pursuit of Poudre trout. Ironically I concluded that the hares ear was underperforming, so I replaced it with a size 12 prince nymph and a salvation nymph. The hippie stomper, prince and salvation combination advanced my fish catching pace, and I attained twelve by the time I broke for lunch at 12:30PM. Most of the trout landed in the late morning time frame grabbed the salvation nymph, while a few outliers chose the prince. Just before lunch I executed some downstream drifts through a narrow seam, and a decent fish elevated and inspected the hippie stomper but turned away at the last instant.

Deep Pools Were Not Productive

As I munched my lunch, I pondered this situation and decided to convert to a parachute green drake. I knew from previous seasons that size 14 green drakes were present on the upper Cache la Poudre, but I was not certain whether they hatched during the high water of July or were delayed into August. The fly shop report did not mention them, so I assumed their time had passed. I also knew from past experience, that trout retain a long memory of the large olive colored mayflies, and I speculated that the refusals to the peacock hippie stomper were attributable to green drake lovers. The color and silhouette were close to a green drake, and this prompted a close inspection, before the fish decided that the profile and color deviated a bit from the naturals.

So Many Spots

I followed through on my idea and removed the dry/dropper components and tied a nearly perfect parachute green drake with a white turkey flat wing to my line. What a move this turned out to be! Between 12:30PM and 2:00PM I incremented the fish counter from twelve to twenty-four. A few refusals occurred, but more often than not a trout rose and slurped the parachute green drake with confidence. I also learned that most of the brown trout were holding tight to the bank in shallow to moderate water, and this observation enhanced the efficiency of my fishing. I mostly ignored all but the shallow edges of the river, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of willing eaters that emerged from fairly shallow riffles and runs very close to the bank. One might expect these to be diminutive dinks, but quite a few stretched to the twelve inch mark, and that is a respectable size for Cache la Poudre trout.

Love Those Pockets

Broke in the User Friendly Green Drake for a Pair of Trout

When I reached twenty-four landed fish, I was quite satisfied with my day, so I decided to introduce one of my Andrew Grillos user friendly green drakes to the local trout. I cast the foam enhanced green drake version for fifteen minutes, and it produced two trout, but the number of refusals increased dramatically compared to the more delicate and slender parachute green drake. By 2PM my count rested on twenty-six, and the bright sun warmed the air significantly. The riverbed narrowed, and I was pondering a change of scenery, when a group of three young fishermen appeared forty yards above me. The combination of the less desirable river structure and competing anglers motivated me to climb the bank and return to the car.

Several Trout Occupied This Run

I was not ready to quit for the day, so I drove west and crossed the bridge and parked in a single pullout above the river. I hiked back toward the bridge for .2 mile and then dropped down a short but steep bank. I resurrected the parachute green drake, and I began prospecting the pockets that were along the south bank of the river. The Poudre in this section was running faster than the area downstream, and this factor along with the preponderance of trees and branches arcing over the water made wading and casting a challenge. Some clouds and the angle of the sun created an annoying glare on the water, and this added to the challenge of tracking my fly in my new fishing stretch. I persisted and managed to land two additional brown trout on the parachute green drake, but when I reached the vertical rock wall just below the Santa Fe, I decided to call it quits. A quick glance at my watch confirmed it was 3PM, and I knew my return drive would overlap with Denver at rush hour.

User Friendly Duped This Rainbow

Twenty-eight fish on August 13 was a very successful day by my standards. Yes, the fish were small, with perhaps only one stretching to twelve inches, but hooking and landing sixteen on a green drake dry fly made it special. I never saw a green drake during my five hours on the water, so my assumption about long memories was probably accurate. A return to the Cache la Poudre River during this year of endless run off is a strong possibility.

Fish Landed: 28

Trout Creek – 08/07/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Backcountry area

Trout Creek 08/07/2019 Photo Album

I love the proximity to western streams and rivers attainable via camping, and on Tuesday and Wednesday I took advantage of this situation to fly fish in some small backcountry headwater streams. The large rivers remained higher than average due to the high snow pack and late run off, but I discovered that the smaller high elevation tributaries were transitioning into perfect conditions.

Asters in Their Prime

I arrived at the trailhead of my chosen destination by 9AM, and after assembling my Sage four weight, I pulled on my wading socks and wading boots for a day of wet wading. The temperature was in the low sixties, but I expected highs in the upper seventies, and my two mile hike was more comfortable without the discomfort of perspiration trapping waders. My choice proved to be a solid call, as I enjoyed the coolness of the cold mountain stream, while the air temperature soared to the upper seventies.

My Day Begins

I began my day at the bottom of a long narrow canyon section, where the trail veered away from the stream. Although the flows appeared to be nearly ideal, I was a bit concerned that the high gradient and slightly above average water level, would make wading a challenge and reduce the number of prime pools and pockets. This fear was realized to some extent, although I managed to land eighteen trout, and I safely reached the point where the stream rejoined the trail.

Fish Count Begins

I began my quest for wild trout with a tan pool toy hopper, and on the first cast an eleven inch brown trout rushed to the surface and slammed the terrestrial imitation. Was this an auspicious sign? I moved on with optimism flooding my consciousness, but that feeling was crushed in short order, when I set the hook on a refusal, and the hopper hurtled into an evergreen branch thirty feet above me. Retrieval was not an option, and I applied direct pressure to the line and popped off the first fly of the day.

Cutthroat

Between fish number one and my loss of the pool toy, I observed several refusals, so I used the break off as an opportunity to downsize. I replaced the hopper with a size 14 brown stimulator, and this fly renewed the interest of the resident trout. The fish count increased to four, but then the heavily hackled attractor became water logged, and I implemented another switch. I longed for a fly that did not require constant dipping in dry shake, so I knotted a size 10 Chernobyl ant to my line. The over sized ant, which I suspect the trout viewed as a beetle, accounted for a few fish, but I was prospecting quality pools with no response, so I once again made a change.

On Tuesday I lost two peacock body hippie stompers, so I was conscious of preserving my limited supply for later in the season; and, therefore, I experimented with a red version, and for the first time on the day I added a three foot dropper with an ultra zug bug.This combination worked for a bit, but I sensed that the zug bug could be improved upon, so I swapped it for a beadhead hares ear. The red hippie stomper and hares ear combination clicked, and the fish count climbed to fourteen before I paused for lunch in a gorgeous setting next to a spectacular pool.

Lunch Spot

As I munched my sandwich and carrots, my state of mind was very satisfied. The quantity of fish landed in the morning was above average, and the quality of the trout was excellent. Size was not a plus, as the largest extended to twelve inches, but the coloring and species variety were exceptional. I landed two cutthroats, a rainbow and a bunch of brown trout from the high country creek.

Wow

If the story ended here, I would be an ecstatic fisherman, but it continued. Between noon and 3PM, when I embarked on my exit hike, I added four trout to the tally. Advanced math skills are not required to calculate the ridiculously low catch rate over three hours of fishing. What happened? The main factor that I blame was the increased gradient of the section that I chose to fish. Much of my time and energy were invested in negotiating the cascading water and high rock walls, and the prime holding locations were minimal. Refusals and temporary hookups far outnumbered landed fish, and I am unable to explain that circumstance.

Screams Trout

By two o’clock I reached a point where the slope of the northern side of the canyon was manageable, so I executed an exit and found the trail. I hiked back toward the parking lot for another .5 mile, until I reached a nice meadow section. A guide and two anglers were present at the downstream end of the lower gradient stretch, so I passed them and cut over fifty yards upstream. I spent thirty minutes prospecting the wider and shallower section, and I added two brook trout to the mix. I welcomed the easier wading, but the downside to this luxury was smaller fish and fewer prime holding spots. I also suspect that the more easily accessible portions of the stream attract more fishing pressure. As with life, there are always trade offs.

Deeply Colored Brookie

By three o’clock I was quite weary from the obstacle course session in the canyon, and the small brook trout failed to hold my attention, so I exited and returned to the car. After an auspicious start in the morning, the mountain creek disappointed me in the afternoon. I registered a grand slam, but this accomplishment does not compensate for the three hours of slow fishing in the early afternoon. I may return later in the season, when flows are reduced; however, the effort may not support the potential, and the return trip decision hinges on alternatives.

Fish Landed: 18