South Boulder Creek – 10/26/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/26/2019 Photo Album

Weather was the impetus for my rare weekend day of fly fishing on Saturday, October 26, 2019. My daughter, Amy, visited from October 17 through October 20, and I devoted my time to her and put a moratorium on my fly fishing efforts. Cold temperatures and a snowstorm prevented me from pursuing trout between Octoboer 21 and October 24. A glance at the seven day forecast revealed that back to back storms were about to slam Colorado on Sunday. October 27 and extending through Halloween. What recourse did an avid fly fisherman have?

One glimmer of hope filtered through my thoughts of despair. Saturday’s high in Denver was predicted to be seventy degrees, and this translated to the upper fifties in some of the nearby front range streams. The flows on South Boulder Creek were 82 CFS, and that was enough information to encourage a trip to the small tailwater west of Golden, CO.

The temperature registered 50 degrees, as a I pulled into the kayak parking lot, and quite a few vehicles occupied prime spots on the southern half, and as I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, several more anglers arrived. I experienced a brief taste of weekend fishing in the Colorado Rockies.

Deep Snow Next to Long Pool

As I trudged along the stream on the way to my chosen starting point, I was surprised to discover five to six inches of snow on the south side of the creek. The deeper than expected snow and the warming temperatures raised concerns over the water clarity as well as the chilling impact on the trout, but these misgivings would eventually prove to be unfounded.

At the Start

I arrived at my favorite starting location by 11AM, and I configured my line with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a size 12 20 incher, and a salvation nymph. I viewed the 20 incher as a substitute for weight, because I wanted to get my nymphs to the bottom in the cold 82 CFS flows. Between 11:15AM and 3:30PM I retained the fat Albert and 20 incher as the upper flies in my three fly dry/dropper system. I switched the end fly out after lunch and shifted to a soft hackle emerger, but eventually reverted to the salvation, when I spotted some pale morning dun mayflies in the air.

Fat Albert Duped One Trout

Mangled 20 Incher Was the Number One Fly

During the dry/dropper segment of my day I landed twenty-one trout including two rainbows and nineteen brown trout. One aggressive brown trout slurped the fat Albert, two brown trout nipped the soft hackle emerger, and two additional catches grabbed the salvation. The fourteen remaining netted fish savored the 20 incher, and I was very surprised, that a fly that was merely deployed to provide ballast proved to be the most popular. One rainbow was a respectable and chunky specimen, and a few of the brown trout extended to the twelve and thirteen inch mark. Other than these outliers, most of the fish fell within the nine to eleven inch range.

Marvelous Spots

The most productive spots for brown trout were slack water shelf pools next to faster runs. The creek inhabitants conserved energy in these areas and picked off tumbling subsurface food offerings, as they drifted away from the faster current. In addition to the landed rainbows, I also tangled temporarily with some pink striped residents that escaped, and these trout seemed to prefer faster water and deep slots between large boulders.

Pleased with This One

Change of Pace Rainbow

By 3:30PM I reached my usual end point, and I skipped around a narrow whitewater chute and then dropped back down to the creek. I cherry picked some above average spots in this section to no avail, and then I decided to begin my return hike. When I arrived at the pool, that I deemed to be the best on South Boulder Creek, I paused to observe and spotted three very subtle dimples along the main current seam. I could not resist the temptation to log some bonus time, so I clipped off the three flies and tied a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line. Why? It was just a hunch based on success at the same time of day and year on previous trips.

I made some quality drifts along the center seam, and induced a refusal, before I turned my attention to the section on the right, where two smaller runs angled from the bank back toward my position. I lobbed a cast to the right side, and a subtle swirl revealed itself below my fly. I quickly raised my rod tip and felt weight for a split second, and my optimism sank, as I realized that I probably put down a willing feeder.

Surprise Rainbow on a Dry Fly

I returned my attention to the left shelf pool and the center current seam, but a series of casts were ignored. The shadows extended across the entire creek, and the lack of sun created a chill, when the breeze whistled through the branches. I entertained thoughts of resuming my trek to the parking lot but decided to lob another cast to the angled run on the right. The choice proved to be fortuitous, when another sucking swirl materialized beneath my fly, and this time I paused a split second and then executed a solid hook set. When the hook pricked the greedy feeder, it performed an acrobatic roll on the surface, and this revealed the brilliant crimson strip of a rainbow trout. The fight was on, and the battler crossed the right shelf pool several times before it relented and slid into my net. Whoa! A husky fourteen inch rainbow nestled in the bottom of my net, and I let out a self congratulatory hoot.

Size 16 Light Gray Comparadun Worked

After releasing my prize catch of the day, I moved to the bottom of the left side of the pool, and I shot some relatively long casts to the slow section in the upper left area. Amazingly, despite the absence of rises, I enticed three trout to smack the light gray comparadun. Evidently I stumbled into a fly that matched a food form that was present in South Boulder Creek in late October. When my casts drifted through the pool without molestation, I stripped in the fly and proceeded on my outbound hike. I stopped at one more favorite pool and tempted a small rainbow to eat the comparadun, before I permanently called it a day.

What a surprise Saturday turned out to be! I landed twenty-six trout in total, and this included several in the 12 – 14 inch range. These results accrued despite the presence of snow and snowmelt. Five landed fish on a size 16 comparadun during the late afternoon shadows were icing on the cake. If this was my last outing of 2019, I would be satisfied with the memory.

Fish Landed: 26

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 10/22/2019

Time: 1:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: Button Rock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 10/22/2019 Photo Album

My daughter, Amy, visited from Portland, OR, over the long weekend, and I deferred all fishing ventures until her departure. I did, however, review the stream flows and weather forecasts, while she remained in Denver, and the predicted high temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday suggested a couple days of fall fishing. Initially I hoped for a trip to one of the backcountry streams, that I discovered in 2019 or perhaps to South Boulder Creek, but as the day approached, the weather forecast worsened, and this forced me to re-evaluate my planned destination.

Predicted highs on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Colorado mountains sank to the mid-forties accompanied by wind, and I was not anxious to endure that level of adversity. Highs in Boulder, Lyons and Denver; however, were expected to be a more comfortable sixty degrees, so I opted for a relatively short trip to the Button Rock Preserve area of the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. Nine mile per hour wind speeds were a bit concerning, but I confronted similar conditions on many occasions and managed success. Jane decided to accompany me, and we stopped in Louisville, CO to add our grand puppy, Zuni, to our road trip group.

When we arrived at the Button Rock Preserve parking area at 11:50AM, the dashboard thermometer registered 55 degrees, and a fairly steady breeze ruffled the remaining leaves of the nearby trees. I probably overreacted to the weather, when I pulled on my North Face light down coat, and then I assembled my Orvis Access four weight. Jane and Zuni sped off upon our arrival, but I eventually caught them, and we continued our inbound hike for a mile, until I angled down a manageable slope to the creek. Jane and Zuni watched, as I scrambled over some dead branches, and before they attempted a similar descent, we spied a small herd of deer. A doe and three young ones browsed along the dirt road twenty yards above us, and Zuni immediately demonstrated a strong willingness to give chase. Jane resisted these efforts and somehow managed to control Zuni while negotiating the tricky rock and log strewn bank to arrive at the creek. Eventually the deer disappeared behind a large boulder on the opposite side of the road, but Zuni would not relax, until they were gone.

Since it was 12:40PM when I arrived streamside, I extracted my sandwich and carrots and made quick work of my lunch, before I began my quest for St. Vrain trout. The stream was 21 CFS, and this was fairly average for October. I avoided a large foam hopper as the top fly due to low clear flows and instead opted for a size 10 Chernobyl ant. I was skeptical that fish would rise for surface offerings, so I added a chartreuse copper john as the top fly and a salvation nymph on the end. The copper John displayed a nice shade of light green similar to a caddis larva, and it also provided additional weight to enable deep drifts in the cold autumn water.

At the Start

Within the first half hour I landed three small trout in the first four pools, that I prospected. The first fish was a barely six inch rainbow trout that grabbed the salvation. Next a six inch brown nabbed the salvation as well, and then an eight inch rainbow nipped the Chernobyl ant. The aggressive ‘bow refused the foam dry twice and then circled back and smacked the attractor, just before it accelerated at the tail of the pool.

Amazingly this early action was the highlight of my day. For the next hour I continued upstream at a steady pace and covered the attractive deep runs and pockets with the dry/dropper combination, but four or five tiny trout under six inches were my only reward for persistence. The weather, meanwhile, deteriorated; as some large clouds blocked the warming rays of the sun. The absence of solar energy prompted the wind to gust, and I pulled on my raincoat as a windbreaker to block the chilling impact.

At 2:15PM I approached a nice long smooth pool, and coincidentally Zuni and Jane appeared on the opposite bank. Zuni’s excitement level elevated as indicated by her rapidly wagging tail, when she spotted me, but she was reluctant to wade into the icy flows of the North Fork. I surveyed the long pool and noticed a pair of random rises, and since the dry/dropper was not generating results, I removed the three flies and replaced them with a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. For the next ten minutes I sliced some upstream casts into the wind, and drifted the tiny tuft through the areas that revealed rising fish earlier. The fish ignored my dependable BWO imitaion, but additional sporadic downstream rises shifted my attention.

I initiated a series of across and downstream drifts, but again my fly was not in favor, until I allowed it to dangle in the current, while I gathered up excess line, and I was surprised to feel the weight of a fish. The small eater remained connected for only a second, but it was clear that movement was a necessary part of the deception. I fired some casts across and down and executed some poor mends that caused the fly to hop, and on three occasions a fish swirled at the tumbling fluff, but in each case the result was a refusal.

Zuni and Jane were clearly getting antsy to leave, so I surrendered to the small selective eaters, and I hooked my fly to the rod guide, as I prepared to wade across the pool to the bank next to the road. Somehow in the process of doing this I exerted excessive pressure on the line, and the CDC olive broke from the leader and dropped in the pool and began floating downstream. I took a couple steps in an effort to retrieve the fly but then realized that it was not worth the risk of a stumble and fall. I paused to watch the tiny tuft of CDC, as it floated toward the tail, and then in a split second flash a small trout darted to the surface and ate the detached fly! I spent ten minutes attempting to fool the choosy eaters in the pool, and the first drift of my unattached fly was consumed. I concluded that my leader was too short or perhaps not fine enough, but that was a change in strategy for another day.

I joined Jane and Zuni on the road, and we ambled back to the parking lot together. Tuesday was more about being outside with Jane and Zuni, and the fishing was secondary. The air temperature was acceptable, but the cutting wind converted fun into a chore. The North Fork of the St. Vrain is largely a brown trout fishery, and I suspect that the larger fish were occupied with the reproductive cycle. Three trout in 1.5 hours is an acceptable catch rate, but the puny size did not justify the difficult conditions. The seven day weather forecast is not encouraging for additional fishing in 2019.

Fish Landed: 3

Clear Creek – 10/17/2019

Time: 12:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: Peak to Plains Trail Area

Clear Creek 10/17/2019 Photo Album

The weather was outstanding, and I benefited from a short drive. Those were the two positives from my fishing trip on Thursday, October 17, 2019. Otherwise, my 2.5 hours on the water were forgettable. I experienced numerous fishless days in my fly fishing life, and today I landed three small brown trout barely over six inches, but the combination of slow fishing and stream mishaps placed my Clear Creek outing among the worst.

The flows were 45 CFS, and the water clarity was excellent. The air temperature reached the low seventies, and all three of these factors augured a pleasant day on the nearby front range stream. I chose to drive to the western end of the canyon beyond Golden, since I encountered more rainbow trout in that area in the past, and I attempted to hedge against brown trout spawning activity.

Typically Productive Water

I ate my lunch, when I arrived at the parking lot along the stream, since it was already noon. Once I finished my black cherry yogurt cup, I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and gathered my gear for a few hours on the creek. I found an opening in the fence and cut directly to the stream and then waded along the edge for a decent distance to gain separation from the popular water near the parking lot.

I quickly knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and began to plop it in likely locations, but after thirty minutes with nary a look, I modified my approach. I removed the beetle and tied a peacock hippie stomper to my line along with a beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. As I removed the hares ear from my fleece wallet, I momentarily last my grip and dropped the size 14 nymph in the water. This was the beginning of a series of adverse events that forced my early exit.

I moved upstream and featured the three fly lineup and eventually landed a brown trout that barely exceeded six inches. I carried doubts whether I would land additional fish, so I removed my sunglove to grip the small trout for a photo and placed the glove on a large boulder along the shoreline. With fish number one under my belt, I continued my progression and landed two additional browns of similar size to the first. One of the midget trout hammered the salvation nymph, and the other slurped the hippie stomper. The size of the trout was lacking, but at least the action was improving.

Fish Number One

As these events transpired, I noticed that long pockets and riffles of moderate depth yielded the most evidence of fish, and I spotted an area along the far bank that fit the criteria of productive. I carefully waded to the center of the creek to position myself to make some across and downstream casts, and suddenly both my feet slipped on an angled underwater rock. I clutched my wading staff in my right hand, but it was useless, as I fell sideways and broke my fall with my left hand, which held my fly rod. The splash down was for only a moment, but my left arm went underwater up to my armpit, and ice cold water trickled over the top of my waders and seeped down to my feet. I cursed my ill fortune, but I was encouraged to realize that my rod remained in one piece, and I was not injured in any way. I mumbled to myself, that three tiny brown trout did not justify the hassle of getting wet.

Hares Ear Visible

I attempted to resume fishing, but I quickly realized that the fly line was wrapped around both wading boots, and this forced me to shuffle to shore to unravel the snarl. Once the line was cleared, I sloshed upstream to resume casting. In a brief amount of time I saw the hippie stomper pause and executed a swift hook set, but the absence of a jaw caused the flies to catapult towards me. Before they could reach my body, they snagged the fly rod and created a monofilament nightmare. In a wet state I patiently unwound the entanglement, but when I was once again prepared to cast, I realized that I was only wearing a sunglove on my right hand. I remembered that I removed the left in order to grip the first fish for a photo.

I was not willing to write off a relatively new pair of sungloves, so I retreated to the scene of my first catch, and sure enough a left sunglove remained perched on a large boulder along the bank. I was closer to the upstream Peak to Plains bridge, than where I began, so I decided to fish to the bridge and call it a day. But my string of unfortunate events was not over. I found a promising long deep shelf pool, and as I raised my arm to cast, my reel released from the seat and plummeted into the creek. Apparently I had not tightened the lower clamp enough, and the reel worked itself loose during my time on the water. Fortunately this happened in shallow water, and I quickly recovered the newly washed reel and once again mounted it below the cork grip.

A couple momentary hook ups in the home stretch did not improve my outlook, so I waded below the footbridge to the bank next to the highway and then circled to the Peak to Plains Path and returned to the car. I retrieved my rarely used change of clothes from my fishing bag and removed a pile of wet apparel and made the short drive to my home.

Thursday was not one of my better outings. Wet wading was not on my agenda, and the three small brown trout did not compensate for the string of mishaps on October 17. Clear Creek continues to be my nemesis, and I need a break from the small stream west of Golden.

Fish Landed: 3

South Platte River – 10/16/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon; outside special regulation area

South Platte River 10/16/2019 Photo Album

After my near skunking on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on 10/01/2019, I desperately wanted another shot at redemption. I scheduled a return visit for 10/04/2019, but my fall on the Big Thompson River on 10/03/2019 scuttled that plan. Finally the weather and a day without commitments enabled me to visit the tailwater in South Park on 10/16/2019.

The temperature at the start of my fly fishing adventure was around fifty degrees, but sunshine and the lack of clouds allowed the air to warm up quickly, and it reached a high of around seventy degrees in the afternoon. In short, Wednesday developed into a glorious autumn day in Colorado.

Cutbow Before Lunch

I decided to fish outside the special regulation area, as historically I enjoyed excellent results there. I suspect that fly fishermen are drawn to the catch and release water and ignore the open stretches under the assumption that the bait fishermen harvest the best fish. As a devoted contrarian I suspect that the spin casters bypass very productive sections of harder to fish pocket water, and these stretches are tailored to my style of fishing.

Relatively Low Flows

Flows were 66 CFS on Wednesday, and the water was extremely clear. These conditions were more challenging than usual for the South Platte River, and the skittish behavior of the fish attested to the demanding circumstances.

Pool Toy Hopper Fan

I began with a tan pool toy hopper, and beneath it I tied a salvation nymph and beadhead soft hackle emerger. The salvation was intended to be an attractor nymph, and the soft hackle emerger anticipated a blue winged olive emergence. The hopper and salvation were consistent members of my lineup throughout the day; however, the soft hackle emerger was exchanged for a beadhead hares ear nymph in the early going. A slow period after lunch prompted me to swap the hares ear for a 20 incher. In both cases I sensed that my flies were not getting deep enough, and increasing the size and weight of one of the nymphs was a response to this concern. Over the course of the day the pool toy hopper duped five trout, and the salvation nymph accounted for the remainder. The hares ear nymph and 20 incher simply served the role of a split shot. Nevertheless I was certain that the addition of a heaver fly was key to my level of success.

Overhead View

By the end of the day I managed to land twenty trout, but achieving this total was a test of my persistence and ability to make adjustments. I spooked untold numbers of trout in the slower moving pools, and I debated moving to a small single dry at times but never pulled the trigger. Instead I elevated my stealth and skipped around most of the smooth areas, where the river residents were on high alert and were extremely particular about their choice of a meal.

The Type of Water That Produced

I also monitored the type of water that yielded the most success and devoted my energies to places with matching structure. Medium velocity riffles of moderate depth were the ticket, and several spots that matched this description produced multiple trout. The hopper paused or stopped on occasion after an upstream cast and dead drift, but more often a hungry trout attacked the salvation during a swing at the end of a drift, or when I lifted the flies to execute another cast.

Large Black Spots

Of the twenty fish that visited my net, two were rainbows, and the rest were brown trout. I spotted two sets of trout in the spawning act, and I suspect this activity curtailed feeding by the larger, mature browns. The largest brown trout landed were likely in the eleven to twelve inch range, and this size range was small compared to my usual experience on this stretch of the river.

In summary I managed to land twenty fish on a gorgeous fall day in October. I demonstrated flexibility and adjusted to the tougher than normal conditions. I modified the weight of my offerings, exercised caution, analyzed the water type and applied that knowledge to my prospecting strategy. Hopefully periods of mild weather will enable me to extend the season for another month.

Fish Landed: 20

 

South Boulder Creek – 10/15/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/15/2019 Photo Album

My day on South Boulder Creek was a rare justification for carrying a ridiculous number of flies on western streams, but more on that at the end of this post. I returned from my 50th high school reunion on Sunday, and a physical therapy appointment precluded fly fishing on Monday, so I was quite anxious to visit a local stream on October 15. The weather forecast projected cooler high temperatures of 66 degrees on Monday, and this translated to mid-fifties in the mountains. I scanned the DWR graphs for Front Range streams, and upon seeing flows of 88 CFS on South Boulder Creek, I designated the small tailwater as my destination.

I arrived at the upper parking lot by 9:40, and I was the first vehicle to claim a space. A car and truck arrived, while I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, but I departed before them. The air temperature was 39 degrees on the dashboard, when I parked, so I slipped on my UnderArmour long sleeve insulated undershirt and wrapped my North Face light down coat around my waist inside my waders. I exchanged my wide brimmed hat for a New Zealand billed cap with ear flaps, and I wore the flaps down throughout my tenure on the creek.

Home to the Crimson Rainbow

By 11AM I was positioned in the creek, and I began with a single peacock hippie stomper. The attractor dry fly failed to generate interest in the first three pockets, and I knew they contained trout, so I stripped in the foam fly and added a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. With the three fly dry/dropper combination I connected with an absolutely stunning thirteen inch rainbow in a deep run along the north bank. In a short amount of time I hooked and landed two additional brown trout to boost the fish count to three.

Scarlet Gill Plate Stands Out

These three flies served as my main offerings for the morning and early afternoon, and they produced trout at a fairly steady rate. I progressed upstream and prospected the likely pockets, deep runs and moderate riffles. By two o’clock I began to see sporadic rises, while I also observed small mayflies, as they hovered above the creek and slowly ascended like a rising hot air balloon. I lost two hares ear and salvation combinations to bad knots, and as I replaced the second pair, I moved the salvation to the top position and replaced the hares ear with a beadhead soft hackle emerger.

Looking Ahead

By 2:30 the shadows lengthened across much of the stream, and this challenged my ability to track the hippie stomper, so I swapped the top fly for a tan pool toy. This exchange was purely driven by my need for better visibility. As three o’clock approached, my fish tally rested at twenty-six, and I was quite pleased with my day on South Boulder Creek. I estimated that eight trout opted for the salvation, four nipped the soft hackle emerger and the remainder (14) crushed the hippie stomper. The trendy foam attractor was not perfect, as it also instigated quite a few refusals, but it was easily the most popular fly. I debated testing a Jake’s gulp beetle, but the catch rate was steady enough to ward off experimentation. The soft hackle emerger was popular on the lift and swing as expected with baetis activity in progress.

Overview

I exited the creek at 2:45PM and climbed to the path and began my return hike. When I reached my favorite large pool; however, I paused my Garmin walking activity tracker, and angled to the downstream tailout below the pool. I paused to observe for a few minutes, and I was encouraged to ready my fly for action, when I spotted a pair of sporadic rises. I scanned the water, but I was unable to notice any food on the surface, although mayflies of various sizes drifted above the stream. I took an educated guess and tied a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line, and it immediately became an item of interest, but not compelling enough to eat.

Ooh. Fish Haven.

I was frustrated by this turn of events, but I was confident that I could find the fly that matched the resident trouts’ appetite. Blue winged olives seemed to be a likely candidate for imitation, so I knotted a size 22 CDC olive to my line. Once again refusals and a couple split second connections ruled, so I made yet another switch. In previous years I encountered late season pale morning duns, so I tied a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line, but the same scenario unfolded. I considered surrendering to the picky pool inhabitants, but then I spotted a pair of relatively large mayflies with light yellowish bodies. They attempted to free themselves from the surface film, but bounced back and forth between the air and water, as they struggled to become airborne. Could these be the tasty snack that elicited sporadic rises from the trout in front of me?

My What Spots You Have

I flipped open my fly box and scanned my options. Tucked on the right hand side were five size fourteen sulfur comparaduns with light yellow bodies. I surmised that they might be the answer to the puzzle, and I knotted one to my tippet. I applied floatant to the body and preened the wing, so it stood in an erect position and then fluttered a cast across from my position. As the relatively large mayfly imitation floated toward the tail of the pool, a mouth appeared, and it was not tentative, as it slurped the comparadun. I quickly reacted with a hook set and encouraged a twelve inch brown trout into my net. Catching a nice wild trout on a dry fly after four fly changes was very gratifying.

Missile Shaped

But fish continued to rise, so I sopped up the moisture and dipped the comparadun in my dry shake canister. Two fish rose in the shelf pool on the right, and I turned my attention to these targets. A pair of nice runs angled into the shelf pool from the right side of a large boulder, and the trout hid in the riffles created by the entering run. I lobbed a cast to the deep run on the left, and a fish darted up and nipped the fly. I set quickly but only managed to nick the assailant.

Next I turned my attention to the right most run. This fish had not fed for five minutes, so I was not certain it maintained its feeding positoin, but I dropped a cast to the left seam nonetheless. Whack! A trout crushed the low floating mayfly imitation with confidence, and I was attached to a streaking bullet. The hungry and now angry trout, streaked repeatedly in multiple directions, but eventually I applied side pressure and slipped my net beneath a gorgeous rainbow trout. The glistening finned creature displayed a wide crimson stripe, and I estimated its length to be fifteen inches. This may have been my personal record landed trout from South Boulder Creek.

End of Day Surprise

I continued casting the size 14 comparadun in the pool for another ten minutes, and I experienced two more temporary connections, before I hooked the fly in a rod guide and resumed my return hike. I stopped at one more quality pool and fooled a small rainbow trout on the sulfur comparadun, before I quit for good and hiked back to the parking lot.

Twenty-nine trout on October 15 was a quality outing. The temperature never rose above the mid-fifties, but I was reasonably comfortable in my light down coat. Landing two very respectable trout on a seldom used sulfur comparadun imitation was icing on the cake on a cool autumn day. Perhaps I am justified in carrying classic Pennsylvania flies in my fly box, as I wander about western streams.

Fish Landed: 29

 

Elk Creek – 10/08/2019

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Backcountry

Elk Creek 10/08/2019 Photo Album

2019 has been the year to hike into backcountry creeks for this fly fisherman, and with a glorious fall day predicted for Wednesday, October 8, 2019, I decided to pay another visit to one of my favorites. Sub-freezing overnight temperatures caused me to take my time on Wednesday morning, and this translated to my arriving by the side of the stream by noon. The strategy paid off admirably, as I wore no additional layers, and the air temperature peaked in the low seventies during my three hours on the headwater creek. The flows were quite good for October, and clarity was gin clear.

Classic Chernobyl Ant Doing Its Job

Head and Fly Macro

I began my effort to land some high country trout with a size 10 classic Chernboyl ant, and it did not disappoint in the early going. Very soon after my launch, the foam ant attracted the attention of a pair of average sized brown trout, and the catch rate was steady over the first hour, as I boosted the fish count to seven. Although I was pleased with this level of success, I also endured numerous refusals and even more temporary hook ups. The quick escape pattern caused me to execute my hook sets with more gusto, but even with that adjustment I lost a high percentage of fish. I concluded that a more significant factor was the tentative nature of the takes by the stream residents.

Salivate

Beetle Sipper

I decided to experiment with smaller terrestrials, and I configured my line with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle and a size 18 black parachute ant with a pink wing post. The double dry approach yielded a pair of decent browns, but the two flies seemed to attract less attention than the Chernobyl in prime pools. I only had three hours to fish on Tuesday afternoon, and the clock was ticking. I decided to make yet another change, and I analyzed the variables. The night time temperatures were considerably lower than my last visit, and this suggested that many of the terrestrials available several weeks earlier were no longer on the cafeteria buffet. The water temperature of the stream was certainly lower as a result of the colder nights, and the fish were likely holding deeper and feeding on subsurface fare.

Dream Spot

I plucked a peacock body hippie stomper from my fly box and knotted it to my line and tied a four foot length of 5X tippet to the bend. During my last visit the salvation was the most popular nymph, so I executed a clinch knot and dangled the shiny offering behind the stomper. The adjustment was magical, and suddenly the catch rate accelerated. In addition to faster action the average size of the landed fish swelled.

Fall Brown Trout Among the Fallen Leaves

I spent the last 1.5 hours tossing the two fly dry/dropper combination in gorgeous deep pools, and the fish count leaped from nine to twenty-three. Most of the trout snatched the salvation on the swing or lift, but a decent number of wild residents also lurched to the surface to crush the hippie stomper. I moved at a fairly rapid pace and plopped the dry/dropper in prime spots and relished the fast action on the small stream. Very still shelf pools were particularly productive, and in several instances I plopped the hippie stomper and allowed it to sit motionless for a few seconds, before a brown trout rocketed to the top of the water column to slurp the foam attractor.

Those Ink Spots Are Vivid

The salvation was very effective, as it drifted along the bank or current seams, or when I began to lift at the tail of pools. I estimate that five trout chose the surface fly, and the remainder grabbed the trailing nymph. Tuesday was simply three hours of perfection. The air temperature was ideal, the impact of wind was minimal, I endured minimal snags and tangles, and the glow of the golden leaves and shrubs along the creek was spectacular. My streak of good fortune on the small headwater stream continued uninterrupted. A winter storm is predicted for Thursday, and cold temperatures are forecast for the aftermath, but a warming trend could draw me back for another outing before winter permanently establishes its footprint on 2019.

Fish Landed: 23

The Only Rainbow Trout

 

Eagle River – 10/07/2019

Time: 12:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Horn Ranch

Eagle River 10/07/2019 Photo Album

After a warm up on the Frost Creek Pond on Sunday, my friend, Dave G., and I decided to test the Eagle River on Monday, October 7. As we drove from his house to the river, he lamented a recent string of poor outings, when he managed only a few small fish. My expectations ratcheted downward upon hearing this news.

One location where Dave G. did enjoy positive results was the confluence of Brush Creek and the Eagle River below Eagle, CO, so that became our first stop. Unfortunately when we pulled into the open space parking lot, we noted two vehicles, and we concluded that the confluence section was the favored destination of the anglers that preceded us.

We amended our plans and decided to travel upriver to find a new location for our fly fishing adventure. I was surprised by how many pullouts along the Eagle River were occupied with vehicles on a Monday in October, but Dave G. and I concluded that many people extended their weekend stays through Mondays to avoid the heavy traffic on Sunday afternoon. The balmy autumn day may have been another contributor to the greater than expected river population.

Horn Ranch Footbridge

After a short drive we arrived at the Horn Ranch open space, and a cluster of cars filled the lower lot and the area next to the old concrete bridge. The new parking lot just below the Interstate 70 overpass; however, held only two vehicles, and we could see two fishermen in a quality hole just upstream. We gambled that a bit of walking would gain us separation and decided to make the north end of Horn Ranch our Monday fishing destination.

I opted for my Sage four weight on Monday, since it was less taxing on my wrist, and I expected to stay on the water for a longer time than Sunday. Dave G. and I crossed the new footbridge and ambled downstream along the recently completed bike path for a decent distance, until we found a worn path and cut over to the river. Dave G. remained on the west bank, and I crossed to fish up the east side.

Small Rainbow in the Early Going

Flows were seasonally low, and the air temperature was in the upper fifties. I began with a tan pool toy, beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph; but after thirty minutes the fish count remained locked on zero. Dave G. picked up three fish on a Pat’s rubber legs, so I modified my lineup and replaced the hares ear with an iron sally. Another lengthy drought elapsed, and it was 1:30 PM, so I swapped the salvation for a RS2 with the hope that baetis nymphs were active. Finally this combination clicked, and I netted two six inch rainbows and an eight incher. The first small rainbow inhaled the iron sally, and the other two catches snatched the RS2. In addition I hooked and failed to land four trout including a rainbow that was likely fifteen inches or greater. Another ‘bow of thirteen inches was nicked in front of a large submerged boulder.

Very Long

By 2PM we reached the footbridge, so we crossed and hiked downstream a second time to an old concrete bridge, where we munched our lunches. After lunch I once again waded to the east side of the river, and I began prospecting likely deep runs and moderate riffles. In the first twenty minutes I connected briefly with a muscular rainbow, but it quickly shed the small RS2. A short while later a sizable trout, possibly a brown, swirled around and then crushed the hopper. I maintained tight tension for a few seconds, and then another decent Eagle River trout escaped. Needless to say, quite a few angry expletives flowed from my lips.

Relaxing and Reviving

I persisted in spite of my ill fortune, and I was pleased to finally hook and land two very respectable rainbows of sixteen and fifteen inches. Both fish were very thick and fought valiantly to avoid my net. The last hour was very slow, and I finally found a path to the footbridge parking lot at 5 PM.

Five fish landed in five hours represented a very slow catch rate; however, the two late afternoon rainbows justified the effort. I was not without opportunities, as I hooked twelve fish and observed three refusals during my afternoon on the river. Dave G. logged a fine day with ten netted and six long distance releases. I explored a new section of the Eagle River, and I was favorably impressed. A future return is very likely.

Fish Landed: 5

Frost Creek Pond – 10/06/2019

Time: 2:00PM – 4:30PM

Location: Pond next to the entrance gate.

Frost Creek Pond 10/06/2019 Photo Album

Our friends, the Gabourys, invited us to join them once again at their beautiful home in Eagle, CO on October 6 through 8. I expected to fish with Dave G. on Monday, but after we arrived on Sunday morning, he proposed a short session on the Frost Creek Ponds. Dave G. is a member of the Frost Creek Country Club, and this entitles him to fish the ponds and a private section of Brush Creek that runs through the property. Dave G. also informed me that he experienced decent recent success on one of the ponds using a size 16 parachute Adams. I was easily swayed to respond in the affirmative to this surprise invitation to fly fish on Sunday. My wrist was still rather sore from my pratfall on Thursday, but I decided a two hour session would be a good first test.

Golden Colors Surround the Pond

Upon our arrival we parked just inside the entrance gate, and I quickly rigged my Sage One five weight. I chose my largest rod to support long casts to the center of the still water, and in case I tangled with a substantial fish. When we were completely prepared to fish, we walked to the south end of the pond. Sunday developed into a gorgeous fall day with the temperature in the low seventies. Intermittent light wind was not a negative factor, and the surface of the pond remained relatively smooth during our stay.

Before casting I paused to observe, and my heart beat elevated, as I spotted nice chunky cruisers and sporadic rises. Dave G. began with his favored parachute Adams, but I opted for a size 18 parachute black ant in response to the occasional wind and surface sips. In the first twenty minutes I endured two refusals, and then I connected with a nice spunky thirteen inch rainbow.

First Fish

Just as I congratulated myself for capitalizing on the terrestrial option, the action ceased, so I began to migrate around the pond in a clockwise direction. In the southwest corner I spotted quite a few large cruisers, but they ignored the ant, and I switched to a size 20 CDC olive. I speculated that it would imitate a variety of small aquatic creatures such as midges and baetis adults. Unfortunately my theory did not prove out, and I covered thirty yards of shoreline without any sign of interest from the pond residents.

Pretty Scene

When I arrived at the northwest corner, I decided a change was in order, and I replaced the olive with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. Soon after the switch the plopping beetle created quite a bit of interest as evidenced by the looks, refusals, and flashy swirls that ensued. In spite of the flurry of frustration, I remained committed and eventually hooked and landed a fine fourteen inch rainbow. Upon releasing the much appreciated gem, refusals resumed, so I downsized to a size 14 beetle.

Lifted from the Pond

The smaller beetle produced, when a twelve inch rainbow darted three feet to crush the terrestrial. Dave G., meanwhile, took a page from my book and tossed a black ant. The size 16 fur ant produced two landed fish and two break offs. This success grabbed my attention, and I added a size 18 ant on a six inch dropper behind the beetle, and I returned to the southeastern corner of the pond. Here I earned temporary hookups with two fish, and I suspect they latched on to the ant.

Love the Reflection

Our Sunday outing on the Frost Creek Pond was unexpected bonus time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Making long casts on the pond provided a rigorous test to my wrist, and it passed with only occasional twinges. The session gave me  confidence, that I could endure a day of fishing on Monday. My ability to sight fish to healthy fish was much appreciated, and my hunch on terrestrials proved to be a winner.

Fish Landed: 3

Big Thompson River – 10/03/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Special regulation water below Lake Estes

Big Thompson River 10/03/2019 Photo Album

I planned another trip to Eleven Mile Canyon on Friday, so I sought a nearby destination for my fishing venture on Thursday, October 3, 2019. The flows on the Big Thompson River below Lake Estes were in the 45 – 50 CFS range, and I knew from past experience, that this level was nearly ideal. The fly shop reports were encouraging, so I reviewed all my posts on trips to the Big Thompson in late September and early October since 2010. The blog descriptions reminded me of some stellar days, so I decided to make the drive. I noted that deer hair caddis, stimulators, Jake’s gulp beetles, blue winged olives, and salvation nymphs produced decent results on previous trips.

I arrived at a pullout along the upper river several miles below the dam by 10:30AM, and I was perched on a rock with my Orvis Access four weight ready to cast by 11AM. The temperature was a chilly 48 degrees, so I snuggled in my Northface light down coat for the morning session.

Shadows Over My Morning Starting Point

My quest for Big Thompson trout commenced with a tan pool toy hopper, salvation nymph and soft hackle emerger; and I netted three trout in the first hour, before I paused for lunch a bit after noon. Two of the early catches were brown trout, and one was an eleven-inch rainbow. Each of my flies attracted a fish in the early going.

Productive

Number Three

After lunch I continued through a very attractive section that featured deep runs and pools, and I concluded that my flies were not drifting deep enough for the trout, that were likely hugging bottom, until the sun warmed the water column. I lengthened the tippet section that connected the hopper to the salvation, and I replaced the non-beaded soft hackle emerger with a beadhead hares ear. These two changes extended the length and added weight with the hope of generating deeper drifts.

Another Fine Rainbow

The move paid dividends, and the fish count rose steadily from three to eight. Most of the early afternoon landed fish were rainbows, and several chunky thirteen inchers surprised me. The ‘bows grabbed the hares ear in narrow, deep slots; and I congratulated myself for the modifications that produced deeper drifts.

Love the Speckles

By 1:30PM I reached a long slow-moving pool, and earlier I witnessed two anglers, as they prospected the smooth water. Rather than fish the water that experienced recent thrashing, I climbed the bank and returned to my car. I performed a U-turn and drove downstream for another mile and then parked in a pullout just before the first bridge-crossing after Noel’s Draw. I used this as an opportunity to shed the light down layer, and I replaced it with a fleece hoodie.

I geared up once again and hiked down the highway, until I was .2 mile below the bridge, and at this point I encountered another angler, who was striding up the shoulder of US 34 toward the section, that I targeted. When I remained thirty yards above him, I decided to descend down a steep bank covered with large boulders. This proved to be a flawed strategy. I was one-third of the way down, when I stepped on the top of a rock and placed all my weight on it. As I prepared to make another step, the rock shifted, and I lost my balance and fell forward. In a split-second reaction, I dropped my rod and reached my two hands forward and broke my fall on a large flat rock below the unstable rock that proved my undoing. Once I got over the shock of the mishap, I became aware of a burning sensation in both wrists and the palms of my hands, as they absorbed the brunt of my weight. Additionally, my right shin throbbed, and I concluded that I bruised it on the crest of the rock responsible for my plunge.

I decided to sit down to rest, regain my composure, and assess the extent of my injuries. I checked my rod, and it survived the accident in one piece, and I was pleased with that outcome. My throbbing leg was inside my waders, so I was not in a position to examine the damage, but I was fairly certain that it was a deep contusion. The burning nerve sensation in my wrists and palms gradually subsided, and I decided to resume fishing. I prospected the dry/dropper through three or four nice plunge pools with no success, but my mind remained more concerned with the aftermath of my dangerous fall.

At this point I reached a whitewater chute, so I carefully climbed the rocky bank on all fours and reversed my direction, until I was beyond the bridge and the Santa Fe. I cautiously maneuvered down a much shorter bank and resumed my upstream progression. By now all aches from my left hand disappeared, but my right hand sent out twinges of pain, when I bent my wrist backward beyond 45 degrees. I periodically tested my wrist by flexing my fingers and bending the wrist in various directions, and mobility remained, although the backward bend generated the most discomfort.

Lovely Spot

I covered the relatively straight trough between the bridge and a long smooth pool in the early afternoon with no landed fish, and I considered quitting, but the sight of the pool caused me to reconsider. I decided to change my approach and tied a size 16 gray deer hair caddis to my line, after I removed the three-fly set up.

The injured wrist continued to shoot spurts of pain up my arm, but I fired a series of long casts to the shallow and clear tail of the pool, and a few spooked fish darted downstream. After five minutes in the slow tailout I reached the midsection, where the main channel fanned out, and two nice deep shelf pools occupied the space between the center run and the banks. I paused to observe, and several random rises increased my interest level, and allowed me to temporarily forget my discomfort. The gray caddis was ignored, so I switched to a black parachute ant. I did not see blue winged olives, and the wind gusted periodically, so I concluded that the rises resulted from terrestrial windfalls.

Lowering

The theory was sound, but the ant was treated with disdain. Again, I pondered my next move, and I spotted a pair of small mayflies fluttering erratically in the wind above the river. I knotted a CDC blue winged olive to my line and sprayed casts to the sites of recent rises, but my favorite BWO imitation was ignored. After twenty minutes of futility I swapped the CDC olive for a Klinkhammer BWO emerger, and although it required a bountiful amount of casting, I eventually duped two decent fish on the low floating emerger style dry fly.

The fish count was perched on ten, but I was challenged by a very respectable rainbow, that darted to the surface to suck down a tiny morsel on a fairly regular timetable. The fish was no more that five feet away and three feet beyond the center current seam. I decided to revert to a CDC olive, but this time I selected a size 24 with a very slender body and a tall CDC wing. The choice proved fortuitous, and in a short amount of time I pricked one fish and hooked and played another for a few seconds, before it escaped. While this action was transpiring, the dark rainbow continued to tease me with aggressive darting rises right under my nose.

Brilliant Colors

I sopped up the moisture with my shirt and dipped the CDC olive in my dry shake canister and fluffed the wing, until it stood erect with a narrow profile. I began to make short casts above the targeted rainbow, and I held my line off the water, so that only the fly and leader touched the surface. Finally, after at least ten drifts, the crimson form darted upward and sipped my fly! Since I was holding my rod high to keep the line off the water, I only needed to execute a quick lift, and I was attached to a writhing rainbow trout. After a few minutes I dipped my net beneath the thrashing beauty, and I celebrated my hard-earned success.

CDC BWO Finally Worked

The last hour of dry fly action enabled me to forget my fall and the periodic pain in my right wrist. I salvaged a double-digit day that included some very bright vividly colored rainbow trout. I canceled my plans for an Eleven Mile trip on Friday, but hopefully my wrist recovers enough to allow a day of fishing on Monday. Early October is way too early to end the 2019 fishing season.

Fish Landed: 11

South Platte River – 10/01/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/01/2019 Photo Album

Tuesday, October 1, 2019 was a great day for kite flying and sailing. Unfortunately I was not participating in either of those activities. Instead I visited the South Platte River along with my friend, Steve, for a day of fly fishing. We were eager for an encore after our fun outing on 09/25/2019, as we envisioned masses of hungry fish gorging on a dense trico spinner fall. In advance of the scheduled trip I pulled out my canister of trico imitations and counted seven size 24 CDC versions, and I judged this to be a sufficient quantity for a day on the tailwater. In addition I moved three weighted trico spinners to my fleece wallet, in case I decided to experiment with a subsurface approach. The same canister that stored the size 24 trico spinners contained five size 24 midge emergers, and I speculated that these could also serve as trico emergers or crippled spinners. I deemed myself prepared and dreamed of a more successful day than that which entertained us on September 25.

I met Steve at his house in Lone Tree, CO; and I transferred my gear to his Subaru. Our early departure enabled us to arrive at the first bridge below Eleven Mile Dam by 9:40AM, and we quickly pulled on our waders and assembled our rods. I chose my Sage four weight, as it offered a stiffer spine and more length to battle the wind and in case of larger coldwater foes. The air temperature was in the mid-forties, and the wind gusted steadily, so I pulled on my light down coat, and I was quite pleased with the decision.

Several fishermen occupied the area just below the earthen bridge, so Steve and I quickly claimed some real estate on the upriver side. Steve grabbed one of his favorite positions on the left bank, and I ambled up the Spillway Campground Road on the right side, until I reached the shallow weir that spans the waterway. I noted very little surface activity in the early going, but I knotted a size 24 CDC BWO to my line, in case trico duns were making an appearance.

Some downstream drifts along the current seams below the weir produced a temporary hook up with a sub-six inch fish, but that was the extent of my success in the early going. After I thoroughly covered the faster water, I climbed the bank and moved upstream to an area just below a large bend. Some large rocks along the right bank created space for my backcasts, and some nice deep channels suggested the presence of large South Platte River trout. After a short period of observation I spotted several nice river residents, but they ignored my small blue winged olive dun. With the lack of obvious mayfly activity and the gusting wind, I concluded that terrestrials might be in demand, so I replaced the CDC olive with a size 18 black parachute ant. The ant actually generated a few interested looks, but eventually it was treated with the same disdain that was shown toward the BWO imitation.

Around the Bend

During this late morning time period the wind gusted relentlessly down the canyon, and I was very thankful for the retainer that was clipped to my hat. I was forced to reposition it five times, when the blasts of air directed it to Kansas. I paused my casting and turned my back to the wind on numerous occasions, and I was convinced that the tiny tricos would delay their mating ritual until calmer atmospheric conditions prevailed.

My confidence was quite low, when I decided to test a subsurface approach. Surely the underwater space was a sanctuary from the adverse weather above, and the trout were consuming abundant quantities of nymphs, emergers and drowned terrestrials. I knotted a size 14 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and trailed a sparkle wing RS2 and sunken trico below it. My optimism elevated slightly, but after thirty casts and a couple refusals to the beetle, my mental state returned to despair.

Another Shot

In a state of renewed frustration I retreated to the weir area. I speculated that the dry/dropper approach might be more appropriate for the deep seams and channels at the top of the riffles, and I began to lob casts to the frothy water created by the small dam. On the eighth drift the beetle sank, and I raised my rod tip and found myself attached to a very respectable fourteen inch rainbow trout. We battled back and forth, before I gained the upper hand and slid the sleek ‘bow into my net. A skunking was averted, and I was quite pleased with my dry/dropper change over.

After another five minutes of probing the fast water I decided to check out the water on the downstream side of the bridge. This was the section that Steve and I fished relatively successfully on September 25. As I stood on the bridge, I discovered a young bearded fisherman flicking long casts with a spinning rod. Steve remained above the bridge, and I did not want to infringe on the young man’s domain, so I waited for ten minutes and rested with my back to the wind.

Our Space After Lunch

Eventually the downstream angler migrated away from the bridge far enough, that I felt I could claim the upper right corner. I hunched down and parted the willows and gained a position twenty yards below the bridge next to a large flat exposed rock, and I began to toss the beetle and nymph combo to the nice runs above me. Once again the beetle exacted a couple looks and refusals, and a very subtle pause may have indicated a very brief connection with one of the nymphs, but the bottom line results were disappointing.

At approximately twelve o’clock I noticed increased surface activity, as quite a few trout went into a steady feeding rhythm. I saw little evidence of food on the surface of the water, but I was able to observe a few small blue winged olives, so I resurrected the size 24 CDC BWO. Surely this fly would reverse my fortunes and yield some action on the South Platte River. I am sad to report that the finicky fish of the popular tailwater were immune to all my best efforts to fool them. I cycled through several CDC olives, a Klinkhammer emerger, a Craven soft hackle emerger that was fished as a dry fly, an ant, a hippie stomper, and a midge emerger. The net result of my efforts after lunch was intense casting practice and extensive arm exercise. Knot tying was another element of the skill development session.

Below Us

Steve was greeted with similar results. In a last ditch effort to rebuild my confidence I reverted to one of my mainstay approaches. I tied a tan pool toy hopper to my line along with a beadhead hares ear nymph and soft hackle emerger, and I flicked repeated casts to the seams and narrow channels that parted the aquatic vegetation. Surely an opportunistic trout would snatch one of the dead drifting morsels for an easy meal. Alas, my thinking was off base, and none of my changes of approaches or flies could tempt the South Platte River trout on September 25.

By 3PM Steve and I were bored, and our confidence reached new depths, so we agreed to surrender to the wind and adverse conditions. Sourdough specials and a Red Bull occupied my thoughts, and I was anxious to forget the humiliation handed to me by the Eleven Mile Canyon coldwater trout.

Fish Landed: 1