Monthly Archives: May 2020

Harper Lake – 05/28/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 11:00AM

Location: The west and southwest shoreline.

Harper Lake 05/28/2020 Photo Album

Thus far during 2020 I caught trout in January, February, March and April. I spent most of May recovering from surgery, but I tested my casting arm yesterday at Pine Valley Ranch and determined that I was capable of short stints of fly fishing. Unfortunately I was unable to land a trout at Pine Valley Ranch Park, so the streak of at least one trout per month remained in danger of being broken.

I receive a biweekly CPW fishing and stocking report, and during the run off time of year, I browse the stocked lakes in the northeast for possible destinations. I noticed on the May 8 report that Harper Lake was stocked in late April, and I recognized this body of water to be in Louisville, CO near my son’s home. On my return trip from the cardiac rehab center in Boulder on Wednesday I negotiated a short detour to Harper Lake. As I stood on the southwestern bank, I spotted two rises, and then I was astounded to view two fairly large fish, as they cruised twenty feet from the shoreline. Both fish were almost certainly in excess of fifteen inches, and this glimpse of fish life in Harper Lake elevated my interest in a return visit.

Looking South

My calendar was clear of medical obligations on Thursday morning, so I decided to make the short drive to Louisville with the hope of a return engagement with the large cruisers from Wednesday. I arrived at the parking lot off of McCaslin and snagged one of the three remaining slots. Before climbing into my waders I needed a pit stop, but I learned that the bathroom was locked due to the coronavirus situation. This bit of adversity caused me to jump back in the car, and I retreated to a Conoco station near the Boulder Turnpike in order to gain relief.

North View

By the time I returned to the Harper Lake parking lot and pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight, my watch indicated that it was 10AM. Another angler occupied the area that I scouted the previous day, so I wandered on the gravel path along the western shore, until I circled around a father with two young girls. The surface of the lake was mostly ruffled with tiny waves, and this made spotting surface rises impossible, so I defaulted to a streamer strategy. I knotted an olive and black woolly bugger to my line and then extended some tippet from the hook eye and added a bright green g02 caddis pupa. After a few fruitless casts I added a split shot to achieve a faster sink rate. For the next forty-five minutes I sprayed thirty to forty foot casts from the shoreline and then methodically moved to my left by another three steps before repeating the cycle. I covered forty yards of shoreline, but never felt a bump. Midway through my shoulder and arm exercise I exchanged the go2 pupa for a damsel wiggle nymph. The change made not difference to the inhabitants of the lake.

The Prize of the Day

At 10:45 I exited the lake and decided to follow the path to scout out other areas of Harper Lake. Quite a few anglers occupied the northeast and eastern portions of the lake, and all were fitted with spinning rods, but none demonstrated any evidence of success. I returned along the south bank and found a spot a bit to the east of where I spotted a pair of larger than average fish on Wednesday. I disengaged my flies from the rod guide and made a last ditch effort to notch a trout during May of 2020. I am disappointed to report that fifteen minutes of focused fishing failed to reverse my fortunes, and after one hour of effort I returned to the car with nary a fish or even bite on my scorecard. I have three more days in May to keep my streak alive, so some diligent research appears to be in order.

Fish Landed: 0

Pine Valley Ranch Park – 05/26/2020

Time: 3:45PM – 5:15PM

Location: Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Valley Ranch Park 05/26/2020 Photo Album

Tuesday afternoon at Pine Valley Ranch was not the celebratory return to fly fishing that I envisioned after my heart surgery, but it felt great to be outdoors in beautiful Colorado, and my casting arm stood up to an initial stress test less that six weeks after surgery. I fulfilled my 11:45AM anticoagulation appointment in Boulder, CO; and then Jane and I headed directly to Pine Valley Ranch. In anticipation of our afternoon adventure we packed the car with lunch, hiking gear, and fishing equipment. The goal of the trip was mainly to introduce Jane to the pretty Jefferson County park and to enjoy lunch in an outdoor setting. The fishing gear was included to test my shoulder and arm. I had very low expectations for the amount of time I would fish, and any amount of success would be deemed a bonus.

It took us a little over an hour to drive from Boulder, CO to the park near Pine Junction, and although quite a few cars were present in the lower lot, we easily found a space. I tugged on my hiking boots and stashed my lunch in my day pack, and we quickly departed in search of a comfortable lunch location that adhered to the social distancing rules. Eventually we found some benches on a fisherman dock on the north side of Pine Lake, and we munched our lunches, while I carefully observed the lake for signs of fish. During a lull in the breeze the lake assumed a smooth appearance, and I noted six or seven riseforms, and I was reassured to learn that trout did in fact exist in Pine Lake.

Snacking at Pine Lake

After lunch we returned to the car and then turned on to the Narrow Gauge Trail. We followed the two track gradual grade westward, as it followed the North Fork of the South Platte River to a point .3 mile beyond the boundary of the park. During this hike at a comfortable pace I scouted the river, and although it was high and a bit murky, I concluded that I could find enough slack water to entertain me on my initial foray into fly fishing after heart surgery.

Slack Water Spot

By the time Jane and I reversed course and returned to the parking lot, and I climbed into my waders and fishing gear and then ambled back to my designated spot to fish, it was 3:45. I found an easy access point and progressed upstream along the right side of the river for an hour; but, alas I was unable to identify any proof that trout actually existed in the North Fork of the South Platte River at Pine Valley Ranch. I began with a 20 incher and flesh colored San Juan worm and then cycled through an array of flies, before I called it quits at 4:45. The worm was present throughout this portion of my quest for fish, but the 20 incher was replaced with a beadhead hares ear nymph and orange scud. I also added a second split shot to make sure that I was probing the depths, in case the trout were hugging bottom, while the ice cold snow melt rushed overhead.

Along the Rock Wall

At 4:45 I hiked back along the Narrow Gauge Trail, until I reached a footbridge that spanned the river. I made a right, and the bridge delivered me to the north side of Pine Lake. I met Jane by the footbridge, so she moved her folding rocking chair to the opening next to the lake, where I began to cast. The surface of the lake was slightly riffled, and this masked surface feeding, so I tossed my indicator rig out a few times. Standing on the bank watching a stationary indicator with no evidence of fish was too boring for this avid angler, so I stripped in the flies and removed the indicator and replaced the flies with a conehead haymaker and go2 caddis pupa. I fanned casts in a semi-circle from my position on the bank and experimented with various strip cadences, but again my efforts were futile. As this was transpiring, I spotted a small fish, as it darted to the surface to nab a small morsel within a few feet of the bank. In a last ditch effort to get on the board on Tuesday, I removed the split shots and two flies and knotted a size 18 black parachute ant to my line. The ant failed to entice the small fish near the bank, and after five unproductive casts I reeled up the fly and moved to the handicapped platform, where Jane and I ate lunch. I observed closely for rises, but the light wind disturbed the surface, so I fired some medium range casts to the area around the platform. I could only tolerate this style of fishing for five or ten minutes, before I stripped my fly in and returned to the parking lot.

Back to the Lake

Jane and I shared a delightful lunch by a pretty lake in the Colorado foothills, and the three mile hike built my confidence in my improving fitness. I was reassured to be able to cast in the river and lake for 1.5 hours, and this was probably the most significant take away from Tuesday afternoon. Getting skunked was a disappointment, but my expectations were low. I’m already considering some additional Front Range lakes for future fishing outings.

Fish Landed: 0

Narrow Gauge Trail

Moodah Poodah – 05/14/2020

Moodah Poodah 05/14/2020 Photo Album

I possess quite a few foam dry flies, but I am always susceptible to adding a new pattern. Toward the back of one of my past issues of Southwest Fly Fishing, a fly that carried the unusual name of moodah poodah caught my attention. During this coronavirus and surgery recovery time I could not resist the temptation to construct a few of the foam attractors.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 2487 Size 10-12
ThreadBlack 6/0
Hot SpotUV Hot Orange Ice Dub. I substituted orange poly.
BodyBlack Ice Dub
RibbingPearl flashabou
UnderwingBlack deer hair
HeadBlack 2MM Foam
LegsSpeckled Orange centipede legs.
PostOrange poly

The features that differentiated the moodah poodah from other foam flies in my boxes were the dangling Klinkhammer-style body, the size, and the shape. This foam fly struck me as a size that fit in between a hippie stomper and a Jake’s gulp beetle. It was large enough to float a single beadhead dropper, and the shape reminded me of a beetle, cicada and horsefly. Surely this fly covered enough bases to be a viable addition to my fly box.

Pumped to Try

I gathered my materials and churned out five reasonably accurate imitations of the moodah poodah that was displayed in the magazine article. I lacked UV hot orange ice dub for the hot spot, so I substituted orange poly and coated it with UV resin. The pattern specified black elk hair, but I utilized black deer hair instead. I also improvised for the legs by dabbing orange-red rubber appendages with a black magic marker to achieve the speckled effect. I was quite pleased with the final product, and I am anxious to give the moodah poodah a spin in western lakes and streams.

Standard Materials

X Leg Nymph – 05/11/2020

X Leg Nymph 05/11/2020 Photo Album

I lived in Colorado for thirty years; however, I continue to subscribe to Pennsylvania Boater & Angler. I enjoy staying current with the latest fishing trends and events in Pennsylvania in case I make an infrequent return visit. A recent issue outlined the tying steps for a X leg nymph, and the simplicity of the fly struck me. I scanned the pattern and recently had the time to tie some experimental models. I was also pleased to discover that I possessed all the necessary materials to create five brown versions.

Fly ComponentMaterial
Hook3X Long, curved nymph hook 10-12
Bead1/8 inch gold
Thread6/0 tan
TailBrown marabou
WireSm Gold Ultra wire
DubbingBrown
LegsAmber Barred Legs

Burrowing Nymph

The nymphs have long relatively narrow bodies and, thus, appear to be excellent imitations of the burrowing category of mayflies. Various eastern drakes fall into this category. I’m not sure if there is a brown burrowing nymph in the west, but I suspect the X leg could also replicate a stonefly, as it tumbles through deep pockets and runs in mountain environments. I will certainly allot the X leg some time on the end of my line. In a worst case scenario it should serve as a nice heavy top nymph to sink a dry/dropper rig deep on tumbling high elevation creeks. The long tapered body, undulating marabou tail, gold rib, vibrant legs, and gold bead are all attractive trigger elements of the X leg nymph.

Anxious to Test

Craven Haymaker – 05/09/2020

Craven Haymaker 05/09/2020 Photo Album

The next interesting fly to appear on my radar from scanned patterns was the Craven Haymaker. Charlie Craven is an accomplished fly tier and designer and the owner of Charlie’s Fly Box in nearby Arvada, CO. I visit his shop frequently, and I scanned and saved his step by step instructions in Fly Fisherman Magazine¬†for crafting the haymaker.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262, 6-12
BeadGold to Fit Hook
Weight.020 non-lead wire
TailBlack Marabou
LegsBlack sililegs
BodyBlack/Gold Speckled Chenille (I subbed Black/Medium Olive)
CollarBlack Hen Saddle Hackle (I subbed Hungarian Partridge)

I reviewed the materials list and noted that I did not possess the Black/gold speckled chenille or the black hen saddle hackle, so I made some substitutions from my vast array of materials that never seem to get used. I replaced the black/gold chenille with black/medium olive, and I improvised for the wet fly hackle with hungarian partridge. The partridge was very dark with white dots, and I was rather pleased with the final look of this feather.

Small Meat

The finished haymaker reminded me quite a bit of a woolly bugger, although it displays rubber legs and long wet fly style hackle fibers that probably wave in the current more than the typical dry fly hackles palmered on a woolly bugger. I made three, and the combination of the large bead and weighting probably make it a good choice to tumble on a dead drift through deep runs and at the head of riffles. Another new fly awaits my advancement into area trout streams in 2020.

Should Sink

May Break – 05/06/2020

May Break 05/06/2020 Photo Album

My first ever guided fishing day occurred on the Frying Pan River in the early 1990’s, shortly after we moved to Colorado from Pennsylvania. During this wonderful day my guide introduced me to the western green drake hatch, and seeking this exciting hatch has been an annual quest ever since. The guide set me up on the right side of the river and pointed out a nice trout that periodically surfaced along a current seam to crush the large mayflies attempting to become airborne. He tied an odd fly on to my line that struck me as a poorly tied mayfly dun. Apparently the trout thought the fly was expertly tied, because several fine Frying Pan browns sucked it in with no reluctance. I asked my guide what the fly was named, and he said it was a green drake cripple.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTMC 5212 Size 12 or 14
ThreadLight olive 6/0
TailPearl krystal flash and olive and gray marabou
AbdomenLight olive and gray marabou barbs
ThoraxPeacock herl
Thorax shroudDun antron fibers
WingNatural deer hair
HackleDun dry fly hackle

As I browsed through the scanned patterns in my iPad, I encountered a fly called a May break from Southwest Fly Fishing. This fly looked very similar to the green drake cripples that enabled me to enjoy some success during my first guided fly fishing trip on the Frying Pan River. I decided to manufacture a few to determine if they still possessed the magic of the early 1990’s. I reviewed the materials list and determined that I possessed all the materials except for gray marabou and dun antron fibers. I concluded that I could substitute the gray fluffy feathers from the base of a game bird feather for the gray in the tail. For the twisted marabou abdomen I elected to simply use light olive marabou since that color matched the body of a green drake, and I substituted some gray-olive antron for the dun antron thorax shroud.

A May Break

Upon completion of five May breaks, I examined my output, and I was quite pleased with the flies on my tying bench. They closely resemble the green drake cripples from my memory, and I am anxious to give them a trial on western streams during green drake emergence time.

A Bit Closer Look

Royal Wulff – 05/05/2020

Royal Wulff 05/05/2020 Photo Album

The royal Wulff is allegedly one of the most popular flies in the world. It was created by Lee Wulff as a visible high floating attractor, and it certainly matches that description. I tend to gravitate more to flies that are intended to imitate something, although I am not sure how I explain my love affair with the hippie stomper and Chernobyl ant. At least in those instances I can envision a likeness to a terrestrial or large stonefly. The shape and key triggering characteristics of a royal Wulff clearly fall within the range of a mayfly with a tail and upright wing, but how does one explain the peacock and red floss body?

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookStandard dry fly hook
ThreadBlack 6/0
TailDeer hair
WingsCalf hair
BodyRed floss and peacock
HackleBrown neck hackle

I rarely fish a royal Wulff, because I generally default to a stimulator or adult caddis as my large searching dry fly. However, I have friends who knot a Wulff to their line more frequently, and they report decent success. One of the flies that popped up on my iPad, that I scanned from Fly Tyer Magazine was the royal Wulff. With recovery time on my hands after surgery, I decided to spin out five.

Another Angle

The most difficult aspect of a royal Wulff, in my mind, is the calf hair wing. Calf hair is more slippery to work with than deer hair or feathers, so pinching and figure eight wraps are a necessity. I managed to overcome the wing challenge and produced five respectable royal Wulffs, that I added to my fly box. Hopefully I remember these new ties, when I wade into a mountain stream in a few months.

Five Ready for Action

Fusion Nymph – 05/03/2020

Fusion Nymph 05/03/2020 Photo Album

I followed @thin_air_angler on Instagram for a few years now, and I actually met Bob Reece several times at the Fly Fishing Show in Denver. Bob is a junior high science teacher and coach in Cheyenne, WY, but his avocation is fly tying, guiding and fly fishing. Bob is a signature fly designer for Umpqua Feather Merchants.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 2457 or Equivalent
BeadBrass gold size to fit hook
ThreadBrown 6/0
TailAmber krystal flash
WireCopper ultra wire
HerlGray ostrich herl
Dubbing Peacock ice dub

One of Reece’s signature patterns is the fusion nymph, and the tying instructions appeared in an issue of Southwest Fly Fishing. I was intrigued by the look of the fly, so I scanned it, and given the Stay at Home orders from the covid19 epidemic and my status as a rehabilitating patient, I decided to give the fusion nymph a try.

Love the Look

I found an instructional video online featuring the creator himself, and I gathered the necessary materials. The pattern that he tied prescribed tan ostrich herl and amber ultra wire. I did not have these two materials in my possession, and the local fly shops were closed due to the coronavirus situation. I was reluctant to wait for the delivery of an online order, so I made some substitutions. Bob actually suggested some different color combinations in his instructional video.

Nymphs and Materials

I produced five fusion nymphs, and I must say I am very pleased with the output. The unique concept that Bob incorporated into his nymph design is the abdomen with fine copper wire wrapped over the ostrich herl. This creates a very buggy look, as the herl that pokes through the gaps in the wire creates the illusion of gill fibers. The finished flies appear to be in the pale morning dun nymph genre, but they are easier to tie than a salvation nymph or pheasant tail. I am anxious to give them a try. The flies have a lot of shine and are solidly constructed and could be a positive addition to my nymph arsenal.

Home Recovery – 05/02/2020

Home Recovery 05/02/2020 Photo Album

My first night at home, Sunday, was perhaps my most mentally draining. It’s a close call with Friday night in the hospital, when I was dealing with my highest pain level. I went to bed at 10:30 on Sunday night and immediately began coughing blood. The first sputum came from my lungs, and the discharge was a blend of clear phlegm and blood. This scared me.¬† Over the next three hours, while I attempted to sleep, I coughed up blood seven additional times. Each viscous collection after the first was a deep maroon color. I checked the instructions on my discharge papers, and the physician’s assistant noted that I should call him off hours, if I experienced “heavy bleeding”. Was my coughed up maroon phlegm heavy bleeding? I am a chronic worrier, and needless to say, this sequence of events was not aiding my attempts to sleep.

In addition to the blood, I was coughing. Did I contract corona virus, and now I was faced with a battle for life? These thoughts sound ridiculous now, but at 2AM on Monday morning while lying in bed with no access to medical assistance short of an emergency room visit, one’s mind can wreak havoc on a positive mindset. Somehow by 2:30AM I fell asleep, and a repeat of coughing blood never reoccurred. On Monday I called my doctor, and his assistant speculated that the blood was related to beginning my blood thinner treatment. A visit to the anticoagulation center on Tuesday confirmed the likelihood of this theory, as my blood thinner index increased from 1.5 in the hospital to 3.3 by Tuesday. In theory the thinned blood resulted in some bleeding in my nose, and that in turn created the nosebleed like sputum.

A highlight for Monday was my first bowel movement since my admission to the hospital on Thursday, This may seem like an event not worth chronicling on a blog such as this, but it was worth celebrating for me. If you ever experienced surgery and anesthesia, you will appreciate my joy at this turn of events.

The greatest challenge of my early days in home care was finding a comfortable chair and cushion configuration. Jane and I experimented with the kitchen chair, couch, office chair, and a large overstuffed armchair, that Jane miraculously hauled up from the downstairs recreation room by herself. I am still amazed that she managed this feat without getting injured. The main source of discomfort was the groin incision and the associated swelling. Any seat that was too soft aggravated and stretched the incision. Slouching and keeping my knees elevated and bent seemed to provide a modicum of comfort, but this position eventually induced lower back pain. I never found a complete answer to the dilemma, but a combination of a firm seat and several large pillows to support my back yielded the most tolerable position.

Throughout these early at-home recovery days, Jane was amazing. She was by my side at all times. In hindsight my balance was fairly wobbly, and I needed Jane to prod me to use the walker constantly. She prepared all my meals, helped me get comfortable in the chairs, and endured numerous trips up and down the stairs to transport my toothbrush, electronic devices, water cup, and everything one takes for granted until a time of need. She assisted with my showers and helped me dress and undress. Jane was on top of my drug dosages and helped take my temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and weight on a regular basis.

Speaking of drugs I was taking a diuretic, potassium chloride, and cuomadin on a regular daily basis. At night I started out taking extra strength Tylenol, but after two nights of restless sleep, I took the narcotic, norco, for three consecutive nights at bedtime. The stronger painkiller seemed to improve my sleep in the first five hours, but I struggled with an annoying tickle and cough each morning at 3AM, that made returning to sleep a problem. Finally by the sixth night at home I reverted to Tylenol and the coughing disappeared, and these were welcome developments with this recovering patient.

On Wednesday I had my first visit with the at-home physical therapist, Vanessa. She was very pleasant and asked me a batch of questions, before she implement a series of tests to evaluate my endurance and balance. First I walked in circles around the dining room and kitchen with the walker for eight minutes. Next she had me stand and balance, while she applied light pressure to all sides of my body. I walked in a straight line from the kitchen to the front door and back, and during loops three and four I repeatedly looked up and down. On the fifth and sixth passes I looked left and right. My final challenge was to scale the first flight of stairs and then return to the bottom, while she looked on. Vanessa turned my cardiac rehabilitation over to her assistant Jeffrey, and he visited me three times over the next two weeks for controlled exercise sessions.

Throughout the first two weeks my Drive walker became an indispensable aid to my mobility. The sixty dollar investment was money well spent. Having the smooth rolling conveyance allowed me to conveniently move from place to place with the convenience of a small storage bag and a seat to rest on should the need arise. Nice weather during my second week at home allowed me to complete my daily walks with the trusty Drive walker supporting my every step and available for rest stops. I highly recommend one of these devices to anyone undergoing significant surgery.

On Tuesday April 28 Jane and I drove to Boulder Heart for my follow up visit with Dr. O’Hair. In order to minimize trips from Denver to Boulder, I combined the doctor’s visit with chest X-rays and my anticoagulation appointment. During this visit the physician’s assistant, Ann, and Dr. O’Hair detected atrial fibrillation (a fib). The monitoring equipment in the hospital showed a similar event on Saturday. Dr. O’Hair told me that 30% of mitral heart valve repair patients experience a fib, and in most cases it self corrects, as the heart mends and recovers. He prescribed four weeks of monitoring with the hope that my body would resolve the erratic heart beat condition. If not, I will have an appointment with a cardiologist who specializes in issues with electrical impulses of the heart. I was not pleased with this turn of events, but I have little control so resolved to move forward with positive thoughts.

I am now in day 16 of my recovery and feeling reasonably good. I completed a 1.1 mile walk with the walker this morning, and I felt fine afterward. Climbing two flights of stairs in our house remains a challenge, and I generally stop to rest on the landing and then at the top before resuming. The physical therapy exercises prescribed by Jeffrey are a priority, and I resumed my finger, wrist and elbow exercises routine from my pre-surgery days.

Throughout the ordeal communications with my friends and relatives have been a significant positive. Each email that arrives in my Gmail inbox provides a mental boost. In addition I resumed reading novels, and several days ago I felt strong enough to migrate downstairs to my tying desk to whip out some flies. Today for the first time I successfully worked in my garden, and with Jane’s assistance I planted some leaf lettuce, beets and carrots. It felt great to do some productive outdoor activities.

The a fib concerns me and my incisions have not totally healed, but I am beginning to see a future, where I gain strength and return to a life more akin to my pre-operative state.

Bionic Ant – 05/01/2020

Bionic Ant 05/01/2020 Photo Album

As I gathered the materials required to tie the ugly bug, I stumbled across three packs of black foam cylinders. I decided to abort my ugly bug project, and I became intrigued with the idea of using my long dormant supply of black foam cylinders to produce some oversized ants. I performed a search on YouTube, and I found several patterns that utilized black foam cylinders. The one that caught my attention was called a bionic ant created by Lance Egan. I decided to experiment with a few of these creations. The tying video can be found on YouTube, if you are interested in producing a few of these terrestrials.

Closer View

Unlike the Chernobyl ant and foam ants of that ilk, these ants could actually imitate naturals. I always assumed that Chernobyl ants and chubby Chernobyls were misnamed, and that they actually mimicked large beetles, hoppers and stoneflies. I extracted some size 14 standard dry fly hooks from my collection and manufactured five ants. I made one with an orange tipped foam cylinder, and the others contained a solid black barrel-shaped piece of foam. I followed the YouTube directions closely and added a white poly wing and black sili legs, and concluded the buggy creation with wraps of brown hackle. I was rather pleased with my output, and although the bionics are larger than most natural ants, they do replicate the distinctive shape of the real insects.

Ants Go Marching

I added a pair to my main fly box and then stashed the remaining three in my boat box, which I use for back up. The bionic ant provides another foam terrestrial that is smaller than a hippie stomper but larger than a Jake’s gulp beetle. I sense that this fly will see some line time during 2020.