Boulder Creek – 11/10/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 11/10/2019 Photo Album

With a high of 65 degrees forecast for Denver on Sunday, November 10, 2019 I could not resist the siren call of Boulder Creek. Boulder Creek within the City of Denver is one of my favorite destinations in late November, as it remains milder than the streams in the foothills and those at high elevation.

I departed my house in Denver at 10:40AM on Sunday morning, and this enabled me to arrive in Boulder across from the stream by 11:15AM. My normal parking space at Scott Carpenter Park was off limits, as the parking lot was fenced off for some sort of construction project. This forced me to reverse my direction on 30th Street, and after I crossed the bridge over Boulder Creek, I made a left and parked in a CU parking lot next to some greenhouses. The lot was empty, and signs warned against parking without a permit on Monday through Friday. An advantage of my rare weekend fishing excursion was the availability of parking.

Near the Start

I assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod and quickly ambled to Boulder Creek just below the 30th Street Bridge. I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. These flies remained on my line during my entire stay on Boulder Creek. The stream was seasonally low, but no snow remained from the back to back storms of the previous week. The temperature was in the low sixties and the sun was bright, so I elected to forego additional layers beyond my fishing shirt over a long sleeved Columbia undershirt.

A Rare Rainbow from Boulder Creek in Boulder, CO

I covered .6 mile of water in my 3.0 hours on Boulder Creek, and I landed eight trout in the process. All except one of the temporary net residents were brown trout, with the outlier being a colorful rainbow. The largest trout was barely eight inches, and most fell within the six to seven inch range. The hippie stomper served as an indicator, although two or three fish flashed to the surface only to veer away at the last instant thus registering only teasing refusals.

Love the Leaf Wrap

The shallow condition of the stream caused me to skip significant sections, as I sought slower moving areas with greater than normal depth. The most effective technique was an up and across cast followed by a long drift to a point three quarters below my position. Most of the trout nabbed one of the nymphs, as the flies began to accelerate away from the bank, or as I executed a lift to initiate a new cast. I tried to remain on the north bank as much as possible, as this position avoided the strong glare that made tracking the hippie stomper difficult from the south bank.

The Slack Water by the Roots Produced

Sunday was a short outing and the fish were small, but I took advantage of one of a dwindling number of warm days in November. The Boulder Creek bike path was swarming with skateboarders, dog walkers, runners, walkers, and cyclists; however, I only saw one other fisherman, and I was pleased with that circumstance on a rare weekend outing. I checked the weather forecast, and a high of 65 is predicted for Wednesday. Perhaps another visit to Boulder Creek is in my future for 2019.

Fish Landed: 8

One of the Best Fish of the Day

 

 

 

Beaver Creek – 11/08/2019

Time: 1:30PM – 3:00PM

Location: Backcountry

Beaver Creek 10/08/2019 Photo Album

I parked at the trailhead and grabbed my already strung fly rod and packs and completed a .6 mile hike, until I found a suitable spot to enter the stream. I knew from a previous trip, that Beaver Creek supported a decent population of rainbow trout, and rainbows spawn in the spring, so I was confident that the residents of this stream would not be preoccupied with reproduction. I knew that the cold temperatures and melting snow slowed the metabolism of the trout, but I felt confident, that I could entice a few trout to grab my offerings.

Snow and Sunshine

The temperature during the first hour remained in the low fifties, and the low sun in the western sky cast my long shadow ahead, as I moved in a northward direction. My first two interactions with trout were brief temporary hookups, so I paused and swapped the RS2 for a salvation nymph. I speculated that the larger hook translated to more netted fish.

Brilliant

My theory was proven to be accurate, as I landed six fish from the small backcountry stream during 1.5 hours of fishing on Friday afternoon. Five of the fish that rested in my net were rainbow trout and one was a brook trout. The catch rate was slower than my earlier visit during the summer, but I expected that given the cold temperatures of early November. One small rainbow casually nipped the fat Albert, and the other trout were split between the hares ear and salvation.

Those Markings Are Brilliant

During the last thirty minutes I entered a section that was totally covered by shadows from the canyon wall to the west. The last two trout arrived in my net during this time period, and my threatening shadows were no longer a concern. Fly fishing always offers trade offs, and in this case the lack of sun benefited my approach but also resulted in very cold fingers and hands. A dull burn and stinging sensation forced me to call it quits a bit after three o’clock, and the discomfort persisted for much of my return hike.

Barriers to Progress

My move to a stream with a significant rainbow population paid dividends, and I elevated the fish count to six and seven for the entire day. Fishing in the small stream amid ice, snow and tight overhanging branches created a difficult series of challenges, but I persisted, until my hands cried for relief. Several of the rainbows were plump trout in the twelve inch range, and a lift or swing seemed to be the catalyst that produced strikes.

Fish Landed: 6

Ice Chunk Remains

Elk Creek – 11/08/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Backcountry

Elk Creek 11/08/2019 Photo Album

Another break in the early winter-like weather of Colorado on Friday, November 8 motivated me to undertake a fishing excursion. I arrived at the trailhead of the small backcountry stream that is quickly becoming a favorite, and I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight and made a .6 mile hike along the snow and ice covered trail. The temperature was thirty-two degrees, when I arrived at the trailhead parking lot, and when I departed at 1PM, the thermometer rose to the mid-fifties. The weather was fairly tolerable during the two hours on Elk Creek, as the sun’s rays created solar warming.

Sumptuous Pool

The flows of the small creek were low and clear and ideal for my late season venture. I began my fly fishing effort with a yellow fat Albert, 20 incher, and salvation nymph; but when I broke for lunch at noon, the fish counter remained solidly locked on 0.

More Tantalizing Water

All the gorgeous pools that yielded one or two nice trout in the summer and early fall seemed devoid of fish. I momentarily hooked up with one decent trout at the tail of a small deep pool, but that was the extent of the action in the first hour. Normally I manage to spook fish, but on Friday I only spotted three fleeing fish, as I slowly progressed up the backcountry stream.

First and Only

After lunch I continued my upstream migration, and in an effort to change my luck I swapped the two nymphs for a beadhead hares ear and size 20 RS2. The move improved my fortunes slightly, as I hooked a nice brown trout and played it for a second or two before it escaped. Finally at approximately 12:45PM I felt some weight, as I lifted my flies from a deep eddy, and after a short battle I netted a nice thirteen inch brown trout that nabbed the RS2.

Foam Was Home

During my time on Elk Creek I struggled with long shadows, since I was fishing upstream to the north, and the low sun was shining from the south, and I suspect this had an impact on my lack of success. Another fifteen minutes with no action convinced me that the predominantly brown trout stream was in advanced spawning season, and the fish were more interested in procreation than eating. I never spotted spawning fish, but I have no other explanation for the absence of trout in an area that held abundant quantities during previous visits.

I decided to cut my losses, so I hiked back to the parking lot, stashed my gear in the Santa Fe and shifted my base of operations to another stream that contained predominantly rainbow trout.

Fish Landed: 1

Clear Creek – 11/05/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Tunnel 3 and Big Easy; Just West of Tunnel 6

Clear Creek 11/05/2019 Photo Album

After an extended spell of snowstorms and cold weather, a short break in the weather tempted me to make another 2019 fishing trip. The high temperature in Denver was predicted to peak at 61 degrees, and I speculated that this translated to fifty in the high country, so I hedged and chose Clear Creek Canyon as my destination. The high for Golden, CO was 61, and Idaho Springs was projected at 52, so I concluded that Clear Creek Canyon would top out in the mid to high fifties.

As I traveled along Clear Creek on U.S. 6 west of the intersection of CO 93, I noted a considerable amount of snow along the creek along with the presence of shelf ice. I should have realized that snow and ice would be a factor, since the low temperature on October 30 was -1 F. In spite of the ice and snow discovery, I resolved to persist in my late season attempt to land a few trout.

Lots of Ice and Snow

I traveled through Tunnel 3 and after a couple miles pulled into a wide pullout along the north side of the highway. The stretch between Tunnel 3 and the Big Easy Peak to Plains Access produced for me on previous trips, and I was convinced that it held promise on November 5.

Once I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I hiked east along U.S. 6 for .3 mile and then dropped down a snowy angled path to the creek. I wore my North Face light down coat and my New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps, and these outer clothing choices served me well, until I entered the ice cold flows of Clear Creek. I rigged my line with a yellow fat Albert, 20 incher and salvation nymph. The 20 incher was selected to provide weight, as I anticipated drifting my nymphs close to the bottom given the 38 CFS flows and melting snow and ice.

Nice Run Ahead

During the last hour of the morning I progressed upstream and prospected likely holding spots with the three fly dry/dropper set up. Originally I probed some short deep pockets and moderate riffles, but these failed to produce, until I encountered a nice long steadily moving trough, where a six inch brown trout latched on to the 20 incher. I was not convinced that another trout was in my future given the challenging conditions, so I snapped a photo of the small jewel. Just before I stopped for lunch, another trout grabbed one of the nymphs, but this connection ended within seconds, when the panicked trout rolled and shed the pointy irritant in its lip.

First Fish on 20 Incher

Shortly before noon my feet morphed into stumps, and a serious chill invaded my body, so I found some nice large ice free boulders along the north bank and consumed my lunch. The break restored feeling to my feet, and I resumed my upstream progression in a slightly improved state of warmth.

I decided to skip marginal pockets and faster water in order to target slower slots and shelf pools similar to the two places that yielded interaction with trout in the morning. The strategy seemed reasonable, but I must report, that I failed to generate any interest in my flies between noon and 1PM. I was successful, however, in acquiring another significant chill, as my feet once again attained a state of numbness, and the cold of the creek migrated upward to my ears and hands. A constant burn and sting emanated from my fingers, and the deep shadows of the canyon prevented the warming effect of the sun’s rays from mitigating my discomfort. I decided that relief from the cold was higher on my hierarchy of needs than catching more fish, and I returned to the car.

As I pondered my next move, I decided that I underestimated the beneficial impact of the sun, and I decided to drive west beyond Tunnel 6. I remembered that the creek shifted to the north side of the highway in the western section of the canyon, and this in turn meant that sunshine would prevail. I was surprised to discover that no cars were present in the wide pullout just beyond Tunnel 6, so I quickly grabbed a prime spot and pulled on my packs and grabbed my fly rod. I ambled east toward the tunnel and then dropped down a bare path between snow-covered rocks, until I perched next to the stream just above a zip line, that rock climbers utilized to cross the creek.

I prospected my way upstream for forty yards and experienced a refusal to the fat Albert and a tentative nip on one of the trailing nymphs. As I surmised, the sun bathed the creek in light, and this circumstance was a welcome development after the frigid shaded canyon section that abused me during the first two hours.

I Spent Some Time at This Pool

By two o’clock I approached a gorgeous deep pool, and I remembered it from several previous visits to Clear Creek. I paused to observe the aqua hued area which was in fact a large eddy. The main current swept along the north bank and then curled around and flowed back toward the western edge of the pool. Initially I spotted only a small trout near the south side of the curl, but as I continued to peer into the blueish clear pool, I noted at least eight fish.

I initiated my effort to fool the pool residents with the dry/dropper, but it was treated like inert flotsam, so I removed the three flies and considered alternatives. Would a size 18 parachute black ant fool these wary trout? I plucked one from my box and knotted it to my 5X, but after ten minutes of casting, I could only point to a couple nose to fly refusals. I stripped in the ant and replaced it with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. I plopped the foam terrestrial in the vicinity of all the visible finned creatures, but once again a pair of inspections with no take was my reward.

I decided that something small was probably the answer, and I once again inspected my MFC fly box. I spotted a vertical row of size 18 gray stoneflies that matched an October and November hatch on South Boulder Creek. I concluded that the tiny stonefly imitation could imitate several aquatic life forms, so I tied it to my leader and took it for a ride. Unlike the two terrestrials, the small stonefly failed to entice even a look from the hovering trout in front of me.

Happy

By now a decent fish was tipping up to sip something from the edge of the current, where it began to curl across the creek. It was late afternoon in early November, and I decided I would be remiss, if I did not try a CDC blue winged olive. I removed a tiny size 24 from my box and replaced the stonefly with the minuscule tuft of CDC with an olive body. The change proved effective, when two nine inch brown trout tipped up and sipped the small olive to increase my fish count to three. The third fish slowly elevate and then pressed its snout against the fly and then slowly inhaled it. I somehow mustered enough patience to allow the excruciatingly slow process to unfold.

Overview

After fish number three a shadow enveloped the north side of the pool, and this made tracking the tiny mayfly along the current seam impossible, so I abandoned the honey hole and moved upstream to another quality area. The creek spread out and created five nice channels of moderate depth. The flows in this area were faster, and prospecting with the size 24 olive seemed like an exercise in frustration, so I swapped it for the Jake’s gulp beetle. I sprayed casts upstream and across, until I covered the many wide troughs and channels, but the trout were either not interested in the beetle or not present.

I retreated to the south bank and worked my way toward the head of the attractive section. A series of narrow deep slots existed along the bank above me, and much to my amazement I spotted a subtle rise eight feet upstream along a large exposed boulder. I plopped the beetle four feet above the site of the rise, and a decent trout elevated and then drifted back to its holding position along the bottom. A second plop, however, evoked another upward movement, but this time the fish sipped the beetle, and I quickly lifted the rod tip and felt a brief throb of weight. Unfortunately the take was very tentative, and the fish quickly flipped free of the beetle. I was certain that I botched my last chance at a fish on November 5, but I flicked another cast six feet above the previous one, and a brown trout rushed from the depths to devour the foam impostor. Fish number four rested in my net.

I continued upstream for another ten minutes and generated another look, but that was the extent of my additional action, before I reached a long wide shallow riffle area. The sun was very low in the sky, and this created an impossible glare, so I hooked the beetle to the rod guide, climbed the bank, and strolled back to the Santa Fe.

Four small trout in four hours of fishing was not a memorable experience, but the move to the sun bathed area west of Tunnel 6 salvaged a chilly November day. The dry/dropper technique was not producing, so I was happy to linger at the large pool and cast to sighted fish. I cycled through four standalone dry flies, but I eventually found one that fooled two fish. Catching three of four trout on dry flies is probably the most surprising aspect of my day of fly fishing on November 5.

Fish Landed: 4

Hares Ear Nymph – 11/02/2019

Hares Ear Nymph 11/02/2019 Photo Album

The beadhead hares ear nymph rocks. Year after year it is my most consistent producer throughout all the seasons of the year. What does it imitate? I suspect a reason for its universal effectiveness is its ability to represent numerous underwater life forms. Surely the coarse fur and earthy color cause it to be mistaken for a caddis pupa. Numerous mayfly species carry a gray-brown color and the general shape of a hares ear nymph. A guide also informed me that the hares ear nymph is a reasonable representation of the nymph of a yellow sally stonefly. Dare I suggest that it also serves as a copy of a cranefly nymph? Given this versatility it is no surprise that a beadhead hares ear nymph is my most productive fly.

A Later Model

My post of 11/05/2010 provides a materials chart and describes a few of the alterations that I applied to the standard pattern. I tie them on a scud hook to give the body a slight curled appearance. I substituted Tyvek strips for turkey quill for the wing case. This synthetic addition is nearly indestructible, and many sources are available such as Fedex mailing envelopes. I use race bib numbers and color them with a black magic marker. A standard hares ear specifies a gold tinsel rib, but I utilize fine gold wire. Of course the gold bead is a modification of the original pattern, but I cannot conceive of a hares ear nymph without a bead. I now apply head cement at two intermediate steps before coating the whip finish wraps behind the bead. The first dab goes on the rear of the abdomen, after I add the tail and fine gold wire. A second application is soaked into the wraps after the abdomen is completed and the wing case is tied in.

Macro of the Materials

In my estimation an absolute necessity for an effective hares ear nymph is natural hares mask dubbing. I use the real stuff, and I try make sure that the guard hairs are incorporated into each fly. For the abdomen I make a dubbing loop and insert a blend of the natural fur and guard hairs, and this method yields an extremely buggy appearance with stray guard hairs pointing in random directions. I use the same dubbing for the thorax but without a dubbing loop, but again I make sure to roll some guard hairs into the noodle to create additional buggyness. I tie 100% of my beadhead hares ear nymphs on a size 14 scud hook. The space consumed by the bead creates a body length roughly equivalent to a size 16 nymph. I suppose I should try some different sizes, but it is hard to imagine that additional sizes could make the hares ear nymph more productive than it already is.

A Nice Clump Ready for the Fly Box (Macro)

I counted my inventory of beadhead hares ear nymphs and determined that my various storage compartments contained seventy-six completed flies. I target a starting inventory of 100 each year, so I completed twenty-four new nymphs and then added ten for a friend. I have no doubt that the beadhead hares ear nymph will once again be my most productive fly in 2020.