Author Archives: wellerfish

South Platte River – 03/03/2021

Time: 2:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Within Chatfield State Park above Chatfield Reservoir

South Platte River 03/03/2021 Photo Album

Lots of Wide Shallows

By the time I ate my lunch and drove the short distance from Bear Creek to Chatfield my watch registered 2PM. I gathered my gear and cut to the river, and as I suspected, the stream was devoid of ice shelves or snow. The clarity was crystal clear, and I carefully walked upstream with the goal of sight fishing. The South Platte River in this area consists of many shallow stretches over a gravel bottom, so I skipped these sections and focused on deep pools and runs.

Looks Very Fishy

I covered a mile of the South Platte River in 1.5 hours, and sadly I was unable to land a fish. In fact, I was unable to sight a fish, and that placed a significant hole in my sight fishing strategy. The temperature peaked in the low sixties, and I enjoyed a pleasant two mile hike in my waders. I landed my one fish on Bear Creek to kick off 2021, so I was not overly upset with my lack of success on the South Platte.

Fish Landed: 0

Bear Creek – 03/03/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 1:15PM

Location: Lair O’ the Bear Park

Bear Creek 03/03/2021 Photo Album

With mild temperatures forecast for Wednesday, March 3, I could not contain my urge to visit a local stream for my first fishing outing of 2021. My initial plan incorporated a trip to the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, but when I checked the stream flows, I was disappointed to discover a reading of .66 CFS. Apparently the work on Buttonrock Dam was still in progress. I quickly refocused my search and settled on Bear Creek and the South Platte River near Deckers. Ultimately I selected Bear Creek, because it was a shorter drive, and I was reluctant to travel the extra time to Deckers for an early season trip.

Typical Open Water on Bear Creek

I arrived at the Lair O’ the Bear Park lot by 10:45, and I was armed with my Sage four weight and ready to cast by 11:00AM. I was disappointed to learn that much of the creek was covered in ice and snow, but I gambled that I could entice a fish or two to my flies from the intermittent open sections. I began my quest for fish number one of 2021 with a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2. On the second cast one of the nymphs hung up on the stream bottom, so I gave the rod a quick upward flick. The flies immediately came free, but the catapulting action of the the lift and bent rod sent all the flies to a dead branch above and behind me. I attempted to unwrap the flies, but it was a futile effort at retrieval, and I broke off three flies after only two casts in the new season. It was an ominous start to 2021.

Nice Spot

I found a nice rock and sat down, while I reconfigured my line. For some reason I replaced the fat Albert with a size 10 Chernboyl ant, but I replaced the hares ear and RS2 with different versions of the same flies. I began moving along looking for openings in the ice and snow that enabled decent drifts, but I was unable to attract the attention of any resident trout. My mind began to wander to thoughts of moving to the South Platte River above Chatfield Reservoir, as I knew that section of the river would be ice free.

Scene of My One Landed Trout

After hopscotching through five holes I encountered another fisherman, so I circled around him and followed the trail to a spot above a foot bridge. I resumed the practice of fishing the open areas, until I encountered a nice deep run with an overhanging ice shelf along the left side. I executed ten casts, and then I spotted a couple decent trout as they darted from beneath the ice shelf. One seemed to stop three feet out from the shelf, but I was unable to spot it in the greenish brown bottom.

Orange Scud Was a Winner

The sight of several fish spiked my focus, and I decided to swap the RS2 for an orange scud. I surmised that perhaps the bright orange color would imitate eggs or at the very least stand out compared to the drab brown and olive background. On the third cast with the orange scud the Chernobyl ant displayed a subtle pause, and I lifted the rod to sense a connection with a thrashing twelve inch rainbow trout. I had already chalked Wednesday up to an exploratory skunking, so imagine my delight when I netted the prize rainbow! I recorded a video and snapped a few photos to document my first fish of 2021 and continued my progress upstream.

Vibrant Colors on Display

Shortly after my success story I approached another nice open deep spot where the current reflected off the left bank. I flicked a cast to the top of the run, and just as it drifted to the lip of the hole, a trout darted to the surface to inhale the Chernobyl ant. In spite of my state of shock over a dry fly rise early in the season, I managed to set the hook, and I was momentarily connected to a trout. Alas, the joy of hooking a second fish did not persist, as the trout quickly shed the hook and disappeared into the depths.

Momentary Hook Up Along the Ice Shelf on the Left

After my two connections I proceeded in a westerly direction, but it wasn’t long before the stream narrowed between steep banks, and this condition prevented the warming rays of the sun from melting the snow and ice covering. The open holes that provided periodic fishing opportunities were nonexistent. I called it quits on Bear Creek and hiked back to the car, where I ate my lunch and then departed for the South Platte River above Chatfield Reservoir.

Fish Landed: 1

Stimulators – 02/19/2021

Stimulators 02/19/2021 Photo Album

Fairly thorough descriptions of my history with stimulators, and how I utilize this versatile fly are available through links in my post of 01/29/2020. This classic fly possesses several desirable characteristics including buoyancy and visibility and the ability to imitate quite a few food organisms that are preferred on the trout’s menu.

Olive Ice Dub Abdomen

The classic stimulator is tied with a fine wire rib that is used to counter wrap the body hackle. I do not favor the added weight associated with even fine wire, so I deviate from this practice, although the step is included in the videos I viewed by Charlie Craven and Tim Flagler. After I build a solid thread base and add the deer hair tail, I move my thread to the area in front of the tail and tie in a size 14 saddle hackle of the desired color. Next I dub the rear half of the fly, and then I wrap the hackle forward to the end of the body and tie off. Otherwise, my stimulators follow the accepted recipe and steps.

Left Side View

The most difficult aspect of tying a stimulator is avoiding the annoying result of crowding the hook eye. In order to avoid this unsightly circumstance, I end the abdomen at the midpoint of the shank, and this allows adequate space to add the deer hair wing, dubbing and the dense hackle of the stimulator collar. Do not tell me you were not forewarned.

Five Olive Ice Dub Stimulators

My stashes of stimulators of various colors were adequate for the upcoming season except for olive, so I settled into my swivel chair at my fly tying counter, and I produced five size 14 olives. These were not just ordinary olive stimulators; these possessed olive ice dub abdomens. The hint of flash amazingly shows through the densely hackled fly, and I am hopeful this will attract the attention of western trout.

Purple Haze – 02/15/2021

Purple Haze 02/15/2021 Photo Album

During a float trip on the Colorado River on 07/07/2020, my guide knotted a purple haze to my line during the afternoon, and this simple act resulted in the guide’s net sagging under the weight of two bank dwelling brown trout in excess of fifteen inches. Needless to say this convinced me that the purple haze is a viable fish attractor in Colorado, and I made a mental note to tie some during the off season between 2020 and 2021.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 200R or equivalent
ThreadPurple 6/0
TailDyed green grizzly saddle hackle fibers
AbdomenPurple dubbing
WingWhite McFlylon
HackleDyed green grizzly saddle hackle
ThoraxPurple Dubbing

Looking Good

I remained true to my commitment and recently manufactured five size 14 3XL purple hazes to experiment with during the upcoming season. I had to visit Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada to purchase purple dubbing, as I never experienced the need for purple flies in my forty years of fly fishing and fly tying. Since I took the plunge to add purple dubbing to my supplies, I also created a purple haze chubby Chernobyl and a purple haze pool toy hopper. A purple hopper may be a reach, but I am anxious to see what happens.

Zooming In

I feel heightened anticipation for the dry fly season in 2021, so that my parachute purple hazes can ride the currents of western rivers and streams.

User Friendly Green Drake – 02/12/2021

User Friendly Green Drake 02/12/2021 Photo Album

My post of 01/31/2019 provides a nice description of my introduction to this fly. It also describes how I envisioned it enhancing my arsenal of green drake imitations, and it contains a materials table. You can find a step by step video performed by the designer himself, Andrew Grillos, on YouTube.

The Better Side

During the 2019 summer season I tested the user friendly green drake on numerous occasions, but the results were less than impressive. In fact, I switched back to my more trusted green drake versions on several occasions, and they resulted in superior performance. As it turns out, the saga of the user friendly green drake was not over. I continued to carry four in my green drake fly box, and during a visit to the Cache la Poudre River on 07/17/2020, I knotted one to my line as a last resort after cycling through my other green drake imitations. Voila! The out of favor green drake accounted for seven trout during my remaining time on the river. Once again on 07/21/2020 I defaulted to the user friendly green drake on the Taylor River, and it yielded decent results including a fifteen inch rainbow trout. Again the user friendly green drake model proved its worth on 08/11/2020 and 08/14/2020 on South Boulder Creek, as it produced trout during several stints on my line.

Five User Friendly Green Drakes

Needless to say these productive periods convinced me to restore the user friendly to a prominent space in my fly box. I counted my stock of five and approached my vise to create five additional flies to bring my total to ten. Hopefully the user friendly green drake will continue to impress me during 2021 and become the preeminent green drake imitation in my possession.

Parachute Green Drake – 02/09/2021

Parachute Green Drake 02/09/2021 Photo Album

2020 probably stood as my high water mark for encountering western green drakes. Readers of this blog may already know that chasing green drakes is one of my foremost endeavors, as I navigate the seasons of fly fishing in Colorado. I encountered green drakes on the Cache la Poudre, Taylor River, Lake Creek, and South Boulder Creek. My most dependable green drake action generally originates from the Frying Pan River, and I never made the trip to that revered tailwater in 2020. Needless, to say the many green drake hatch experiences resulted in the depletion of my inventory, and a recent quick count revealed that I needed to to tie six parachute styles to bring my supply to my target level.

Cannot Wait for Green Drake Hatches

My post of 02/09/2020 (ironically the same day as this post) provides an update to my green drake quest and includes a link to a materials table and other background information. I recently approached the vise and spun out six new parachute green drakes. Hopefully these will serve me well as I continue my quest for western green drake hatches in 2021.

A Fleet of New Parachute Green Drakes

Chubby Chernobyl – 02/08/2021

Chubby Chernobyl 02/08/2021 Photo Album

Chubby Chernobyls and hippie stompers became the fashionable flies over the last couple years. I was slow to jump on the hippie stomper craze, but once I stumbled on to its effectiveness, it became a dry fly favorite. Chubbys, on the other hand, took me a fair amount of time to embrace. Prior to my trip to Argentina, I purchased a fly box full of flies gathered by Taylor Edrington of Royal Gorge Anglers, and several chubbys were among the collection. Upon my return from Rio Manso, I periodically tied one to my line, but they did not produce and the large wing grew saturated with water. This made the fly heavy and reduced my confidence, so I clung to my tried and true fat Alberts, pool toy hoppers and classic Chernobyl ants.

Tan Ice Dub Body

I fished on in unenlightened bliss until July 2019 on the Yampa River, when I knotted an ice dub olive body chubby Chernobyl to my line. I was shocked to discover a hot fly, as several robust trout engulfed the large attractor along the edge of the Yampa. Unfortunately I lost the only such flies in my box within a short amount of time, and the Steamboat Fly Fisher did not stock the ice dub tan or olive body versions that I was enamored with. I bought and tried some alternative body colors, but their effectiveness was lacking.

Five New Chubby Chernobyls

Fast forward to 2020, and my usage of chubby Chernboyls increased significantly. I learned to apply floatant to the large gangly wing, and I increasingly substituted it for the fat Albert, and it performed reasonably well. I find the slow, gradual disappearance of the large poly wing, when a fish grabs the nymphs, to be enormously seductive.  For a materials table and additional accounts of my history with this fly, check out my previous post of 01/17/2020. The cubby Chernobyl is rapidly earning my trust as a valued top fly in dry/dropper configurations.

Nice Angle

I counted my inventory of chubby Chernobyls and determined that I was reasonably stocked, so I simply increased my supply of two of the favorite colors; ice dub tan and gray. In addition I created a single chubby Chernobyl with a purple body as an experiment for the upcoming season. My guide on a float trip on the Colorado River utilized a purple haze on my line for a considerable amount of time, so I purchased a packet of purple dubbing to tie some. Since I had the purple dubbing available, I applied it to several favorites to experiment with a color that somehow avoided my attention for nearly forty years of fly fishing.

Purple Haze Chubby Experiment

Fat Albert – 02/04/2021

Fat Albert 02/04/2021 Photo Album

As is my custom during the cold winter months, I visited my fly storage containers and counted my supply of fat Alberts. I was pleased to discover that I possessed adequate quantities of size 8 fat Alberts with yellow bodies, so I quickly moved on to the next pattern on my schedule of flies to tie. I tend to use the fat Albert quite a bit in the early season, and I missed the latter half of April and most of May during 2021 due to my recovery from heart surgery. This perhaps explains the lack of shrinkage in my inventory of this popular fly.

Plenty of Fat Alberts in Stock

Click on the link to my post of 12/30/2019 for additional information about the fat Albert. The brief report provides a materials table and several links  that describe my introduction to this popular fly. In addition there is a link that takes you to a post that describes some of the successful usages of the yellow fat Albert. Hopefully I will be on the western rivers early during 2021, and the fat Albert will bounce along the currents and attract attention from hungry trout.

Pool Toy Hopper – 01/31/2021

Pool Toy Hopper 01/31/2021 Photo Album

The pool toy hopper designed by Andrew Grillos has evolved into my favorite hopper imitation. I tie them mostly on a size 8 Tiemco 5262 or equivalent. Andrew recommends the heavier hook to serve as a keel that allows the fly to always land right side up, and that seems to hold true for me. A reader of this blog asked me to explain the difference between the pool toy hopper and a fat Albert, and I was forced to admit that there is not much to separate them. Nonetheless, I tend to favor the pool toy hopper during the summer months when natural grasshoppers are most prevalent. The fat Albert is my favorite top fly on dry/dropper rigs in the pre-runoff season and during July, as the river flows subside to fishable levels. I tie most of my pool toy hoppers with a tan body and a tan foam underlayer; whereas, I tend to use yellow for the body of the fat Albert. Perhaps body color is the simple explanation for why one fly seems to outperform the other during the various seasons of the fishing year.

Bringing It Closer

Check out my post of 01/13/2020 for links to a materials table, and a link that describes my introduction to the fly.  I have a scanned copy of fly tying steps from Southwestern Fly Fishing that I can email, if a reader would like to tie some of these hopper patterns. Just let me know in the comments. I experienced one of my best pool toy hopper days in quite awhile on 09/18/2020, and I was very pleased to be able to fish the buoyant foam hopper solo for much of my time on the North Fork of the White River. The pool toy hopper is extremely buoyant and easy to track, and I took advantage of these features on the September day in the Flattops.

Tan Pool Toy Hoppers Complete

I tied eight new pool toy hoppers to replenish my supply for the upcoming 2021 season. I adopted the practice of dabbing a bead of super glue to the rear leg knots to prevent slippage and unwinding. In addition I cranked out a few versions with a tan ice dub body. The tan ice dub body chubby Chernobyl has yielded some surprisingly solid results in a dry/dropper arrangement, so I thought I would give the sparkling body color a try with a pool toy hopper. Stay tuned for a report on the results of this experiment.

Another Underside View

Chernobyl Ant – 01/23/2021

Chernobyl Ant 01/23/2021 Photo Album

Chubby Chernobyls are everywhere. They’ve taken the world by storm, yet this seasoned angler continues to stock classic Chernobyl ants, and in fact uses them fairly frequently. What situations would dictate a classic Chernobyl ant over a chubby? High mountain streams with an abundance of overhanging branches and vegetation represent the primary situation, when I resort to a classic Chernobyl ant. My Chernobyl ants are very simple creations that require only two sections of foam, pearl chenille, and rubber legs. All these materials are synthetic, and, therefore, do not absorb water. In tight quarters I can dap, bow and arrow, and roll cast this fly without the need for a backcast to dry off the fly. This characteristic is very welcome, when trees and branches attempt to nab your fly with every stray movement.

Boat Box

Of course this positive would be useless if a Chernobyl ant did not attract fish, but it does that as well, and in many cases quite well. The buoyancy of the Chernobyl also supports a beadhead nymph or two, so it can also perform in fine fashion as the surface fly in a dry/dropper arrangement. The small yellow indicator is relatively visible, although other foam flies can outperform the Chernobyl in this regard, as it rides low in the water thus making tracking a challenge at times.

Fly Box

For a materials table and more links to previous posts on the Chernobyl ant, please refer to my 01/15/2020 post. I counted all the Chernobyl ants in my possession and determined that adequate quantities remained for the upcoming season. In fact, I probably have enough for several future years, since I now favor other foam flies over the Chernboyl in some situations.

Size 8 from Bass Pro Shop Bin