South Platte River – 05/17/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/17/2018 Photo Album

When I reviewed the flows on several rivers and streams on Monday prior to my visit to the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, I noted that all the tailwater sections of the South Platte River remained at excellent flow rates. One of the advantages of this blog is the ability to check back on fishing trips and conditions in previous years. I did just that on Wednesday, when I read my post of 05/12/2016. I recalled a spectacular day, and I was curious to remember the date, weather and flows. The weather was cool with air temperatures peaking in the sixties and the flows were 64 CFS. May 17 was five days later, and the high temperature was forecast to reach the low seventies, while the flows registered in the 85 CFS range. I concluded that these factors were close enough to 5/12/2016 to justify another trip to the South Platte River in an attempt to capture even a fraction of the success bestowed upon me during that day.

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83 CFS

I assembled my Sage four weight rod and waded into the South Platte River by 10AM on Thursday morning. The air temperature was in the mid-sixties and the flows were as displayed on the DWR graph. The sky was deep blue and totally devoid of any clouds, and this held true for 90% of my time on the river. I could not have asked for a more ideal scenario; as I knotted a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph to my line. I began tossing the three fly searching combination to the likely deep pockets and runs, as I methodically moved upstream. Very little time elapsed, before I landed a few small brown trout, and after fifteen minutes I built the fish count to five.

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Chunk of Butter

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Such a Pretty Sight

My expectations soared, but my confidence was tested in the next fifteen minutes, as trout began to elevate and refuse the fat Albert. I endured this frustration for a bit, and then I pulled in my flies and replaced the fat Albert with a size 10 Chernboyl ant. The Chernobyl proved to be less of a distraction, and I began to hook and land trout at a regular pace. By eleven o’clock the tally of fish that rested in my net mounted to ten, and the salvation nymph generated two fish for every one produced by the hares ear.

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Another hour elapsed, and I chose to eat my lunch on the east side of the river just below an island, where some large flat rocks served as reasonable replacements for tables and chairs. By this time the number of fish that slid into my net ballooned to twenty-one. In the process of landing two fish that favored the topmost fly, the salvation nymph broke off as a result of being dragged over an adjacent rock or stick. I was reluctant to deplete the supply of salvations in my fleece wallet, so after lunch I experimented with several alternatives.

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Long and Lean

I prospected the smaller left side channel next to the island first, and I began with an amber March brown nymph below the hares ear nymph. Periodically I enjoy trying some of my legacy flies from my early days of fly tying and fishing in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately on May 17, the South Platte River trout ignored the classic, and I once again paused to exchange it for a nymph; that contained a glass bead, pheasant tail body and marabou tail. This fly performed slightly better, as it accounted for one fish, but during its stint on the line I also experienced two long distance releases. I sensed that my catch rate was slowing, so I once again stripped in my line and made another change. I swapped the glass bead nymph for an ultra zug bug; and the Chernboyl ant, hares ear, and ultra zug bug became my stalwarts for the remainder of the day.

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One of the Better Fish on the Day

Seven additional trout materialized from the east channel next to the island. The flows in the left braid were only one fourth of the volume that churned down the right channel, so this condition necessitated stealth and long casts. When I reached the upstream tip of the island, I climbed the bank and circled back to the bottom point, and then I migrated up the larger and faster right branch. At the tip of the island I progressed through additional attractive pocket water that carried the full combined flows of the river, and I finally quit at 3:30. The two hours between 1:30 and 3:30 evolved into a fish catching spree, as I pushed the fish count from twenty-eight to forty-seven.

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Oh Those Deep Pockets

The most productive water types were slow moving shelf pools next to faster currents. A cast to the seam was a solid bet. Across and downstream drifts along the bank also provoked aggressive grabs, if the water depth was sufficient. During the two hour period of fast action, I surprisingly extracted some decent brown trout from fairly shallow riffles. Two thirteen inch rainbow trout joined the mix in the afternoon, and they crushed the ultra zug bug from positions in faster currents. Three decent brown trout smashed the Chernobyl ant in another surprise afternoon development.

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Fine Spots. Might Be Cutbow.

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Thursday evolved into another outstanding adventure on the South Platte River. It did not quite measure up to 05/12/2016, but that may have been a lifetime best event. While freestone rivers swelled and dams opened their valves, I fished in nearly ideal flows and thoroughly enjoyed my day in May.

Fish Landed: 47

 

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 05/15/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Button Rock Dam

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 05/15/2018 Photo Album

The euphoria from three fun days of fly fishing on the Frying Pan River abated, and I felt the itch to wet a line on a Colorado stream on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. When I researched stream flows and fly shop fishing reports, I quickly discovered that my options dwindled, while I cast my flies in the relatively low clear waters of the Frying Pan tailwater. The Big Thompson River, South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek and Cache la Poudre graphs reflected varying degrees of early stage run off, and I did not wish to undertake a one hour plus drive only to encounter difficult stream conditions.

Bear Creek displayed 42 CFS, and although high, this reading represented a manageable level. All sections of the South Platte River were in play, but I decided to reserve the longer drive for later in the week, when the weather stabilized. Tuesday’s forecast predicted a fairly high probability of afternoon thunderstorms. I settled on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek as my low risk alternative. The flow data displayed 111 CFS, and the drive was one hour and fifteen minutes. In addition I had first hand knowledge as a result of the Mothers’ Day hike that Jane, Dan, Ariel, Zuni and I completed on Sunday.

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Slow Water Along the Edge Was the Place to Be

I launched my adventure at 9:40, and after donning my waders I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked up the road in the Button Rock Preserve for a considerable distance. I started my effort to fool St. Vrain trout with a size 8 Chernboyl ant, beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph. The temperature when I began my hike was 61 degrees, and it climbed gradually to a high of 69 in the canyon. I estimated that clouds blocked the sun’s rays forty to fifty percent of the time during a pleasant day. The flows were in the 113 CFS range, and my casting was relegated to all the areas that presented slower velocity and protective depth for the resident trout.

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Nice Slick Below the Rocks

I covered a fair distance in the first fifteen minutes with no success, as I gained familiarity with the stream at higher flows and developed knowledge of the most productive locations. Finally a small brown trout snatched the salvation, and shortly thereafter another somewhat larger brown followed suit. By the time I perched on a large midstream rock to consume my lunch, the fish count registered five, and all the landed trout grabbed the salvation except for one maverick that snatched the hares ear.

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Same Fish, Better Lighting

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My Lunch Spot

After lunch I continued my upstream quest for St. Vrain trout, and I boosted the tally to nine, before I reeled up my line at 3PM. The only variation in my approach was my fly offerings. I somehow snapped off the two nymphs while executing across stream casts and downstream drifts. Normally I feel the snag or grab that causes such an outcome, but in this case I stripped in my line and discovered that I was fishing with only a Chernobyl ant and dangling empty tippet. I used this interruption to modify my lineup, and I replaced the hares ear with an emerald caddis pupa and swapped the salvation for a small size 16 prince nymph. The prince delivered a small trout to my net, and then I thoroughly covered some outstanding water with no response. I sensed that the fish were less attracted to the prince than the salvation, so I returned to the source of my early success with a salvation nymph as my bottom fly.

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Best Fish of the Day Took a Salvation Nymph

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Those Orange Spots

The Chernboyl, caddis pupa, and salvation remained on my line for most of the afternoon and accounted for the last five fish that rested in my net. The emerald caddis fly fooled one trout, and the salvation generated the other four takes. During Tuesday all the landed fish were brown trout except for one outlier rainbow.

On Tuesday it was a matter of moving quickly to cover a significant amount of water. The high flows concentrated fish in places, where the current slowed, and water depth provided cover from overhead predators. Once I determined the prime trout lies, I skipped marginal spots and focused my casting on the high probability pockets and pools.

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I Liked This Scene

Ten fish in three plus hours is a reasonable catch rate, although the largest fish may have extended to eleven inches. The quality of the fish and pleasant weather more than offset the lack of size, and I thoroughly enjoyed my day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. I was thankful for the opportunity to fish clear water within 1.5 hours of home, while other rivers raged with snow melt. Hopefully my good fortune will extend a bit longer.

Fish Landed: 10

Frying Pan River – 05/10/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 5:30PM

Location: Between the dam and Baetis Bridge; .5 mile below Baetis Bridge and back to Bend Pool below the bridge; Taylor Creek Cabins private water

Frying Pan River 05/10/2018 Photo Album

After a tough but rewarding day on Wednesday, my feelings toward Thursday were divided, as we prepared to once again attack the Frying Pan River. Steve’s weather forecast projected highs in the eighties with minimal cloud cover, and this augured challenging conditions. I also dwelled on my lack of minuscule gray midge imitations, and nothing changed overnight to alter that situation. On the positive side I managed to land sixteen excellent trout including several above average in size on dry flies during a hatch. The latter accomplishment added a layer of positive anticipation for Thursday.

Were my reservations and optimism misplaced? Thursday proved to be a very challenging day on the Frying Pan River. In my opinion the tough conditions were attributable to pure blue skies and warm temperatures. Ed, Steve, and I parked near the Wednesday pullout, and I was prepared to fish by 9:30AM. I deployed my Sage four weight once again, and since I observed no evidence of surface feeding, I rigged a dry/dropper configuration and skirted the pool that occupied me for most of Wednesday.

I began prospecting with a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug, and a sparkle wing RS2; and I covered the faster water between Wednesday’s pool and an upstream weir that spanned the river. The dry/dropper did not produce in the early going, so I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a bright green caddis pupa. My efforts continued in a futile trend, until I neared the end of the fast water section, when I hooked and landed a small brown trout on the RS2.

At this point I circled back to a point just below the car, and as I observed from the high bank next to the road, several trout began to pluck invisible morsels from the surface. I scrambled down the rocky bank and spent the remainder of the morning in a state of frustration, as I churned through all manner of tiny gray flies contained in my twenty-five year old midge box. After a lengthy trial run in the first section I surrendered and moved to a gorgeous area between several large exposed boulders. Large fish were rising everywhere in the deeper channels between shallow flats.

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Much of the Day Spent Here

I finally brought some stream analysis to the endeavor, and I seined the water, and within seconds the white mesh was clogged with a massive quantity of midge larva, emerging midges, and a few adults. The adults were size 24 or possibly smaller, and the larva were very slender and also a size 24. Fifty percent of the residue in the net was larva casings. I was astonished by the amount of protein collected in a brief dip of my net. The midges more than made up for their tiny size with an astounding quantity of insects in various stages of the life cycle.

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70% Empty Larva Cases

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Dense Midge Hatch Lingered for Four Hours

After I finished my stream life analysis, Steve joined me, and he assumed the downstream position, while I targeted the top of the runs. An abundant quantity of visible fish elevated my heart rate, as they finned just below the surface and slowly sipped tiny midges in a steady rhythmic cadence. Surely one would mistake my small gray offering for the real thing! Finally just before lunch I tied a size 24 black midge adult to my line, and the minuscule fly duped a twelve inch rainbow trout. Ed donated this fly to my cause on Wednesday during lunch.

Thursday morning featured 2.5 hours of frustration. Flies that worked albeit temporarily on Wednesday were totally ignored on Thursday. I was in a state of bewilderment and clueless regarding my afternoon approach to the dense hatch of diminutive midges.

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Surprise Caddis Chomper

After lunch Steve and I once again manned our positions of the morning, and after additional futile casting I began to experiment with large visible lead flies trailing small midge larva imitations, that were impossible to track. Much to my surprise I hooked and landed a feisty thirteen inch brown trout that attacked the size sixteen olive brown deer caddis that served as my lead fly. In addition I experienced a temporary hook up with the caddis.

Another period with no action and decreased surface feeding provoked me to experiment with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. The wind was gusting intermittently, and I postulated that terrestrials were in the mix. Once again I was pleasantly surprised, when the beetle produced a temporary connection, and then it fooled a much appreciated rainbow. The pink striped missile streaked up and down the pool, until I finally coaxed it into my net. I photographed and admired my best fish of the day.

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Beetle Visible in the Mouth

After the rainbow landing the midge food source dwindled, and the trout scaled back their feeding activity. Steve decided to investigate the bridge pool, and I accompanied him. When I stood on Baetis Bridge, I observed only placid water with no evidence of rising fish, and the high sun caused the air temperature to soar, so I decided to hike downstream via the road for .5 mile, until I found some faster water. I theorized that a dry/dropper approach in the faster currents improved my chances of success given the higher air temperatures and lack of cloud cover.

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The Pool Above Baetis Bridge

My theory was in fact upheld, as I deployed a yellow fat Albert, emerald caddis pupa, and salvation nymph and guided six additional trout into my net. Two were rainbows in the thirteen inch range, and the others were smaller brown trout. One of the rainbows snatched the caddis pupa, and the salvation yielded the other landed fish.

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Channel Between the Rocks Delivered

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Healthy Wild Brown Trout from Thursday

When I reached the slow bend pool below Baetis Bridge, I climbed to the road and circled back to the bridge and then continued toward the car, where I found Ed and Steve next to the same spot that frustrated us earlier in the day. I once again waded in above Steve and converted to a black parachute ant, but it was soundly ignored by the occasional risers in front of me. I was about to switch back to Jake’s gulp beetle, but Ed and Steve were ready for happy hour, so we stowed our gear and returned to the cabin.

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The Log Jam on Taylor Creek Cabins Private Water

Before removing my waders and breaking down my rod, I decided to sample the private water across from the cabin, and I moved upstream from the “log jam” to the bench at the end of the path across from the driveway to the cabin. During this brief foray in the middle section of the Frying Pan River I prospected with a yellow Letort hopper and a salvation nymph, and I landed two additional brown trout that attacked the salvation.

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End of Day Brown Trout

Thursday was a tough day, but I managed to land twelve trout including a few in the 13 – 14 inch range. I also invested some time to research the prevalent food source, and I discovered that size 24 midge larva, emergers and adults were on the menu. Although it is unlikely that I will return to the Frying Pan River near term to leverage this knowledge, I plan to add some tiny imitations to my fly boxes in case I visit again in the spring of future seasons. A new design is already dominating my thought patterns.

Fish Landed: 12

 

Frying Pan River – 05/09/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Between Reudi Reservoir and Baetis Bridge

Frying Pan River 05/09/2018 Photo Album

While we visited the Taylor Creek Fly Shop on Tuesday, I mentioned to Ed and Steve that during past trips I capitalized on the misfortune of other anglers, when I scooped two plastic canisters containing purchased flies from the currents of the Frying Pan River. I estimated that the quantity of flies contained in these two cylinders was thirty-five, and at $2 per fly this equates to $70 worth of flies. Relating this story reminded me of the cylindrical containers, so I searched the zippered pocket of my wader bib and discovered that they were missing. I recalled removing them prior to my trip to New Zealand, so I searched the pockets in my fishing bag and recovered them and returned them to my wader pocket. This bit of foresight would prove to be critical to my fishing story of Wednesday, May 9.

After breakfast at the Taylor Creek Cabins on Wednesday morning, my friend Steve checked his weather app, and it forecast clouds and overcast skies for the entire day. We rejoiced at this bit of news, and in fact the prediction was mostly accurate. Whereas the high temperature in Denver reached eighty degrees, cloudy skies predominated along the Frying Pan River, and this translated to cooler temperatures in the low seventies at our fishing destination.

Ed, Steve and I once again teamed up; and Ed drove to the upper section of the river below Reudi Reservoir. We turned left before Baetis Bridge and parked along the road on the north side of the river. We immediately split up with Ed migrating upstream, while Steve and I walked along the road in a downstream direction. I chose the first left after passing some thick impenetrable brush, and then I waded along the edge of the river to a long pool with a relatively strong current closer to the opposite bank.

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Neat Spot Pattern on This Brown Trout

I considered defaulting to a tyical dry/dropper approach, but I paused to observe and noticed several rising fish. A source of food was not readily evident, but quite a few tan colored midges buzzed about above the river. My fly box did not contain a matching adult midge fly, so I plucked a griffiths gnat from a foam slot and knotted it to my line. I learned from past experience that a griffiths gnat is a solid all purpose adult midge imitation.

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Spent Nearly All Day in This Spot

As this thought process and fly selection played out, more and more fish began to rise, and most ignored my gnat, but through persistent casting I landed two nice brown trout. The second one was a fine muscular specimen that measured in the fifteen inch range, and I savored my early dry fly success. This scenario continued throughout the remainder of the day. Fish rose throughout the pool in waves, and I repeatedly advanced and retreated along the twenty yard length. Unfortunately I could never identify a consistent fly. My best producer was a size 24 parachute Adams that I discovered in…one of the windfall canisters that I returned to my wader bib pocket before departing for the river! This fly accounted for six brown trout, before I returned to Ed’s car for my lunch break. By this time the hackles unraveled, and the hook was bent from repeated removal from the tough bony mouths of the fish. Before I returned to the river after lunch, I once again searched in my fishing bag and removed a small plastic fly box that was broken at the hinge. This relic of early 1990’s fly tying efforts harbored a decent supply of tiny midge larva and emergers, so I stuffed it in my front pack for the afternoon.

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Lovely Colors

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S Curve

The micro Adams was unfortunately one of a kind in my fly supply. In the afternoon I rolled through RS2’s, WD40’s, and an emerger style RS2 with a stubby white tuft of poly for an emerging wing. All these flies were fished like a dry fly, as I applied floatant to the bodies of the tiny nymphs, and they produced eight additional trout. I found and tried nearly every fly in my possession that had a gray body and was small. Eight trout may sound impressive, but each fly generated a couple random takes, before they were ignored like inert flotsam. I executed a prodigious number of casts and utilized dead drifts, twitches, and skating techniques. Between 12:30 and 3:30 the entire pool was alive with an impressive quantity of feeding fish, yet my fly was ignored a high percentage of the time. I could not comprehend why a few fish munched my flies, while the bulk of the fish selectively fed on the naturals.

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Outstanding

By 3:30 I departed the pool that I occupied since 9:30 and shifted to the gorgeous run and pool just above Baetis Bridge, where I joined Steve. My last two trout came from this area, with one attacking the parachute RS2 and the other chomping a classic RS2.

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Beauty with Fins

Sixteen trout was a very rewarding day on the Frying Pan River, and at least three measured in the 15 – 16 inch range. The downside to Wednesday was the unbelievable number of casts and fly changes required to achieve fishing success. By the end of the day I was exceedingly weary of attempting to follow tiny flies that enabled me to catch one fish among fifty casts. A significant hatch was preferable to none at all, but matching barely visible midge emergers carried a heavy dose of frustration. What would Thursday deliver?

Fish Landed: 16

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Steve Creates a Loop

Frying Pan River – 05/08/2018

Time: 4:00PM – 6:30PM

Location: Folkstead Spring upstream to MM 11

Frying Pan River 05/08/2018 Photo Album

My fishing friend, Steve, invited me to join a group that was renting one of the Taylor Creek Cabins along the Frying Pan River from May 8 through May 10. Renting a cabin entitles the temporary residents to fish the Frying Pan Anglers’ private water across from the cluster of rustic log buildings. I readily accepted Steve’s invitation, especially when I heard that my share of the lodging cost for three nights was $140. The per night lodging cast barely exceeded the cost for a night’s stay in a national forest campground.

On Tuesday morning I drove to the Wooly Mammoth parking lot along Interstate 70 near Golden, CO, and there I met Steve and his friend Ed. Ed volunteered to drive, so I transferred my bags and gear to his Volvo station wagon. After navigating through some construction in Glenwood Canyon, we arrived in Basalt by 12:30, and here we met the other three members of our crew at the Stone Pony. We ordered our lunches, and I was introduced to the other members of the team; John, Steve and Bob. All were anxious to get a jump on three days of fishing, but after lunch we stopped at the Taylor Creek Fly Shop to obtain information and purchase a few flies. I bought four mysis shrimp, as these are prevalent on the Frying Pan River below Reudi Reservoir, and I do not tie the popular tailwater crustacean.

After we exhausted our questions and made last minute fly purchases, we continued along the Frying Pan River Road and checked into our Taylor Creek Cabin. Initially we were disappointed to learn that the temporary quarters contained only two bedrooms with two single beds in one, a double bed in the other, and a futon in the kitchen. Some quick math yielded the conclusion that two of us would need to sleep together in the double bed, but before total panic prevailed, Bob discovered a separate building that used to be a garage that was converted into another bedroom and bathroom combination. We were relieved by this discovery and stashed our belongings, and then Ed, Steve and I departed to fish.

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Ed and Steve Ready to Go After Trout

The shop suggested that the river from MM 10 to 12 contained the best opportunity to encounter blue winged olives, so we chose that section as our destination. I was the most knowledgeable person regarding the stretches of the Frying Pan River, so I guided Ed to the parking lot next to Folkstead Spring, but once we exited the car and surveyed the river, I sensed that the water was too fast for their tastes. We piled back into the Volvo and continued for another .5 mile, where we parked near the upstream border with private water. This section offered quite a few nice pools, and this appealed to the other guys more than the water near the spring.

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114 CFS on Tuesday Afternoon

Steve and Ed fished a nice pool just below the private boundary, and I hiked down the road to Folkstead Spring. I crossed the river at the spring, and this was unusually easy, as a result of the relatively low flows of 114 CFS. Tuesday was a warm day with the temperature along the Frying Pan approaching the low eighties. The sky was perfectly blue without the hint of a cloud. These weather conditions are generally indicative of challenging fishing, and I was skeptical that the anticipated blue winged olive hatch would materialize.

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114 CFS on Tuesday Afternoon

Once I crossed the unusually gentle Frying Pan, I began working upstream for the next two hours. Given the low clear conditions I began with a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis, but after testing it in some very attractive runs with no positive results, I shifted to the dry/dropper approach. I opted for a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph, and RS2. I continued prospecting with these flies, but once again I suffered through a dry spell. I paused to observe, and I noticed occasional caddis touching the water, so I exchanged the RS2 for an emerald caddis pupa.

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Promising Stretch

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Bronze Brown

This three fly combination remained in place for the remainder of my time on the water. Before I quit at 6:30PM, I landed seven trout; three rainbows and four browns. Three of these trout favored the hares ear nymph, and the other four snatched the emerald caddis pupa. This suggested that the fish were opportunistic in the faster water and not selective to any single food source. All three of the rainbows were larger than the brown trout. The last fish of the day was quite obviously also the best, as it was a rainbow trout that measured sixteen inches. I landed this beauty, after I returned to rendezvous with Steve and Ed, and I fished a moderate run below their pool. Another ‘bow was thirteen inches, and the third was in the twelve inch range. Two brown trout measured out at twelve inches, and the remaining two were smaller cousins in the seven inch range.

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Showing Off Crimson

The fishing on Tuesday was quite slow, and I was very pleased to land seven fish. Many spots that seemed to be sure things failed to deliver. Success required frequent movement and repeated casts, and I never identified the water type that was most consistently productive. It was a decent start to our three day visit to the Frying Pan River. Early May represented the earliest in the season that I ever fished the popular tailwater, so I was uncertain regarding what to expect.

Fish Landed: 7

 

South Platte River – 05/06/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/06/2018 Photo Album

After having stitches removed from an incision on my leg on Friday, I was anxious to undertake a fishing trip that required more aggressive wading. A three day trip to the Frying Pan was on my schedule for May 8 – 10, and Monday was, therefore, reserved for packing. Sunday was the best and last date to sneak in a trip before my journey to the tailwater below Reudi Reservoir. I hoped to make a longer trip and considered the Eagle River, Arkansas River and South Platte River; but I ultimately selected the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. According to the DWR web site the flows were in the 88 CFS range, and a tailwater is much more dependable than large freestones near the early stages of snow melt. Relatively warm temperatures in Colorado on Sunday augmented my concern regarding early stage run off.

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Delicious Section

I arrived at a wide parking spot along the dirt road that borders the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon by 9:45, and after pulling on my waders and assembling my Sage One five weight I was on the water by 10AM. I began my day with a size 10 Chernobyl ant trailing a beadhead hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2, but a half hour of aggressive fishing failed to yield positive results. One fish swirled at the Chernobyl, but that was the extent of action. I sighted several fish during this time, and they totally ignored my offerings, so I concluded that I needed to get deeper.

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Sparkle Wing RS2 Performed Well

I removed the three fly dry/dropper configuration and replaced it with a strike indicator, split shot, and two nymphs. I replaced the hares ear with an emerald caddis pupa and retained the sparkle wing RS2. During the remainder of the morning I worked my way upstream and prospected the nymphs in runs with reasonable depth, and I landed three trout. Two of the netted fish were dull rainbows, which I suspected to be stockers, but one was a decent wild brown trout in the thirteen inch range. All the morning catches snatched the sparkle wing RS2.

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On Display

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First Fish Might Be a Stocker Rainbow

I expected the temperature to rise to comfortable levels, but a large layer of gray clouds blocked the sun’s rays in the late morning and early afternoon. As noon approached I moved within view of my car, so I exited the river and returned to the Santa Fe to add a layer and eat my sandwich, carrots and yogurt cup. After lunch I returned to my exit point and resumed my steady upstream migration. At some point I tangled my tip in a tree branch, as I walked on the bank, and in the process of unraveling the line I broke off the two nymphs. I used this as an opportunity to swap the emerald caddis pupa for an ultra zug bug.

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Rainbow Sag

By 1:30 I began to observe a light blue winged olive hatch, but the emergence was very sparse and never sparked more than a few sporadic rises. I persisted with the deep nymphing approach and built the fish count from three to ten by 3:30. During one half hour period the trout seemed to escalate their aggressiveness, and I enjoyed my best run of catches on the day. The ultra zug bug accounted for three afternoon trout, and the remainder savored the RS2. The most reliable technique was an up and across cast followed by a drift along a current seam opposite my position. In runs with sufficient depth a trout frequently nabbed one of the nymphs, just as they began to lift or swing on the downstream portion of the drift. In addition to the landed fish I suffered at least five temporary hook ups. I attribute the worse than normal landing ratio to the diminished hooking capability of the small size 20 RS2.

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Probably Best Fish of the Day

At 3:30 I climbed the bank and ambled back down the dirt road to a point just below a tunnel. On my way upstream I noted a very nice deep run and pool with a few sporadic risers, so I pledged to check the spot out on the return route. I paused along the road and surveyed the pool for a minute or two and noticed two dimples near the tail. I decided to abandon the dry/dropper and made one last attempt to dupe a trout with a dry fly. Actually I opted for two dry flies, as I tied a size 14 deer hair caddis to my line and then added a size 22 CDC BWO on an eighteen inch dropper.

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Tunnel Pool

I made three or four casts, and a small fish refused the caddis twice. I did not bargain for late day frustration. I used the caddis as an indicator, so I could track the tiny BWO, but now the fish were distracted by the lead fly and ignored the main dish. I persisted with two more casts, and the second drift for some unexplained reason struck the fancy of a ten inch rainbow, as it aggressively darted to the surface and smashed the deer hair impostor. After I released the only dry fly victim of the day, I fired some additional casts to the faster run, but the flies were ignored, so I reeled up my line and returned to the car and prepared to drive back to Denver.

Sunday proved to be a comfortable day from a weather perspective, and I managed to avoid the crowds by fishing in the section of the river that is not managed as catch and release. I registered a double digit fish count, and had I converted a higher portion of hook ups, I could have posted a total in the high teens. The largest fish was thirteen inches, so size was a bit lacking, but given the sparse hatch I was pleased with my Sunday results.

Fish Landed: 11

 

Big Thompson River – 04/30/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Lake Estes in the canyon

Big Thompson River 04/30/2018 Photo Album

I chose the Big Thompson River on Monday because high winds were forecast for other potential destinations (as well as the Big Thompson), but the drive to Estes Park was shorter, and this translated to less time sacrificed, in the event that I was blown off the water. When I checked the flows on Sunday night, the Big Thompson chart displayed 83 cfs, and I knew from past experience that this level was very manageable. However when I arrived, the river seemed higher, and consequently I was never able to cross to the opposite bank due to the strong velocity. When I prepared my notes for this blog, I checked the flows again, and I discovered that my personal assessment was accurate. Flows elevated from 83 cfs to 111 cfs in the morning of April 30, before I made the drive. I never seem to do well when flows increase dramatically in a short window, and Monday maintained that trend.

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Starting Point

Although temperatures peaked in the upper seventies in Denver, I suspect they remained in the low to mid 60’s below Estes Park. The wind was tolerable, but intermittent gusts were a factor. Dense gray clouds blocked the sun much of the afternoon, and this atmospheric condition likely explained the lower temperatures in the northern Front Range.

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Sparkle Wing RS2

I fished at three different sections of the Big Thompson, with the first stop located two or three miles below the dam. Each succeeding location was farther downstream and within a mile of the first. I began fishing with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and a sparkle wing RS2 attached to my four weight line on my Sage nine foot rod. In the first forty-five minutes before I paused for lunch, I landed three trout that were barely over my six inch threshold to qualify for counting. Two were brown trout and one was a diminutive rainbow. I also witnessed two splashy refusals to the fat Albert, so after lunch I exchanged the top fly for a size ten Chernobyl ant.

I continued to fish upstream, until I approached the point where the river split around an island. I decided to halt my progression at this position, and I drove downstream to locale number two. Another car was parked ahead of mine, and I quickly determined it was another angler, who was nymphing just above a bridge. I decided to hike down the road for .3 mile, with the hope that the other fisherman might vacate by the time I returned.

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Getting Bigger

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Shelf Pools Were the Ticket

During the next two hours I worked my way upstream with the three fly dry/dropper combination, and I succeeded in boosting the fish count to seven. Numbers four and five were also on the small side, but a nine inch rainbow thrashed in my net and boosted the count to six. During this time I swapped the hares ear for an iron sally, and after the sally failed to excite the fish, I replaced it with an emerald caddis. The first six trout nabbed the sparkle wing RS2, so I was quite suprised when a ten inch brown trout grabbed the emerald caddis pupa near the top of a deep run. This fish proved to be the longest of the day.

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A Rainbow Joins the Mix

When I reached the bridge where my car was parked, I noted that the vehicle of the other angler remained in place. I was noticing some sparse blue winged olive activity, and I decided to investigate a nice run and pool upstream from my parking space. On previous trips I experienced decent success with rising trout in the aforementioned pool. Unfortunately as I approached the anticipated section, I encountered the other fisherman once again.

I reversed and returned to the car and once again drove to another pullout less than a mile downstream. For the next hour I progressed upstream through some nice pockets and moderate depth runs, but my efforts were in vain. At 3:30 as the sky darkened due to dense clouds, I noticed an increase in blue winged olive activity, and eventually several rising fish revealed their presence. I decided to take the plunge and removed the dry/dropper rig and converted to a Craven soft hackle emerger and fished it like a dry fly. I applied floatant to the body, and after a large number of drifts I managed to hook and land another small brown barely over six inches.

For my final act I skipped some marginal pockets and advanced directly to a long pool across from the Santa Fe. I paused and observed for a few minutes and spotted three tiny trout along the edge in front of me, as they darted to the surface to grab tiny morsels on a fairly regular basis. I was about to pass on the sighted fish because of their diminutive size, but I reconsidered and shot ten casts over the area. I could not follow the low riding emerger in the current seam, and I was about to quit, when I caught a glimpse of a rise next to a bank side boulder on the opposte side of the stream. This fish was a bit larger, and it captured my interest.

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BWO Lover

I waded one third of the way across the river, and I began executing reach casts above the rock that served as a current break for the target riser. After several casts four additional feeding trout revealed their presence. They were all ignoring my emerger, and I was unable to follow it in the dim light and swirling current, so I opted to replace it with a Klinkhammer BWO. The change proved fortuitous, and I netted two additional trout before I called it quits at 4:30. One was a ten inch rainbow and the other a comparable brown.

Monday was a challenging day, and I attribute the difficulty to the sudden rise in stream flows. Fortunately I adjusted and managed to make the best of the situation to reach double digits. The fish were small, but I was thankful for any action on April 30.

Fish Landed: 10

Boulder Creek – 04/27/2018

Time: 12:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Pearl Parkway and 55th Avenue

Boulder Creek 04/27/2018 Photo Album

Friday was my one week anniversary since skin surgery, and I felt a pressing urge to fly fish, so I searched for a location with relatively easy wading to minimize the risk of banging the site of my incision on my right leg. Boulder Creek within the City of Boulder was my choice, and it fit my needs nicely.

Friday’s weather was spectacular with blue skies and sunshine, and the air temperature spiked in the seventies. I selected a new section of Boulder Creek, and I arrived at a parking space near the creek at 11:45AM. I decided to down my lunch first rather than lug it in my backpack for a mere thirty minutes. Lug is probably an exaggeration.

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Starting Point

After lunch I climbed into my waders and assembled my Loomis five weight, and then I followed a narrow single track path downstream for fifty yards, before I quietly entered the stream. I began with a black peacock ice dub hippy stomper and a beadhead hares ear on a two foot dropper. In the first thirty minutes I witnessed two refusals to the hippy stomper and two momentary connections with small brown trout. Finally I drifted the two fly combination in a narrow ribbon of water between the current and the opposite bank, and a short chubby brown slammed the hares ear. I was on the scoreboard and documented my catch with a photo.

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Small but Chubby

The next half hour produced another long distance release, but I played this brown trout for a minute or more before it escaped. I cast to some three foot deep riffles that flowed over some relatively large submerged rocks, and the trout appeared from a hideout between the boulders. It would have been the best fish of the day.

Once again I endured an extended period of inactivity, so I decided to abandon the dry/dropper for a solitary dry fly. My choice was one of the seven size 14 deer hair caddis flies, that I tied on Wednesday. The change proved to be beneficial, as I landed five more small brown trout on the dry fly before I quit at 3:30.

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Last Trout of the Day

I covered a significant distance and skipped over a ton of water, as I searched for proven water types. What was productive water on April 27? Nearly all the caddis fanciers appeared where faster current bordered slow-moving areas with some depth. These fish conserved energy in the pools and pounced on food, as it tumbled by on the adjacent aquatic conveyor belt.

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A Fish Appeared Where Currents Merge

One fish stood out as the most memorable, and it materialized from a spot that does not match my productive water description. I was slowly wading upstream, when I spotted a single random rise in a long slow pool. Just above the scene of the rise a large angled fallen tree spanned the entire width of the stream. I exited the creek very carefully and then slowly edged my way around the root ball of the dead fall and stopped five feet from the shoreline. At this point I knelt and partially hid behind the tree to prevent the trout from seeing me.

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Downstream Drift Under the Log Met with Success

When I was satisfactorily positioned, I fluttered a cast to the center of the pool and allowed it to creep toward the site of the recent evidence of surface feeding. The enticing caddis failed to prompt a reaction, so I continued with two more casts and extended each a bit farther toward the opposite bank. I was about to surrender to the choosey underwater resident, but I decided to lob one more soft cast to the center of the stream. The olive hares ear caddis drifted a foot, when suddenly it was attacked by a voracious Boulder Creek brown trout. Sure it was only nine inches, but I savored the stealthy approach, the challenge of making an accurate cast, and the gratification of seeing a wild trout in my net.

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Displayed

Friday was just what the doctor ordered…relatively benign wading, warm weather, a lack of wind, and a slow pace while stalking wild trout in a section of water never previously explored. It was a fun day after a one week layoff.

Fish Landed: 6

 

CDC Blue Winged Olive – 04/22/2018

CDC Blue Winged Olive 04/22/2018 Photo Album

The history of my association with this fly is available in my 03/11/2014 post, and it evolved into a mainstay in my fly box since the inception of this blog. In many instances it is the only blue winged olive imitation required, although I carry the fly in sizes 18 through 24. The broods of baetis that emerge in the fall tend to be more diminutive than their spring cousins, thus necessitating the size 24’s. Normally I utilize size 20 and 22 during spring hatch matching situations.

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Materials to Tie a CDC BWO

During 2017 I encountered several instances when my trusted CDC BWO’s failed to meet my expectations. Two notable examples were 04/19/2017 on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon and 11/01/2017 on the Eagle River. In an attempt to remedy this weakness in my blue winged olive arsenal, I researched and identified the BWO Klinkhammer style as my secret weapon in difficult baetis hatch conditions. The commonality of the frustrating experiences was wind. I theorized that the wind blew the olives off the water, before adults with upright wings became a triggering feature. The Klinkhammer style featured a dangling abdomen on a curved hook with a small wing post and parachute hackle to represent the emerging wing and legs at an early stage.

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Nice View of Split Tail

On 04/05/2018 I faced my first test of blue winged olive hatch matching options. Overcast skies and dim light prompted a steady emergence of baetis on the South Platte River during the afternoon, and my first response was to knot a CDC BWO to my line. I managed to hook and land a couple trout, but the successes required excessive casting, and abundant refusals and lack of interest by visible fish suggested that the CDC version was not the answer. I shifted gears and attached one of my new Klinkhammer BWO’s to my line, and the rest of the afternoon was spectacular. Sixteen energetic South Platte residents were deceived by the new addition to my fly supply.

On 04/16/2018 I arrived on a quality pool on the Eagle River confident that I was armed with the necessary ingredients to fool trout during blue winged olive hatches that coincided with windy conditions. After all, I possessed CDC BWO’s in a range of sizes, and I supplemented these winners with Klinkhammer BWO’s that proved their worth on the South Platte River on 04/05/2018. The weather was very similar to 04/05/2018 with ongoing overcast skies, and wind that gusted up to sixteen miles per hour.

As anticipated small olive bodied mayflies made an appearance at noon, but my line contained a size 20 Craven soft hackle emerger. I knotted this to my leader thirty minutes earlier in an attempt to imitate small gray midges, that held the attention of the fish in the pool. I applied floatant to the body and wing of the soft hackle and decided to continue fishing it as a dry fly trapped in the surface film. I did not observe adults with upright wings and surmised that emergers and cripples were the preferred food source on a very windy day.

It worked! I landed twenty-one trout on 04/16/2018, and fifteen of them succumbed to the greased soft hackle emerger. In addition five slashed at and ate the Klinkhammer BWO. Despite the discovery of new weapons in my quest for blue winged olive hatch matching, I also experienced several days when the CDC BWO earned its place in my fly box.

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A Completed Batch

With all this background in mind I counted my CDC BWO’s and determined that I needed a handful of new models. I produced four size 22 and four size 20 versions, and I feel confident that I have an adequate array of imitations to dupe greedy fish selectively feeding on some stage of blue winged olives. But then again confidence is a dangerous thing in the fly fishing game.

Light Gray Comparadun – 04/22/2018

Light Gray Comparadun 04/22/2018 Photo Album

The light gray comparadun was the first fly that sparked my love affair with the no hackle series designed by Caucci and Nastasi. If interested, you can read about my evolution from classic Catskill dry fly to comparadun proponent on my 02/21/2014 post.

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Macro of a Pair of Size 16 Comparaduns

My 12/27/2015 update outlined the emergence of the cinnamon comparadun as a second favored comparadun option. Both flies performed especially well during pale morning dun hatches, but over the last two years I determined that the cinnamon version was somewhat more effective especially on certain river systems such as the Frying Pan River. Despite this slippage in ranking in my comparadun repertoire I continued to encounter situations, where the gray version was preferred by western trout. A solid example of this circumstance is available in my 06/23/2017 post that covered my day on the Yampa River. Experiences like this prompt me to continue tying light gray comparaduns in sizes 14 – 18.

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Total Output of Light Gray

I took stock of my light gray inventory and determined that I needed to increment my supply of size 18, 16, and 14. I recently completed this small tying effort with two size 18, six size16, and one size 14. I believe I am adequately prepared for pale morning dun hatches of all colors and all sizes. I cannot wait.