Author Archives: wellerfish

Iron Sally – 11/16/2020

Iron Sally 11/16/2020 Photo Album

My post of 12/10/2019 thoroughly documents my relationship with the iron sally, and my post of 12/14/2018 provides a materials table and a link to the story of how I became enamored with this sparkling fly. If you are looking for step by step tying instructions, I recommend the YouTube video produced by Juan Ramirez.

Nice One

I do not have much to add to the narrative on the iron sally; however, during my tying efforts in November I substituted a material for the folded wing case, and I am very satisfied with the results. The standard pattern calls for a folded segment of a turkey tail feather, and the natural feather material does an excellent job of representing the wing case. However, I find that it tends to split, even though I coat the feather with an acrylic spray. I utilize a narrow strip of Tyvek material in my hares ear nymph pattern, and I was curious about how this would look as the folded wing case on an iron sally.

Six Size 16’s

I sliced a narrow strip from an old race bib that was colored black with a permanent marker, and I tied a size 14 iron sally. I was so pleased with the result, that I adopted the Tyvek as my standard iron sally wing case material. It is much easier to work with and accommodates the folding step very readily.

Iron Sally Materials and Flies

I tied ten new iron sallies split between four size 14’s and six size 146’s. This increased my inventory of these productive flies to twenty-five of each size, as I approach the 2021 season. The iron sally continues to increase in importance as one of my most trusted flies. 2021 will probably be no different.

Ultra Zug Bug – 11/10/2020

Ultra Zug Bug 11/10/2020 Photo Album

Go to my post of 11/21/2019 to see the narrative on the ultra zug bug, that I published last November. This piece contains links to other older posts that provide a materials chart and tying steps. Another link takes you to a post that describes how I was introduced to this fly and became acquainted with its effectiveness.


The ultra zug bug is probably my third most effective fly after the beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. I use it as an attractor similar to a prince nymph, but I also suspect it imitates a caddis pupa with its iridescent sheen and a sheath that mimics a caddis pupa.

Bringing Them Closer

I counted my supply of ultra zug bugs and determined that six new flies would increment my holdings to sixty for the upcoming season. I approached the vise and cranked out the necessary number, and I am now possess a more than adequate quantity to tempt western trout during 2021.

Salvation Nymph – 11/09/2020

Salvation Nymph 11/09/2020 Photo Album

I have very little to add to the saga of the salvation nymph that was not reported in my 11/17/2019 post. For a materials table and tying instructions check out my 12/20/2011 post. The only significant modification that I incorporated into this pattern since 2011 is the usage of Solarez UV resin on the nymph back and wing case. This step really brings out the flash of the flashback black and flashabou.

Poor Lighting

The salvation nymph continued in its role as one of my top producers in 2020. In fact when I counted my stock of flies, I realized that I lost many more salvation nymphs than hares ear nymphs. Typically loss of flies is an indicator of productivity and time spent on my line. I am hesitant to label the salvation as number one, as I missed a month of fishing from the middle of April through the end of May due to heart surgery, and this time period generally highlights the fishing catching capabilities of the hares ear nymph. Rather than quibble over the ranking, I can assert that the salvation nymph is a top two producer among all my offerings.

21 Salvation Nymphs Completed

I tied twenty-one new salvation nymphs to increase my inventory to one hundred in preparation for the 2021 season. I am confident that this fly will once again be a first choice throughout the upcoming season.

Boulder Creek – 11/06/2020

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 11/06/2020 Photo Album

Mild fall temperatures continued into Friday during the first week of November, and I could not resist the allure of another day on a stream in Colorado. Colder temperatures next week along with 1.5 days in the hospital for another medical procedure on Tuesday added additional incentive to log another stream day in 2020. I spent my career in the field of accounting and finance, and this makes me an inveterate counter. Counting fish has become an ingrained habit, and I am unable to halt the practice. My cumulative fish count, as I drove to my fishing destination on Friday, was 897; so a third reason to fish was to reach the milestone of 900. During my many years of fly fishing I exceeded 1,000 landed trout four times, and that was my goal for 2020; however, heart surgery in April reduced my stream time during a time of the year, when I typically accumulate quite a few fish. Given the circumstances 900 trout was a reasonable compromise.

I chose to fish Boulder Creek in the City of Boulder, since I had a doctor’s appointment at 8:30AM, and I needed a close location. Temperatures within the City of Boulder tend to be similar to Denver and warmer than higher elevation locales such as South Boulder Creek and the Big Thompson. I arrived at a parking space by 11:30, and I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight and attached all my necessary fly fishing gear. By the time I was ready to fish, it was 11:45, so rather than lugging my lunch to the stream, I chomped it in the car. By noon I was positioned in Boulder Creek ready to coax at least three trout into my net.

The Current Seam with Bubbles Produced

The creek was very low and clear, and it readily became apparent that stealth was a key to success. Another factor elevating my challenge was the low gradient of the section that I chose to fish, and long, smooth slow-moving pools were the prevalent physical condition. I tied a peacock hippie stomper to my line and then added an ultra zug bug, and within fifteen minutes I landed an eight inch brown trout that snatched the ultra zug bug in the upper portion of a long pool. Perhaps my concerns over difficult fly fishing were misplaced?

Quick Start

As the afternoon evolved, I discovered that challenging fishing conditions were, in fact, a reality on Friday, November 6, I moved along at a fairly rapid pace and covered .7 mile of stream real estate. In the placid pools I searched for surface rises, and only when I saw evidence of fish, did I make casts to these areas. I preferentially searched for faster runs, where the creek entered the deeper pools. I cycled through an array of flies including a beadhead hares ear, Jake’s gulp beetle, CDC blue winged olive, hippie stomper with a silver body, and a black size 18 parachute ant.

Shallow Riffles Delivered

Little Rainbow

Several pools revealed multiple fish sipping something miniscule from the smooth surface, but in these situations I succeeded only in putting the fish down. I did have a couple swirls at a dry fly, and I felt a momentary connection. In addition I registered several refusals to both the peacock hippie stomper and Jakes gulp beetle, when I presented them as the lead fly in a double dry fly configuration. Does this mean I ended my day with only one landed trout?

No. 900

No. I managed two additional rainbow trout in the seven inch range. Both emerged from the seams along faster entry runs at the top of pools, and both fish grabbed the size 18 black parachute ant fished as a solitary dry fly. The third rainbow came within the last thirty minutes, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief, once it rested in my net, and I achieved my goal of attaining a fish count of 900. By the time I am recovered from my medical procedure and able to resume fishing, winter conditions will likely be in place. So far I have landed trout in each month of 2020, so catching at least one in December remains a goal. Will my health and the weather enable such an achievement? Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 3

South Platte River – 11/03/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 11/03/2020 Photo Album

Tuesday’s outing on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon breaks down into two very different experiences. Between 11:00AM and 2:00PM I endured three hours of frustration. All my action for Tuesday was packed into the final hour.

The temperature in Denver was forecast to stretch into the mid-seventies, and the high for Lake George near the South Platte River was predicted to reach 62 degrees. The weather prognosticators were quite accurate based on my assessment after spending the late morning and afternoon in the area. The gauge for the South Platte River below Eleven Mile Reservoir is out of service, but I suspect the flows registered in the 60 CFS range.

Looked Like Ideal Nymphing Water

I arrived at a pullout by 10:30 and decided to explore an area outside the special regulation section. I geared up with the Sage four weight and pulled on my North Face light down coat to ward off the chill, while I began my quest for trout in shadows on the eastern side of the river. The steep canyon walls along the left side of the road blocked the low sun for much of the day, and a significant amount of snow remained from last weekend’s storm. The temperature when I began at 11:00 AM was in the low fifties.

I used my New Zealand indicator tool to attach a tuft of chartreuse poly to my line and then crimped a split shot above the last knot on the tippet. Beneath these nymphing accessories I knotted an orange-yellow yarn egg and a RS2. I prospected the deeper water over the next forty-five minutes, but evidence of local trout was absent. I began in some shadowed areas and quickly moved into a nice area bathed in sunlight, but neither produced even a nibble to my flies. I grew frustrated and decided to move to the special regulation area, where presumably a more dense population of trout existed. I theorized that the presence of more fish translated to a higher probability of success.

This Pool Earned a Few Casts

I drove up the canyon toward the dam to the area that I frequently fish, but all the parking spaces were occupied, so I reversed direction and parked .3 mile downstream from my usual spot. The bank in this area is quite steep, so I walked upstream, until I found a relatively gradual path covered with packed snow, and I carefully edged my way down to the river and then followed some footsteps through the snow to the first nice pool. Before I could unhook my line to make a cast, I spotted another angler, so I circled around him and approached a second favorite pool. Once again another fisherman was present, so I resumed my hike in the snow. The next pool was much smaller than the first two, but it was unoccupied, so I covered it thoroughly with my egg and RS2 combination. This cycle of bumping into other fishermen and casting to less desirable spots in between continued until 2:15PM, when my frustration reached its peak, and I decided to call it quits. The cold water from the dam numbed my feet, the fish were uncooperative, and in spite of these negatives, fishermen were everywhere.

I Exited Via That Steep Path in the Snow Below the Orange Sign

I climbed a steep snow packed trail to the road and hiked .4 miles to the Santa Fe. Rather than accept a skunking I decided to walk an additional .2 mile to a wide pullout above a huge long slow moving pool. Upon my arrival I noted that the entire area was vacant, so I scrambled down a jumble of snow covered rocks to the edge of the river one-third of the way from the downstream end of the pool. I slowly waded upstream along the left side while methodically scanning the bottom of the river for shadows or moving forms. Alas, my attempt to sight fish proved futile, as I never spotted a trout. I reversed direction with the intent of finding the snowy path to climb back to the road, but for some reason I decided to inspect the bottom one-third of the pool. Much to my surprise I began to observe sporadic rises directly across from my position and downstream.

Nice Length

I watched for a few minutes, and the evidence of feeding fish convinced me to make a last ditch attempt to catch one. I patiently removed the strike indicator, split shot and two flies and knotted a size 24 CDC BWO to my line. I began delivering downstream casts to the feeding trout below my position, and nearly every drift was greeted with a small dimple, but my swift hook sets simply hurled the fly back in my direction. After ten minutes of frustration, I paused to evaluate and decided to switch to a size 22 soft hackle emerger with no bead. I applied floatant liberally to the body and began to cast. I fired a few casts to the small pod of fish directly across from me with no success, and then I turned my attention to the subtle feeders across and downstream. I began executing reach casts, so the fly line landed upstream of the fly, and on the fourth drift a fish bulged on the emerger. I responded with a lift and felt the underwhelming weight of a small brown trout. Since I was in skunk status, I quickly determined that it was six inches long and reluctantly added the small trout to my mental fish count log.

I turned my attention to several persistent risers downstream from the fish that I landed, and after quite a few fruitless casts, I connected with my best fish of the day, a fifteen inch rainbow. The slab ‘bow demonstrated some fine fighting techniques, but I eventually coaxed it into my net for a photo session. For the next forty-five minutes I persisted in my effort to fool pool risers, and I managed to add a fourteen inch rainbow to my fish count. The soft hackle emerger lost its allure, so I swapped it for a Klinkhammer BWO, and the small low riding baetis emerger imitation duped the third fish of the day. During this time period I also broke off a soft hackle emerger on a fish that felt heavier than any fish that occupied my net. I was not particularly happy about that turn of events. Also in the area across from me I connected with two fish that felt similar to the landed rainbows, but each managed to escape, before I could slide them into my net.


Downstream Drifts in the Bottom End of the Pool

My total time on the South Platte River was four hours, but approximately one hour was consumed by lunch, wading, walking and moving the car. Of the three hours of actual fly fishing, two were unproductive and frankly quite boring. I am not a big fan of fishing nymphs with an indicator, and doing so with low confidence translated to wandering thoughts and low expectations. The last hour of dry fly action salvaged my day and provided the opportunity to land six fish, although only three made it to my net. It was a nice day, and once I escaped the other fishermen, I focused on catching trout on dry flies in November. I cannot complain.

Fish Landed: 3


South Boulder Creek – 11/02/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/02/2020 Photo Album

A snowstorm swept into Colorado and brought single digit temperatures on October 25 and 26. This circumstance along with cold and wind during the days that followed put my fishing season on hold and caused me to initiate my winter fly tying efforts. The temperatures gradually warmed into highs in the sixties on Saturday and Sunday, and the long range forecast for Monday, November 2 through Friday was very encouraging with highs touching the seventies. This was enough to spur this fisherman to dust off the fly rod.

Looking Up the Canyon

On Sunday night I checked the flows on the local streams and noted that South Boulder Creek was maintaining an attractive level of 83 CFS. I was very anxious to pay a visit to the small tailwater northwest of Denver, but the water managers closed the taps to a trickle of 5 CFS for several weeks in October. A nice fall day and manageable flows were all I needed to make the drive to the kayak parking lot high above the creek and near the dam. I assembled my Sage four weight and made the steep descent to the creek which enabled me to begin casting by 10:30AM.

Making Sure of the Focus

I began with a peacock hippie stomper, but other than a brief refusal, surface feeding did not appear to be prevalent. I added a size 14 prince nymph and below it a size 16 beadhead hares ear nymph, and this combination yielded three brown trout. Each fly delivered a trout to my net during this early phase of my day. Before I paused for lunch, I recorded three additional brown trout to boost the fish count to six, and the prince attracted two of the three, while another greedy eater chomped the hippie stomper.

Early Brown Trout

A Second Shot for Good Measure

After lunch I replaced the hares ear with a pheasant tail and eventually a salvation nymph, and the salvation accounted for a single fish, while the prince and hippie stomper chipped in one each. At 1:30 I somehow lost the prince nymph in a tangle that resulted from a landed fish, and I used this pause in action to reconfigure. The shadows covered most of the stream, and the low sun created a glare on the portion of the creek that remained outside the shade. In an effort to improve my tracking capability, I swapped the hippie stomper for a size 8 fat Albert. For the subsurface lineup I introduced a size 16 ultra zug bug and trailed a salvation nymph. The ultra zug bug became a hot commodity, as it registered the final four fish of the afternoon to bring the count to thirteen.

Another Nice Brown Trout

This Deep Run Produced a Brown Trout

The fishing on Monday was by no means fast action. I covered a significant amount of stream and executed an abundant quantity of casts. Numerous long distance releases and refusals were part of the equation, and the landed fish were definitely on the small side with the largest possibly extending to eleven inches. Nevertheless I was pleased with a double digit day in November. My streak of catching a fish in each month of the calendar year remained alive; however, December will certainly be a challenge for this fair weather angler. I plan to take advantage of the nice fall weather to undertake a few more fishing outings over the remainder of this first week in November.

Fish Landed: 13

Hares Ear Nymph – 10/25/2020

Hares Ear Nymph 10/25/2020 Photo Album

It is difficult to add pertinent information in this post that was not already covered in last year’s update on 11/02/2019. A materials table and tips on my version of the hares ear nymph are available in my 11/05/2020 post. When I tallied all my hares ear nymphs from my various storage compartments, I determined that I possessed 94 flies. I have a goal to maintain a starting inventory of one hundred, so my fly tying task this off season was simply to produce an additional six. Once I got into production mode, I rolled out an additional fifteen for a friend.

Another Angled Shot

Does the reduced shrinkage indicate that the hares ear nymph fell out of favor and saw less time on my line? I pondered this question and concluded that the workhorse nymph delivers its best results during mid to late spring. This time period coincided with my heart valve repair, recovery from the surgery and run off during the past year. I believe this explains lowered usage and, thus, the loss of fewer nymphs. Hopefully my fly fishing season will span the entire spring, summer and fall in 2021, and the hares ear nymph will once again rest at the apex of trout deceiving flies.

Batch of Fifteen

South Platte River – 10/20/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/20/2020 Photo Album

Four for nine is excellent in baseball and calculates to a batting average of .440. When it represents the ratio of fish landed compared to hooked, it is an indicator of my level of frustration on Tuesday, October 20.

With multiple fires raging in the area west of the Front Range, I decided to focus my fishing efforts to the south and completed the two plus hour drive to Eleven Mile Canyon. The weather forecast was outstanding for late October, and it proved to be accurate, as I fished in low sixty-degree temperatures for much of the day. The water gauge on the South Platte River below Eleven Mile Dam was not functioning for some reason, but fly shop reports pegged the flows at around 60 CFS. As I drove along the river on the way to my parking spot, I confirmed that the river was low; however, it offered adequate deep pools, runs and pockets to provide an enjoyable day of fly fishing.

A gray pickup truck angled across two parking spaces, where I normally park, and I was forced to back into a less desirable spot next to a tunnel. I was extremely cautious given the steep drop off on my left. I quickly climbed into my waders and chose my Sage four weight for the day, although I debated using my stiffer and longer Sage One five weight in the event of tangling with some larger trout. In the end I opted for lighter weight and less arm and shoulder fatigue.

The Area Between the Shoreline and Large Rock Looked Productive

Once I was prepared, I marched down the dirt road for .3 mile and found the gentlest path to descend the steep bank, although even that route demanded small measured side steps for most the way. The first nice pool was occupied by another angler, so I continued along the path to the next deeper slow-moving section, and then I moved to a short stretch of pocket water below the pool.

I read my post of 10/16/2019 and noted that a dry/dropper that featured a tan pool toy hopper, 20 incher and salvation nymph translated to a twenty fish day, so guess what I chose to launch my day a year later? Correct. The same lineup occupied my line, and in the early going in the pocket section before lunch I experienced two very brief connections, as I lifted my flies to execute another cast.

Lunch Pool

By noon I was adjacent to the deep pool that I passed on my entry hike, so I paused to down my sandwich, carrots and yogurt. As I munched my baby carrots, I observed several rises in the eddy at the tail of the relatively long pool. By the time I stuffed my empty yogurt cup in my backpack, at least five trout were sipping a miniscule food item in the area twenty-five feet above me. I considered maintaining my three-fly dry/dropper to fish the faster water, where it entered the pool and then switching to a dry fly to pursue the risers; but in the end, I made the switch immediately. Hatch opportunities are rare particularly late in the season, and I needed to take advantage.

While advancing through the large boulders and pocket water stretch, I noticed small sparse swarms of tricos, and I surmised that the surface feeding was a response to the trico spinner fall. The tricos that I spotted were miniscule in size and smaller than the size 24’s, that I carried in a small plastic canister in my wader bib. I decided to hedge my bets and tied a size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line and trailed a size 24 trico with gray cdc wings.

I began lobbing casts upstream in order to create a drift along the current seam, where several decent trout were rising. The breeze kicked up and blew my flies back toward me, and that bit of adversity was accompanied by an annoying glare that prevented me from following the two tiny tufts of CDC that were my flies. I tried to set, when a rise materialized, where I approximated my flies to be, but this trick was not effective.

I momentarily surrendered to the choosey eaters and circled around on the left bank, until I was above a large exposed boulder that created the large eddy. I began fluttering downstream drifts from this position, and I had the advantage of a tailwind and much improved lighting. On the third pass a small swirl enveloped the CDC olive, and I responded with a swift lift of the rod tip, and this translated to vibrating weight and wild thrashing, but the thrill only extended for a few seconds, and the trout was gone. I uttered some choice words and noted that I was now zero for three on my fly fishing batting average.

I now turned my attention to the attractive run and shelf pool along the left bank in the upper half of the pool. This water displayed many more swirls and was not as smooth and unforgiving as the eddy, that I recently fished. I experimented with a few casts with the double dry, but the small riffles and glare made following the flies even more difficult than my earlier attempts below the eddy. I paused and not so patiently rigged anew with the dry/dropper approach; however, in this instance I substituted a classic RS2 for the salvation nymph. I had a hunch that blue winged olives might make an appearance, and that trout were opportunistically grabbing active nymphs prior to their emergence.

On the Board

The changeover paid dividends when a muscular rainbow trout that measured fourteen inches snapped up the RS2. After a spirited battle I slid my net beneath the hard charging torpedo, and reveled in my first fish of the day. My average crept upward to .250, with one of four hooked fish landed.

Prime Run Ahead

A Chunk

Prospecting with a dry/dropper consumed the remainder of the day, and I called it quits by 4:00PM with a total of four fish that rested in my net. All were rainbows and all were heavy fish in the fourteen to sixteen-inch range. A sparse blue winged olive hatch commenced in the early afternoon, but it was over by 1:30PM, and I never spotted rising fish to cast to. After a slow period in the 2-3PM time frame I removed the RS2 and tested a salvation nymph for a decent length of time, but the change never produced results.


I covered quite a bit of the river, as I skipped the large smooth pools and concentrated on the fast water, where the river spilled into wide spread out areas. I also focused on deep pockets. In one of the upstream pools I spotted a couple blue winged olives, and this prompted me to revert to a sparkle wing RS2 as the point fly. I stagnated at a fish count of two for an extended length of time, but between three o’clock and four o’clock I enjoyed my best action of the day.

Sparkle Wing RS2

Two fat rainbows snatched the sparkle wing RS2 and another ejected the tiny fly during its attempt to escape only to have the nymph hook into its body toward the tail area. Like the earlier rainbows the two landed late in the afternoon were in prime condition and stretched across the entire net opening.

Let Me Go

Tuesday was a disappointment from a fish count perspective, although I had missed opportunities. For the day I ended up landing four out of nine hooked fish; a .440 average in baseball but subpar among accomplished fly-fishing circles. Nevertheless, I experienced an enjoyably day on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on Tuesday, October 20. The weather was outstanding, and the water level was conducive to fly fishing. The four rainbow trout were above average in size and in excellent condition. I never spotted spawning brown trout, but their absence from my net is probably explained by their preoccupation with reproduction. Based on my history of fishing within Eleven Mile Canyon I estimate that at least sixty percent of the population is brown trout, so I was fishing to only forty percent of the total number of resident fish. Most importantly I was challenged to determine what the fish were eating and how to best present imitations. I am a baseball fan, and the last time a player batted over .400 was Ted Williams in the 1940’s. My .440 average for Tuesday puts me in hall of fame company.

Fish Landed: 4

Another Promising Area

Clear Creek – 10/14/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 10/14/2020 Photo Album

I had my heart set on South Boulder Creek as a destination for Tuesday, but when I examined the DWR flows, I learned that the water managers decreased the releases from Gross Dam from 103 CFS to 7 CFS on October 9. I have experienced decent success at low flows on South Boulder Creek but always at 10 CFS or higher. I passed on South Boulder Creek and instead opted for a two hour drive to the Eagle River near Avon, and I encountered a mediocre day of only four trout in my net, although two were substantial rainbow trout.

Another day in October with a high around eighty in Denver prompted me to plan a second consecutive fishing trip. Since I completed a relatively long drive on Tuesday, I was averse to a similar long trip on Wednesday. I began my search for a suitable Front Range stream by rechecking South Boulder Creek, and I was shocked to discover that flows were actually reduced from 7 CFS to 5 CFS. I quickly scratched my home waterway from my list of possibilities. My second choice was the Big Thompson River with flows maintained at 77 CFS for two consecutive days, but a quick inspection of the weather forecast revealed thirty mile per hour winds in the afternoon. Strike two. My third choice was Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO. Flows in the thirty to forty CFS range were favorable, and wind speeds in the 8-10 MPH range up until 2PM, when they were predicted to burst into the 18 MPH range, made Clear Creek my choice.

A Place to Begin

I arrived at a pullout along US 6 west of Tunnel 6 by 10: 40AM, and this enabled me to begin casting slightly before eleven o’clock. I utilized my Orvis Access four weight and wore my Brooks long sleeved undershirt and my raincoat as a windbreaker. The air movement was less than predicted for Estes Park, but 10 MPH translated to more than a nuisance. For the first thirty-five minutes I worked a dry/dropper rig through all the promising deep and slow moving pockets along the left bank, and my net remained in an empty state. Early in the game I spotted a fish along the bank, and it ignored all three flies, as they passed over its field of vision.

Lunch View

Scene of My Single Landed Trout

I ate lunch at 11:45AM and then removed the three fly arrangement and migrated to a solo Jake’s gulp beetle. On Tuesday evening I perused my reports on Clear Creek during October from previous years, and a Jake’s gulp beetle was a stellar producer. I persisted with the foam beetle for two hours after lunch, and I managed to dupe one seven inch brown trout to eat the size 12 imitation. I tried beetles in size 10 and 12, and after a subtle refusal I substituted a size 18 black parachute ant. I was hopeful that the larger beetle would cause the trout to reveal their position, and then a smaller black ant would trigger an eat. The theory never grew into reality, and I returned to the beetle.

Beetle Eater

Closer to 2PM I noted a few more refusals, so I decided to experiment with a peacock hippie stomper. The white wing on the stomper was more difficult to track than the orange foam on the beetle, and the wind speed accelerated immensely. The quality of fishing did not justify the hassles of the wind and poor lighting, so I hooked the hippie stomper to my rod guide and returned to the car.

Wednesday was another bust in Clear Creek Canyon. The fishing season is winding down, and my results are ebbing as well. The weather forecast predicts a shift to colder temperatures but no precipitation. Fly tying may be imminent on my calendar.

Fish Landed: 1

Eagle River – 10/13/2020

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Avon

Eagle River 10/13/2020 Photo Album

I was eagerly anticipating an October trip to South Boulder Creek, but when I reviewed the flows at the DWR website, I was shocked to learn that the releases from Gross Dam were lowered from 103 CFS three days ago to 7 CFS. 7 CFS is comparable to fishing in puddles between exposed rocks, and it is not my idea of sporting fly fishing. I considered alternative options, and with temperatures peaking in the low 80’s in Denver I decided to take advantage and made the two hour drive to the Eagle River near Avon, CO. I knew from looking at the DWR site that the Eagle in this area was extremely low at 56 CFS, but past experience taught me that a fairly reliable blue winged olive hatch spurred surface feeding. I was banking on meeting this emergence on Tuesday, October 13 to offset the low and clear conditions.

Brilliant Background

I arrived at my chosen destination on the Eagle River near Avon, CO at 11:00AM, and by the time I put together my Sage four weight and gathered all my gear and hiked to the river, it was 11:30AM. I observed the main pool for a bit, but I saw no signs of blue winged olives or surface feeding, so I rigged with a tan pool toy hopper, beadhead pheasant tail nymph and classic RS2. I prospected the upper section of the gorgeous pool next to me, but evidence of the presence of trout was absent. I progressed above the pool, and I began to explore what appeared to be marginal glides and relatively shallow water between an array of exposed boulders. I sought the places with the most depth, and I was shocked to connect with the best fish of the day in one of the easily overlooked locations. The rainbow trout stopped the hopper in its tracks, and after a relatively short battle, I slid my net beneath a sixteen inch beauty. The RS2 was barely snagged in the thin membrane of the bony jaw of the deeply colored fish. In addition to the substantial rainbow trout I also landed a ten inch brown trout on the RS2.

Quite a Tail

When 1PM arrived, I climbed to the bike path and returned to the main pool in anticipation of some BWO hatching activity. I was disappointed to see only placid water riffled by the intermittent gusting wind. I dug my raincoat from my backpack and pulled it over my shirt to act as a windbreaker, and I was pleased to have the extra layer in my possession. I decided to cover the nice run and riffles below the main pool, but this area yielded only a refusal. After a thorough search I moved to the tail of the huge main pool, and I covered the bottom third of the deep slow moving section with the dry/dropper, but the effort was purely an arm exercise.

Low Eagle River on October 13

I was set up for fishing the shallow riffles in a manner similar to the earlier session, so I cut back to the south bank and hiked up the bike path to my exit point at 1PM. I re-entered the river and spent the next two hours prospecting the most promising glides that offered a bit of depth, but the results of this focused fly fishing were disappointing. I recorded temporary hook ups with two small fish and landed another small brown trout to bring the fish count to a meager three. I an effort to boost my confidence I reminded myself of the sixteen inch rainbow that filled my net earlier.

Much of My Day Was Spent on Inconspicuous Water Like This

At 3:30PM I grew weary of the fruitless wading and unproductive casting, so I decided to retreat back to my home base; the large pool where I began. I commenced fishing at the top of the pool, where I began my day, but my confidence was low, and I sensed that I was passing over fish that were holding deeper in the cold mountain water. I decided to commit to some deep nymphing, and I removed the dry/dropper flies and then crimped a split shot to my line and fastened a New Zealand strike indicator one foot below the end of the fly line. The NZ strike indicator attachment process went much smoother than the flawed experience suffered during the previous week on the Arkansas River.

I began working the center current, the seams and shelves next to my position; and after five minutes of unproductive casting the flies caught on something, as they began to swing at the end of the drift. I flexed the rod a few times, and It was clear that the snag was relatively severe. The depth and swift current precluded any attempt to save the flies, so I applied direct pressure and snapped off the beadhead pheasant tail and RS2. I patiently reconfigured my line with a salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2 and resumed casting, but at 3:30PM my wish was finally fulfilled. I began to notice dimpling rises along both sides of the current seam. Once again I turned my attention to knot tying, as I removed the deep nymphing paraphernalia and replaced it with a single size 22 CDC blue winged olive. The pace of feeding accelerated a bit, as four or five trout fed fairly sporadically in my vicinity.

Unfortunately the wind was gusting upstream and some shadows covered the area next to me, and these natural impediments created an extremely challenging situation. It was impossible to track the tiny CDC tuft, although I set the hook several times, when I spotted rises, where I estimated my fly to be. The ploy did not work, and I was frustrated with my inability to track my small fly. I waited all day for the emergence, and now the conditions were conspiring against my efforts to take advantage of the long overdue hatch.

Deep Colors on This Cutbow

I paused to consider my options and noticed that the north side of the center seam was bathed in sunlight. I decided to circle along the south shoreline of the large pool, cross at the tail and then work upstream along the north bank. In this way I could approach the trout directly across from me with upstream casts and the wind behind my back. It took some doing, but ten minutes later I was positioned at the bottom of the shelf pool on the north side of the river. I carefully observed the area, and I was pleased to discover that four or five fish continued to feed. I picked out two that were across from me, but after an abundant quantity of casts, I was forced to acknowledge that my fly was not to their liking. Meanwhile a pair of trout rose more steadily in the secondary feeder run directly above me. I began to execute some forty foot casts and checked my cast at eleven o’clock, so the fly fluttered down to the faster current. I was unable to track the fly in the swirling water, so I resorted to the “guess-set” technique. On the fifteenth drift I spotted a dimple along the left side of the secondary seam, and I raised the rod firmly. Instantly I felt the power of a fine rainbow trout, and it dazzled me with an extraordinary aerial display that included at least five leaps above the surface of the river.

I Love the Net Shadows on This Shot

This rainbow measured around fifteen inches, and it possessed a significant girth. I was very pleased that my circuitous route to the opposite side of the river was rewarded with a fourth trout. After I released the brute, I resumed casting, but the surface feeding waned. In a last gasp attempt to fool another trout I replaced the CDC olive with a size 20 soft hackle emerger. I applied floatant to the body of the wet fly to make it float, and I sprayed casts across the wide shelf pool area; but, alas, the late ploy did not produce.  I reeled up my line and called it a day and then crossed in the wide shallow area above the long pool.

Four fish in 4.5 hours of fishing is clearly a low catch rate, but two rainbows in the fifteen to sixteen inch range compensated for the lack of volume. The cool wind, lack of clouds, and low clear water presented very challenging conditions, so I was pleased with the success that I managed. Bright sun, lack of clouds, and low, clear water seems to be a recurring theme during the autumn of 2020. I will continue my pursuit of trout, until conditions become too extreme.

Fish Landed: 4