Author Archives: wellerfish

South Boulder Creek – 09/24/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Between Rollinsville and East Portal

South Boulder Creek 09/24/2020 Photo Album

Thursday was another adventure on heretofore never fished water in Colorado. In fact, fishing new water has become a theme for my 2020 season, and a few interesting destinations remain on my list for the autumn season. I noticed the public section of South Boulder Creek on our several trips to and from the East Portal to hike the popular trail.

Promising Slick

The dashboard registered sixty degrees, as I prepared to fish, so I wore my Under Armour long sleeve insulated shirt and a fleece hoodie, This created comfort during the morning and early afternoon, but eventually I concluded, that I was overdressed. I slid my four piece Sage four weight together and hiked downstream along the dirt road, until I found a more gradual path for my descent. I was unfamiliar with the section, but my instincts paid off, when I entered the creek just above a no trespassing sign. When I observed the stream from high above on the road, I feared that it was quite low, but this assessment proved deceiving, as the flows were decent for late September.

Surprise Start

Hippie Stomper on Fire Early

I selected a hippie stomper from my MFC fly box and tied it to my line. The next twenty minutes were the highlight of my day, as five brown trout aggressively smacked the size 12 attractor. A couple of the browns measured eleven inches and proved to be some of the best fish of the day. I was pleased with the confidence shown by the resident trout, and my optimism soared with the hope, that I discovered yet another mountain stream destination.

Leaves, They Are A’Changing

Unfortunately the easy dry fly fishing did not endure, and I suffered through an extended dry spell. This period of inaction convinced me to convert to a dry/dropper approach, and I aligned my lineup with a tan pool toy hopper, pheasant tail nymph and hares ear nymph. The pace of action improved, but I never regained the magic of the first twenty minutes. The fish count climbed from five to ten between 11:00AM and 1:00PM, and the hares ear was responsible for most of the landed trout.

Super Nova Worked

By 1:00PM the air temperature climbed into the low seventies, and the action slowed measurably. I decided to revert to a dry fly approach and attached the hippie stomper to my line. Eventually I adopted  a double dry presentation with an olive stimulator behind the stomper. This combination accounted for a fish; but the warm air, bright sun and fruitless casting caused my confidence to wane. I decided to go deep again and replaced the hippie stomper with a Chernobyl ant trailing a super nova. The dry spell was temporarily broken, when a twelve inch rainbow snapped up the super nova, but this proved to be an aberration, and eventually I returned to a dry fly approach with a moodah poodah and a pheasant tail on a short eighteen inch dropper.

Best Fish of the Day

In one of the larger pockets I plopped the beetle (moodah poodah), and a brown trout shot across the small pool to inhale the foam terrestrial and raised the fish count to thirteen. I surmised that perhaps beetles were the answer, but another drought developed, and I decided to call it quits at 2:30PM. My confidence was low, and I was frustrated by my inability to generate interest in spite of casting to quality water with careful presentations.

Thirteen fish was acceptable, but size was lacking, and the early afternoon  was challenging. I suspect that I will never make the drive to western South Boulder Creek again, but it was fun to experience a new stretch of the stream.

Fish Landed: 13

Clear Creek – 09/23/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 09/23/2020 Photo Album

After a short layoff upon my return from the Flattops, I was eager to once again match wits with the high country trout of Colorado on Wednesday, September 23, 2020. I would hate to acknowledge that I was outsmarted by pea-brained trout, but that was a risk I was willing to assume. Highs in the 80’s in Denver prompted me to seek out a high elevation stream, before temperatures dropped to uncomfortable levels.

I chose a new section of Clear Creek, and the temperature, when I arrived at the roadside pullout, was sixty degrees, and I suspect the thermometer never spiked above the upper sixties. At lunch time I pulled on my thin raincoat for added warmth, and I removed my sungloves, as the cooling effect of evaporation was chilling my fingers and causing a stinging sensation. When I arrived next to the stream I noted that the creek was quite low, and this dictated stealthy approaches.

Low, But Pretty

I began fishing at 10AM with my Orvis Access four weight, and I selected a peacock hippie stomper for my initial search for trout. The stomper was ignored in several attractive pockets, and then looks and refusals became the norm. Evidently the dependably irresistible hippie stomper was not on the menu for Clear Creek trout on September 23. Finally after fifteen minutes of futility a pair of cutthroats nabbed the stomper at the lip of a pair of pools.

Peacock-Body Hippie Stomper

On the Board

I sensed that I was passing over fish (I saw some dart for cover after I thoroughly covered a pair of attractive pools), so I added a deer hair caddis behind the hippie stomper. The caddis fooled one fish, but it never captured the attention of the stream residents, so I went to a dry/dropper with a very short leader. I added a one foot section of monofilament to the bend of the stomper, and then I knotted a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail to the line. The switch to a subsurface offering proved beneficial, and I raised the fish count to ten, before I broke for lunch at noon. Most of the late morning catches grabbed the pheasant tail near the tail of deep pockets or pools. For awhile I added a salad spinner and zebra midge below the pheasant tail, but these flies never produced a fish and only served as a tangling annoyance, when I hooked fish on the hippie stomper or pheasant tail.

Screaming Trout Home

Some Width to This One

In the thirty minutes before lunch the hippie stomper became purely an indicator, and the white wing was difficult to track in shadows. I decided to convert to a more buoyant and visible indicator fly and replaced the stomper with a size 10 black Chernobyl ant. I kept the pheasant tail as the upper subsurface fly and then cycled through a series of nymphs and wet flies in the point position. The array of trial flies included a partridge and orange, an ultra zug bug, a hares ear nymph, and a Craven soft hackle emerger. Only the soft hackle emerger delivered a fish; however, the pheasant tail continued to be my mainstay fly.

Net Camouflage

The fragile pheasant tail fibers finally tore from the cutting action of cutthroat teeth, and in the process of landing a nice catch, the pheasant tail and ultra zug bug broke off. Normally I grieve at the loss of two flies, but the unraveling status of the pheasant tail offset some of the pain. I gazed into my fleece wallet and spotted a super nova, and this became my substitute for the pheasant tail. The super nova is a Juan Ramirez creation, and I tied a batch during heart surgery recovery and covid19 lockdown. They impress me as a more durable substitute for the ever popular pheasant tail.

Perfection

During the last hour the catch rate subsided, and I covered much more water between netted fish. I decided to try dry flies once again and attached a yellow size 14 stimulator to my tippet. A wave of refusals greeted this move, but then a cutthroat crushed the heavily hackled dry fly. The yellow stimulator became a one fish wonder before an errant backcast donated it to an evergreen tree. Next I moved to a gray size 14 stimulator, but evidently the high country stream residents were not color blind, because gray did not arouse interest. I downsized to a gray size 16 deer hair caddis, and an aggressive fish smashed it, but then the caddis was ignored, and I struggled to follow it in the swirly currents. This would have been an ideal time to once again experiment with a sunken ant, but I am ashamed to admit, that I have not visited the tying bench to produce a batch after losing my one and only black metal head ant.

Big Slash

It was after 3:00PM, and I was about to quit, but several nice pools beckoned a short distance upstream. I exchanged the caddis for a Jake’s gulp beetle, and in a very smooth slow moving pool a nice cutty raced at least five feet to inhale the terrestrial. That was my last bit of action, and I retired at 3:30 and found a path back to the car.

Water Droplet Off My Finger

Wednesday was another fine day on a high elevation stream catching colorful cutthroats. The largest fish merely stretched to eleven inches, but the wild stream residents made up for a lack of size with vivid colors and spunky attitudes. This may have been my last day on this particular creek in 2020, unless unseasonably warm weather continues.

Fish Landed: 23

North Fork of the White River – 09/18/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Between North Fork Campground and Trappers Lake

North Fork of the White River 09/18/2020 Photo Album

I was mildly disappointed with my day on Marvine Creek on Thursday, so I decided to remain in the Flattops to fly fish on Friday, but I committed to leave early. Early for this outing was defined as 2:00PM. Astute readers may ask how I could be disappointed with a thirty-one fish day, and that would certainly be a legitimate question. Twenty-eight of the thirty-one trout were small brook trout, and unlike previous visits, only one substantial cutbow rested in my net. My hugely successful day on Wednesday may have also influenced my view toward Thursday. On Marvine Creek I covered 1.1 mile of stream real estate, and the wading was quite challenging as a result of the high gradient and many streamside obstacles to impede my movement. Flies that worked on Wednesday failed to satisfy the trout on Marvine Creek, and this forced me to cycle through quite a few changes. I never settled on a reliable fly that produced consistent results.

I was quite weary from four consecutive days of fishing and camping including two lengthy hikes in excess of five miles, and I actually considered driving back to Denver after breaking camp on Friday morning. However, I was hesitant to squander valuable fishing time in the Flattops after making the four hour drive and bouncing over two passes on a gravel washboard road. I concluded that my advancing age dictated, that I should take advantage of my annual trip to leverage one more day in the area.

Honey Hole

The temperature hovered around fifty degrees when I pulled into a parking spot at my chosen destination on Friday morning. I quickly assembled my Sage four weight and knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line. The section of the North Fork that I chose as my destination differed from Wednesday, and after a brief hike I arrived at my starting point ready to cast by 10:00AM. The river was flowing at a nice velocity, and it was crystal clear.

Whew! Brilliant.

So Bright

Trout Lair for Sure

I prospected with the hippie stomper for the first fifteen minutes, and nary a trout showed a sign of interest. This was the same creek, where I utilized a solitary hippie stomper for 6.5 hours, and it yielded in excess of forty fish, and now the residents shunned my offering like radioactive waste. What was going on? I pondered the situation and decided to test a three fly dry/dropper rig. I attached a tan pool toy hopper and then added an ultra zug bug and salvation nymph. The fish gave this move a thumbs up, and I began landing fish at a fairly rapid clip. The ultra zug bug and salvation were popular, but the hopper pattern also attracted a decent level of interest. Between 10:00AM and noon I expanded the fish count from zero to ten, and during this time I lost the salvation nymph and subsequently cycled through a beadhead pheasant tail nymph, a perdigon, a dark cahill wet fly, and a copper john. For the top nymph I swapped the ultra zug bug for a bright green go2 caddis pupa for a portion of the time. The salvation, ultra zug bug, go2 caddis and pool toy hopper delivered fish; and, in fact, the hopper was clearly the most desirable food item on the fly menu. Initially the predominant species was the brook trout, but then a few rugged cutbows and rainbows joined the party. These wild jewels were aggressive fighters and brilliantly colored, and they measured between twelve and fourteen inches.

Spawning Colors

After a quick lunch I continued my upstream migration and landed a few more trout before a bruiser of a cutbow snapped off the trailing nymphs in the process of attempting an escape. I managed to coax the fly theft into my net, but rather than replacing the nymphs with another set, I opted to fish the hopper solo. The move proved to be brilliant, and I spent the remainder of my time on the river fooling brook trout, cutbows and rainbows with the Grillos pool toy hopper with a tan body. I set a goal of reaching twenty fish by 2:00PM and surpassed that with room to spare at twenty-five. Even more satisfying was the fact that these fish were not small brook trout. They were muscular fighters that displayed vivid and deep colors, and they typically measured between twelve and fourteen inches, and they carried greater than average body weight. I used two pool toy hoppers in the process, as the first one lost all its legs, and the same fate awaited the second. I was perched on twenty-three, when hopper number two lost its final leg, but I continued with the legless version and duped two additional fish.

Left Side Attractive

Chubby

For the most part the brook trout occupied secondary lies such as shallow slow moving pools next to the bank. The cutbows and rainbows held at the tail of deep runs and pockets next to higher velocity current. Normally I limit my number of casts to five, before I move on to the next promising spot, but on Friday I recall several instances, where I made between five and ten casts, before I ultimately encouraged a take from one of the prized cutbows.

Loving This Chunk

Lighter Coloration

Such a Gorgeous Fish

Friday on the North Fork of the White River was truly a memorable day. Clearly forty-seven landed trout on Wednesday on the North Fork was a high mark, but I truly believe that I would have surpassed that achievement with another 2.5 hours on the Friday section. But more impressive was the higher proportion of larger cutbows and rainbows compared to Wednesday. I estimate that 60% of the Friday catch was one of the bow varieties, while brook trout were more than 50% of Wednesday’s netted fish. For an avid fly fisherman like myself, it does not get much better than Friday. I worked upstream at a steady pace and popped the single hopper to all the likely holding spots. More often than not a spectacular brook trout, cutbow, or rainbow jumped on the fake hopper. It was fly fishing at its simplest level. I gave little thought to fly selection, after I discovered the appeal of the pool toy hopper, and the size 8 foam impostor was easy to track among the swirls and churning current of the high gradient stream. Of course, I witnessed my share of refusals and temporary connections, but the conversion rate to landed trout was enough to give me confidence in the pool toy. When can I return to the Flattops?

Fish Landed: 25

Autumn Advancing

Marvine Creek – 09/17/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Upstream from Marvine Creek Campground

Marvine Creek 09/17/2020 Photo Album

Based on past years I should have known what to expect, and surely a thirty-one fish day is a numbers booster, but unlike several previous visits twenty-eight of the landed fish were small brookies in the six to eleven inch range, and the mix was definitely skewed on the small end. Three cutbows graced my net, but one was a prize for such a small stream, as it measured sixteen inches and flaunted a wide girth. I fished deeper than my farthest penetration previously, and I am not convinced the extra steps were worth it. The section that I covered was characterized by fast wide shallow riffles and high gradient, and I waded considerable distances between promising spots. The creek and I had an adversarial relationship, and on this day, the creek won. By 4:00PM I was a very weary dude facing a long return hike.

Crowded Trailhead

Entering the Backcountry

The weather was terrific, and the creek was clear and cold. I began with a peacock hippie stomper, since it shined on Wednesday on the North Fork, and it quickly built the fish count to nine. I was very optimistic at this point, but for some reason in the half hour before lunch steady action changed into a slump. In an effort to inflate the catch rate I added a salvation nymph to the hippie stomper after lunch. The ploy initially paid dividends, as I landed fish number ten and then approached a spectacular deep pool.

I lobbed a cast to the frothy head of the deep pool, and on the second such effort a large form grabbed the trailing nymph. I instantly recognized that this was not a brook trout and allowed the cutbow slack line, as it charged upstream and then reversed itself and shot downstream. I began taking a few steps to follow my prize catch, but the small stream giant suddenly turned its head, and the nymph lost its grip. As the reader might imagine, I was very distraught over this turn of events.

Easily the Best Fish of the Day

I inspected the flies and composed myself and tossed another cast to the deep center of the churning whitewater. As the two fly dry/dropper crept toward the center between two fast seams, the Chernobyl ant once again took a dive, and for a brief second I spotted another Marvine Creek monster. Unlike its pool neighbor this fish dove and headed in a relentless drive to a large exposed rock along the left bank. I made a futile attempt to restrain it from its intended destination, since I suspected the near side of the rock held a subsurface obstruction such as a branch or log. My intentions were admirable, but my performance was lacking. Suddenly I no longer felt the writhing weight of a fish, and after saying a few unkind words I decided to invade the depths of the pool. I waded to the outer edge of the rock, while holding my rod in a forward position, and suddenly I once again felt a throbbing weight. Apparently the fish on the end of the line hunkered down next to the rock, and my invasion of its safe harbor encouraged a move. I carefully applied side pressure to the obstinate brute, and in short order I scooped it into my net. In this instance some celebratory whooping and hollering accompanied my success. The sixteen inch slab made my day, and I snapped a few photos and recorded a video, before I prodded the wide body to swim for freedom. It did not require much prodding.

Yum Yum

A Fine Brook Trout

I continued my upstream advancement, and notched a couple more brook trout on the salvation to reach thirteen. The Chernobyl ant was not contributing to the cause, so I removed it and reverted to the hippie stomper. It was at this time that I encountered a massive beaver pond. I skipped around the slow moving tail section and progressed to the midsection, where I began executing casts to the fast entering run and the deep slower moving areas that bordered the seams. The area enabled me to elevate the fish count from thirteen to seventeen, as an array of small brook trout found the salvation to their liking.

One of the Better Brookies from Marvine

Room to Grow

When I progressed beyond the beaver pond, another period of futility impacted my fly fishing karma. I pondered the situation and decided to made a radical change to my approach. Much of the water was moving at a rapid velocity, and I concluded that additional weight was the answer. I knotted a size 8 yellow fat Albert to my line, and beneath it I added a bright green go2 caddis pupa and salvation nymph. The three fly system was moderately effective, and the fish count gradually rose to twenty-seven. Each of the flies accounted for a few fish, but none stood out as more effective than the others.

More Orange

I was stuck on twenty-seven as my watch registered 3:00PM, and thirty fish were within my grasp. Very few promising spots were appearing, and the dry/dropper configuration lost its luster. I decided to make a last ditch effort and changed to a double dry consisting of the hippie stomper and a size 14 olive stimulator. Bingo! Three brook trout attacked the stimulator, and I rejoiced at reaching the thirty mark. On the return hike I paused at the beaver pond and duped another brook trout on the stimulator to end the day at thirty-one.

Glowing Bushes

The fish count was in line with previous visits to Marvine Creek; however, the size of the brook trout seemed diminished and fewer cutbows joined the mix. Large cutbows dominated my recollection of previous days on Marvine Creek, and I was unable to overlook their absence on Thursday. I also discovered that the structure of the creek after a more distant hike did not justify the effort. Thursday was a decent day, but not an exceptional outing.

Fish Landed: 31

Campsite at North Fork Campground

North Fork of the White River – 09/16/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Between North Fork Campground and Trappers Lake

North Fork of the White River 09/16/2020 Photo Album

Wednesday left no room for disappointment. If one could project a nearly perfect day of fly fishing in a high country stream, Wednesday would serve as a superb model.

The Leaves in Transition

Tuesday was a long day, as I fished the South Fork and then drove to the North Fork Campground and set up my tent for three nights. On Wednesday morning I was situated close to the streams that I planned to fish for the remainder of the week. The air temperature began in the low fifties and then climbed to the upper sixties. A smokey haze blocked the sun for the entire time on the river. Flows on the section of the North Fork, that I chose to fish on Wednesday, were clear and at an ideal level. Wading, as is always the case for the North Fork, was challenging due to the numerous fallen logs to climb over, and the rocky, high gradient environment added to the difficulty.

Tough Wading Ahead

Performed the Heavy Lifting

When I arrived along the edge of the river, I decided to keep it simple and knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line. How was I to know that September 16th was destined to be a hippie stomper sort of day?The stomper quickly accumulated eight landed fish in the first thirty minutes. One was a fine thirteen inch cutbow, and the others were brightly colored brook trout.

Nature’s Pallet

Cutbows Shared the River

My description of the first half hour aptly defines my entire day on the river. I prospected all the deep pockets and plunge pools, and more often than not a cutbow, rainbow or brook trout subsequently rested in my net; but for every fish landed, I experienced a refusal or temporary connection. Obviously that represents an abundant quantity of fish in a small stream environment.

Predator Brook Trout

Do Not Skip Behind the Log

Color of Stripe Matches the Leaves

When I reached a count of twenty, I decided to experiment and added an ultra zug bug as a dropper off the stomper. The ultra zug bug picked up two fish, but the thin foam hippie stomper struggled to support the beadhead nymph, and consequently its effectiveness waned. I considered the situation and decided to rest the hippie stomper and switched to a tan pool toy hopper with a salvation nymph. A brook trout found the hopper desirable, and the salvation was snatched by another hungry brookie, but the overall pace of action slowed significantly from the early going with the solo stomper.

Money in the Bank

Not the Rock Band Slash

Tail Drag

What did I do? I reverted to the ever popular hippie stomper, and I only deviated from the stomper once more at 4:00PM, when I spotted a pod of four cutbows in a narrow pool on the south braid of the river. Two trout refused the hippie stomper, and I observed several pale morning duns, as they launched from the water’s surface. I invested the time to switch to a size 16 light gray comparadun. The move paid dividends when a football-shaped cutbow sipped the PMD imitation, and a similar result was recorded in a nearby bucket-sized shelf pool. The brief interest in a pale morning dun imitation subsided, and it was difficult to track in the faster currents, so I once again reverted to the old reliable hippie stomper and closed out my day.

Stunning Colors and Spots

The Colors of the Rainbow

So Many Spots!

They Keep on Coming

I estimated that 75% of my fish count were brook trout, and they were clearly numbers boosters, although a few eleven and twelve inch fish were part of the brook trout booty. The rainbows and cutbows were outstanding. I netted at least eight wild cutbows in the twelve to fourteen inch range, and they dazzled with their array of vivid colors. Days like Wednesday are what keep me coming back to streams in search of trout.

Fish Landed: 47

Cannot Skip This Spot

South Fork of the White River – 09/15/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Southeast of the South Fork Campground

South Fork of the White River 09/15/2020 Photo Album

I camped at the South Fork Campground on Monday night, and I was pleased to discover that the air was relatively free of smoke. Only two other campsites were occupied, and I elected to stow my storage bins in the bear locker and slept in the back of the Santa Fe. I was successful in avoiding setting up and taking down my tent for a one night stay.

No. 6 at South Fork Campground

I was conveniently positioned for my day of fishing the South Fork of the White River on Tuesday morning. I stashed all my food and camping gear in the car and drove fifty yards to the trailhead, where I assembled my Sage four weight and pulled on my waders. The temperature at the beginning of my hike was 48 degrees, but the hike initiated quite a bit of body heat, and the high temperature for the day peaked in the 70 degree range. In short, it was a glorious late summer day in the Flattops. As I strode along the South Fork, I noted that the flows were ideal, and the river was crystal clear and cold.

Grandeur of the Flatttops

Nice Clear Deep Run

I hiked a good distance from the trailhead and began fishing at 10:30AM with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph. Early in the game I landed a chunky twelve inch rainbow on the salvation, but it was tough going in the hour before noon, as the fish count slowly advanced to three. Midway through the morning I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a 20 incher to achieve deeper drifts.

Subtle Pink Stripe

After a quick lunch I continued my upstream progression and raised the fish tally to six. Other than the first fish of the day, the rainbows were on the small side. Once I attained six on the trout meter, I decided to convert to a double dry approach. For this endeavor I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to the front position and trailed a gray stimulator. For most of the afternoon I concentrated on prospecting prime spots; depth and moderate current were the key prerequisites. The fish count climbed from six to ten, but the fish netted in the afternoon were the nicest of the day. These afternoon fish convinced me that the thirteen and fourteen inch cutbows and rainbows of the South Fork are pound for pound some of the hardest battlers, that I have encountered.

Worthwhile

Stunning

With an hour remaining before my planned exit I swapped the stimulator for a salvation nymph, and then I added an ultra zug bug. The dry/dropper approach clicked for a pretty cutthroat trout and two small cutbows, but two substantial fish escaped my hook and added to my frustration.

Cast Worthy

On Tuesday I suffered several break offs on fish and ended my day by breaking off three flies in a tree. I lost two 20 inchers, four salvation nymphs, two ultra zug bugs, one gray stimulator, and one hippie stomper. I also tossed a legless pool toy hopper in my fly recycling canister.

Power Curl

I must admit that my expectations for Tuesday were higher, but a double digit day including six trout in the thirteen to fourteen inch range was more than acceptable. I had the place to myself, and the weather was spectacular. I observed very little aquatic insect activity, and historically my best days on the South Fork coincided with the presence of more caddis, pale morning dun and blue winged olives. September 15, 2020 seemed like a continuation of the summer doldrums from an insect perspective.

Fish Landed: 13

North Fork of the White River – 09/14/2020

Time: 1:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Between North Fork Campground and Trappers Lake

North Fork of the White River 09/14/2020 Photo Album

I protected the week of September 14, 2020 from conflicting appointments, as I eagerly anticipated a week of fly fishing in the Flattops area of Colorado. This trip has developed into an annual tradition, and I was not willing to sacrifice it in 2020. I was, however, cognizant of my recent heart issues and atrial fibrillation, so in a concession to advancing age I rented a satellite phone for the week. I planned to hike into several remote stream destinations, where the presence of other human beings was rare, so the availability of 24/7 communication capability was a valuable safety precaution. I viewed the $255 for thirty minutes of voice time as an insurance policy in case of injury or health issues.

Branch in a Bad Place

Salvation Nymph

I departed on Monday morning after completing most of the packing on Sunday night, and I arrived next to the North Fork of the White River by 12:45PM. I quickly downed my small lunch and prepared to fly fish with my Sage four weight as the weapon of choice. Monday was a bright sunny day with the temperature at my location in the 69 – 70 degree range. Flows appeared to be a bit lower than previous years, but easily within an ideal range for mid-September.

Nice Grip

Speckles and Stripes

I began my quest for White River trout with a tan pool toy hopper that dangled an ultra zug bug and salvation nymph on a three foot dropper. I read all my North Fork posts on this blog from previous years before my departure, and the three flies that I selected were the top producers. In the very first decent pocket along the left bank, I landed a thirteen inch rainbow that nabbed the salvation nymph, and my optimism zoomed. I continued working my way upstream, and I built the fish count to seven in the first hour, but all the fish except the first were in the six to eleven inch range. One was a brook trout, and the others were rainbows and cutbows. The ultra zug bug delivered a small trout early, but then it drifted mostly unmolested, so I switched it for a weighted size 12 prince nymph. The prince became a relatively hot item, as it combined with the salvation to boost the fish count from seven to fifteen. The heavier prince enabled deeper drifts, and this condition likely explained the elevated catch rate. Three of the last eight landed trout were muscular fourteen to fifteen inch rainbows, and the prince was the food of choice for these bruisers. In addition, another three energetic hook ups developed, but the bold fighters managed to escape while breaking off the prince and salvation.

Slip Away

Surely Home to a Fish

Similar to past years on this section of the White, long riffles and pockets with depth in excess of four feet produced. Toward the end of my time on the river I bumped into two other anglers, so I circled around them and continued upstream. The last hour was very slow, and I failed to increase the fish count, although I was teased by two decent temporary hook ups in the final pool. Monday represented a fine start to my week in the Flattops during 2020. Fifteen fish landed in 3.5 hours is an above average catch rate, and the three bruisers in the late afternoon were much appreciated surprises. Monday afternoon boosted my appetite for more success during the remainder of the week.

Fish Landed: 15

South Boulder Creek – 09/02/2020

Time: 10:45AM – 3:15PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/02/2020 Photo Album

After two very successful days on South Boulder Creek in early August, I yearned to return in order to take advantage of the late green drake hatch on the small front range tailwater. Unfortunately the Denver Water managers had other ideas, and they boosted the flow rate from 140 CFS to 230 CFS. As you might imagine, 230 CFS in the narrow tight South Boulder Creek canyon creates some challenging fishing conditions. I decided to bide my time and wait for the flows to drop to more favorable levels, while I sampled other high country options in Colorado. Finally I noted that the DWR graph depicted outflows from Gross Reservoir of 139 CFS, and I promptly made plans to pay the canyon tailwater a visit.

Yummy Water

Wednesday developed into a sunny day with the high temperature on South Boulder Creek approaching eighty degrees. Wet wading seemed like an attractive option, but I recalled that my feet grew numb even while wearing waders due to the cold bottom release from the dam. I slid into my waders and rigged my Orvis Access four weight and descended the steep trail from the kayak parking lot to the edge of the creek. Three cars preceded me to the parking area, and another arrived with a man and presumably a son and grandson, while I prepared to fish. Surely the small number of vehicles meant that I would have the creek mostly to myself.

Early Hippie Stomper Success

As I crossed the creek at the bottom of the steep trail, it seemed that the rushing flows were stronger than 139 CFS; however, when I checked again upon my return home, the DWR web site graph continued to depict a level line at the aforementioned velocity. As mentioned in the first paragraph, I anxiously anticipated prospecting with large green drake dry flies; and I did, in fact, do some of that, but the fish were not as cooperative, as they were on 8/11/2020 and 8/14/2020. According to plan when I arrived at my favorite starting point, I tied a parachute green drake to my line and began to prospect likely fish holding lies, but the stream residents showed no interest.

After I covered several very attractive pools with no response from the fish, I exchanged the green drake for a peacock hippie stomper. In the early going before lunch the stomper registered a pair of trout, but it also generated an abundant quantity of refusals, so I swapped it for a user friendly green drake. The user friendly fooled my only rainbow trout of the day, but then it also became a fly that the fish decided to inspect but not eat.

Worth a Few Casts

Held in the Sunshine

This description of my morning fly fishing pretty much characterized my entire day. I cycled through a lot of flies but never settled on a consistent producer, until the end of the day on my way back to the parking lot. I fished diligently and covered a significant amount of stream and managed to land fifteen trout. All were brown trout except for the rainbow that crushed the user friendly. Ten trout rested in my net between 10:45 and 2:45, and I added five in a thirty minute period, when I stopped to fish a favorite pool during my return hike. Obviously my catch rate in the first four hours was very lackluster.

Recovery

After lunch I tried a tan pool toy hopper trailing a beadhead prince and a salvation nymph, and I succeeded in attracting a batch of refusals to the hopper. The nymphs were totally ignored, so I returned to the dry fly approach and tossed a green drake comparadun for a reasonable length of time. The solitary green drake imitation duped one fish, but it was largely avoided. What could the trout be looking for? I pulled a beetle from my box, and it was one of the most popular flies of the day. After some initial success with the beetle, the action slowed down, and I spied several natural green drakes and a large pale morning dun. I switched to a size 14 light gray comparadun and induced one trout to gulp the large PMD imitation, and then I reverted to the beetle and added the green drake comparadun as the second dry fly. Of the first ten fish landed before I embarked on my return hike, three ate the hippie stomper, one chomped the light gray comparadun, one smacked the user friendly green drake, one sipped the green drake comparadun, and four nipped the Jake’s gulp beetle. The numerous fly changes were indicative of a slow catch rate and my inability to identify a consistently productive fly for the trout of South Boulder Creek.

Healthy Brown Trout

I wasted too much time casting to center runs and pockets, because most of my success was derived from the deep pockets and riffles along the bank. The higher than desired flows reduced the number of prime holding spots for trout, and this forced me to move often, and this in turn caused me to climb over numerous boulders and to battle strong currents to make headway.

End of Day Fun

At 2:45PM I reached an area where the canyon narrowed, and flows at 139 CFS hampered my ability to find decent holding water. I hooked my fly to the rod guide and began my return hike. After .75 mile I approached a nice wide pool and before wading through it to continue my return journey, I paused and observed several rises. I decided to extend my fly fishing day, and I lobbed some casts of the beetle to the vicinity of rises. The beetle attracted several looks, but the trout would not close their jaw on the foam imitation. What could the fish be eating? I swapped the beetle for a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. It was mostly ignored or refused, but through persistence I induced two trout to sip the low riding mayfly imitation.

End of Day Bonus

Four or five fish fed sporadically at the tail of the long pool area, and they became immune to my comparadun, so I exchanged it for a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. This was definitely not on the radar of the stream residents, so I removed it, and replaced it with a size 18 light gray comparadun. Voila! Three trout recognized the small comparadun as a desirable food item, and I built the fish count to fifteen. Four of the last five trout landed were browns in the twelve inch range, and I was quite pleased to end my day on a high note.

Fish Landed: 15

South Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 09/01/2020

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Between confluence with Middle Fork and Brainard Lake

South Fork of St. Vrain Creek 09/01/2020 Photo Album

2020 has been a year of exploring new streams or different stretches of streams never before visited. Tuesday, September 1, would continue this trend. I packed up my gear and headed to the South Fork of St. Vrain Creek. Jane and I completed a hike along this stream a year ago, and it looked like an interesting creek to sample, so Tuesday would be the day.

It was sixty degrees, when I arrived at the trailhead parking lot, and a constant wind created a slight chill, so I opted to pull on a fleece. I knew that I would probably overheat on the inbound hike, but rationalized my decision with the understanding, that I could remove the fleece and tie it around my waist under my waders. I assembled my little Orvis Access four weight and departed along the well worn path. I was in a position to begin fishing by 10:45AM, but after walking at a moderate pace for .6 mile, I realized that I forgot my frontpack. I briefly considered trying to fish without it, but then I realized that my frontpack contains my hemostats, floatant paste, tippet spools, dry shake and fleece nymph wallet. I reluctantly executed a U-turn and returned to the parking lot to retrieve an essential piece of gear. Of course this added 1.2 miles to my hike, and my initial cast was delayed until 11:30.

Stealth Required

When I finally stood along the edge of the small creek, I noticed that it was a bit off-colored with a green tinge similar to what we observed on Beaver Creek on our hike from Camp Dick the previous Wednesday. Beaver Creek is a significant tributary to the South Fork not too far upstream, so this probably explained the discoloration. In spite of the greenish tinge the stream clarity was decent, and the creek tumbled along at 11 CFS based on my review of the closest DWR water gauge. I quickly concluded that fishing the South Fork would require stealth and caution.

Nice Pool with Green Tinge

I began my maiden expedition on the South Fork with a solo peacock hippie stomper, and I landed two small brown trout, before I broke for lunch at noon, but the stomper generated a lot of refusals and temporary hookups. It was encouraging to witness the presence of trout in previously unexplored water, but my inability to connect in the early going was frustrating. The first hour of fishing was characterized by a slow catch rate, and I contemplated hiking back to the parking lot to move to another location. Before doing so, however, I added a size 16 olive-brown caddis on an eight inch dropper to the hippie stomper, and this really escalated the pace of action.

On the Board

Productive Hole

I persisted with the hippie stomper/caddis double dry combination for the remainder of the afternoon and elevated the fish count to twenty-one. Roughly sixty percent of the trout sucked in the caddis, and the other forty percent crushed the hippie stomper. I gradually learned that the shallow flats were a waste of time, as fish scattered in every direction in response to my first cast. Deep slow moving pools were also largely unproductive. Spots with moderate depth and greater current velocity were the producers. I executed quite a bit of dapping and bow and arrow casts, due to the tight quarters and the many deadfalls that partitioned the creek into short sections. Wading was challenging as a result of climbing over the abundant quantity of dead trees that spanned the waterway.

Another Little Guy

Another Sweet Spot

Places next to worn campsites or paths were also largely unproductive, and I suspect this circumstance can be directly attributed to human fishing pressure. I enjoyed my greatest success in sections that were either distant from the path, or the trail was high above the stream, thus creating a significant barrier to access. All twenty-one fish landed were brown trout with the largest extending to eleven inches. It was a day of quantity over quality, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The low water and tight vegetation made fooling the small browns quite challenging. If you are looking for lunker fish, the South Fork of the St. Vrain is not for you. If you treasure small wild trout in a remote natural environment, then give the South Fork of St. Vrain Creek a try.

Fish Landed: 21

Clear Creek – 08/27/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 08/28/2020 Photo Album

I was itching to return to South Boulder Creek for green drake action after our camping trip on Monday through Wednesday. After Jane and I unpacked the car from the camping venture, I immediately reloaded it with my fishing gear, and I prepared a lunch. I was all set for an early start to my drive to South Boulder Creek. I learned, however, from past experiences, that the Denver Water managers unexpectedly vary the flows from Gross Reservoir, so I made a last minute check on Thursday morning. Imagine my disappointment, when the graph revealed that the flows were ratcheted up to 230 CFS after four days at 140 CFS. I was not interested in battling the stiff currents through the narrow canyon, so I resigned myself to a day of catching up on other matters.

I began to unpack the car, when Jane asked why I did not try the stretch of Clear Creek that a pickle ball acquaintance recommended. I pondered the question and decided that Thursday, August 28, was a day to experiment with a different section of water. I restored my fishing gear to the car, stuffed my lunch in the Coors insulated bag, filled my hydration bladder, and departed for an adventure on Clear Creek. I arrived at my chosen destination at 10:30AM, and by the time I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and tugged on my waders and hiked .5 miles downstream, I was primed to fish by 11:00AM.

Let’s Begin

By late morning, Thursday developed into another hot day with temperatures in the eighties at my high elevation location. I wore my waders, because I was not familiar with the vegetation and terrain, but I soon regretted that decision. The creek was clear and cold and fairly narrow, but enough volume tumbled over the rocky stream bed to create abundant quantities of deep pools, runs and pockets. I would characterize my mood as moderately optimistic, but I was obviously excited to sample a new area.

Glassy Clear Pool

I tied a light brown-olive size 14 stimulator to my line, and in a short amount of time I experienced two refusals and two temporary connections. Clearly the bushy attractor fly caught the attention of the fish, but the takes seemed to be very tentative thus explaining the brief nature of the encounters. When refusals become the prevalent fish response, my first response is to down size, and in this case I accomplished that by exchanging the stimulator for a size 16 deer hair caddis with an olive-brown body. The small low riding caddis clicked, and I began landing stunning cutthroat trout from the small stream. The trout measured between eight and twelve inches, but they were a pleasant surprise, and their colors were vivid in the dry high country environment.

All Day Long 

Many of the trout consumed the caddis, but of course this fly was quite difficult to follow in the dappled shade and sunlight. I grew weary of drying the fly constantly and decided to evaluate a more visible and buoyant option. I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line, and almost immediately duped a cutthroat, but after the early success the trout served up a steady stream of refusals. I once again elected to downsize, and I tied a bionic ant to my line. The bionic ant is a foam ant that I tied for the first time this spring during my surgery recovery, and it showed promise, as it fooled two cutties, before I set the hook on water and hurled the fly line into a tall evergreen tree. I quickly determined that the fly was impossible to retrieve, so I yanked hard and broke off the only bionic ant in my MFC fly box. I made a mental note to restock some bionic ants.

Brilliant

I now knew that the local fish savored ants, so I knotted a size 18 parachute black ant to my line. Logic would suggest that this fly was actually more imitative of the ants in the area than the bionic version, but surprisingly it elicited looks and refusals. I considered another fly change, and I stuck with the terrestrial theme and replaced the small ant with a size 14 Jake’s gulp beetle. The foam beetle imitation duped a pair of fish, but frequent refusals suggested that it was not the favorite, that I was seeking. I returned to an earlier productive fly and added back the deer hair caddis on a six inch dropper from the bend of the beetle. Once again the caddis justified my confidence, and tentative feeders morphed into confident eaters. The fish count mounted steadily, and I enjoyed myself immensely, as I migrated upstream. I spotted quite a few of my target fish in the clear water, and it was a thrill to view the casual approach and slurp of the visible cutthroats.

Cannot Wait to Probe This Deep Run

Special Fish

When one of the cutthroats crushed the foam beetle, I struggled to remove the fly, and a damaged terrestrial was the outcome. One of the legs disappeared, and the orange indicator began to rotate to the side as a result of the loosened thread wraps. I decided to make a change, and I scanned my fly box for a replacement. Originally my eyes focused on a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle, but in the midst of these flies I noted a pair of size 12 moodah poodahs. These were also experimental flies tied during the surgery recovery and coronavirus lockdown, so I selected one and attached it to my line.

I Need More

Caddis Fan

More Gold Than Light Olive

It was at this time that I was locked on fourteen fish, and I had gone without action for a longer than usual period of time. I subscribe to quite a few fishing magazines, and on a regular basis they discuss the ploy of fishing drowned terrestrials. I decided to experiment with the sunken ant concept on Clear Creek, and I plucked a black size 16 hard body ant from my box. This was the only one in my possession, and it was tied by my friend, Jeff, many years ago.

Productive Angled Run

What a choice this combination turned out to be! The fish count surged from fourteen to twenty-three over the last hour, and most of the landed fish snatched the hard ant. A couple cutthroats succumbed to the moodah poodah, but the prevailing preference was the sunken ant. The ant seemed to be particularly effective in small deep oxygenated pockets at the top of a run. My best cutthroat of the day grabbed the black hard body in a deep tight eddy next to a large exposed boulder.

Small Perfection

What a pleasant surprise Thursday evolved into! I went from resigning myself to not fishing. to landing twenty-three high country jewels. All the trout that occupied my net were cutthroat trout, and this result was very satisfying. I will hopefully be returning again before the end of the 2020 season.

Fish Landed: 23