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

 

Elk Creek – 08/06/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Backcountry location

Elk Creek 08/06/2019 Photo Album

Tuesday was another gorgeous August day in Colorado with a high temperature around eighty degrees. A night of camping in the high country at a national forest campground enabled me to get an early start to my chosen mountain stream fishing destination. A DWR water gauge was nonexistent for the headwater stream, and I gambled that flows were down to reasonable levels for fly fishing.

When I arrived at the trailhead parking lot, I quickly surveyed the creek and noted that it was very clear and a bit high, but my assessment suggested nearly ideal conditions. In short I was very excited for a day of high country fly fishing. I climbed into my waders and rigged my Sage four weight and departed on a hike to escape the parking area.

Width

After a reasonable trek to distance myself from presumably the more pressured stream section near the parking area, I picked a path down a short steep bank and prepared to fly fish. I began with a size 10 Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear, and almost instantly I was attached to three decent brown trout. Was I living a dream? This pattern of wading and prospecting with a dry/dropper continued throughout the day, and it was rare that I went more than ten minutes without a fish.

Yum Yum

Eventually the Chernobyl ant segued to a peacock body hippie stomper, and the stream residents quickly registered their satisfaction with the size 14 attractor pattern. The hares ear dominated the subsurface position on my line, but I also allocated time to an ultra zug bug and bright green sparkle caddis pupa. None of the alternatives performed up to the level of the hares ear. During the heat of battle I lost two peacock stompers and one silver to presumably bad knots, but sixty percent of the landed fish smashed the trendy surface attractor designed by Andrew Grillos.

Superb Colors

The day progressed as expected and registered high on my satisfaction meter. I methodically waded upstream and dropped casts in all the likely fish holding locales. While the peacock hippie stomper and hares ear nymph were in place, nearly every probable fish lair delivered positive results. I stopped for lunch, and the fish count rested on fourteen.

A Thing of Beauty

From 12:15 until 1:30 the creek was on fire. Nearly every cast resulted in a temporary or permanent hook up. I was frankly astonished by the trout density in the small mountain creek and more importantly their willingness to attack my flies. Brown trout predominated, but a decent number of rainbows surprised me with their presence. The ratio of browns to bows was probably 65/35.

Perfection

At 2PM I lost a third hippie stomper, and in an effort to preserve my supply for the remainder of the season, I cycled through a Jake’s gulp beetle and Chernobyl ant. Jake’s gulp beetle was treated with total disdain, and the Chernobyl accounted for a couple of additional trout. The catch rate lagged what I was accustomed to, so I revisited the hippie stomper with a red body color. It also contributed a few trout, but either the prime feeding period ended, or the red version was not as desirable, because I could not recreate the magic of the early afternoon.

Streamlined

Of course the day was not perfect. I lost seven flies and suffered an inordinate number of long distance releases. Several wrestling matches with trees were also part of the program, but that is an expected byproduct of small stream fly fishing.

Trout Haven

Overall, however, the adversity remained at a lower level than that which I suffered on Monday and was more than offset by the fast paced action. The size of the fish was also a plus with many brown and rainbow trout in the eleven to thirteen inch range. I will accept wild trout of that size in a small high elevation stream all day long. A return this season is a certainty.

Fish Landed: 32

Eagle River – 08/05/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle (11AM – 2PM); Edwards Rest Area (2:30PM – 4:30PM)

Eagle River 08/05/2019 Photo Album

Monday, August 5, 2019 was one of the more frustrating days of my many years of fly fishing. I suffered through nearly every imaginable negative during my 5.5 hours of fishing, and it is a miracle that I moved the fish counter to double digits.

Flows Lower but Still Edge Fishing

New Korkers Baptized

The first sign of bad karma was the feeling of cold water penetrating my left boot foot of my third pair of replacement waders. The sensation of a wet sock and sloshing water plagued me throughout my entire time on the river. I could not stop thinking about the impending hassle of obtaining a refund, that I could apply to the purchase of a different brand.

The second impediment to an enjoyable day on the Eagle River was the preponderance of long distance releases. I counted twenty-two trout hooked throughout the day, and I landed ten. My basic math suggests a success rate less than 50%. Of course the escapees in most cases were large and muscular trout, and this fact added to my frustration. I must admit that quite a few curse words were uttered during the heat of the battle.

A related hindrance to a satisfying day on the river was the loss of a significant number of workhorse flies. I recall severing three salvation nymphs, two iron sallies, and one bright green go2 caddis pupa.

Tangles were another negative feature of my day. The typical catapult release from a lost fish occurred several times, but several novel entanglements added to my variety of frustrations. I lost two flies while attempting to photograph a prize sixteen inch rainbow, and a subsequent tangle added insult to injury. In another episode of fly fishing slapstick I wrapped my line around my wading staff, legs and fly rod.

Although I managed to not fall in the river (I suffered a wet leg and foot due to the leak), I struggled through numerous near misses on the slimy round boulders that were positioned to trip an unsuspecting fisherman. On a positive note I did not incur injuries or break any equipment, so I suppose that is something to be thankful for.

The weather was reasonable, although bright sun lifted the air temperature to eighty degrees in the early afternoon. Flows in the area between Wolcott and Eagle, CO remained in the 700 – 800 CFS range, and this allowed for more comfortable wading, but my casts were largely confined to the slack water areas along the bank.

Easily the Best Fish of the Day

Between 11AM and 2:30PM I covered nearly the same stretch of water as my previous two visits to the Eagle River in 2019. I used a yellow fat Albert and added primarily an iron sally and salvation nymph. After I lost a second salvation, I substituted an ultra zug bug, and it delivered a small brown trout, but eventually I returned to the salvation. My best fish from the Wolcott – Eagle stint was a chunky sixteen inch rainbow, and I was quite pleased with the sag in my net, that it created. The other four landed trout were sub-twelve inchers. During the first phase of my day on the Eagle River I connected with twelve trout and only landed five. Needless to say I was extremely disappointed with this ratio, and several of the escapees were bruisers.

Classic Bank Pocket

When I moved to the Edwards Rest Area for the late afternoon session, the sky darkened and some raindrops prompted me to engage the windshield wipers, but the shower was brief. Flows at Edwards were in the 600 CFS range, and this necessitated strenuous wading and edge fishing.

Big Flipper

Between 3:00PM and 4:30PM I prospected the water next to and upstream from the Edwards Rest Area. Again the fat Albert served as the indicator fly, and I trailed a hair nation and bright green go2 sparkle caddis. In the starting section downstream from the parking lot I netted two trout on the hair nation. One was a feisty eleven inch rainbow, and the other was a respectable brown trout. Another angler blocked my upstream path, so I circled around him to the long pool next to a high bank on the south side of the river. The pool failed to produce, but an hour of dry/dropper dapping in the pocket water above the long pool yielded three nice trout including two fine browns and one bronze cutbow. During this time the bright green go2 sparkle caddis developed into a hot fly, and I was pleased with the aggressive slashing takes. Of course I would be remiss, if I did not mention that I hooked ten during this period, but I landed only five. This was a pathetic ratio, but an improvement over the earlier session farther down river.

Get a Grip

Ten fish, including four of above average length, represents a worthwhile day, but I cannot overlook all the frustrations listed in the first part of this post. Hopefully Monday filled my quota of bad luck for 2019, and future days will provide good fortune.

Fish Landed: 10

Stretched Out

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 08/02/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 1:30PM

Location: Button Rock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 08/02/2019 Photo Album

Friday was a watershed day of 2019. It was my first visit to a Front Range stream since June 24 on the South Platte River, and that particular trip resulted in a skunking. My last successful day spent on the South Platte River or a tributary was June 14. I endured six weeks of high flows, that prevented me from venturing to nearby drainages for fly fishing in flowing water.

Jane and I had tickets for the Giants vs. Rockies game on Friday night, August 2, so my options were limited to streams within 1.5 hours of Denver. Even that relatively minimal time constraint meant I needed to quit fishing by 2PM in order to make a 1.5 hour return drive and prepare for departure to the game via the A Line. I reviewed the Front Range options and settled on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. Flows were reduced three days prior to 85 CFS, and I knew from prior experience that these were manageable levels for wading and edge fishing.

I departed my house in Denver by 8AM and arrived at the parking lot for the Button Rock Preserve by 9:30AM. The lot was half full, but I assumed most of the visitors were dog walkers. The Button Rock Preserve is an extremely popular dog exercising destination. I pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight and hiked up the dirt access road to distance myself from the parking lot. Several fishermen tested the water below the Longmont Dam, and a spin fisherman was busy just above the inlet. These were the only competing anglers infringing on my two miles of water on Friday.

Perfect Pool, Yet No Fish

When I reached my intended starting point, I followed a hunch and tied a green drake user friendly to my line. I encountered green drakes on the St. Vrain within Rocky Mountain National Park, and I speculated that they might maintain a presence on the tailwater below Ralph Price Reservoir. Even if this was not the case, the user friendly might serve as a decent attractor mouthful for the cold water residents.

The Other Braid Around the Island

The hunch did not prove accurate, so I followed up the user friendly with a yellow stimulator, and this bold attempt to seduce trout to the surface with a dry fly was also rejected. I was certain that the pools that failed to yield willing fish contained a few wild occupants, so I converted to a tan pool toy and trailed a beadhead hares ear nymph. Finally I began to observe sporadic refusals to the pool toy and evidence of fish, but my strong desire to feel the weight of a thrashing trout on my rod was not satisfied.

I added an iron sally to the dry/dropper below the hares ear in an attempt to create more weight and deeper drifts, but this ploy simply resulted in extended futility. Between 10AM and 11:30AM I covered some very attractive water, yet the fish counter languished on zero. Could my return to Front Range streams result in a humiliating skunking?

I reflected on my morning and settled on one obvious fact. The fish were looking toward the surface and not interested in subsurface offerings the least bit. I noticed three or four refusals to the pool toy hopper but never connected with a fish with the two trailing nymphs. I decided to experiment with smaller dry flies. First I knotted a yellow stimulator to my line, and after ten minutes of prospecting it produced only a rejection. Very few insects were obvious, so perhaps the fish were tuned into terrestrials that accidentally tumbled into the stream. A Jake’s gulp beetle failed to tempt the trout, and I was back to staring at my fly box.

Red Hippie Stomper!

A hippie stomper saved many a day, so I decided to give one a tryout. Normally I default to a dubbed peacock body version, but the green drake user friendly was unsuccessful, so I chose to diverge radically from the norm and tied on a red-body hippie stomper. Voila! I stumbled into my first fish, when a ten inch rainbow slurped the foam attractor on a downstream drift. A skunking was averted, and I found a nice flat rock and munched my lunch, while I observed a nice run in front of me.

Lunch View

After a quick bite I resumed my upstream progression with the red hippy stomper, and within fifteen minutes I approached a gorgeous long deep run with a soft shelf pool along the opposite bank. For some reason I added a bright green go2 caddis pupa and a salvation nymph, and I began to flick backhand casts to the top of the run. On the first two drifts trout flashed to the hippie stomper and turned away at the last instant. I persisted and eventually tempted two browns and a rainbow to grab my flies. The rainbow nabbed the go2 caddis pupa, and the two browns latched on to the salvation nymph. The last brown to come from the quality run measured twelve inches and was my best fish of the day.

Easily the Best Fish of the Day

During my remaining time on the water I persisted with the three fly dry/dropper, and I increased the fish count from four to ten. I moved fairly quickly, and my confidence soared, as the catch rate elevated. For some reason the salvation nymph became a food item of choice, as five of the last six snatched the iridescent nymph from the drift. Another rainbow darted to the surface and mauled the red hippie stomper. For some reason rainbows seem to be attracted to bright colors more than brown trout.

Stomper in Corner of the Mouth

I landed number ten at 1:25PM, and with double digits in hand, I decided to hustle back to the car in order to meet my targeted departure time for the Rockies game. What a strange day Friday evolved into. During the morning I feared a skunking, and for some reason the fish began to eat between noon and 1:30PM. Did I progress to less pressured water? The entire area that I covered was a decent hike from the parking lot, so I doubt that location explains the sudden shift in success. I was in a tailwater and relatively close to the dam, so I believe that it took all morning for the water temperature to rise to a level, where the trout became more active. I suspect that the higher catch rate would have continued for another couple hours had I been able to remain at Button Rock Preserve. Friday was another fun day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, and I will certainly return, although I will not rush to arrive early.

Fish Landed: 10

Between the Water Spots

Wildflower Assortment