Monthly Archives: April 2022

South Platte River – 04/27/2022

Time: 10:45AM – 4:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/27/2022 Photo Album

After catching seven tiny brown trout from Boulder Creek on Monday, I was itching for some more substantial quarry on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. I considered the Arkansas River, and the forecast temperatures were to my liking in the upper sixty degrees, but the wind velocity in the afternoon was projected over 20 MPH. The South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon was my second choice, and the wind speeds there were more tolerable in the low to mid teens, but the high temperature was expected to be in the low sixties. I have endured colder days than that in the canyon, so I made Eleven Mile my destination. The other weather factor that caught my attention was heavy clouds for most of the afternoon. In my mind this suggested blue winged olive mayflies.

I departed Denver at 7:35AM and arrived at my target pullout by 10:15AM. Initially I pulled on my fleece cardigan and North Face light down coat with the temperature at 50 degrees, but I felt too warm and shed the light down. I reasoned that I could always pull my raincoat out of my backpack for a windbreaker layer, if I got too cold. My rod of choice was my Sage One five weight. I hiked up the road for .3 mile, until I found a reasonably manageable path down the steep bank from the road to the river. My starting point consisted of a series of deep pockets around exposed boulders, and the flows were a nice 125 CFS. I rigged my five weight with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, ultra zug bug and RS2 and began prospecting all the slower moving but deep spots around the boulders. During this early time period I landed a very nice rainbow trout of approximately fourteen inches and a small brown trout. The rainbow snatched the RS2, and the brown grabbed the ultra zug bug.

Ready for Freedom

The rest of my day could be described as the tale of three pools. The next nice pool above the pocket water was my typical break point for lunch, but I arrived earlier than usual because of my 10:45 starting time. I worked my nymphs thoroughly through both sides of the deep run, but I was unable interest any residents in my offerings. This was abnormal, as I can usually count on a fish or two from the lunch pool area. I swapped the ultra zug bug for a beadhead black mini leech and replaced the RS2 with a sparkle wing version. The move failed to change my luck, and I progressed to the next pool, which is one of my favorites on the river. It is quite long, and the main current splits around a large exposed rock at the head of the pool, before it fans out in the center area. The bottom half is a wide and deep, smooth pool. I positioned myself next to the upper and middle section and sat down to consume my lunch. When I called my day the story of three pools, this one was number one.

Off the Point of That Rock Produced

As I ate my lunch , I spotted numerous rises around the head of the pool and continuing down to the midsection. My pace of chewing elevated, and I skipped my yogurt in my zeal to fool eagerly feeding trout. Just as I was beginning to cast a CDC BWO, an older couple arrived , and the man motioned to me asking for permission to fish the tail of the pool. I gave him a thumbs up, but I wondered why he could not find another spot given the relatively light presence of anglers on a Wednesday.

Lovely Markings

Initially the preponderance of rising trout ignored my CDC BWO, so I switched to a Klnkhammer emerger, and it clicked for three twelve inch brown trout, but the trout’s teeth cut the delicate parachute hackle on two flies, so I switched to a new CDC BWO with a thicker CDC wing than the first fly I tried. I was concerned that I would quickly deplete my supply of four Klinkhammer emergers. The CDC BWO with the thicker wing did the trick, and I landed seven more trout from the long pool, while Bruce and Sandy looked on.

Long and Sleek

Number ten was memorable, as I spotted several subtle rises off the point of the large exposed rock that split the incoming current. I dropped several casts off the point, and on the third attempt a fine fourteen inch brown trout slurped the CDC olive. The take was very visual and very gratifying after discerning the subtle rises.

The sun appeared and the frequency of rising trout waned, so I decided to abandon the long pool and seek other opportunities. I was interested to know whether the olives were emerging in other spots throughout the South Platte system in Eleven Mile. I walked back to Bruce and Sandy and relinquished the pool to them. I intended to inspect Steve’s pool, the pool on a ninety degree bend below the tunnel, but first I came to a smaller pool just below Steve’s with a large rock wall along the east side. I crossed the river below this point and paused to observe, while two anglers occupied Steve’s. Quite a few rises appeared throughout the length of the pool, so I decided to approach from the west side with across and downstream drifts. This was pool number two of my day of three pools.

Rises Tight to the Rock Wall

Feeding Trout Along the Opposite Bank

My approach paid dividends, as I landed five additional brown trout to boost the fish count to fifteen. In this pool my conversion rate suffered compared to that of pool one, as each fish landed required a far greater number of casts, but persistence paid off.  During this time the wind kicked up, and the sky darkened, and two of my takes occurred as I twitched the fly with a bad mend, or drag set in near the downstream extension of the drift. The mayflies by now were emerging in fairly dense quantities, but they tumbled and skipped along the surface as a result of the frequent gusts. My casting and disturbance of the water with thrashing fish eventually put down the pool residents except for some cagey veterans along the rocky shoreline on the opposite bank, so I waded up the river to Steve’s pool.

Hungry

In a stroke of good fortune the two occupants of Steve’s pool reeled up their flies and abandoned the gem of Eleven Mile, thus leaving it vacant for this eager angler. By now the sky darkened even more than previously, and the wind velocity accelerated, and my wet hands from releasing fish in pool two stung from the rapid evaporation. I moved to the riffles at the entry point to the pool, and the river came alive with rising fish. I could easily see twenty fish within my range, as they rapidly darted to the surface to snatch helpless blue winged olive victims. I made some nice downstream drifts and managed to land four trout during this time frame, but my success rate was actually rather poor given the feeding binge that transpired on my side of the pool. Looks and refusals far outnumbered takes, as my stagnant fly was one among the hundreds that blanketed the river. As this event unfolded, rain began to fall, so I had to retreat to the bank, where I removed my front pack, backpack and camera and pulled on my raincoat. The temperature dropped ten degrees, and I chastised myself for forsaking the North Face down coat.

Very Fine Fish

Eventually the electricity of the dense hatch subsided, the rain stopped and the dark cloud moved to the east. The nearby area that was a sea of frothing rises suddenly appeared to be vacant of trout with only a few very sporadic feeders through the long and wide pool. My feet were frozen stumps, my hands were gnarled and stinging, and a chill ran up and down my spine. I decided to call it quits and wandered to the tail of the pool to begin my crossing to the east side next to the road. Before I stepped in the river; however, I gazed across the extreme tail and spotted a pair of rises in fairly shallow water. Could I tease up one of these feeders?

On Display. Golden Coloring

Fat

I waded into the river a few feet and launched a relatively long cast toward a feeding lane near the opposite shoreline. I could see the silhouette of the feeder, and on the fifth drift, much to my amazement, the fish tipped up and sipped my CDC wing blue winged olive. I struck quickly and battled a fifteen inch brown trout to my net. I used my curled fingers to complete the wing drying process and once again placed a cast above a sighted fish, and again my target elevated and sipped in the fraud. This cycle repeated itself six times, before I eventually crossed the river and ended my day. What an ending! The last six trout of the day from the shallow tail area were the largest and hardest fighters. A chunky fourteen inch rainbow was among the six as well as two fifteen inch browns and three thirteen inch brown trout. Even now, a day later, I am in awe of my last hour of fishing.

Hefty

Wednesday was easily my best day of fly fishing in 2022. Twenty-five landed fish in 5.5 hours of fishing represents a better than average catch rate, and the surge of wild beauties in the last hour was icing on the cake. If one were to ask me to describe a perfect blue winged olive day, Wednesday, April 27 would be my model. Twenty-three of my catch sipped BWO dry fly imitations. and this made the day even more gratifying. The most challenging period occurred during the prelude to the storm, when mayflies appeared in blizzard quantities. During this time my ratio of casts to conversions was very high, so I still need to find a solution. Much of this frustration stems from the sheer number of naturals compared to my solitary offering, but I also think wind and motion are a factor. My fly dead drifts, while the surrounding naturals flutter and bounce and clumsily attempt to get airborne. I continue to believe that some size 20 or 22 flies with conventional hackles around the hook shank might portray motion better than my slender no hackles. Stay tuned, as I continue to unravel the mysteries of the BWO hatch.

Fish Landed 25

Boulder Creek – 04/25/2022

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 04/25/2022 Photo Album

Weather was a deterrent to fishing on Monday, April 25, but I persisted. It was not a stellar day of fishing, but fly fishing nonetheless. My number one consideration, as I planned a trip, was air temperature and wind. Originally I anticipated a trip to the Arkansas or South Platte in search of blue winged olive activity, but the highs were in the upper forties in those locales. I was not anxious to undertake a long drive with the prospect of frozen hands and feet, so I narrowed my choices to the Front Range. Estes Park and Pinecliffe also displayed highs in the upper forties, so I settled on Boulder Creek. Highs in Boulder were forecast to peak at around 54 degrees, so this translated to fifty in Boulder Canyon. The forecast was accurate, as I bundled in fleece, down and ear coverings; and I was consistently at the low end of the comfort zone. Cold feet and stinging hands are always my cold weather downfall, and that was the case on Monday.

I arrived at a wide parking space along Boulder Creek by 11:15AM, and this enabled me to position myself along the small stream by 11:30AM to begin casting. I was armed with my Sage four weight, and I fished unsuccessfully for thirty minutes, before I climbed the bank to a convenient bench and ate my lunch. After lunch I resumed fly fishing, as small crystal pellets descended from a dense overhead cloud. It was definitely cold. My early fishing utilized a peacock hippie stomper and an olive-brown caddis, but the combination simply produced refusals and a couple very brief hook ups. By one o’clock I managed to land a couple very small brown trout that chomped the hippie stomper, but it was very slow going. I was baffled by the preponderance of refusals, so I experimented with a size 22 CDC BWO behind the hippie stomper. This tactic was not effective, so I paused to assess additional options.

Anxious to Test the Deep Run Along the Rocks on the Left

The first fly over the trout was typically the hippie stomper, and it was grabbing the trouts’ attention, but they refused to eat. I removed the hippie stomper and replaced it with a size 14 gray stimulator for a decent amount of time, but this combination was worse, as it failed to yield even refusals. Next I swapped the stimulator for a Chernobyl ant in order to support some heavier nymphs that included a beadhead hares ear and sparkle wing RS2. One small brown trout actually latched on to the Chernobyl, as I lifted it to cast, and that brought my fish count to three. It was definitely slow going on a winter-like spring day.

Promising Stretch

Similar to the stomper, the Chernobyl mostly produced looks and refusals, so I once again changed my approach. I plucked a size 14 Jake’s gulp beetle from my fly box and knotted it to the 5X leader. Beneath the beetle I extended a two foot leader and added a sunken ant. While these two terrestrials occupied my line, I noted one look at the beetle and one very temporary grab of the ant. The land based insects were not clicking with the Boulder Creek trout, so I reverted to the hippie stomper. The stomper at least attracted the most interest, but for the second trial on my line I elected a hippie stomper with a red body. I added a salvation nymph as the top subsurface offering, and beneath it I reprised the sparkle wing RS2.

Typical Small Brown Trout

This threesome remained on my line for the remainder of the afternoon except for a final trial of the hippie stomper with an olive-brown deer hair caddis. The red stomper along with the salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2 allowed me to boost the fish count from three to seven. All seven of my landed fish were diminutive brown trout in the six to nine inch range, but I was pleased with simply catching fish. Two of the afternoon catch nabbed the salvation nymph, two grabbed the sparkle wing RS2 and one eager eater crunched the red hippie stomper.

Two Fish Came from Run Beneath Overhanging Branches

By 4PM my hands were stinging from the wind and the evaporation effect, my feet were morphing into stumps, and a constant chill ran up my spine. I clambered up a short but steep bank and returned .3 mile to my car. I was very happy to reacquaint myself with the warmth of the heater.

Seven fish over 4.5 hours was clearly a subpar catch rate, and the size of the fish was lacking. For some reason the tiny brown trout in Boulder Creek are very selective. The fish were mostly looking toward the surface, although I did land four on nymphs between 1:30 and 3:30. In addition to the seven netted fish, I endured quite a few temporary hook ups and even more refusals, Given the wind and frigid conditions. I was actually satisfied with my production. A warming trend is in the forecast for the rest of the week; so, hopefully, I will make a longer drive to one of the larger rivers and experience a decent blue winged olive hatch. Stay tuned.

South Platte River – 04/19/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/19/2022 Photo Album

Dry flies and spring weather were in my plans for Tuesday, April 19, 2022. Was I able to achieve my goal? Stay tuned.

After a pleasant day of fly fishing on the Big Thompson River on Monday, I decided to undertake my first back to back of the 2022 season. For my second day of fishing I was open to a longer drive to either the Arkansas River or South Platte River, as I desired a shot at larger fish than the modest fish that occupied my net during recent trips to Clear Creek and the Big Thompson. As has been the case this spring, my decision hinged largely on weather; and, more specifically, the wind. The projected wind velocities for Lake George were in the low teens during the afternoon; whereas, wind speeds peaked in the upper teens on the Arkansas River near Salida. My last trip to Eleven Mile Canyon on April 8 was a disappointment with only one fish landed, but I convinced myself that warmer temperatures and the chance for some cloud cover translated to a higher probability of a stronger blue winged olive hatch. Would the anticipated hatch develop? One again, read on. This trip was also a solo venture, and this provided the latitude to choose my favorite haunts rather than compromising with the leanings of a fly fishing partner.

I managed to arrive at a wide pullout in the middle section of the special regulation water by 10:30AM, and this enabled me to position myself next to some nice pocket water in ready mode by 11:00AM. I wore a long sleeved thermal undershirt and my light down coat to start, and I never shed layers, although I was a bit warm several times, when the sun persisted for an extended time period. My Sage One five weight was the weapon of choice to combat the likelihood of high winds, and in case I tangled with a larger than average trout.

Lead Off Rainbow

Between 11AM and 1PM I prospected pockets and runs at the head of pools with a nymph rig that included a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug. During the first two hours I guided two fish to my net including a fourteen inch rainbow and a thirteen inch brown trout. After an unproductive twenty minutes I replaced the ultra zug bug with an RS2 and later a sparkle wing RS2, and the rainbow nabbed the RS2, while the brown trout fell for the sparkle wing. I also experimented with a size 14 prince nymph and a beadhead black mini leech during this time. The presence of other anglers forced me to circle around three prime pools, as I made my way up the river.

Not Sure How or When This Happened

By 1PM I advanced beyond the popular bend pool that I named Steve’s pool after my friend Steve Supple. I covered the right braid around a small narrow island, and I was drifting my nymphs through a deep pocket to no avail, when a spin fisherman twenty yards above me on the left bank signaled that I should move to his location. I gave him a thumbs up, and after he ascended the steep bank to the road, I cautiously waded to a spot in the middle of the river directly across from where he motioned me. My stealth was rewarded, as I observed numerous rising trout in a long section of slow moving smooth water twenty-five feet away from my position in the middle of the river. I observed for a short while, and then I removed my nymphing paraphernalia and knotted a size 20 CDC BWO to my line. My hands were shaking from anticipation, as I struggled to remove the single split shot that would not come undone.

Most of My Success Was Here

Finally the small comparadun style dry fly was in place and attached to an extension of 5X leader, and I began to toss casts to the nearest portion of the pool and above three rising trout. Smack! A fifteen inch rainbow sipped in the CDC BWO with confidence on the second drift, and I managed to thwart its escape efforts and scooped it into my net. For the next two hours I remained in this spot and hooked and landed an additional six trout ranging in size from twelve to fifteen inches. I covered the length of the thirty yard long pool, and I executed a significant number of casts. Many were fruitless, but enough duped trout to make the day my best of 2022 so far. The baetis were plentiful, and it seemed that the fish fed in waves. The most intense feeding seemed to follow gusts of wind, and I surmised that the air movement knocked the tiny mayflies to the surface thus spurring easy snacks for the resident trout.

BWO Eater

Nearly all my landed fish resulted from downstream drifts, as the flies passed over the feeding lane ahead of the leader. I repeated my routine of sopping moisture from the fly against my down coat sleeve, then dipping the fly in desiccant followed by vigorous shaking. The next step included some robust wing fluffing and then the application of a minimal amount of floatant to the body. On the few occasions when I skipped one of these steps, the fish seemed to ignore my offering! Pretty regimented, don’t you think?

Fine Ink Spot Brown Trout

Lovely Rainbow

By 2:45PM the number of rises became quite sporadic, so I advanced up the river through a narrow section with a high rock wall along the east bank. I remembered a nice long smooth pool above the narrow section, but as I approached, I spotted another angler. I reversed my direction and returned to my earlier focal point once again, but the number of rising fish shrank to a few, and they ignored my offering, so I moved to the Steve pool. By now the pool was vacated, so I paused and observed for an extended amount of time hoping to spot some rises to straggling blue winged olives. Finally after three or four minutes a fish showed in some nervous water near the center of the pool, and I dropped a few casts in the vicinity. On one of the drifts I noticed a subtle splash and set the hook, and this resulted in a split second connection with a small fish. After this brief exchange with action, the pool remained devoid of signs of fish, so I hooked my fly in the guide and scrambled up the steep bank to the road. The return hike was .6 mile.

Second Look

Tuesday was just what the doctor ordered. Nine fish landed with seven sipping the small blue winged olive imitation. Nearly all the fish were in the twelve to fifteen inch range, and catching  respectable trout on size 20 dry flies is always a challenge and very rewarding, if one can succeed. I have experienced more trout during a day of fishing, but the size and preference for dries is what set this day apart from the others so far. I will continue to look for overcast skies and another opportunity to make the trek to Eleven Mile Canyon before the snow melt elevates river levels.

Fish Landed: 9

Big Thompson River – 04/18/2022

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: A couple miles below the dam.

Big Thompson River 04/18/2022 Photo Album

I reviewed the weather and flows on several Front Range streams for a trip on Monday, April 18, 2022, and I eventually settled on the Big Thompson River below Lake Estes near Estes Park. The air temperature was 41 degrees at the start of my day, but it eventually rose to the low sixties. For most of my time on the river it was sunny and windy, and I wore my fleece hoodie and light down coat along with the New Zealand billed cap with earflaps.

Pocket Water Ahead

I began my search for gullible trout with a yellow fat Albert plus a beadhead hares ear nymph on a dropper and beneath that an ultra zug bug. In the early going I landed a small brown trout that nipped the ultra zug bug, but then I suffered an extended fish drought. I paused for lunch at noon with the fish count stalled on one.

On the Board

Nice Wide Pool

After lunch I continued through some promising water with no results, so I changed my strategy. I concluded that the large size 8 fat Albert was too impactful for the 33 CFS flows. While eating my lunch, I noticed a few random rises in a nice pool with a deep center cut run, so I switched to a peacock hippie stomper trailing a CDC BWO. I tossed out a cast, and a sip and set produced a brown trout for number two on the day. I wanted to persist with the CDC BWO, but even with the leading hippie stomper it was difficult to track in the faster water, so I swapped the olive for a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. The caddis nailed a fish, but then it became the object of refusals, and I was forced to reevaluate my strategy.

Nice Size for Big T

For the remainder of the afternoon I switched between the CDC BWO and the caddis and boosted the fish count to twelve. In many cases, the caddis produced refusals, but at least it allowed me to identify the position of a target catch. I then re-armed with the small CDC BWO, and fooled the previously picky eater. This model did not yield fast and furious action, but steady fly fishing was nonetheless a result. I was proud of my ability to accomplish a degree of success with the “bait and switch” strategy.

Another Fine Pool Beckons

I noticed only very sparse blue winged olive activity between 1PM and 2:30PM, but even that disappeared over the final hour. I tried a yellow size 14 stimulator in conjunction with the stomper during this time period, but it was not an answer.

A twelve fish day under cool and windy conditions with virtually no cloud cover was very satisfactory. The Big Thompson remains a solid return candidate during the pre-runoff time frame.

Clear Creek – 04/15/2022

Time: 4:00PM – 6:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 04/15/2022 Photo Album

Wind, wind and more wind. This pretty much describes my spring fishing in 2022 so far. I managed a decent day on Monday on Clear Creek, and I was anxious to complete another fishing trip during the remaining weekdays; however, high winds on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday precluded any such thoughts. In fact, it was too windy for my other favorite activity, pickleball. Tuesday night was so cold that the overnight temperature dipped to 16 degrees, and my tender radish sprouts felt the brunt of it.

Finally, the forecast predicted some abatement from the wind on Friday, but I decided to join Jane for some pickleball in the morning, and of course that led to lunch and beers at the Stanley Marketplace afterward. I arrived back home by 2PM, and after watering the garden (including frost damaged radish seedlings), I decided to make a late afternoon visit to Clear Creek Canyon. I had fun there on Monday, and the drive was only thirty minutes.

Pocket Water

My gear remained in the car at the ready after Monday, so I took the plunge and made quick work of the drive to Clear Creek west of Golden, CO. The wind remained a factor, but it slowed from its limb rattling force of the previous three days.

By the time I made the drive and rigged my line on my Sage four weight, I was on the water ready to cast a bit before 4PM. I wore my light down coat, and that kept me comfortable in the lengthening shadows of the canyon with the air temperature in the upper fifties.

I began my quest for trout with a peacock hippie stomper and trailed a yellow stimulator on a six-inch dropper. These two flies delivered seven fish to my net in the afternoon on Monday April 11. For the next two hours I worked my way upstream, as I probed all the promising pockets and deep runs of Clear Creek. In the early going the hippie stomper lured two fish to the surface, and I reacted with swift hooksets in both cases to increase the fish count to two.

Clear Creek Respectable

This early action was followed by a lull and some refusals to the hippie stomper, so I swapped the yellow stimulator for an olive-brown deer hair caddis. The move paid dividends, when a small brown trout snatched the caddis from the drift. If the fish were refusing the hippie stomper, why did I change out the trailing fly? My thought process reasoned that at least the hippie stomper was attracting interest, while the stimulator was merely trailing surface debris. I also anticipated that I could execute downstream drifts which would allow the deer hair caddis to drift over potential targets first.

In spite of catching a fish on the deer hair caddis, I was underwhelmed by the performance of the combination, and the size 16 was very difficult to track in the shadows and glare of the late afternoon. I pondered another fly change, and this time I elected to switch the caddis for a gray stimulator size 14.

Last Catch Was a Rainbow

For the last thirty minutes I manipulated the hippie stomper and stimulator combination along Clear Creek, and I netted two more trout including another brown and a twelve-inch rainbow. In both cases the trout smashed the stimulator at the extreme downstream border of the pool, as I lifted to execute another cast. Apparently, the trout could not allow a potential food source to fly off. I had a third trout that was potentially my largest of the day that reacted in similar fashion to the late lift, but it escaped after an abbreviated battle. I caught a glimpse of its side, and it appeared to be another rainbow.

Five trout in two hours of fishing represented an above average catch rate, and I was pleased with my brief tenure on Clear Creek. I fished dry flies with moderate success, and the air temperature remained at the low end of the comfort zone. I look forward to continued trips to nearby Clear Creek.

Fish Landed: 5

Clear Creek – 04/11/2022

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 04/11/2022 Photo Album

I was in dire need of a day like Monday. After two one-fish outings on the South Platte my confidence dipped, and my arm ached for multiple throbs during a day a fishing. Originally when I noted overcast skies and precipitation in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, I considered a long trip to the Arkansas River in an attempt to find a dense blue winged olive hatch, but then I did my homework on predicted wind velocity and changed my plans. Wind speeds in excess of twenty MPH are not conducive to satisfying fly fishing. My search now revolved around wind velocity predictions, and I settled on Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon. Afternoon wind speeds were expected to peak around 10 MPH, and I experienced moderate success during my last visit on 04/03/2022.

I took my time in the morning to allow the temperatures in the narrow canyon to warm up, and I finally departed the house by 10:20AM. This enabled me to arrive at a pullout high above tumbling Clear Creek by 11:00, and I was on the water ready to cast by 11:30. I wore my fleece cardigan and North Face light down coat and tugged on my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps, and I wore these layers through my day on the water. My rod of choice was my Sage four weight, as it is stiff and provides better performance in windy conditions The creek was flowing along nicely at 25 CFS, and the water clarity was perfect.

A Good Place to Start

I began my Clear Creek adventure with a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug, and by the time I broke for lunch the fish count rested on three. My first two landed fish were small rainbows, and the third was a nine inch brown trout. The fat Albert lured one fish to the surface, and the ultra zug bug accounted for the other two.

Handsome Brown Trout

I was near my car by 12:30PM, and my hands were stinging from being wet and the resultant evaporation effect from temperatures in the upper forties and low fifties, so I climbed the steep bank and returned to the car to eat lunch in the protected environment of my front seat.

Approaching Lunch Exit Point

After lunch I continued upstream with my dry/dropper configuration until 2PM. I swapped the unproductive hares ear for a beadhead black mini leech during this time period, and the three fly combination enabled me to elevate the fish count to eight. Also, the leech never produced, so eventually I replaced it with a size 14 prince nymph, and I experimented with an emerald caddis pupa as well. The yellow fat Albert fooled two more trout, and the size 14 prince yielded three. At around 2PM I hooked a fish, and all three flies broke off. I suspect that I was the victim of an abraded knot, as the fish in Clear Creek are not large enough to inflict this level of damage to a fly line.

Very Clear

Clear Creek Monster

Throughout the dry/dropper period I witnessed quite a few refusals to the hopper, and this observation caused me to question whether a double dry fly approach might be effective. I used the three fly break off to test my hunch, and I knotted a peacock body hippie stomper to my line along with a size 12 yellow stimulator. For the remaining two hours on the water I prospected my way upstream through some very attractive pocket water using the two dry fly approach. I was very pleased with the results of my experiment, as I doubled the fish count from eight to sixteen, before I scrambled up the steep bank to quit at 4PM. In the early going the yellow stimulator notched three brown trout, but then a lull and a wave of refusals to the hippie stomper caused me to swap the yellow stimulator for a size 14 gray caddis. The caddis fooled a small brown, and one trout gulped the hippie stomper, but the catch rate slowed, and I reverted to a size 14 yellow stimulator. The yellow stimulator renewed my confidence in the big hackled attractor, as it induced three additional brown trout to linger in my net.

Attractive Pool

Monday was exactly what the doctor ordered. Sure, the largest fish was only ten or eleven inches, but I enjoyed a steady stream of action. My fishing style clearly leans toward catching many small fish over a couple large fish. Of course a lot of large fish is always the preference. I am already anxiously waiting for the high winds to disappear, so I can return to a Colorado stream before the snow melt begins its annual rush down the mountain valleys.

Fish Landed: 16

South Platte River – 04/08/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/08/2022 Photo Album

After a rough day on the South Platte River on April 4, I decided to redeem myself with a trip to a different section of the same river on April 8, 2022. The flows in Eleven Mile Canyon were 115 CFS, and the high temperature was projected to be 59 degrees with single digit wind speeds. I learned to always check wind speeds when planning spring fly fishing trips.

I contacted my fishing friend, Steve, and I picked him up at 9AM and then continued the drive to the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. As we entered the canyon, we noted that the access fee was raised to $8. Much to our chagrin most of the pullouts were filled with cars, and this was particularly the case, when we arrived at the last .5 mile below  the dam. In spite of this crowding we found some open spaces in a dirt lot below the last bridge before the dam. We quickly climbed into our waders and prepared to fish. I wore my North Face light down coat and billed New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and I assembled my Sage One five weight to counteract wind and with the hope of tangling with larger than average fish.

Steve crossed the road and walked upstream along the left side of the river, while I strode along the gated dirt road that leads to a campground on the right side. I wandered to the large ninety degree bend, and five fishermen were spaced out strategically leaving me no space to begin my day. I retreated to the bridge and noticed that an angler had vacated the west bank below the bridge, so I ambled along a path for fifty yards and then dropped to the river.

After Lunch Section

The river was extremely clear and flowing along at 115 CFS, so I opted for a peacock hippie stomper, RS2 and zebra midge. I was seeking some sink, but I wanted to avoid a large plop such as that created by a large foam fly or large beadhead nymphs.

As I began casting, I easily spotted large fish, as they held their positions along the bottom particularly in deep troughs. I made long casts and drifted the flies through the lanes, but the trout totally ignored my offerings. I slowly migrated up the river along the left bank and executed long casts to gain natural drifts, but my caution and stealth were to no avail. I removed the zebra midge after a reasonable test period and replaced it with a soft hackle emerger, but the move caused no change in my fishless status. In another desperate move to fool trout I devoted twenty minutes to a configuration that included a gray scud, but, again the fish would not cooperate. The wind  gusted occasionally, and I failed to observe any insects other than a few random midges.

Steve Below the Bridge

By 12:30PM I arrived at the nice deep riffles just below the outflow from the large pipes that comprise the bridge. The faster water and deep seams elevated my optimism, and I began prospecting the likely fish lies, while I keenly observed the water. Suddenly a decent rainbow trout materialized in a two foot section of slack water no more than five feet in front of me. I began lobbing casts to the seam just below the left-most pipe, and this enabled the hippie stomper and baetis imitations to drift toward me and over the observed fish, as it held at an angle, where the current dumped sources of food. On the fifth drift I lifted the rod to make another cast, and I felt weight for a split second, but that was all. I stripped in my line and discovered that both subsurface flies were missing. I will never know if I hooked a fish that broke me off, or whether I snagged and broke off a bad knot on the lift.

Steve appeared on the bridge above me, so we ambled back to the car and ate our lunches from the tailgate. After lunch Steve returned to his favorite spot twenty yards above the bridge along the left side, but I decided to explore the area below the bridge. I followed a well worn path that led me through some shrubs, and I eventually cut directly to the river. A long section of river appeared to be vacant, so I made this my afternoon haunt. I replaced the broken off flies with a beadhead hares ear nymph trailing a sparkle wing RS2, and I began to search for signs of fish life. The river was wide and relatively shallow, so I waded upstream for a bit, until I found a delightful deep area, where the main current flowed around some large exposed rocks. I began covering the lower section with the dry/dropper, but as I did so, I became aware of some rises in the sweet spot, where the river troughed between the large rocks. I continued with my dry/dropper search, but after five minutes the rises became more frequent, so I decided to alter my approach. I removed the two nymphs and extended a 5X leader from the bend of the hippie stomper for eight inches, and then I tied on a size 20 CDC BWO. I also observed a few blue winged olive naturals, as the wind skittered them across the surface.

Nice Chunk

When I was properly rigged, I made some false casts and dropped the double dry fly combination to the right of the center cut deep area, and my optimism was met with a resounding thud. I decided to cut to the chase, and placed a second cast in the heart of the sweet spot, and after a one foot drift, a fish nosed up and inhaled the CDC BWO. Whoosh! I set the hook and felt the instant throb of a nice fish. Fortunately I had my five weight, and I quickly muscled the streamlined rainbow trout to my net and carefully stepped to the shoreline to capture a video and some photos. The fish in my possession was easily the largest that I landed in 2022. I kept it in the water for the entire camera session and then allowed it to zip away in apparent good health.

The sparse hatch continued for another thirty minutes, but I was unable to fool additional South Platte River trout. I tried adding a soft hackle emerger behind the CDC BWO, and then I replaced both flies with a Klinkhammer emerger. None of these ploys resulted in success, so I reverted to a different CDC BWO. The fish in the area resumed feeding in two or three waves, but the surface action never approached that of the initial period that caught my attention. It seemed that the fish resumed feeding, when the wind kicked up and knocked the tiny mayflies in the water. I was quite pleased to land the fine rainbow and eliminate my skunking, but I must admit disappointment with my inability to fool additional trout in the area. I suspect that at least five or six fish dimpled the surface at one time or the other, while I was present.

Heading to Shore

Finally I abandoned the prime area and moved upstream only to encounter another fisherman. I circled around him and once again rendezvoused with the river and found Steve in the area below the pipes. He was doing nothing, so I convinced him to return to the scene of my success, and within five minutes we were once again perched next to the deep runs that swirled around some exposed boulders. I suggested that Steve cast to the prime center section, while I waded downstream a bit to investigate additional real estate. My exploration was fruitless, and I slowly waded back to Steve’s position. Just as I approached him from below, I noticed a swirl at the lower section, and as I looked on, Steve placed a nice cast to the area, and before I could utter nice, he set the hook and his rod bowed. Needless to say my fishing partner was a happy camper, as he scooped a respectable South Platte rainbow trout into his net.

The blue winged olive hatch waned, and neither of us could entice additional trout to our nets. My watch registered 3PM, so I suggested we head back to the car to prepare for the return trip, and Steve eagerly agreed. Once again the South Platte River served up a difficult day. I was extremely thankful for my one robust trout, and I am now in a quandary over how to reignite the 2022 fishing season. During both my days on the South Platte River I endured bright sunshine and clear blue skies with fairly strong wind. I am currently considering a trip on a day with forecast cloud cover with the hope that a denser hatch of baetis would result in improved fishing success.

Fish Landed: 1

South Platte River – 04/04/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Deckers

South Platte River 04/04/2022 Photo Album

A skunking or tough day on the river builds character. If that is the case, my character was enhanced greatly by today’s 3.5 hours of fly fishing. I suspect that if I were to count my worst outings over the last ten years, a high percentage resulted from a trip to the South Platte River downstream from Deckers, CO. In spite of my lack of success, the density of fishermen remains above average, and I am continually baffled by this circumstance. Perhaps I choose the wrong times to fish there, or maybe I am prospecting in unproductive locations, but my results do not merit the hordes of anglers that frequent this popular destination.

Focused on a Straggler

With high winds in the forecast for Tuesday and a skiing trip on the schedule for Wednesday I decided to take advantage of a promising weather forecast on Monday, April 4, 2022. I left my house in Denver at 9:00AM, and this enabled me to arrive at my chosen dirt parking lot along the South Platte River by 10:40AM. I quickly pulled on my waders, donned my fleece cardigan, and assembled my Sage four weight; and I was ready for action. I hiked along the road for .2 miles and then dropped down a moderately steep path to begin my quest for trout. I rigged initially with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead black mini leech, and salvation nymph; and within the first thirty minutes I landed an eight inch rainbow trout and experienced a refusal that resulted in a temporary foul hook. My optimism soared with this early interaction with South Platte River trout.

My One and Only

Unfortunately this pretty much summed up my body of success on Monday. During the afternoon at approximately 1:00PM, I connected very briefly with another trout, but it quickly turned its head and slipped the hook thus prompting some phrases that should not be repeated here. That was the sum total of my action on Monday, April 4.

I fished a dry/dropper in the early going as described above, but before lunch I switched to a nymphing set up with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, beadhead salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2. This approach was a reaction to my belief that I needed to get my flies deeper particularly in locations with deep pockets and seams. I carefully observed the places of moderate depth that I approached, as I attempted to sight fish, but I never spotted a target. This is what caused me to surmise that the trout were hugging bottom in deep troughs and seams.

Pretty Spot

After lunch I prospected the section of the river that sluiced through some massive boulders, and it was here that I generated a very brief temporary connection with a trout.  When I reached the next parking lot, I decided to return to the car, and I moved it upstream another .3 miles, and then I returned to a point just above my earlier exit. Another fisherman occupied my desired space, so I cut in fifty yards above him to fish a very attractive section of moderate depth and medium current velocity over a large boulder strewn bottom. I elevated my focus in anticipation of some action; but, alas, a barrage of futile casting was my unfortunate outcome. This section produced some fine brown trout and a nice blue winged olive hatch during a trip in May of 2021.  During Monday’s visit to to this favorite section of the South Platte I noticed a very sparse emergence of blue winged olives, but the total number of sighted mayflies was less than ten, and not enough to prompt any surface feeding. I was convinced that my RS2 would draw interest, but that never became a reality.

Switched Back to Dry/Dropper Here

For the last forty-five minutes I reverted to the fat Albert and my PM trailers were a beadhead hares ear nymph and a classic RS2. I tossed this combination for awhile, and eventually exchanged the hares ear for a size 12 prince with the hope of gaining more depth, but once again my fishing theories proved without merit. I lacked confidence and was quite bored by 2:30PM, and with the car parked only twenty yards away, I executed an exit strategy and called it a day.

During the course of the day I tested the yellow fat Albert, black mini leech, salvation nymph, sparkle wing RS2, ultra zug bug, hares ear nymph, flesh colored San Juan worm, prince nymph and classic RS2. Only the salvation nymph produced, the fat Albert induced a refusal, and I suspect the temporary hook up was attributed to the RS2.

The high temperature rose to the low sixties, and wind was essentially a nonfactor. It was a great day for humans but apparently not to the liking of the South Platte River finned residents. Of course, I built character and hopefully this will serve me well during future difficult outings in 2022.

Fish Landed: 1

 

Clear Creek – 04/03/2022

Time: 1:00PM – 3:15PM

Location: After Tunnel 1

Clear Creek 04/03/2022 Photo Album

After a week filled with pickleball, gardening and skiing, I was itching for a fly fishing outing. Although the weather was not ideal for other activities, I determined that I could tolerate temperatures in the low fifties for an afternoon in Clear Creek Canyon. I read my post from 04/10/2021, and a twelve fish day over three hours encouraged me to make the short drive to the section of the stream just west of Golden, CO.

I ate my lunch before leaving the house and managed to arrive at a crowded pullout high above the creek by 12:40PM. The other four cars that surrounded mine were associated with rock climbers, as I was near a very popular climbing destination. I wore my light down North Face parka and my billed hat with earflaps, and I crossed the bridge and hiked along a path on the south side of the creek away from the highway. I was positioned next to the stream ready to cast by 1:00PM, and I was approximately .4 mile below the bridge.

Inviting Pool

I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and added a beadhead hares ear nymph and krystal stone, and I began to prospect the pockets and runs along the left bank. Within ten minutes I connected with a small trout that quickly evaded my fly, but then after another brief interval I hooked and landed a small brown trout that snatched the trailing krystal flash. I was pleased to be on the scoreboard, and this reinforced my commitment to Clear Creek and the stretch that I occupied.

Head Turned Back

For the next 2.25 hours I continued upstream and explored all the spots that displayed depth and slower current velocity, and I added eight more trout to my count to bring my total for the day to nine. Jane wanted me back at the house by 4:00PM, so I quit at 3:15PM within one fish of double digits, but I am trying to reduce my penchant for counting fish, so staying at nine was a good thing.

Promising Stretch

One of Two Rainbows

In the early going I replaced the krystal stone with a beadhead ultra zug bug to add weight and generate a deeper drift, and the ultra zug bug produced. With an hour remaining I swapped the unproductive beadhead hares ear for a beaded mini leech. The mini leech accounted for my last fish, and all the fish between my first and last snatched the ultra zug bug from the drift. I also experienced five or six temporary hook ups, so the action was rather steady over the 2.25 hours of fishing.

Pretty

Another Nice Run

The air temperature never warmed above fifty degrees, and my hands and feet morphed into stiff joints by the time I climbed the steep bank and returned to the car. The sky was slate gray during the entire afternoon, and I never saw any insect activity other than a few random midges. I considered Sunday to be a successful early season venture on a nearby stream, and a return is certainly a likely possibility.

Fish Landed: 9