Author Archives: wellerfish

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 01/26/2020

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Laverne Johnson Park

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 01/26/2020 Photo Album

I am the first to admit that I am a reluctant winter fisherman, so it takes multiple days of mild weather to motivate me to make a rare outing. Fortunately, that is exactly what transpired between January 24 and 26. Three consecutive days with high temperatures in the upper fifties in Denver including the forecast of a high of 56 on Sunday, January 26, prompted my first fishing outing of the new year. My friend, Trevor (@rockymtnangler), suggested the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and I jumped on the idea. Flows were a steady 20 CFS, and the small tailwater in the foothills is lower in elevation than other options, and consequently offers higher temperatures, albeit colder than Denver.

I was extremely careful to review my checklist, since it was my first trip after an extended layoff. I departed my house in Denver by 10:15, and this enabled me to arrive at the parking area at the trailhead for the Buttonrock Preserve stretch. Tilt. Abort. I cruised the long row of pull-in parking spaces, and every opening was occupied, while several vehicles surveyed the lot ahead of me. I feared that a mild January day on a weekend might cause a mass migration of Coloradans to the outdoors, and my quick assessment of the available parking confirmed this to be the case.

I made a brief review of my options and decided to retreat to Laverne Johnson Park within the town of Lyons. Trevor mentioned this as a solid alternative, and I experienced modest success there on previous fly fishing ventures. By the time I reversed direction and returned to Lyons, I wheeled into the parking lot at 11:45AM. I paid my day use fee and returned to the car, where I hastily chomped my lunch. By noon I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight and meandered to the creek. A large ridge bordered the stream on the south side of the park, so I directed my steps to the sunnier extreme western section of the oxbox loop formed by the St. Vrain in this area. I stopped on the top of the bank and surveyed the gorgeous long pool and run in front of me and decided to make it my starting point for 2020.

I pulled a new and untried Amy’s ant with a peacock body from my box and knotted it to my line. Next I added a beadhead hares ear on a two foot dropper, and then I extended another six inches and added a size 12 prince nymph. I cautiously approached the tail of the pool and prospected to the very top without any action or signs of fish. As this scenario unfolded, a couple arrived and perched on the rocks at the top of the pool, and then in an act of bravery the young man removed his shoes and socks and waded to the opposite bank to pose for a photo. He did not wade through the area I intended to fish, but his silhouette may have startled any potential hungry fish in the area.

A Nice Run

Throughout my time on the water I competed with similar non-fishing park users, and this forced me to circle around quite a few prime locations. The most frequent obstacles were families with small children, who could not resist the urge to toss or skip stones in the small stream. I could not be upset with these families enjoying the outdoors, but I am fairly certain that I could have caught a few more fish if they were not present.

Kids Throwing Stones Was the Theme

After an hour of fruitless wading and casting I approached the pedestrian footbridge that spans the creek just below the Riverbend wedding venue that hosted my son and daughter-in-law in 2018. Another army of boys pelted the creek in this area, so I pulled back and crossed the park to the southern border. I spotted another fisherman downstream near the campground, so I cut to the water midway between him and the ice hockey rink. The Amy’s ant was low in the water and difficult to follow in the shadows created by the high ridge, so I swapped it for a bright yellow fat Albert. I used this change out as an opportunity to reconfigure the nymphs as well, and I replaced the hares ear with a size 12 Pat’s rubber leg and then added an orange scud as the point fly. The rubber leg and scud were both products of my recent winter production tying, so I was anxious to test them.

This Area Yielded Two Rainbows

I worked my way to the top of the gorgeous pool created by man-made rock structures, and despite the appealing nature of the water in front of me, the fish counter remained locked on zero. I positioned myself on one of the flat rocks that were part of a wing that forced the creek through a narrow chute, and I began to drop casts in the drop off and allowed the flies to drift along the near current seam. On the fifth such pass the fat Albert darted sideways, and I reacted with a hook set and found myself attached to a significant opponent. Early in the struggle I determined that the fighter was a rainbow trout, and after several bursts up and down the pool, I netted a sixteen inch beauty. What a way to begin the year! I commemorated the event with a couple photos and a video, and then I plunged my hands in the frigid flows and wiggled the Pat’s rubber leg free and released my prize. A new fly produced, and I began the year with a sixteen inch fish. My day was complete regardless of what transpired during my remaining time.

Pat’s Rubber Legs Produced

I dried my hand on a blue towel, that I stuffed in my front wader bib pocket, and I resumed casting to the pool next to me. A similar deep run along the center current seam existed on the opposite side of the stream, so I began to toss the dry/dropper setup next to a protruding in-stream rock and allowed the current to pull the flies through the eddy and along the deep border with the faster current. On the fourth cycle, the fat Albert plunged six inches below the surface. I was uncertain whether this resulted from a fish or some conflicting currents, but I lifted just in case. Once again I felt the throb of a live fish, and after a short battle I landed a thirteen inch rainbow. I was once again pleased to discover the Pat’s rubber leg in the corner of the mouth of this silvery catch.

Quick Release

My optimism elevated, as I continued my upstream progression along the southern section and then curled around the curve on the western end, where I launched my day, but I was unable to generate additional interest from the resident trout. I switched out the scud for a size 20 salad spinner midge emerger, but the move failed to improve my fortunes. In fairness to myself, quite a few couples and families rested along the stream, and of course this prompted stick throwing, dogs swimming and pebble tossing. The scene was less than ideal for stealthy approaches in the low clear water conditions.

Number Two Came from the Nook Next to the Rock

Eventually I approached the large pool above the pedestrian bridge, and I spotted a young fisherman on the large rock stream improvement wing. I hooked my flies in the rod guide and asked the angler whether he could see fish, and he replied that he could, and quite a few rises were visible, until a dog disturbed the pool. I watched him and chatted for twenty minutes, and I learned that his name was Denver, and his handle on Instagram is @denverhoughton, and we follow each other. It was fun to meet an Instagam follower face to face.

Denver recommended the pool next to the campground, so I said goodbye to him, as I ambled across the park to the suggested location. Sure enough I found another huge man-made pool, and I began working my dry/dropper through the wide shelf pool along the right side. I failed to generate interest, so I slowly moved out on the stream improvement wing at the very top of the pool. I paused to observe and spotted two small trout and one larger one facing into the back eddy. I attempted an abundant quantity of drifts through the eddy and along the deep current seams, but I was unable to generate a take. On one drift along the center run I saw a decent fish move toward the droppers, as they began to swing. After fifteen minutes of futility I noticed a couple sporadic rises, so I switched to a single CDC blue winged olive, but the visible fish exhibited no interest. In a last ditch effort to dupe the pool dwellers I exchanged the CDC BWO for a size 18 parachute ant, and the larger of the trio facing the back eddy eyed it and moved a few inches, but that was the extent of the interest. With the shadows lengthening and the temperature cooling, I called it quits and returned to the Santa Fe.

Two trout in three hours of fishing is a low catch rate, but I was more than pleased with these results given the distractions and disturbances at the park. Netting a sixteen and thirteen inch fish on my first outing was assuredly icing on the cake. I will resume my fly tying regimen and patiently wait for another string of mild weather, when I can further test some of the new patterns that I tied in the off season.

Fish Landed: 2

Amy’s Ant – 01/20/2020

Amy’s Ant 01/20/2020 Photo Album

Any interested reader who browses this blog will likely conclude, that I possess an adequate quantity of large foam attractor flies for dry/dropper duty or service as a single terrestrial or stonefly adult imitation. I tie and stock fat Alberts, hippie stompers Chernobyl ants, chubby Chernobyls, and pool toy hoppers; and these serve as my mainstays throughout the year. In addition I carry a handful of Charlie boy hoppers and hopper Juans, and while not deployed as frequently as the previous list, I do resort to them during occasions, when I simply want a large buoyant fly to serve as an indicator.

Fly CompenentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262, Size 6
Thread3/0
OverbodyTwo strips, 2 mm foam
LegsRubber legs
HackleBrown neck or saddle
AbdomenIce dubbing
UnderwingCrystal flash
WingElk hair
ThoraxIce dubbing

Given this abundance of foam imitations it is perhaps surprising that I was lured into producing yet another large foam attractor fly. In a recent Fly Fisherman magazine column, Charlie Craven documented the steps required to construct an Amy’s ant. I read about this fly numerous times, and several acquaintances sang its praises, so I took the plunge and produced ten during a recent session at my fly tying bench. Amy’s ant was created by Jack Dennis of Jackson, WY; and it won the famous One Fly Contest a number of years ago. Jack named the fly for his daughter, Amy, and I happen to have a daughter named Amy, so I dedicate these flies to her.

Should Be Visible

I considered tying the fly on various occasions in the past, but I was a bit intimidated by the number of materials involved. With the availability of Charlie Craven’s step by step instructions, I decided to make an attempt. I gathered my materials, and prior to initiating the process I searched on YouTube and found a Charlie Craven tying video. This was even better than the text and photos in the magazine, so I watched Charlie tie a fly from start to finish and then paused it at the end of each step, as I followed along at my vice.

Craft Foam with Glitter

I am able to report, that I completed ten new Amy’s ants, and I am quite pleased with the results. I tied the first five using pink foam as the top layer, and these should be extremely visible under difficult lighting conditions. Tan and olive/brown ice dub served as the body material for the pink versions. I followed up my initial foray into Amy’s ant production with two that contained a peacock body and orange top layer, and then I added some yellow models with yellow dubbing and a yellow top foam layer. My last contribution to the Amy’s ant experiment features a gray body and a yellow top layer.

Underside of the Gray Amy’s Ant

All these flies should be very visible, and I suspect, that they will be logical candidates for the top fly on a dry/dropper arrangement. I sense that they will not be as buoyant as a fat Albert or pool toy hopper, but their shape seems to mimic a large stonefly better than the fat Albert and pool toy hopper. I am anxious to experiment with my new Amy’s ants during the 2020 season.

A Completed First Batch Ever

Chubby Chernobyl – 01/17/2020

Chubby Chernobyl 01/17/2020 Photo Album

My last attempt to tie chubby Chernobyls was in March 2016, and I manufactured eight during my first attempt. I experimented with various body colors and foam colors, but my output lingered in my storage compartments largely unused until this past summer. My friend, Danny Ryan, is a huge proponent of the foam fly with obscenely large wings, and he was the impetus for my first foray into chubbyland.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 200R, size 8 or smaller
Thread3/0, color to match body
TailRainbow crystal flash
Body filler2 MM foam, any color
UnderbodyIce dubbing
Overbody2 MM foam
LegsRubber legs
WingsMcFlylon, white

Nice Side View

On July 15, 2019 I resorted to a chubby Chernobyl with a tan ice dub body, and I was pleasantly surprised to stumble on to a hot fly. Unfortunately I lost the two flies that I made in 2016 on that day and the following, and the Steamboat Springs fly shop did not carry any with a comparable body color. Of course this dose of unplanned success caught my attention, so I resolved to tie an ample quantity for the 2020 season.

A Batch of Finished Chubbys

During previous tests of the large awkward foam chubby, I struggled with the large poly wing getting saturated with water. I was discouraged by the limp wing and the extra weight from the water that  it absorbed. I learned; however, from a guide to coat the wing and body with a generous amount of floatant paste, and once I applied this lesson, the wet wing problem seemed to disappear. During my July day on the Yampa I was mesmerized by the seductive disappearance of the large wing, when a trout snatched one of the trailing nymphs. Of course, the sight of a large fish rising to crush the visible foam attractor produced an even greater shot of exhilaration.

Materials in This Shot

I settled into my fly tying space and produced ten chubby Chernobyls for the new season. Five were tied with an olive-brown ice dub body, two displayed a peacock ice dub underbody. two were yellow, and one was gray. Surely these flies will dwell on the end of my line more than the previous batch, and hopefully the trout will vote in favor of their availability.

Chernobyl Ant – 01/15/2020

Chernobyl Ant 01/15/2020 Photo Album

My arsenal of large foam flies has expanded significantly over the years, but I continue to stock adequate quantities of the old original black Chernobyl ant. For the story of my introduction to this fly review my post of 02/01/2011.  Most fly tying instructions on the internet utilize two layers of foam for the classic Chernobyl; however, I continue to favor one layer, so I can wrap pearl chenille around the hook shank, and this creates a nice iridescent underside akin to that which I observed on numerous natural beetles. I possess a number of alternative flies with multiple layers of foam for those occasions, when I desire more buoyancy to float multiple beadhead nymphs.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262, Size 8 or 10
ThreadBlack, 3/0
Body2 MM black foam
LegsBrown rubber legs
UnderbodyPearl chenille
Indicaor2 MM foam, yellow or color of choice

Premium Classic Chernobyl Ant

During 2019 I experienced surprising success with a chubby Chernobyl on the Yampa River, and you can read more about this day in my 07/15/2019 post. Prior to this day on the Yampa I relegated chubby Chernobyls to the back of my fly box and wrote them off as an overrated trendy fly. Catching multiple nice fish during high water conditions certainly changed my opinion and caused me to spin out quite a few chubbys this winter.

Three and Required Materials

Nevertheless, the classic black single layer Chernobyl ant remains a trustworthy fly that frequents my line on numerous occasions. One particularly productive outing, when trout displayed a notable preference for the large foam terrestrial was 09/27/2019, and these types of experiences reinforced my loyalty to the classic attractor. Small headwater streams with tight bankside vegetation continue to offer the scenarios where the Chernobyl ant shines. The simple fly is totally synthetic, and none of the materials absorb water, thus backcasts to dry the fly are unnecessary. Of course this is exactly the fly needed to dap and roll cast to wild trout in tight quarters, and my Chernobyl ants earn their keep in these situations.

Zoomed In

Because of my reduced usage and a historical overabundance, my fly boxes exhibited adequate quantities for the upcoming season. In spite of this condition I churned out three new size eight Chernobyl ants to maintain my skills. Practice makes perfect.

Pool Toy Hopper – 01/13/2020

Pool Toy Hopper 01/13/2020 Photo Album

The pool toy hopper is another fly designed by Andrew Grillos that has developed into one of my favorites. During peak summer fishing periods, when I adopt the dry/dropper approach; it is rare that a fat Albert, pool toy hopper or hippie stomper are not on my line. Two of these three flies are the product of Andrew Grillos’s ingenuity, and from my perspective he is the king of foam.

Ready to Hop

If you are interested in the story of how I was introduced to this fly, check out my post,  Grillos pool toy.  My more recent post of 01/22/2019 provides an update and a materials table. I have tried at least five foam grasshopper imitations, and I feel that the pool toy hopper provides the best profile, and the fish seem to agree especially during hopper season. I selected a tan pool toy from my fly box more frequently in 2019 than any previous year, and my count confirmed this, as my supply of tans was depleted to fourteen. With this knowledge in hand I approached my vice and produced an additional nine tan models and one yellow. I feel that I now possess sufficient quantities of pool toy hoppers to drive western trout crazy during the upcoming year.

Finished Batch

Pat’s Rubber Legs – 01/10/2020

Pat’s Rubber Legs 01/10/2020 Photo Album

The impetus for tying ten Pat’s rubber leg flies was the glowing reports that I received from my friend Dave G. Dave fished the Eagle River and Colorado River with much success during the 2019 season, and his top producer was an olive Pat’s rubber legs. He became acquainted with the fly on several guided float trips, and his guides referred to it as the pickle fly because of the olive green variegated body.

Which Leg Material?

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262, Size 10
Weight.02 lead free wire
Tail/AntennaRubber leg Material
BodyOlive variegated chenille

Previously I tied some Pat’s rubber legs, but one version used yellow-brown chenille and another utilized black and coffee. On one of my recent trips to Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, CO I purchased a new card of variegated olive chenille. I searched for and found a color that matched the shade of a pickle.

Tan and Black

Since quite a few years transpired since my last Pat’s rubber legs tying project, I searched YouTube for some tutorials, and I settled on one produced by Tim Flagler of tightlinevideo. I highly recommend this take, as Tim offers some unique tips. The most difficult aspect of tying this relatively simple fly is wrapping the chenille through the rubber legs, and Tim’s recommended techniques tame the uncooperative appendages.

A Finished Batch

I tied ten for my first foray into green Pat’s rubber legs, and I am anxious to take them for a spin on local rivers and streams.

Wiggle Damsel Nymph – 01/06/2020

Wiggle Damsel Nymph 01/06/2020 Photo Album

I searched this blog for wiggle damsel, and I was surprised to discover a post on 12/04/2011. The wiggle damsel is a simple fly designed by Charlie Craven, but the reason I was surprised was learning that the last time I produced these creations was in 2011. If you are interested in tying these damsel fly nymph imitations, check out the 12/04/2011 post for a materials table and tying steps.

Wiggle Damsel

I utilized the wiggle damsels sporadically over the last eight years, but their main effectiveness lies in the stillwater fly fishing realm, and I fished flowing water ninety percent of the time. This explains the fact that seven wiggle damsels remained in my possession, when I counted my storage containers. As a result of the extended run off in 2019, I visited lakes more often than usual, and on one trip to Flatirons Reservoir, I enjoyed a modest amount of success with the marabou nymph pattern. I also lost a few during the lake fishing season, so I decided to produce ten new versions to increase my supply to seventeen. This quantity will likely suffice for quite a few years into the future.

A Batch of Ten

The highlight of my association with the wiggle damsel occurred during my trip to Patagonia in 2013. This experience affirmed my confidence in the breathing and wiggling nymph imitation, and I plan to maintain a supply during all my fly fishing adventures.

2019 Top Ten – 01/02/2020

Unlike 2018, the 2019 season did not include any destination fishing trips. My fishing ventures in the Wallowas were relatively short and a sidelight to the main events of camping, hiking and cycling. A day of guided fly fishing on the Green River below Flaming Gorge and a day on a fine stream in Pennsylvania were my only other ventures outside the state of Colorado. Heavy snowpack and late run off definitely impacted my normal seasonal routine. I fished only lakes between June 20 and July 9, and this time period spanned normally productive stream and river fishing in the Rocky Mountains. Late June and early July also coincide with prime mayfly hatches such as pale morning duns and green drakes on the freestones, and I largely missed out on these highly anticipated events.  Nevertheless, I still managed to complete 85 outings and landed in excess of 1,000 fish. The late run off improved the quality of August fishing; however, not enough to offset the loss of four weeks during normally prime conditions. Ten of my outings involved stillwater destinations, and this was easily a personal record, although my success on these bodies of water was somewhat disappointing.

With this backdrop I introduce my top ten days of 2019 –

10. Yampa River – 07/16/2019 – My post run off days on the Yampa River were a month later than normal, but this day made it worthwhile, as I landed twelve trout, and most exhibited above average size.

Better Perspective

South Platte River – 06/14/2019 – This outing occurred just before the water managers opened the floodgates from the dams, but I managed to land a generous quantity of nice fish on a gorgeous late spring day. Between one and three PM, the action was torrid, as trout attacked my salvation nymph during a sparse pale morning dun hatch.

8. Green River – 04/18/2019 – I last visited this northeastern Utah tailwater in 2002. On this day I found out that I was missing out on a lot of fun. Guide Charley put my friend and I into some very nice fish using small midge larva and baetis nymphs. I was anticipating dense blue winged olive hatches, but they were delayed. Charley made sure we were not disappointed by adjusting to subsurface offerings.

Another Look

7. Marvine Creek – 09/16/2019 – An abundant quantity of vividly colored brook trout were accented by two gorgeous rainbows and a cutbow in a spectacular backcountry setting. It was hard to rank this day as low as number seven.

More Cutthroat Coloration on This One

6. South Platte River – 05/07/2019 – Three waves of blue winged olive hatches allowed me to land fifteen trout on this day, and most were very respectable fish in the fourteen to sixteen inch range.

5. Elk Creek – 08/28/2019 – This day in late August was truly a fishing adventure. My exit story on this post almost overshadows the fishing.  Since I am still here to write about it, I can assert that the fantastic day of fishing justified the backcountry scare.

So Fine

4. South Boulder Creek – 08/24/2019 – An abundant quantity of fish were landed in a gorgeous setting to put this in the top ten, but spending a rare day with my son and watching him elevate his game raised this day to the top five. Near the end of our day we experienced an insane green drake hatch in a prime pool, and Dan got a taste of how intense fly fishing can be.

3. South Boulder Creek – 08/15/2019 – A forty fish day with twenty-five slurping a green drake dry fly. What more needs to be said about this spectacular day on my home water?

Money in the Bank

2. Eagle River – 07/24/2019 – Hot fish of above average size were the feature attraction on this day in July. July 24 on the Eagle River made me realize why I clear my calendar to hit freestones, as they subside from peak run off.

1. North Fork of the White River – 09/14/2019 – Abundant rainbows and cutbows of above average size in a remote backcountry setting placed this day in September at the top of my 2019 top ten list. If I could select one day to repeat, this is it.

Long One

Fat Albert – 12/30/2019

Fat Albert 12/30/2019 Photo Album

Check out the story of my introduction to the fat Albert on my post of 03/27/2016. It was a momentous occasion and defined my relationship with the large buoyant hopper imitation. My post of 12/18/2016 describes my many positive experiences with the fat Albert during its initial season of deployment.

Angled View

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262 Size 6 or smaller
Thread3/0 yellow
Overbody2 MM foam, brown then yellow
AbdomenYellow floss
WingWhite McFlylon
LegsRubber legs of choice
Indicator2 MM yellow foam section

At the risk of being redundant, the fat Albert possesses three valuable fly fishing characteristics: buoyancy, visibility and durability. These qualities cause one to occupy the top position on my leader quite often. When I grow frustrated with my inability to track the leading fly in a dry/dropper arrangement due to difficult lighting or water turbulence, I confidently insert a size 6 or 8 fat Albert in my lineup, and it improves my catch rate. In addition to serving the role of strike indicator, the fat Albert also attracts its share of aggressive trout to the surface, and quite often these top water feeders are larger than average.

An Army

I paused to assess my supply of fat Alberts, and I determined that sixteen were scattered among my various fly storage compartments. I settled down at my vice to produce four additional versions with yellow bodies to bring my total to twenty, as I head into the 2020 fly fishing season. I am confident that the fat Albert will frequently command a spot on my line, and it will certainly reward me for my vote of confidence.

Hippie Stomper – 12/26/2019

Hippie Stomper 12/26/2019 Photo Album

Visit my 01/13/2018 post for the story of my introduction to the hippie stomper, and check out 11/18/2018 for a materials table and an update on the effectiveness of the hippie stomper. Without a doubt the hippie stomper has become an essential fly within my array of fly fishing offerings, and as such I visited my vice to replenish my depleted supply.

Nice Side View

Andrew Grillos is the designer of the hippie stomper, and I had the unique opportunity to join him at Trouts Fly Fishing in Denver for a fly tying session on March 16, 2019. I was already a huge fan of the pool toy hopper, another of Andrew’s creations, and his user friendly was on my radar as a new green drake imitation. I thoroughly enjoyed my day with Andrew, and I discovered that he is from Colorado, and he has a very diverse fly fishing background. His resume includes some streamers and nymphs, but his signature works are centered on foam.

Fish Attractors

The hippie stomper exceeded my expectations during extensive field tests in 2019. I find it especially effective in small streams as the lone fly or lead fly in a dry/dropper. The relatively large size, white wing, and foam make it highly visible and buoyant, and these qualities pay off in small narrow high gradient streams with significant amounts of bushes, glare, shadows and white water turbulence. Although high elevation creeks showcase the hippie stomper, one should not overlook opportunities in larger rivers. A trip to the Arkansas River on 07/30/2019 confirmed that the hippie stomper could produce trout on a larger body of water.

A Batch of Eleven and Materials

My experiences with the hippie stomper during 2019 reinforced the effectiveness of the version with a peacock dubbed body. When I counted my supply of stompers, I learned that I possessed fourteen peacock, five silver, and eight red. I judged the quantity of silver and red to be adequate for another season, but I manned my vice to crank out eleven new peacock versions. I stashed six in my fly boxes to raise the total to twenty, and I gifted five to my son Dan, so he can join the hippie stomper revolution.