Monthly Archives: July 2021

Spring Creek – 07/28/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 1:30PM

Location: Between Harmel Resort and Spring Creek Reservoir

Spring Creek 07/28/2021 Photo Album

Wednesday was my getaway day from the Taylor River Valley, and I needed to choose between fishing the Taylor, returning to Spring Creek or seeking out another creek not yet visited. The choice was rather easy after landing a combined total of thirty-two fish on Spring Creek in two separate visits on Tuesday. I enjoyed the hour of fishing on the Taylor River with western green drakes on Tuesday, but the non-hatch times were extremely slow. I slept in a bit later on Wednesday morning and packed all my gear and departed the campground by 9:00AM. The tent was covered with dew, so I rolled it up along with the rainfly and stuffed it under a pair of bins. Once I returned home, I could spread everything out in the patio, and it would dry in minutes given the hot, dry temperatures in Denver.

I made the thirty minute drive to Spring Creek and found a pullout upstream from my locations on Tuesday. Before I parked, however, I drove north along the creek a bit to make sure that the gradient was not excessive, and also that I could find a relatively manageable exit point. My Orvis Access four weight remained rigged from Tuesday, so it was not long before I waded into the creek to begin my Wednesday adventure. I was admittedly rather confident, after I enjoyed substantial success the previous day. On Tuesday morning I prospected almost entirely with a peacock body hippie stomper, and this strategy led to eighteen trout in two hours of fishing. How could Wednesday not be a repeat?

Change is constant in fly fishing, and Wednesday was not a repeat of Tuesday morning. Naturally I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line, and in the first twenty minutes I landed two brown trout that exceeded my six inch minimum. This was not the relaxed dry fly fishing that I experienced on Tuesday. For each fish I landed, I witnessed three refusals. For some reason the same attractor fly that the Spring Creek trout loved on Tuesday was now avoided. On Tuesday afternoon I modified my approach to that of dry/dropper fishing, so I decided to make the same switch on Wednesday. My line absorbed a Chernobyl ant and trailed a salvation nymph and eventually a hares ear to gain more depth, but the dry/dropper technique on Wednesday morning was a bust. I landed one small brown trout on the Chernobyl ant, and the nymphs were blatantly ignored.

What now? I observed a couple of yellow sallies along with a veritable swarm of spruce moths. I began my experimentation with a yellow size 14 stimulator, but refusals reigned, so I abandoned it after ten minutes. I peered into my fly box for large caddis flies and spotted a size 14 muggly caddis with a light gray body. Perhaps the muggly caddis imitated the spruce moth? I knotted it to my line, and in a short amount of time it attracted the attention of two trout. My optimism quickly waned; however, as the fly failed to produce in some attractive spots, and the body and wing absorbed water and began to sink. I grew weary of the excessive drying and pondered yet another switch. By now I had fished for forty-five minutes, and the fish count rested on five.

Harrop Hair Wing Green Drake Getting It Done

Green drakes hatched on the Taylor River on Tuesday. Could the same aquatic insects be present on this cold tributary stream, and could their emergence lag their appearance on the main river? I decided to give one a try and attached a Harrop hair wing green drake to my line. Finally I met with success, and I began catching trout with some regularity bringing the fish counter to nine after one hour of fishing. Suddenly my day of frustration morphed into one of optimism, as my catch rate mirrored the rate for the two morning hours of the previous day!

Fine Brown Trout

After a period of steady production the hair wing became saturated with fish slime and moisture, and like the muggly caddis it required constant sopping, trips to the dry shake vial, and application of floatant. I yearned for a green drake imitation that floated better, and I actually had such a fly in my box. I retrieved a user friendly green drake with its narrow foam back, and I replaced the Harrop hair wing. The user friendly proved its worth, as five additional brown trout succumbed to its magic, but then once again I endured a lengthy lull in prime trout habitat.

What a Trout Lie!

User Friendly Visible in the Mouth

I never actually observed a natural green drake, so I concluded that perhaps the sparse hatch was over or perhaps the normal emergence period had passed. I elected to try the terrestrial route and equipped my line with a size 14 Jake’s gulp beetle. The beetle prompted a few looks, but it was not on the menu, so I once again paused to consider my options. Could a double dry fly be the ticket? Maybe I did not give the hippie stomper a fair chance? I found a peacock body stomper in my frontpack and attached it to my tippet, and then I added a purple haze on a foot long dropper. The double dropper method seemed to be in vogue so far in the summer of 2021, so why not give it another chance?

Small Shelf Pool

Suddenly trout appeared where I expected them to be, and the purple haze became a desirable treat for the Spring Creek trout. The two relatively large surface flies with large white wings were relatively easy to follow, and I capitalized to move the fish counter from eighteen to twenty-six. The purple haze became a hot commodity, and some larger than average trout went out of their way to crush the purple bodied attractor fly.

Chunky One

Unfortunately the torrid action suddenly ceased, and I spent the last thirty minutes in futility. Quality pools and pockets similar to ones that recently delivered multiple trout abruptly seemed to be devoid of fish. The lack of action and the advancement of my watch to 1:30PM prompted me to call it quits with a 4.5 hour drive to Denver ahead of me.

Subtle Fish Holding Water Here

I approached Wednesday with the expectation of tying a hippie stomper to my line, and that simple step would invite a parade of wild trout to compete to chomp the large attractor dry fly. It did not evolve that way. Three flies accounted for the bulk of my catch, and they were the Harrop hair wing green drake, user friendly green drake and purple haze. Wednesday’s success required thought, experimentation and persistence; and fortunately I was up to the challenge. A twenty-six fish day in 3.5 hours of fishing is an outing to be proud of, Of course, the fish were on the small side with most falling in the seven to eleven inch range. A few stretched the tape to twelve inches, but Wednesday was definitely a day where quantity exceeded size. I love small stream fly fishing, exploring new sections of a creek, and moving along at a steady pace; and Spring Creek certainly met these criteria.

Fish Landed: 26

Spring Creek Afternoon – 07/27/2021

Time: 3:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Between Spring Creek Reservoir and confluence with the Taylor River

Spring Creek Afternoon 07/27/2021 Photo Album

I was curious if I could catch fish on Spring Creek in the late afternoon, a time that is generally the doldrums on large rivers during hot summer days. My Orvis Access four weight remained set up with a peacock hippie stomper from the morning session, so I jumped right into action at 3:30PM. In a short amount of time the stomper delivered two small brown trout, but then a lull ensued, as I prospected some great looking water with no response. Would a nymph perform better in the late afternoon, when the hatches were history? I swapped the stomper for a Chernobyl ant for better flotation and added a salvation nymph on a two foot dropper. What a move!

Salvation Nymph Caught Fire

Handsome Brown Trout

The fish count soared to fourteen over the next 1.5 hours, and 80% of the brown trout snatched the salvation. I was particularly amazed at the trout that emerged from shallow riffle sections, when the Chernobyl paused. A few fish ate the attractor terrestrial, but it also generated a fair share of temporary hookups and refusals. I was using it as more of an indicator, with the main emphasis on the nymph. Most of the late afternoon fish were in the eight and nine inch range with a few stretching the tape to eleven inches. Another visit to Spring Creek is on tap for Wednesday, my getaway day.

Fish Landed: 14

Taylor River – 07/27/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Taylor Reservoir

Taylor River 07/27/2021 Photo Album

I quit fishing on Spring Creek at 10:30AM, and this enabled me to arrive at the Taylor River pullout above Lodgepole Campground by 11:20AM. I drove the ten miles from Spring Creek and stopped at the Harmel Resort store to purchase a ten pound bag of ice.

My Sage One five weight was rigged from Monday’s action, so I crossed the river at the same spot as Monday and then hiked down the north side of the river, until I was across from and above the paved parking lot across from Lodgepole. My Sage One five weight remained assembled from Monday with a tan pool toy hopper, iron sally, and bright green caddis pupa. I tested this threesome for thirty minutes with only a hopper refusal to show for my efforts. I began¬† to regret my decision to leave Spring Creek.

Prime Pool

Green Drake Snacker

At noon I arrived at a tantalizing pool at the upper end of a large rock moraine, and the air above the river came alive with a smorgasbord of insects. There were caddis, yellow sallies, pale morning duns, and a green drake or two. The pale morning duns seemed most prevalent, and I saw a few aggressive rises, so I replaced the bright green caddis with a pale morning dun juju emerger. It was soundly ignored. Perhaps the trout were chowing down on subsurface nymphs? A salvation nymph replaced the juju emerger, and it was treated with similar disdain. I spotted two rises along the well defined center current seam, so I removed the dry/dropper and presented a solitary size 16 light gray comparadun. This fly provided one temporary hookup, but the take seemed tentative.

Scene of Multiple Hatches

As I pondered my next move, the river came alive with green drakes. They appeared to be size 14, and they were nearly as abundant as the PMD’s. I abandoned the comparadun and knotted a size 14 parachute green drake to my line. This solved the puzzle, as two gorgeous brown trout in the fourteen to fifteen inch range inhaled the western green drake imitation. There was nothing tentative about the eats from the pool dwellers. I persisted with the parachute green drake, until the hackle began to slip up the wing post, and I replaced it with another fresh version.

Looking Back at Crossing Point

I vacated the quality pool and began working my way upstream, but the green drake hatch began to wane. I felt like my parachute was riding low in the surface film, and perhaps the fish were tuned into something with a large upright wing which created the illusion of motion. I swapped the parachute for a comparadun, and this fly duped a few trout, before I broke it of on a decent fish that dove under a rock or stick. I persisted with the green drake approach, until I quit at 2:30PM. The last thirty minutes were quite slow, and I ended with a peacock hippie stomper and purple haze. One small brown nipped the haze to put me at ten on Tuesday on the Taylor River.

Other that the first two fish from the moraine pool, all the remainder were relatively small browns in the seven to eleven inch range. I decided to return to Spring Creek in an attempt to recapture the magic of the morning session.

Fish Landed: 10

Spring Creek Morning – 07/27/2021

Time: 8:30AM – 10:30AM

Location: Between Spring Creek Reservoir and confluence with the Taylor River

Spring Creek Morning 07/27/2021 Photo Album

It was 46 degrees, when I rolled out of my sleeping bag at Lottis Creek Campground . I got off to a nice early start for my long day of fly fishing and arrived at a pullout along the dirt road that follows Spring Creek by 8:10AM, and the temperature was up to 51 degrees. I wore my fleece to start the day, since I planned to return to the car by mid-morning, and this would allow me to shed a layer prior to continuing through the warmest part of the day. I rigged my Orvis Access four weight for some small stream fishing, but I really had no idea what to expect on this rare early morning venture into fly fishing.

Honey Hole

Suffice it to say, that I never anticipated landing eighteen trout in two hours of fishing. The creek was running full, yet very manageable, so I began and ended with a peacock hippie stomper. During a thirty minute period I felt that the catch rate slowed, so I added a pheasant tail nymph, but the fish continued to attack the attractor dry fly and ignored the nymph. The dropper was simply a nuisance, and it seemed that I experienced more long distance releases perhaps due to the leader connecting the stomper to the trailing subsurface fly. I theorized that the small fish felt the line coming off the bend, and this sensation caused the fish to flip off the hook.

Large for Small Stream

Bankside Lie

My two hours on Spring Creek were great fun, Nearly all the likely spots delivered, and in many cases they yielded multiple fish. Of course most of the stream trout were small, but early in the game I tempted a fourteen inch brown to chase the hippie stomper from its lair under a log. I made a downstream drift, and just as the fly approached the submerged log beneath an overhanging branch, I lifted to avoid a snag, and the wily trout grabbed the dry fly, before it could escape.

Fish Landed: 18

Taylor River – 07/26/2021

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Lodgepole Campground area

Taylor River 07/26/2021 Photo Album

A four hour drive landed me along the Taylor River on Monday, July 26, 2021. After a slow day on Boulder Creek I vowed to begin concentrating my fly fishing efforts on high elevation streams and tailwaters. The Taylor River below Taylor Reservoir was the beginning of that pledge.

I needed a campsite for Monday and Tuesday night, so I investigated the Lottis Creek Campground before moving on to my final fishing destination. I found one open campsite, number thirteen, on the Baldy Loop and immediately snagged it. A no vacancy sign at the entrance to the loop left me skeptical, but apparently a camper departed after the sign was posted. The hosts were absent, when I arrived, and I needed to pay them directly, so I unloaded some camping gear and left them a note and headed to the river to fish.

Fisherman Campsite

I found a parking space in a wide pullout above Lodgepole Campground, where I like to cross the river, and I geared up with waders and my Sage One five weight rod. I was quite anxious to cross the river at one of the few spots, where it is safe to do so, but another fisherman was stationed just above my desired crossing route. Yet another angler was thirty yards downstream. I decided to amble east beyond the upstream angler while allowing adequate space. This ploy worked out quite well, as I found some interesting pocket water and another spot where a crossing was possible.

A Fine Brown Trout

I began with a tan pool toy hopper, prince nymph, and iron sally and prospected some moderate depth pockets in the middle of the river.  Within ten minutes a fish grabbed a nymph on the swing, and I felt a brief connection, before I realized that both nymphs broke off! I replaced the prince with another similar version, but for some reason I added a salvation nymph instead of the iron sally. I had a hunch that pale morning duns were active. This theory never became reality, but I landed a very nice fourteen inch brown trout on the hopper and a small brown on the prince, before I worked my way up to a point, where I could cross to the north bank.

Same Fish

This Bank Pool of Moderate Depth Invites Some Casts

I hiked through the woods, until I was just above the moraine field, and at this point I cut to the river and resumed my dry/dropper prospecting. Another fat fourteen inch brown smacked the hopper as well as a small aggressive surface feeder. I was pleased with the two hopper eaters, but I covered a ton of attractive water to net four fish, and quite a few refusals to the hopper accompanied the intermittent action. I spotted two green drakes during this time period, so I converted to a solitary parachute green drake. Over the next hour I incremented the fish count to eight, as the parachute green drake worked its magic, although quite a few of these fish were dinks barely over the six inch minimum. The drake was drawing interest, but some of the takes were tentative, and looks and refusals accompanied the action.

Pretty Brown Trout

I began cycling through my inventory of green drakes including a user friendly, comparadun, and other parachute models. I added a peacock hippie stomper in the forward position to aid in tracking the earth toned drakes. This fly rotation enabled me to add three more trout to the count including a very fine fourteen inch brown that sipped the green drake comparadun. The hippie stomper picked up a medium sized brown, and a replacement parachute attracted a small fish as well.

The last hour was extremely slow, and I switched back to the dry/dropper approach for the last thirty minutes, with the pool toy leading the way followed by an iron sally and bright green caddis pupa. The dry/dropper gambit was futile, and I quit and crossed the river at the same place that I forded earlier and returned to the car.

In the Middle of the River

Monday was a decent day on the Taylor River that included four browns in the thirteen to fourteen inch range, three browns of eleven to twelve inches, and the remainder barely over the minimum six inch size requirement. I started fishing late in prime time, so hopefully an earlier start on Tuesday will yield more action and some insect availability. Securing a campsite at Lottis Creek was a bonus during the peak summer season in Colorado.

Fish Landed: 11

Boulder Creek – 07/24/2021

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 07/24/2021 Photo Album

Wet wading on a hot Colorado Saturday is the greatest compliment I can provide for my day of fly fishing on July 24, 2021. After being forced to prematurely abandon my quest for cutthroat trout at Ptarmigan Lake on Wednesday, I was itching to record another day of fly fishing for the week of July 19. July is typically one of my best months of the year, and the days were slipping away rapidly. I reviewed the nearby stream options with extra concern over the batch of thunderstorms that rolled through the area on Thursday evening. Boulder Creek was running at 75 CFS, it was an hour and fifteen minutes away, and it provided an opportunity to stop by my son’s house in Louisville, CO to wish my grandson a happy first birthday. The proximity of my destination prompted me to complete my normal morning workout along with a forty minute run, but these choices may have impacted my fishing experience, as they delayed my fishing time to the middle of the day.

Clear with Decent Flows

I arrived at a wide pullout in Boulder Canyon by 11:30AM, and after I pulled on my wet wading pants and socks, I decided to munch my lunch. The air temperature was in the eighties, but the water looked very encouraging with no turbidity and above average flows based on my knowledge from previous visits. I hiked along the shoulder a short distance and then dropped down a steep bank. Since it was July 24, I assumed the trout were in a surface feeding mode, and I began my day with a size 12 peacock hippie stomper and trailed a size 16 gray deer hair caddis.

Number One

I spent the first thirty minutes prospecting all the likely holding spots with the double dry fly offering, and I managed to land one seven inch brown trout that boldly rushed to inhale the hippie stomper. This bit of action was accompanied by a quite a few frustrating refusals to the hippie stomper as well as landing a few tiny trout less than my six inch cut off. I felt that I could do better, so I began cycling through a host of fly changes that included a user friendly green drake, gray stimulator, olive-brown deer hair caddis, Jake’s gulp beetle, purple haze and peacock stimulator. At one point I decided to experiment with a dry/dropper rig and added an iron sally and pheasant tail nymph to a Chernobyl ant, but the local trout demonstrated zero interest for the subsurface offerings. By the time I quit at 3:00PM the fish count rested on three, as the user friendly green drake and Jake’s gulp beetle beat the odds to fool two seven inch brown trout.

Juicy Bank Lie

Number Two Was a Carbon Copy

Three hours of fly fishing yielded three seven inch brown trout, and the last hour was characterized by extreme futility. It was not a good day on Boulder Creek, and tailwaters and high elevation creeks will probably be my destination over the next eight weeks. The wet wading, on the other hand, was superb; as I felt comfortable and cool throughout my three hours of fly fishing with temperatures spiking in the mid–eighties. On my return trip to Denver I stopped at my son’s house and played with the birthday boy, Theo, for fifteen minutes, while Dan put away the groceries, that he purchased in preparation for the big birthday bash on Sunday. That was another highlight of Saturday, July 24, 2021.

Fish Landed: 3

Ptarmigan Lake – 07/21/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 12:00PM

Location: Ptarmigan Lake

Ptarmigan Lake 07/21/2021 Photo Album

On Wednesday morning Jane and I decided to do a combined hiking and fishing adventure on our getaway day from Buena Vista. We arrived at the Ptarmigan Lake Trailhead at 9:30AM, and we were forced to park along the highway due to a full parking lot. Apparently a lot of outdoors folks had the same idea as us. The sky alternated between sunny and cloudy for most of the morning, as we endured the unrelenting climb over three miles. I wore my wet wading attire, but the only wetness I experienced was the soaking perspiration from the challenging hike.

Moraine Passage

Lower Lake Before Ptarmigan

When we arrived at the lake, I spotted two very nice cutthroats, as they sipped tiny morsels from the surface. I immediately rigged my Sage four weight and tied on a peacock hippie stomper. Before I could cast, however, a cloud blocked the sun, which created some wind, which put a chop on the surface of the lake. This circumstance made it impossible to sight fish, so I made some fruitless prospecting casts to the area of the rises to no avail. The protected left side of the lake remained smooth, so I decided to shift my base of operations, but before doing so and while the wind was up, I wolfed down my sandwich.

My Best Catch Ever

Jane and I hiked the short distance to a small protected cove, and the sun emerged once again, and this halted the air disturbance temporarily. I spotted three rises in this area, which was much deeper than the spot where the trail initially met the lake. The stomper was not drawing interest, so I added a zebra midge on a two foot dropper, but another cloud rolled in, and the wind once again ruffled the surface. The direction of the wind shifted out of the north, so the protected calm area was back, where I began.

This Gem Was My Only Catch

Jane and I moved, and I spotted a rise within casting distance in the shallow flats near our initial arrival point. I flicked out a thirty foot cast, and I was shocked, when a fish attacked the hippie stomper. In short order an eight inch cutthroat entered my net and then slipped through a net hole. This provides a good idea of the diminutive size of my sought after trout. In the process of releasing the little guy the dropper leader and zebra midge inexplicably broke off.

A nice band of shallow smooth water extended across the northern shoreline of the small lake, so Jane and I managed to find a rough path to the one-third point. Reaching the beach required bashing over some tough stunted evergreens, but I managed the feat, while Jane looked on from behind the low and stubborn branches. As I surveyed the area, I spotted a gorgeous orange-red cutthroat cruising in a tight circle within easy casting distance. This was the prize I hiked three miles to stalk. I lobbed five or six casts to the cruising field of the fish, but the target cutthroat ignored the oversized hippie stomper.

Ready to Descend

I stripped the fly in to replace it with something smaller and more imitative of natural food sources, but as I initiated this strategy, several adverse factors came into play. Most importantly, a huge dark gray cloud hovered in the northeast sky, and the wind direction suggested it was headed our way. A loud clap of thunder resounded across the above timberline landscape, and the orange-red cutthroat shifted its food searching operation farther from shore. Jane was justifiably spooked by the threat of lightning, but I hastily tied on a size 16 light gray comparadun, even though I intended to experiment with a gray deer hair caddis. I fired some forty foot casts toward the spectacular cutty, but came up a bit short, although the fly may have been close enough to attract attention from the cruiser. It never made a move or even twitched its tail. Meanwhile a pair of smaller fish swam by me at close quarters, and I dropped some casts ahead of their pathway, but again to no avail.

Scarlet Indian Paintbrush

Jane was getting extremely antsy, and another loud rumble forced me to admit that the sane course was to descend to the trailhead ahead of the storm. Ultimately the storm changed direction and headed northeast away from Ptarmigan Lake, but hindsight is always 20/20.

On the Way Down

Landing one small cutthroat in thirty minutes of fishing after a three mile continuous uphill hike was obviously very disappointing. Even more frustrating was the sight of vividly colored wild trout in the clear high elevation lake, as I realized that my fly fishing time was ending prematurely. Abandoning the search in the face of inclement weather was certainly the wise course of action, but I was angry with Mother Nature nonetheless.

Fish Landed: 1

Arkansas River – 07/20/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Above Buena Vista

Arkansas River 07/20/2021 Photo Album

Flows and fly shop reports for the upper basin of the Arkansas River were favorable, so Jane and I reserved a campsite for Monday and Tuesday night, July 19 and 20. We completed a new hike in the Arkansas River Valley on Monday afternoon after making the nearly three hour drive from Denver. After camping on Monday night, Jane and I had a light breakfast, before we completed an out and back 6.4 mile bike ride from our campground.

Upon my return to the campground, with the temperature now in the upper seventies, I prepared to fish. I chose to wear my wet wading pants and wading socks, and I was never disappointed with my decision. The river was in near perfect shape with flows in the 650 CFS range and exceptional visibility. The flows were being augmented from Twin Lakes to support the whitewater rafting operations, and us fishermen were the beneficiaries.

Side Pocket

Once my gear was in place, I hiked along the west side of the river for fifteen minutes and then cut down to the shoreline, where I tied on a peacock hippie stomper and a size 14 yellow stimulator. A fly shop report recommended golden stoneflies, yellow sallies, dark caddis, and pale morning duns: and these suggestions influenced my choice of flies at the start of the day. I persisted with the double dries for thirty minutes and landed two small brown trout while enduring several refusals.

Hello Mr. Brown

Fish Were Hanging Out at the Head of Pools Such As This

I concluded that I could do better and switched to a dry/dropper approach. My choice for this method that covered a deeper portion of the water column was a size 10 tan pool toy hopper, iron sally, and a salvation nymph. These flies proved to be winners, and I maintained their presence on my line, until I quit at 3:00PM. My net felt the sag of twenty additional brown trout, and the salvation accounted for eighty percent of them. The game on Tuesday largely centered around reading the water and not dwelling in one place too long. Productive water consisted of moderate depth and velocity, and these attributes when combined with proximity to large boulders offered a high likelihood of success.

River Beast

I returned to our campsite at 1:00PM for lunch with Jane, and the fish count was perched on sixteen. After lunch amid the threat of thunderstorms I notched an additional six fish to bring my cumulative total on the day to twenty-two. The trout on Tuesday were predominantly in the eight to eleven inch range, but three or four pushed the tape to twelve to thirteen inches.

The Sun Shines on Mt. Princeton

Tuesday was a fine day of prospecting promising lies, and steady persistence was rewarded with hard fighting wild brown trout on the Arkansas River. A return trip is not out of the question.

Fish Landed: 22

Clear Creek – 07/14/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 07/14/2021 Photo Album

I was completely humbled by the upper Arkansas River on Monday, and I was anxious to atone. Jane and I were scheduled to have dinner guests on Wednesday evening, so I needed a close destination that would allow a return by 4PM. I scanned the DWR graphs for all the Front Range streams, and I narrowed the options down to Boulder Creek and Clear Creek. While most of the state suffered below average snow packs and drought conditions. the Front Range was an exception, and many of my favorite locations were inundated with continuing high flows in the middle of July.

I settled on Clear Creek, because I viewed it first hand on my trip to and from the Arkansas River. In my way of thinking personal scouting always prevails over a graph. When I arrived at my chosen section of Clear Creek, the thermometer registered temperatures in the upper fifties. After a string of days in the nineties, it was refreshing to pull on my fleece and raincoat, as I strung my Loomis five weight line. The reel seat on my Orvis Battenkill reel was loose, so rather than risk it falling in the creek, I elected to dust off the Loomis, since it is shorter than my Sage One and more appropriate for the tight quarters of small stream fishing.

Lush

I hiked a short distance from the car, and I was prepared to cast by 11:00AM. The thick overhead clouds remained throughout my time on the creek, although I did remove the raincoat at noon, as I was feeling a bit overheated. The flows on Clear Creek were high but clear and close to ideal in my opinion. I began prospecting with a size 12 peacock hippie stomper and a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis on a twelve inch dropper. Between 11:00AM and noon I landed six cutthroat trout, as two nabbed the hippie stomper, and the other four sipped the caddis. I was pleased with my one hour of morning fishing, but I also felt that I was failing to catch fish in locations that offered potential productivity.

Melon Cutthroat

I used the lunch break to reconfigure my line, and I shed the deer hair caddis and replaced it with a beadhead pheasant tail nymph on a three foot dropper. In a brief amount of time the pheasant tail produced a vividly colored cutthroat, but then I lost both flies, when an errant backcast snagged an evergreen limb. The branch was too high to attempt a recovery, and I broke off both flies, when I applied direct force. I replaced the hippie stomper with another similar version, but I migrated to a hares ear nymph as the dropper fly.

Promising Runs Ahead

The stomper and hares ear combination remained on my line for the bulk of my remaining time on the water. I also experimented with a sunken ant for a brief amount of time, but the fish count surged from six to twenty-five mainly on the strength of the hares ear. I estimated that 75% of the afternoon landed fish snatched the hares ear, and the remainder surged to the surface to crush the hippie stomper. In short, I had a blast and moved from likely spot to promising location at a steady rate. If I encountered slower moving water with enough depth for the fish to hide, I typically managed a landed fish or in the worst case a refusal.

Look at the Neon Orange on This Cutthroat

At one point I actually had two fish on my line at the same time. An eleven inch cutthroat sipped the stomper, and as I began to play the aggressive eater, a smaller cousin grabbed the hares ear. I was rather excited, but the larger of the two slipped free, and only the small one was constrained in my net. I would not characterize the catch rate as torrid, but an average of six fish per hour was certainly hot fishing.

Next to the Roots

Splendid

Light Olive Dominates

Wednesday was a nice bounce back from Monday, and I was thrilled to land twenty-five cutthroat trout in four hours on a small stream. The striking colors of the cutthroats made the day worthwhile, and the cool weather was a nice reprieve from the dry heat of July.

Fish Landed: 25

Arkansas River – 07/12/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Hayden Meadows

Arkansas River 07/12/2021 Photo Album

For the week of July 11, I faced limited opportunities to fly fish. Wednesday was a possibility, but I needed to return in the late afternoon for a dinner with friends, and that eliminated a longer trip. Monday was my one wide open opportunity on the calendar, so where should I invest my scarce available time? Originally I considered the Big Thompson River below Estes Park, but then I remembered the upper Arkansas River below Leadville. I scanned my blog posts for Hayden Meadows and found reports for 07/26/2017 and 07/12/2016. This documentation of successful outings, and the presence of strong gray drake hatches pointed me toward a day on the upper Arkansas River. Further research of fly shop river reports indicated that the section was fishing well, and gray drakes were, in fact, making an appearance.

I left the house at 8:00AM and arrived at a parking lot in the Hayden Meadows area by 10:30AM. Maintenance in the Eisenhower Tunnel forced the closure of a westbound lane, and this ill timed event added twenty minutes to my drive. Breaks were not going my way, but I persevered. Three cars preceded me to the parking lot, and two young anglers pulled in next to me just after I arrived. One was from Michigan and visiting a friend who lived in Buena Vista. They asked me which direction I planned to fish, and I told them uptream, and they favored downstream, so I assumed we had compatible objectives.

I prepared to wet wade, and I assembled my Sage four weight, but as I attached my Orvis reel, I realized that the reel base that tucked under the cork handle was loose, and my reel wobbled. I did not trust this condition to endure a day of fishing, so I switched to my Sage One five weight and a different reel that held my five weight line. The tunnel and my fly reel hindered my ability to start a day of fishing on the upper Arkansas River.

At the Start

Just before I departed, the two young men that expressed a desire to fish downstream crossed the river and continued in a northerly, upstream direction. Their presence did not deter me, but it was another roadblock to my fishing plans for the day. Finally I was prepared, and I crossed the dirt road to the bridge and dropped some casts to a small eddy on the east side of the river. I began with a size 14 gray stimulator and a size 14 green drake comparadun. During the first fifteen minutes, two fish made subtle rises, but my flies generated no interest, so I moved on. I made a few casts on the north and west side of the bridge, but again my flies were plainly ignored.

After this less than auspicious introduction to the upper Arkansas River, I walked along the road to a point where a path cut to the river. I vowed to hike for fifteen minutes to put some distance between me and the guys that parked next to me; however, I began to swat mosquitoes and decided to return to the car for insect repellent. This was yet another annoying delay in my planned day of fly fishing.

Finally I went into express mode and hiked along the western bank for fifteen minutes. I passed a solo fisherman and then circled beyond the pair of parking lot neighbors, and I began to finally fish in earnest. These early frustrations were actually a foreshadowing of my disappointing day on the Arkansas River.

Typical Section

I covered 1.3 miles of river between 11AM and 3:00PM, and I landed two brown trout in the thirteen inch range. There is no denying that Monday was a rough day. I cycled through an array of gray drake dry flies that included the gray stimulator, green drake comparadun, parachute green drake, Harrop hair wing green drake, and a May break green drake cripple. In one very appealing deep run and pool I observed three refusals to the drakes that were on my line. A short while after lunch, out of frustration, I switched to a dry/dropper configuration that included a yellow fat Albert, prince nymph and iron sally, and the prince fooled one of the brown trout that I landed. I also connected briefly with another fish. I persisted with the dry/dropper setup for thirty minutes, until I arrived at a gorgeous riffle that spread out from a deep run and current seam. I fired some long casts to the top of the riffles, and two fish slashed at but refused the fat Albert. By now I observed a few gray drakes as well as some yellow sallies, so I returned to the double dry approach with a Harrop hair wing drake and a size 14 green drake comparadun.

My First Fish

I stayed with the dry fly approach for the remainder of my time on Monday, and eventually I duped a thirteen inch brown trout with a May break green drake cripple. Catching that fish was probably the worst outcome for me. It convinced me that I could draw fish to the surface, if I found the right kind of water. Unfortunately that theory was flawed, and I never connected with another fish. I fell victim to close-minded thinking. Surely my blog reports accurately documented the abundant presence of gray drakes on July 12, 2016, and spotting several verified that they were in the air, and the trout were tuned into them. I never tested a deep nymphing approach, and I stuck with the dry/dropper for only thirty minutes or so. Insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting different results. This angler was insane on July 12.

When I returned to the parking lot and began to pull off my wading socks, another older fisherman arrived. I passed him, while he was eating his lunch streamside. He asked how I did, and I replied, “not so well”. I returned the query, and he informed me that he had a huge day. I often take these statements with a grain of salt, as fishermen are prone to hyperbole, but in this case I believe he was telling me the truth. He related that he, likewise, began with dry flies including gray drakes that he purchased at ArkAnglers, and he actually showed me some of the flies. He told me he also tried a dry/dropper with a nymph. but that method also failed to generate action, so he resorted to an indicator nymphnig setup with a tungsten beadhead pheasant tail and a poison tung. He showed me the flies and mentioned that he added weight to get down, and caught quite a few fish in fast water with the tungsten and added weight. I never tested a deep nymphing rig, and I suspect my flies were not getting down the the level of the fish. Yes, some gray drakes made an appearance, but the hatch was very sparse, and I now suspect that the fish were not tuned in and continued to chow down on subsurface food items. I learned my lesson, and now I am debating whether to return to the upper Arkansas in search of gray drakes at a later date.

Fish Landed: 2