South Boulder Creek – 08/14/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Dam.

South Boulder Creek 08/14/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

Monday was the last day available for local fishing, before Jane and I depart on a trip to Canada. On Sunday we hiked the Peak to Plains Trail in Clear Creek Canyon, and I viewed this as a scouting mission. It was obvious that Clear Creek continued to run above the ideal range at 150 CFS, but I noted numerous nice pockets and slower moving pools along the edge that offered viable targets for my flies. As I drifted off to sleep on Sunday night, I was fairly certain that I would give Clear Creek a try on Monday.

The drive to Clear Creek from my house in Denver is a mere 45 minutes, so I completed my normal morning exercise routine. Part way through the morning I took a break and checked the DWR stream flow web site, and I noticed that Clear Creek was in the 140 CFS range and declining. I was curious to see how Denver Water was managing South Boulder Creek, so I scrolled up to that tailwater, and I was pleased to note that South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir was down to 144 CFS. This new information prodded me to reconsider my destination choice. I knew from Friday’s experience that green drakes were emerging on South Boulder Creek, and flows were now 20 CFS lower than the level that I endured on Friday. I surmised that green drakes would be absent by the time I returned from Alberta, so I modified my plan and targeted South Boulder Creek for Monday, August 14. Clear Creek could wait until late August.

I packed the Santa Fe and departed by 11AM, and this allowed me to arrive at the upper parking lot by noon. In order to avoid packing my lunch into the canyon, I devoured my sandwich, carrots and yogurt in the parking lot; and then I gathered my gear and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. Seven other vehicles were present in addition to mine, so I knew there would be some company on the stream. The air temperature was quite warm, as the dashboard thermometer registered in the low eighties.

Since I started late, I decided to shorten my hike, but I did cross the stream at the pedestrian bridge. Tools and supplies were present at the bridge, but workers were absent and probably on their lunch break. I continued along the Walker Loop trail for a decent distance, and then I found a relatively easy path down to the creek. I chose South Boulder Creek because of the possibility of fishing to a green drake hatch, so I tied a size 14 2XL parachute green drake to my line and began to spray searching casts to the likely trout holding habitat.

The first four trout interactions were refusals, but these fish appeared to be tiny, so I persisted with the parachute. After the dose of rejection, I hooked and landed two decent brown trout, and this affirmed the parachute green drake selection. Over the next 1.5 hours I built the fish count to six, as the parachute style green drake attracted enough attention to retain its position on my line. I estimate that I observed three refusals or temporary connections for each fish that landed in my net, but I suspected that the fish that ate the fly were larger than those that rejected it. In many cases I could see the side of very small fish, as they flashed toward the surface and then turned away.

At approximately 2:30 I reacted to one of the aforementioned flashes and executed an overzealous hook set. Unfortunately the trout never grabbed the fly, and it catapulted towad a tree branch behind me. I attempted to avoid the snag and quickly thrust my arm forward, but it was too late, and I snapped the parachute green drake off in the tree branch. In a futile effort to recover my fly, I bent down the small branches and inspected the leaves, and I found some flies lost by other fishermen, but I could not locate the coveted green drake. I declared it a write off and used the break off as an excuse to test a different green drake.

The parachute fly was very waterlogged and difficult to follow in the dim light that resulted from the heavy cloud cover and intermittent rain. I decided to try one of the ribbed size 14 comparaduns, as it possessed a large full upright deer hair wing. The choice was sound, and I increased the fish count to from six to fourteen with the comparadun on the end of my leader. During this late afternoon period rainbow trout became the predominant species. I am not sure if this was attributable to the different style of fly, the type of water, or the time of day. The afternoon section of South Boulder Creek was characterized by faster water, and rainbow trout generally tolerate more current than brown trout.

The first four landed fish after the fly change emerged from the stretch below the bridge, and the last four lived in the stream above the bridge. On my return hike I stopped at a nice series of pockets just above the pedestrian crossing, and I fooled a brown and rainbow in that area. Interestingly the final two fish came from some pockets in the wide relatively shallow area, that I normally use simply as a stream crossing point.

I was pleased with my decision to revisit South Boulder Creek, as I landed fourteen fish in three hours. Although it was quite warm during my hike down to the stream, storm clouds quickly moved in, and the mostly cloudy skies kept the air temperature quite cool for most of my time on the water. I never saw a green drake, but it was obvious that the local stream residents recognized my imitations. I suspect that the cool overcast conditions did not create an environment conducive to  a green drake emergence, but the cause was irrelevant, because the trout ate my imitations. I endured a significant number of refusals and a few temporary hook ups, and the glare and low light made following the dark olive fly a challenge at times; but the action was steady, and the size of the fish was typical for South Boulder Creek.

Landed Fish: 14

South Boulder Creek – 08/11/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/11/2017 Photo Album

After a stellar day on Tuesday on South Boulder Creek, I was eager to visit the small tailwater again, and Friday, August 11 was that day. I was convinced that I fished South Boulder Creek on Tuesday amid flows of 144 CFS; however, when I reviewed the DWR website prior to making the trip on Friday, I checked the graph and discovered that the water managers reduced the output on Tuesday morning to 90 CFS. No wonder the conditions seemed so ideal! Unfortunately the graph also revealed that Denver Water was performing its usual yoyo stream management, as the level dropped to 50 CFS from 90 CFS, and then on Friday morning the valves were opened again to 164 CFS. The reading actually displayed 126 at 8AM on Friday morning, but the graph was spiking, and I suspected that it was on an upward trajectory. When I returned home after fishing, I determined the actual outflow.

Tuesday was a spectacular day, and I did not expect to replicate it. I landed nearly forty fish, and all except the first two devoured a dry fly, and large size 14 green drakes were the food of choice. That type of good fortune is rare, and given the increase in flows, I ratcheted down my expectations. Would I be able to wade and cross the creek, or would I be locked into one side? Did the frequent adjustments to flows impact the feeding routines of the resident trout? What impact did the change in flows have on the insect hatches, and most importantly would green drakes attract the attention of the South Boulder Creek trout? All these questions bounced through my brain, as I drove to the upper parking lot on Friday morning.

When I arrived at the parking area, I noted that five vehicles preceded me. Two anglers quickly appeared at the top of the trailhead, and they quickly stashed their gear in two separate cars, and their departure reduced the competitive population of fishermen to three cars. I quickly assembled my Loomis five weight, as I enjoy using it to cast large dry flies, and it also gave me an excuse to utilize my new disc drag reel. The air temperature was in the upper fifties, and the sky was partly cloudy with some large puffy gray clouds building in the southwest. I quickly descended the steep path to the stream, and I crossed below the small island just below my convergence with the creek. The water was indeed running high, but the wide riffle section was manageable for a stream crossing.

My next concern was the repair work on the pedestrian bridge, but apparently work was not scheduled for Friday, and I crossed without any delay. I passed one solo fisherman in the long deep pool that is perpetually occupied, and a second fisherman in wet wading attire appeared from below the bridge. This accounted for two of the three remaining cars in the parking lot. The gentleman by the bridge hiked ahead of me, and he disappeared after we turned right off the Walker Loop on to the fisherman path. A family was gathered by the single picnic table just before the fisherman path turn off, and I was fairly certain they were the occupants of the final car in the parking lot.

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High Flows Made Me Search for This Type of Water

I now had the remainder of the stream to myself, so I hiked a fair distance below the fellow who emerged from below the bridge, and then I cut down to the stream. The high flows dictated that I could only fish on the north side of the stream, and they forced me to focus on the protected pockets and shelf pools where the water velocity was favorable for the local trout. By the time I initiated my first cast it was approaching 11AM, so I decided to go directly to a green drake imitation. I tied a parachute green drake to my line and began to prospect the shelf pools and edges. Some downstream casts to a nice pocket next to a vertical rock wall failed to yield any action, so I pivoted and launched some casts to a gorgeous deep shelf pool just upstream from my starting point. Success. A small brown trout darted to the surface and chomped on the parachute green drake. This was an auspicious sign, but I was not convinced it would be easy.

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My Starting Fly After Being Rescued from a Bush

Within minutes I discovered that various obstacles would test my patience on Friday. In order to angle a cast to the current seam along the shelf pool, I initiated a high backcast, and I was shocked to discover that I hooked a scraggly bush growing from the huge vertical rock wall behind me. I only packed four size 14 parachute green drakes, so I was very reluctant to lose one this early in the game. I waded in both directions to ascertain whether I could do some amateur rock climbing, but I wisely concluded that a fly was not worth the undue risk associated with this plan. Only one option remained, and that was to tug directly on my line. I grabbed the tapered leader so that I would not put excessive stress on my rod tip, and I pulled directly toward the stream. Sometimes miracles do happen, and the line released and caught on branches twice, before it recoiled in my direction. I stripped up the line assuming that my valuable green drake was absent, but much to my surprise it was still attached! Unfortunately the force of tugging it free somehow stressed the parachute hackle, and it climbed up the wing post. I pressed it back against the base by pinching my fingers around it, but I could see that the thread wraps were unraveling, and it was just a matter of time until the fly joined my handicapped fly pile.

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Light Gray Caddis in Corner of the Mouth

I finally advanced upstream and quickly determined that the green drake was not a morning favorite, so I tested a medium olive size 12 stimulator. The heavily hackled dry fly enabled me to add another small brown trout to my tally, but then it attracted attention in the form of refusals. After the fourth snub, I swapped it for a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis, and the fish that rebuffed the stimulator fell for the caddis. I persisted with the diminutive deer hair dry for a decent amount of time, and it allowed me to move the fish count to five, before I encountered one of my favorite pools on the river. I knew from prior visits that quite a few trout called this location home, so when I gained no action with the caddis, I removed it and reverted to the parachute green drake. The change worked, and I landed a small brown, but as expected the hackle unraveled, and I replaced it with another size 14 parachute. This fly generated several refusals, so I cycled through a comparadun style with no rib and a Harrop hair wing version. All were rejected by the pool dwellers.

Several large boulders bordered the quality pool, so I elected to rest the water and make this my lunch spot. After lunch I spotted a couple natural green drakes, and this reinforced my commitment to green drake dry fly fishing. The naturals from a distance seemed larger than the parachute and comparadun imitations that got refused, so I examined my box and extracted a nice comparadun with maroon ribbing. The deer hair wing on this fly was quite large, and I speculated that the high wing might be a major triggering characteristic. It worked, sort of. I landed a few fish, but then several rejections dampened my spirits.

It was about this time that a fisherman who had been thirty yards above me walked by along the path. We exchanged greetings, and since I noticed he was casting downstream, I asked if he was fishing with wet flies. He replied negative and showed me a green drake cripple that he was drifting over fish. He said he hooked one, but invited me to fish the spot he just vacated, since he observed quite a few fish there. This gentleman also told me that the flows were increased to 166 CFS.

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Proud of This One

I moved upstream at a moderate pace and continued prospecting with the ribbed comparadun, and this fly allowed me to net a few more fish. Unfortunately I never found a fly that totally eliminated the refusals and temporary hook ups. At some point I switched from the ribbed comparadun to a different size 14 parachute. The first parachute seemed undersized to me, and the second one possessed a fatter body and a longer bundle of moose mane hair for a tail. The fly actually tilted forward a bit due to the large tail, but it was more productive than its predecessors. The fish count climbed to twelve on the performance of the second parachute, but then it grew waterlogged, and my frustration with frequent drying caused me to make yet another change. This time I dug out a different ribbed comparadun with a high full wing and a slender body.

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Helicopter View

The ribbed comparadun became my last fly choice, and it boosted the fish count to twenty. It was not perfect, as I witnessed a huge number of refusals and hook ups that lasted only a fraction of a second, but it performed better than any of the other flies that spent time on my line. The sun finally gained dominance, and the added warmth seemed to prompt more green drake hatching activity, although the emergence was very sporadic at best. My best success coincided with the time period when I spotted the most naturals. It also seemed that the rainbow trout were far less discriminating than brown trout, as brown trout exhibited a much more wary behavior with a preponderance of last minute twists and turns to avoid my tempting fly.

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Scarlet Is Best Description

Friday was not Tuesday by any means, but a twenty fish day at high flows was certainly satisfactory. I cycled through an array of flies, and I settled on a parachute and comparadun that delivered a level of success. Persistence was the name of the game, and again I was thankful for my fly tying capability, since this allowed me to stock a variety of green drake styles. I tested nearly every variation, and two produced most of my success.

Fish Landed: 20

 

Piney River – 08/10/2017

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Along the Piney River Trail

Piney River 08/10/2017 Photo Album

The alarm beeped at 5:30, and I left the house by 6AM. I packed the car with all the essentials the night before, so after a quick bite to eat, I packed my lunch and quietly departed. The planning and early start enabled me to pull into the parking area at the Piney River Trailhead by 8:30.  It rained heavily from the Eisenhower Tunnel, until I reached Vail, but the sky was blue, as I turned on to Red Sandstone Road. The dirt road was extremely muddy, and the Santa Fe was covered with red caked mud by the time I parked at the trailhead. After putting on my waders, I gathered my gear and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, and finally I was on the trail by 9:00. I hiked for thirty minutes, and then I cut down to the stream and began my day.

The air temperature was in the upper forties, but I knew I would be too warm, if I hiked with an extra layer, so I stuffed my raincoat in my backpack for extra warmth if necessary. When I waded into the stream, it was evident that flows were down compared to my previous visit on 7/25/2017.

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A Dense Stand of Fireweed

On the 7/25/2017 trip I fished a gray stimulator nearly the entire time, so on Thursday I began with a peacock body stimulator. My supply of gray versions was dwindling, so I hoped to learn that the fish were not discriminating regarding body color. I fished with this fly for ten minutes through some slow moving smooth pools, and then I also tested it in some faster pockets, but it failed to encourage even a look. I concluded that the body color was important, so I swapped the peacock for a gray body, since that was a proven producer on the earlier trip. On Thursday gray was not in favor. Maybe yellow was a winner, since I saw a few yellow sallies in the air? Nope. After a decent trial period it became obvious that the yellow stimulator was avoided like the plague.

I continued moving upstream, and I was certain that I advanced to water that was rarely fished, once I vacated the slow pools where I began. Tamped down grass and weeds were obvious clues that other fishermen visited the starting area, but the banks appeared to be untouched, once I progressed one hundred yards upstream. Where were the fish? Even looks and refusals were absent, and that was very unusual for Piney River.

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Better Lighting

I decided to try a nymph approach, so I tied on a size 10 Chernobyl ant and trailed a beadhead pheasant tail. Finally I registered two small brook trout and breathed a sigh of relief. A small brown grabbed the pheasant tail in a fast run almost immediately after the nymph entered the water, and I reached three fish for the first hour of fishing. I continued on with the two fly offering, but once again quality pools and pockets failed to deliver any looks. In another desperate attempt to solve the code, I abandoned the dry/dropper and returned to a medium olive body stimulator, and this fly enabled me to land two small brown trout to improve my fish count to five.

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Lunch Log

I remained locked on five for quite a while, and I sat down to eat my lunch at noon on a nice flat rock with the fish counter stable at five. After lunch I decided to experiment with a green drake. I spotted a few on July 25, so perhaps the local trout had long memories. First I tried the Harrop hair wing version, because it floats high and is easier to follow in the turbulent currents compared to the comparadun and parachute styles. Two brown trout crushed the Harrop hair wing, and I cautiously raised my expectations, but my optimism was fleeting, as the Harrop floated through a series of attractive spots without inducing even a look.

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Another Gem

When this occurred on Tuesday I switched to a parachute green drake, and I copied the move on Thursday. I tied the very same parachute green drake to my line that produced nearly twenty fish on Tuesday, and surprisingly it delivered three, and the fish count climbed to double digits. I was now perched on ten fish in a couple hours of fishing, but I was not pleased with my Piney River experience. The fish were very small and consistently in the 6-9 inch range, and they were all brown trout with two or three small brook trout in the mix. Where were the gorgeous cutbows, cutthroats, and rainbows that served as eye candy on my previous trip? In order to land the first ten fish I covered an enormous amount of stream real estate, and quite a few prime pools failed to yield even a look or refusal. I could not get into a rhythm, and consequently I spent an inordinate amount of time changing flies.

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Pool and Foam Equals Fish

Because the parachute green drake delivered three small trout from marginal shallow pockets, I relied on it for a fairly long window of time, but empty casts became the norm, and several fish elevated and looked and then returned to the bottom of the stream. In addition the body was waterlogged and required constant dabbing and drying. Finally the fly got snagged on a stick, and when I yanked it free, the parachute hackle climbed up the wing post. This was a definite hint that I needed to retire the parachute green drake.

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Nice Colors

I paused and pondered my options. I tried the dry/dropper with the large Chernobyl, but perhaps a more realistic terrestrial would be a more enticing option. I knotted a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and added a salvation nymph as a dropper, and I began plunking the foam beetle in likely holding spots. Early in this game a brook trout smashed the beetle, and once again I convinced myself that I solved the riddle. Again I was mistaken. I cycled through quite a few changes to the dropper including a beadhead hares ear, ultra zug bug and emerald caddis pupa; but none of these generated interest. Meanwhile a couple fish snubbed the foam beetle, and I my frustration level once again surged.

The beetle/dropper episode convinced me that nymphs were a waste of time, and the small stream residents were clearly focused on food morsels floating in the surface film. Perhaps the low clear water dictated going to a small realistic fly? I considered a parachute ant, but I was reluctant to engage in an eye exam in the shaded light of the narrow canyon. Instead I plucked a light gray size 16 deer hair caddis from my fly box. Success. After I embraced the caddis as my Piney River fly of choice, the fish counter improved from eleven to twenty-five. Most of these landed fish favored the light gray version, but I also netted a few using a size 16 dark olive deer hair caddis, and in addition a size 14 dark olive muggly caddis duped three. The muggly caddis eaters were actually a bit larger than the average fish landed on the day.

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Caddis Favored by This Brookie

 

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Looks Like a Muggly Caddis in the Lip

I lost two of the light gray caddis to hemlock branches, and I harbored concern over the adequacy of my size 16 light gray supply, so I tried a dark olive body for awhile. It did produce a couple fish, but then the hackle unraveled, and I elected to experiment with the muggly caddis. The muggly yielded three or four fish, but then the dry fly without hackle became partially waterlogged, so I exchanged it for another muggly with a light gray body and a light tan snowshoe rabbit fur underwing and an elk hair wing. This fly was very visible, and it fooled one trout, but then trout grew disinterested.

During the last thirty minutes of fishing I reverted to one of the remaining light gray size 16’s, and it once again delivered several netted fish. How can a 25 fish day be disappointing? It took place over six hours, and I covered in excess of .5 miles of water including some very high quality deep pools and pockets. The size of the fish was generally in the six to nine inch range with a couple that extended to ten or eleven inches. On July 25 I also landed a few small fish barely over the six inch cutoff, but the average size was more like 9-11 inches with a few big boys in the twelve and thirteen inch range. On Thursday I landed one rainbow and one small cutbow, and all the other fish were brown trout or brook trout. I loved the variety of fish species on the earlier trip, and the lack of diversity was the most disappointing aspect of the August 10 outing. Of course I endured the requisite quantity of long distance releases, and several seemed to be some of the larger fish on the day. I learned over time that this frustration is a necessary part of small stream fishing.

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I Love the Look of Ledge Rocks

I covered new water, and aside from the fishing, the landscape was spectacular. I passed through high moss covered rock walls and climbed over and around numerous beautiful waterfalls. At ten o’clock as I stood in the stream changing flies, an elk cow and calf suddenly appeared from behind a huge boulder on the left side of the stream. I immediately grabbed my camera case, but once they splashed into the stream, the cow saw me, and they quickly jogged up the hillside on the south side of the creek.

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Best Waterfall of the Day

In summary I enjoyed another fine day on Piney River. The lower flows and clear water increased the challenge, but I eventually made the adjustment and downsized to a small caddis and experienced some success. I pretty much had the place to myself, and that is always a positive for me. I discovered that hiking the extra miles from the parking lot pays off in terms of fish numbers, size and diversity. I will keep this in mind, when I make my next excursion to Piney River.

Fish Landed: 25

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Spectacular Color on This Little Guy

South Boulder Creek – 08/08/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/08/2017 Photo Album

Readers cannot see me, but I am still smiling from my day on South Boulder Creek. Today was a strong affirmation of the value of these blog posts, so let me explain.

I noticed last week that Denver Water finally lowered the releases from Gross Dam to 144 CFS, so I committed to making the trip in the near term. Today, Tuesday August 8 was that day. Knowing that South Boulder Creek was my destination prompted me to search my blog for all the log reports that detailed my fishing trips to the small tailwater northwest of Golden. The common thread on nearly all the August visits was green drakes. Green drakes hatch in the freestone rivers and streams in Colorado from the middle of July until the end of July, but their emergence seems to be delayed in tailwaters such as the Frying Pan River and South Boulder Creek. I suspect this circumstance is related to the cold bottom releases from the upstream dams.

Before I departed on Tuesday morning I checked my fly box and reviewed my selection of green drake imitations. I carry three styles, and I never know which one will fool the wild trout. I counted my comparaduns ribbed and not ribbed, parachute green drakes and Harrop hair wing green drakes; and I concluded that I possessed adequate quantities of each. With this inventory task completed I set out on the short drive to the parking lot above the stream near the outflow from the dam. I followed the directions on my map application on my iPhone, and this route reduced my driving time to 58 minutes. I generally allotted 75 minutes for my previous route that tracked on I70, CO 58, and CO 93.

Needless to say I anxiously anticipated my day on South Boulder Creek; however, my spirits sank a bit when I pulled into the parking lot and realized I would have significant company on Tuesday, a weekday no less. Eight vehicles were parked in the small lot, and I snagged a spot on the northern edge, a rarity for me on a weekday. As I pulled on my waders and strung my Loomis five weight rod, the fishermen on either side of me met with another angler who appeared to be the leader of the threesome. The head guy was alarmed by the number of cars in the lot, and he proposed that they move and “fish the inlet”. I could only assume that he was proposing a drive to the Gross Reservoir parking area accompanied by a one mile hike to the inlet where South Boulder Creek enters the reservoir. The two followers agreed, although it seemed to me they were reluctant to do so. That eliminated two cars, and now I had six remaining vehicles to be concerned about.

I proceeded with my preparation and decided that I would hike as far as the higher flows would allow in order to escape the unexpected crowd of fishermen. The air temperature was in the upper fifties, and the sky was mostly clear, as I began my descent of the steep trail to the creek. A large yellow sign at the top of the trailhead notified of bridge construction and warned to expect delays. I thought this was odd, as the only bridges were two pedestrian spans over South Boulder Creek.

When I reached the edge of the creek, I was pleased to learn that 144 cfs (I later learned when I returned home that the flows were actually reduced to 90 cfs on Tuesday morning) was very manageable for wading, and my expectations surged a bit. I crossed the stream below the small island near the beginning, and as I forded the wide relatively shallow area, I spotted a truck on the lane on the other side. I generally climb on to the bank in the area posted as private, but because of the activity, I waded along the edge until I reached the gate that signifies public access. I glanced back at the truck, and it was backing down the lane, and I assumed that it was transporting materials to be used in the bridge repair. This raised my concern that I should not have crossed, since I now needed to cross the pedestrian bridge to reach the downstream areas that I targeted for my day of fishing.

Fortunately when I approached the bridge, it was apparent that the work had not yet begun, and I breathed a sigh of relief, as I was on my way to farther penetration of the Walker Loop. I passed three solo fishermen on the upper water, so that accounted for three of the cars in the parking lot. Another fisherman waded into the creek in the boulder section downstream from the bridge, and eventually I ran into a man and woman together not far below the place where the fisherman path diverges from the Walker Loop trail. As near as I could tell, these were the last anglers that originated from the parking lot.

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A Good Place to Start

When I created a decent distance from the last anglers encountered, I cut down to the water and began my day with a tan pool toy, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. The water before me was exceptional with an abundance of pockets and runs of moderate depth. I managed to land a couple small brown trout on the salvation nymph, but I was not satisfied with the start of my fishing day. Aside from the landed fish, the pool toy hopper attracted significant attention in the form of refusals, and this distracted from the subsurface offerings.

I decided to rectify the situation, and I moved to a size 14 medium olive stimulator. Initially this enticed a couple of small brown trout as well, but then it became an object to be inspected but not eaten. The fish count stood at four, albeit small fish, when I spotted two green drakes, as they fluttered skyward from the stream. The combination of this observation and my review of the blog posts, which documented green drake success in August, convinced me to attach a Harrop hair wing to my line.

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A Pretty Rainbow

Once again the change initiated some initial success, as two trout slashed the bushy mayfly imitation, but then the refusal cycle reappeared. In hindsight I believe that the fish that chose to eat, were in faster riffles; whereas, those that rejected the fly occupied slow moving pools. I was convinced that the green drakes were favored by the South Boulder Creek trout, but the Harrop version did not meet their specifications. I scanned the green drake section of my fly box and plucked a size 14 comparadun with no rib. This fly was effective on the Cache la Poudre River in July, so I tied it to my line and took a deep breath. The comparadun presented a more slender profile, and several fish liked the lean look allowing me to build the fish count to ten. However, fish that ate the large mayfly imitation were fewer than those that refused or elevated to look with no follow through. In addition to the irregular performance of the the fly, it became saturated with water, and even my best efforts to dry it were increasingly futile.

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Quality Pockets Ahead

I decided to sit on a log to eat my lunch. I pondered my next move, while I observed the quality deep pool and run next to my dining area. I landed ten fish in my first hour, and yet I was dissatisfied with the production of my fly choices. How could this be? An experienced fly fisherman would know the feeling of fishing through high quality water that assuredly contains decent fish, yet somehow coming up empty, or the takes are accompanied by an overabundance of refusals and brief hook ups. That sentence accurately described my state of mind.

I remembered the blog entries, that I read the night before, and I recalled the documented success of the parachute green drake imitations that eventually unraveled. After lunch I followed through on my recollection and replaced the comparadun style with a size 14 parachute green drake. This version contained a white wing post that enhanced visibility and a maroon thread rib on the abdomen. I tested the fresh dry fly in the deep pool, and after a small fish rejected it in the fast center section, I lobbed it to the shelf pool on the far side. Success! A decent brown trout streaked to the surface and crushed the fake. Similar success greeted my fly changes earlier in the day, so I resisted a celebration.

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Escape Is Not an Option

The celebratory restraint was unnecessary. I moved upstream, and over the next 2.5 hours I experienced some exceptional dry fly fishing. The fish counter clicked frequently and moved from ten to thirty-six, and all the fish were fooled by the parachute green drake. In fact two flies produced all the fish, and the first one accounted for 75%. During this time I noticed additional naturals, but the hatch was not obvious, and I spotted very few rising trout. Western green drake hatches are notoriously sparse, but the size of the meal makes up for the reduced quantity of insects. The trout were definitely tuned into green drakes.

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My Main Producer

It did not seem to matter what type of water I cast to. Riffles were absolute producers, and the seams of deep runs were also worth exploring. I was stunned to see several fish flash downstream for several feet to intercept the large dry fly before it tumbled over the lip of the pocket. In one case a brown trout bumped the fly twice and then finally grabbed it before it escaped. At the point where it inhaled the drake, it was five feet downstream from its initial inspection. That is due diligence although not very effective, if the goal is to avoid getting hooked in the mouth. Four or five times I lost sight of the fly, as it got tugged under by the currents, so I lifted and felt the weight of a fish. These subsurface takes resulted in some of the larger trout on the day, and it seemed like the rainbows were more likely to nab drowned green drakes than brown trout.

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So Pretty

 

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Parachute Green Drake Snack

By 2:30 some dark clouds appeared overhead accompanied by the sound of distant thunder. I pulled on my raincoat during lunch for added warmth, so I was prepared for precipitation, and I continued fishing as light rain commenced. Suddenly a flash of light brightened the sky, and a clap of thunder followed shortly thereafter. This meant the lightning was close by, so I quickly climbed some rocks and found a refuge next to a tall rock wall that leaned toward the north and provided a slice of protection from the rain. I waited impatiently for fifteen minutes until three o’clock, and then the sky brightened in the west, and the sounds of thunder faded.

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My Storm Refuge

I returned to the creek and resumed casting the parachute green drake, but my second imitation also became waterlogged, and the fish were not responsive. The rain eventually stopped, and the sun emerged briefly, and this stimulated a wave of insect activity. I observed a couple green drakes, but an abundance of smaller mayflies now took center stage. I continued prospecting with the waterlogged parachute green drake and added a few more fish, but I began to wonder if perhaps this was a time when trout might favor the active nymph stage of the pale morning dun. I quickly converted to a two fly dry/dropper with a yellow fat Albert on top and a salvation nymph as the dropper. The theory was not correct. The fish ignored this approach, so after twenty minutes of flailing the water with no reward for my efforts, I reverted to a green drake.

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A Closer Look

During my 2016 green drake interaction, I used the comparadun with success after the parachute versions unraveled, so I gave this ploy another try. It did not pan out, and my watch indicated that it was 4PM, so I decided to begin the long forty minute hike back to the parking lot. As I was trudging along on the trail, I stopped at several favorite pools to make some last ditch casts. At the first prime pool I encountered, I noticed a few rises along the right side. I floated the green drake comparadun in the vicinity, but this merely encouraged an inspection. I suspected that pale morning duns were prevalent, so I converted to a size 16 light gray comparadun. The third drift of the slender PMD imitation prompted a subtle take, and I hooked and landed a pretty ten inch rainbow.

I turned my attention to the shelf pool on the other side of the strong center current. A small fish showed itself with several splashy rises at the tail, but some downstream drifts failed to entice another rise to my fly. It was at this time that a swarm of mayfly spinners hovered over the pool and the area I was casting to. They did not appear to be touching the water, but several fish rose while this mating event developed. Maybe some strays touched down ahead of the main orgy? I replaced the light gray comparadun with a cinnamon version and mashed down the deer hair wing so that some deer hair spread to the side of the thorax. This was my attempt to match a pale morning dun spinner, but it did not succeed. While executing casts in this same pool, I spotted another pair of green drakes. Perhaps I abandoned the big boy too soon? I tied the green drake comparadun back on my line, but they shunned it as well, and I surrendered to the pool and moved on.

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Light Gray Comparadun Victim

My last stop was the long deep pool between the pedestrian bridge (which now displayed signs on both ends warning of delays) and the path that ascends to the parking lot. I was shocked to see this perpetually occupied location vacant, so I stopped to make a few exploratory casts. I once again knotted the size 16 light gray comparadun to my line, and it rewarded me with two rainbow trout in the ten and eleven inch size range. I ended my day with three rainbow trout that sipped the comparadun to reach thirty-nine fish.

What a wonderful day on South Boulder Creek! All but the first two fish ate dry flies, and the action on the parachute green drake was superb. Tuesday was a testament to my commitment to my blog and to tying my own flies. In all likelihood had I not read about my success with green drakes on August 4, 2016, I would not have converted to the parachute green drake. Tying my own flies allowed me to capitalize on my experience and many prior interactions with green drake hatches to produce three different styles, and the parachute version became the favorite on Tuesday. I foresee a return trip to South Boulder Creek in my near future. In fact after chronicling my day, I am ready to return right now.

Fish Landed: 39

Boulder Creek – 08/07/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 08/07/2017 Photo Album

I was weary of driving long distances to fish as was the case in the previous week, so I decided to go local on Monday. Flows on Boulder Creek recently dropped to 74 CFS, and the small stream west of Boulder, CO was absent from my 2017 itinerary, so I planned to give it a try. Unfortunately when I woke up on Monday morning, I heard the constant trickle of rain, as it drained down the spouting. When I looked outside, the picture was even worse with low gray clouds shrouding the Denver area. I checked the weather report for Boulder, and it indicated rain and thunderstorms off and on for the remainder of the day. This was not encouraging, and I debated devoting Monday to some procrastinated indoor chores.

It was only misting, when I departed on my daily run, but halfway through the jog the mist transformed to drizzle, and by the time I returned to the house the precipitation was classified as steady rain. I took my time showering and then prepared my lunch, and when I looked to the west, I noticed the sky remained gray, but it was definitely brighter, so I took the plunge and made the drive to Boulder. My best case scenario was getting in some fly fishing. My worst case outcome was a picnic lunch in the car next to Boulder Creek.

I drove up the canyon a good ways, and parked at a wide pullout with a sign about a historical wildfire. It was noon when I arrived, so I sat in the car protected from the misting rain and devoured my light lunch. After lunch I grabbed my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my waders and fishing backpack and front pack, and I was prepared to fish. I wore my fleece and raincoat and pulled my hood up over my New Zealand billed cap, and I was as waterproof as I could be.

Just as I began walking down the highway, two fishermen returned from the creek and climbed into a Subaru Outback parked at the western end of the parking area. I was concerned that I would be fishing in the wake of these recent waders, but I concluded that I was headed downstream, and by the time I returned to the area they vacated, the fish would be back to their normal habits.

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Boulder Creek on a Rainy Day

After walking a short distance along the shoulder of the road, I angled down a steep bank and tied a Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph to my line. I began casting these flies to likely holding spots, and in the early going I accumulated temporary hook ups, refusals and looks but not landed fish. These fish were supposed to be gullible, so what was going on? Eventually I landed a couple fish on the hares ear, but this was after covering a significant number of promising holes. The fish seemed to be ignoring the nymphs, as they focused on the Chernobyl, but they were unwilling to close their mouths on the fake foam terrestrial.

I finally conceded that my initial fly choices were not desired table fare for the Boulder Creek trout, and I replaced the three flies with a medium olive body size 12 stimulator. This fly enabled me to land a couple more small brown trout, but then it also became a thing of interest but not something to eat. I considered going back to the Chernobyl ant, but then I recalled my success on Friday with Jake’s gulp beetle. Why not give it another trial? I tied on a size 12 beetle and added a beadhead hares ear dropper, and my optimism soared. Early on the beetle attracted two refusals, and then I suffered through another lull with no action.

Needless to say I was rather frustrated. It was raining lightly with heavy cloud cover, and these sort of cool overcast conditions generally portend excellent fishing. The flows remained above average, and generally the trout are not as skittish and remain opportunistic after enduring the high flows of run off. I must mention, however, that the water was quite clear, and I spooked numerous fish, when I approached a pool or pocket too quickly or clumsily.

My best run of near action consisted of some momentary hook ups on the Chernboyl at the outset, and two of these fish appeared to be a bit larger than the small fish that I landed. I returned to the dry/dropper approach with a size 10 Chernobyl ant, beadhead emerald caddis pupa, and beadhead pheasant tail. The caddis pupa and pheasant tail produced on St. Louis Creek, so why not test them on relatively small Boulder Creek?

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Crashing Water

I allotted a decent amount of time to these flies, but they failed me. Once again I noted a couple refusals to the Chernobyl, and the nymphs were totally shunned. Something had to change, but what should I try next? The clouds were growing darker and the wind kicked up a bit, and I was fairly certain that more rain was a near term reality. I decided to make my last stand with a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. Fish were looking to the surface, and caddis are generally always present, and the light gray deer hair caddis is a solid general pattern that covers a lot of bases.

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Little Guy

Well it worked. In the remaining half hour I landed three small brown trout on the caddis. A few refusals were in the mix, but the imitation was apparently close enough to convince three fish to eat. I considered replacing the caddis with a light gray size 16 comparadun, in case the trout were tuned into pale morning duns, even though I did not see any, but the density of the rain increased, and I decided to call it quits and seek the shelter of the Santa Fe. I seemed to recall a mention on the Front Range Anglers web site of pale morning duns emerging in the late afternoon. I suppose this theory will need to be tested on another day.

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Caddis Lover

Seven small brown trout in 2.5 hours of fishing is not a stellar outing. I was admittedly expecting better fishing in the rainy overcast conditions on a stream that historically produced relatively easy action. I suppose I should celebrate being able to fish in adverse weather conditions, and landing seven fish was actually icing on the cake. Hopefully the weather clears, and I can return to more typical summer conditions for the remainder of the week.

Fish Landed: 7

St. Louis Creek – 08/04/2017

Time: 2:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Just above the Fraser Experimental Forest headquarters.

St. Louis Creek 08/04/2017 Photo Album

What now? I had a few hours available to salvage my fishing trip of Friday, August 4. I surrendered to the Colorado River near Parshall, and I considered options for the remainder of the day. The upper Williams Fork above the reservoir was relatively close, although that choice required a longer return drive. I fished Willow Creek along CO 125 briefly while camping at Denver Creek quite a few years ago, and I recalled landing some brook trout, but my fishing skills were weaker then than now. Two possibilities along the return drive were St. Louis Creek west of Fraser, CO and the North Fork of Clear Creek west of Empire, CO. St. Louis Creek appealed to me because I never fished there, and it was more distant from a main road than Willow Creek or the North Fork of Clear Creek. More distance equals less pressured in my book.

I entered Fraser Experimental Forest in my maps app, and my iPhone directed me to the headquarters located across from St. Louis Creek. The directions were accurate, and I backed into a narrow space between two trees, and I quickly prepared to optimize my remaining time on August 4. I remained in my waders, but I broke down my Sage five weight, and now I chose my Loomis two piece five weight, since it was a shorter rod and better suited to the narrow creek surrounded by trees and bushes. These actions allowed me to wade into the water by 2:30.

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So Pretty

The sky was now cloudy, and consequently the air temperature dropped, although I remained comfortable in my long sleeved Columbia fishing shirt. The flow was strong although not excessively high, but excellent clarity prompted me to begin my day with a medium olive body size 12 stimulator. This fly was light and fluttered down on the surface without creating much disturbance, yet it was buoyant and easy to see. I began prospecting all the likely refuges for trout, and immediately encountered two long distance releases and a couple refusals. I persisted, however, and after ten minutes I landed a tiny four inch brook trout. This scenario unfolded for twenty minutes, and I eventually landed a couple char that were barely over the six inch mark required to increment the fish counter. Every countable fish was matched by twice as many momentary hook ups or fish too small to count.

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Began with an Olive Stimulator

 

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Another Jewel

After another series of refusals I decided to downsize, and I tied a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis to my line. This proved to be a solid move, and I landed more fish, although the size of the brookies remained modest. The caddis was quite popular with the fish, however, and the fish tally climbed to seven. I hoped that the larger deeper pools would yield bigger fish, but fantasy did not become reality. By four o’clock some light rain descended, but not enough to get out my raincoat, and I pondered my next move. I was very curious to experiment with a dry/dropper in this small creek, so that is what I did. For the top fly I knotted a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line, and as a single dropper I attached a beadhead pheasant tail.

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Best Pool on the Creek

The experiment was a success, and I landed eight more brook trout to push the count to fifteen before I retired at 5PM. The last hour was a blast, as I splatted the beetle and pheasant tail in all likely trout holding nooks of St. Louis Creek. Three aggressive brook trout attacked the beetle, and the rest snatched the pheasant tail from the drift. The size of the fish actually improved a tad, as I landed an eight inch battler and a couple seven inch jewels. And they were indeed gems, as the colors sparkled in the sun, and they displayed bright orange blotches along their underside.

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Best Fish of the Day

2.5 hours on St. Louis Creek was just what the doctor ordered after a tough outing on the much larger Colorado River. Each cast offered the chance of a pretty surprise. My greatest difficulty was staging the brookies for photos without the aid of a net, as the holes in the my net were too large for the tiny fish.

Fish Landed: 15

Colorado River – 08/04/2017

Time: 10:00AM – 1:30PM

Location: Kemp-Breeze Unit below Parshall

Colorado River 08/04/2017 Photo Album

During 2007 through 2009 I experienced the halcyon days of the upper Colorado River near Parshall, CO. I visited the public access points in this area seven times during this time frame, and each provided hours of hot action. Pale morning duns, caddis and blue winged olives hatched regularly; and my fly box contained the flies that enabled me to record outstanding days with fish counts in the upper teens and low twenties. The quality of fish was also exemplary with many trout that measured in the fifteen to twenty inch range.

During 2010 I made one visit to the scene of some of my favorite fishing excursions, but I only managed to land seven fish, and the abundant hatches that encouraged surface feeding from the resident trout never materialized. In subsequent years I returned and experienced similar disappointing results.

As I considered my fishing options for Friday August 4, I recalled the wonderful hatches and excellent fishing during the halcyon period. I decided to retrieve my fishing logs from the archives, so I could do some analysis. Perhaps I stumbled into a late July/early August mayfly hatch that was not pale morning duns, and visits after 2010 took place outside this window of opportunity? Sure enough when I reviewed the 2007 through 2010 log reports, I discovered that all the visits took place between July 28 and August 5. Subsequent trips were either earlier or later than the historically productive time frame.

There was only one way to test my theory, and that was to make another trip in 2017 on August 4. I actually printed the fishing log entry for August 5, 2008 and read it a second time, since I planned to use it as a template for my attempt to reinstate the upper Colorado River as a favored summer fishing destination. I packed the car the night before and departed Denver by 7:05AM, and this placed me at the Breeze Unit parking lot by 9:15. Several cars preceded me, and as I was assembling my Sage One five weight, a guide and clients arrived and parked behind me. The upper Colorado is a mosquito haven, so I doused myself with insect repellent as soon as I stepped outside the car, but for some reason the population seemed diminished compared to prior experience.

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Wide Open

I tromped down the path and cut through some trees, so that I emerged next to the river above a duck blind and handicapped platform. A group of fishermen with guides were one hundred yards upstream, and another angler was positioned below the handicapped platform, while his wife or significant other monitored his movements from the wooden deck. The structure of the river was a bit different compared to my recollection, but a nice deep run began just above my position and then continued downstream to a point below the handicapped platform.

The flows were in the 380 CFS range, and the sky was bright blue and devoid of clouds. The temperature was in the low sixties when I began and probably peaked at around eighty degrees. I observed the water in front of me for a bit, and other than a few random caddis, I saw nothing that suggested that dry fly fishing would be successful. With this observation in mind I knotted a size 10 yellow Letort hopper to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph and beadhead salvation nymph. The Letort hopper was a concession to the throwback nature of the outing.

I made numerous drifts along the deep run, but my efforts provided no evidence that trout were present. As is usually the case, the Letort hopper became saturated, and since it was not enticing fish, I swapped it for a yellow fat Albert for improved visibility and buoyancy. Not wishing to encroach on the gentleman below me, I decided to advance to the top of the deep run and then cross to the opposite side. During my fun years, I enjoyed some of my best action in the riffles and deep runs between the strong center current and the south bank, and I intended to explore the area in 2017.

Once I crossed to the midpoint, I angled downstream so I could begin in the shallow section where the river fans out above a small island across from the platform. My memory flashed images of large brown trout feeding on dry flies in the shallows in the success years, and I was unwilling to discount a repeat. I prospected the dry/dropper systematically beginning in the shallows and worked my way upstream to the point where the fast water entered the extended run and riffle section. I sprayed four or five casts across the targeted area, and then I carefully waded four steps and repeated the exercise. Halfway through this process the velocity of the center current accelerated, and each step became a challenge, but I persisted so that I could cover the sweet spot between where I stood and the bank.

The top one-third of this section looked absolutely exceptional. The depth was four to six feet and the current was moderate. Surely hungry fish selected this attractive area as their home. I began to see more caddis dapping on the surface in the top segment, so I removed the salvation nymph and replaced it with an emerald caddis pupa. Inexplicably after significant effort I covered the entire fifty yard quality area without so much as a refusal. At the very top a narrow deep slick extended for twenty-five feet below a large exposed rock, and this represented my last chance to extract a reward for my morning persistence. I flicked a backhand cast to the middle of the narrow slot, and after the fat Albert drifted a couple feet it paused, and I reacted with a lift and felt myself attached to a thrashing fish. Could this really be happening? After a brief fight, I guided a twelve inch brown trout with an emerald caddis pupa in its lip into my net, and I snapped a few photos in case this was my last fish of the day.

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After Two Futile Hours

It was now between 11:30 and noon, and I began to search for a lunch spot. Both banks were covered with tall grass, and that translated to mosquito disturbance, and I hoped to avoid that eventuality. I looked downstream and noted the small island and decided that the rocks at the point would be a solid lunch perch. It took me a few minutes to wade downstream, but I eventually arrived and enjoyed my snack.

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Downstream Look at Island and Platform

While I crunched my carrots I began to see several rises in the shallow section between the deep run next to the wooden deck and the island that served as my lunch counter. Initially I dismissed the fish as small fish, but then I resolved that any rising fish was better than none. After all I was in the prime hatch time period according to my printed August 5, 2008 log, so perhaps this was the beginning of something bigger.

I hurriedly finished my lunch and then reconfigured with a solitary size 16 light gray comparadun also know as the money fly. I was playing the 2008 rewind to the maximum. I dabbed some floatant on the body and flicked the mayfly imitation, so it drifted over the location of one of the rises, and in an instant a fish flashed to the surface and inhaled the fraud. I could not believe my eyes, as I set the hook and engaged in a tussle with a nice thirteen inch brown trout. So much for my small fish theory.

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A Riser Fooled

Over the next thirty minutes I landed another feisty thirteen inch brown along with a smaller version to improve my fish count to four. I envisioned a replay of 2008, but alas the rising ended, and the brief sparse hatch disappeared. I never saw an actual mayfly, but the sudden feeding action indicated that it must have taken place. By 12:30 I finally acknowledged that the hatch was over, and I considered my next move. Perhaps if I waded upstream to the riffles, I could spot more subtle rises and cast to them with my size 16 comparadun?

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Another Money Fly Chomper

I did exactly that, but zero fish revealed their position, and I managed no success, as I prospected the money fly over relatively shallow riffles. While the hatch evolved, two new gentlemen arrived, and they located on the north side of the long riffle with the deep center current. They were somewhat below the top one-third section that appealed to me in the morning, and I decided that I would like to check out the quality area again but with a dry fly approach. I walked along the edge of the river until I reached a place where some thick bushes stretched over the water, and this forced me to wade a bit deeper to avoid them. As soon as I stepped on the upstream side of the bushes, I was surprised to see two fishermen sitting on the bank eating their lunch. They were perfectly positioned to fish the area that I was targeting, so I executed a reversal and retraced my steps along the fringe of the river.

I found a place to cross to the bank where I began my day, and as I did so, the two fishermen below me decided to call it a day. We exchanged greetings, and then I advanced downstream to where it all began in the morning. I stopped and observed the long deep run hoping to witness some subtle rises, but none appeared. The 2008 report documented that the hatch ended at 1PM, and the remainder of the afternoon was relatively slow. The air temperature was quite warm, and the sky was clear blue, and I sensed that tough fishing would rule the afternoon. I decided to cut my losses and moved to a small cold mountain creek with less discerning more opportunistic fish.

My experiment was over, and I concluded that for some reason the heavy hatches of late July and early August were largely a historical event. It is true that I only sampled one day, and perhaps different weather would spur more action, but for the future I plan to avoid the upper Colorado in July and August, while I seek other destinations with a recent record of success.

Fish Landed: 4

Busk Creek – 08/02/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 2:30PM

Location: Upstream from Turquoise Lake Road

Busk Creek 08/02/2017 Photo Album

“You win some; you lose some” Unknown

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” Benjamin Franklin

What could these quotes have to do with my fly fishing adventure on Wednesday, August 2, 2017? The highlight of Wednesday was the hike, that Jane and I completed to Timberline Lake near the western tip of Turquoise Lake.

We found a nice campsite at the Father Dyer Campground, one of many campgrounds along the eastern shoreline of Turquoise Lake on Tuesday night. We lived in Colorado for twenty-seven years, yet we never spent any time in the Turquoise Lake Recreation Area, and we corrected that shortcoming on Tuesday and Wednesday. We were both surprised by how close the eastern side of the lake is to Leadville, as my iPhone maps application indicated roughly three miles and eight minutes, and this proved to be correct.

On Tuesday evening I met Jane at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center along Harrison Avenue in Leadville, and we then parked our cars on Seventh Avenue next to a large church. We decided to walk up and down the main street to scope out possible eating establishments, and then we returned to the Periodic Brew Pub on Seventh for a craft beer. While strolling north on Harrison, we noticed some dark clouds and heard distant thunder, so after draining our brews, we drove Jane’s car to a parking lot near Manuelita’s Cantina. We enjoyed some tasty chips and salsa, and we each ordered and consumed pork tamales, while the skies opened and flushed sheets of rain on the high elevation mining town.

We waited out the storm, and then Jane dropped me off at my car, and we followed the aforementioned map app directions to the Father Dyer Campground. We cruised Baby Doe first, but as a result of its close proximity to the lake, it was nearly full. Campsite number twenty was our choice, and it provided a nice amount of space, although the table and ground were quite saturated from the recent storm.

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Best View

Before embarking on the fishing/camping venture, we reviewed the National Geographic maps for the area, and we spotted a four mile round trip hike to Timberline Lake. This became our destination for Wednesday, so after packing up our gear including a wet tent, we drove seven miles along Turquoise Lake Road to the western most point along the lake. We stopped several times along the way to check out overlooks and snapped a few photos.

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Five Inch Waves

The trailhead coincided with an access point to the Colorado Trail, and six cars preceded us to the parking lot. We departed at 9:40 and returned by noon. The climb was gentle for the first mile, but the topography shifted to challenging steeps for the second half. The climb was well worth it, as the small lake nestled among Rocky Mountain peaks was spectacular to behold. We snapped a few photos and found some perches on the large rocks and enjoyed some snacks, before we said goodbye to the beauty and the wind.

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Indian Paintbrush

Upon our return to the trailhead parking lot, Jane and I ate our lunches, and then Jane departed for her return trip to Denver. I meanwhile prepared for my fishing adventure for the day. When I planned the trip, I debated between trying the Reddy SWA south of Leadville or Busk Creek. Busk Creek was a small high mountain stream a mile or two south of the Timberline Lake trailhead. Since we were within minutes of Busk Creek, I decided to give it a look.

I returned to Turquoise Lake Road and turned right, and after passing May Queen Campground I passed over a small tumbling creek. Two cars were parked near the stream, and a couple was posing for a selfie on a large boulder just above the road. I continued beyond the stream and executed a U-turn, and parked in a narrow pullout twenty yards past the stream. The weather on Wednesday was quite variable, as it vacillated between sunny and mid sixties and cloudy and cool. I debated wet wading and finally took the plunge and pulled on my quick-dry pants and wading socks. I rigged my Orvis Access four weight, and I was set to explore new water.

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One of the Better Places on Busk Creek

I surveyed the terrain west of the road, and I noticed a dirt path that climbed a steep bank and then continued into the evergreen forest. Rather that returning to the stream crossing and disturbing the selfie creators, I scrambled up the bank and hiked for fifty yards, and then I cut through the forest to the stream. As I expected, the creek was no more than ten feet wide in most places, and the high gradient manifested itself with a series of fast runs, pockets and plunge pools. Clearly this was going to be fast paced fishing with a few casts in likely spots and constant movement.

I started my quest for mountain trout with a size 14 yellow stimulator, but it was soundly ignored. I was not certain if this testified to a lack of fish, or if it was a rejection of my fly choice. I crossed the small creek to the north side, and here it was evident that quite a few folks had preceded me, and I suspected that many were fishermen. This observation was clear from the wear of the path and obvious creekside casting platforms.

After fifteen minutes of fruitless casting, I paused, and as I pondered my next move, I spied two large green drakes that cruised skyward from the surface of the tumbling stream. What a fortuitous discovery! This made my choice easy, and I quickly knotted a Harrop hair wing green drake size 14 to my line. The observation paid off as I landed a small brown and then a second brown that stretched to ten inches. I was not sure I would land more fish, so I snapped a quick photo and moved on.

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Pretty Little Brown Trout

I was feeling rather smug about spotting the green drakes and making the change, but then I suffered through a lengthy lull with no action. The stream was so fast that even the few pockets that I prospected were rather marginal, so I continued on with the green drake hoping that I would encounter some larger trout holding pools. As these thoughts were passing through my brain, some very dark clouds moved in from the southwest, and this was accompanied by distant thunder. I decided to demonstrate uncommon preparedness, and I slid into my raincoat. The move was just in time, and sheets of rain descended upon my wide brimmed hat and rain coat. Of course I was wading wet, so it seemed kind of pointless to keep my upper body dry while standing in water, but I needed all the warmth I could gather.

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Nice Little Shelf Pool

A flash of lightning startled me, so I retreated back along the path to a place under an overhanging cliff, and I waited there for five minutes until the sky brightened in the west. I returned to my exit point, and in a short amount of time I approached a gorgeous wide deep pool. My first thought was that this was the prime spot on the entire drainage, and consequently it absorbed the attacks of all manner of bait, spinner and fly fishermen. What were the chances of landing a fish here? I cast the green drake to all the corners of the pool, but as I expected no reaction was forthcoming.

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This Pool Produced the Oversized Brown

Just prior to reaching the pool, I began to consider a dry/dropper approach, and given the quality water in front of me, I decided to give it a try. I removed the green drake and tied a size 12 Chernobyl ant to my line, and then I extended some tippet off the bend and attached a beadhead hares ear. Surely any self respecting wild trout could not resist my beadhead hares ear nymph. I lobbed a backhand cast to the left side of the pool, and as expected it drifted unmolested to the tail. Why not go for the jugular? I flipped a second cast to the current that ran through the core of the pool, and the Chernobyl drifted at a moderate pace over the deepest area and approached the tail. As I looked on, a sizable fish materialized from the depths, and it quickly turned its head in the vicinity of my trailing nymph! In a nanosecond my brain recognized what happened, and I lifted the rod tip and found myself attached to a fourteen inch brown trout in a tiny mountain stream near Turquoise Lake. What a thrill!

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Monster for Tiny Busk Creek

I cautiously played the fish as it charged about the confined space, and then I slid my net beneath the small stream Goliath. I could not believe my eyes. I snapped a few photos and released my prize catch and proceeded up the steep creek with renewed optimism.

I was sold on the Chernobyl/hares ear combination, and I attacked the deepest holes and pockets with elevated enthusiasm. The hares ear managed to attract one more small brown trout, and then I suffered through an hour of futility. Another series of dark clouds passed overhead, and the wind kicked up, and short periods of light rain returned. My hands morphed into curled claws, as the evaporating moisture created a cooling effect. In truth the quality of the water was very marginal, as the flow rushed downhill and bounced through a never ending boulder field. I combined all these factors with my extreme discomfort from wading wet in fifty degree temperatures with no counterbalancing effect from the sun, and I decided to hustle back to the car.

Upon my return I quickly jettisoned the wet clothes, and initially I planned to spend the next couple hours at the Reddy SWA. However, as I began to drive back to the east, I looked at my watch and realized that it was 3:15. By the time I reached the SWA parking lot and pulled on my waders, it would be at least 3:30, and that allowed merely another hour or two of fishing. Logic overcame my desire to fish, and I made the return drive to Denver. Judging from the weather that I encountered on the two hour drive, I made the correct decision.

If I were to return to Busk Creek, I would probably drive on the Hagerman Pass road until it meets Busk Creek, and then I would hike farther from the starting point to get away from the easy to access pressured areas. In all likelihood I will never return to Busk Creek, and going forward I will refer to it as Bust Creek. I managed to land a gorgeous fourteen inch brown trout, and I only invested two hours, but the effort and adversity did not justify the results. I ventured, but I did not register a gain. In this case I lost, but I will continue to explore new areas to widen my fly fishing destination options.

Fish Landed: 4

Arkansas River – 08/01/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Hayden Meadows

Arkansas River 08/01/2017 Photo Album

Landing 26 fish on the Cache la Poudre River on Monday was enjoyable, but I craved the deep bend of a more substantial fish, as I contemplated my next fishing trip. July 26 on the Arkansas River lingered as a recent memorable outing, particularly fooling brown trout with a size 14 green drake imitation. The large Harrop hair wing style was easy to follow on the surface of the river, and the trout moved quickly and confidently to crush the fake version. Although I was certain that the gray drake hatch was waning, I pondered whether the stream residents would continue to respond to a well presented imitation.

The Hayden Meadows area was the draw, but the salesperson at the Orvis store, where I purchased my new reel, sang the praises of the Reddy State Wildlife Area on the west side of US 24, and this information also attracted me to a return trip to the upper Arkansas River south of Leadville. I checked out my National Geographic maps of the area, and I identified a nice hike that began from the western end of Turquoise Lake. The Turquoise Lake Recreation Area featured quite a few campgrounds, and I convinced Jane to join me on Tuesday evening for dinner in Leadville and camping at Turquoise Lake. I bribed her with a commitment to accompany her on a four mile round trip hike to Timberline Lake on Wednesday morning.

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Testing the Phone Camera

I packed most of the car on Monday evening, after I returned from the Cache la Poudre, and this enabled me to arrive at the Hayden Meadows northern parking lot by 11AM. I considered exploring Reddy SWA, but I opted to save the new stretch of water for Wednesday afternoon after our hike. I assembled my Sage four weight and departed on the two track dirt lane, and in a slight deviation from July 26 I hiked for twenty minutes in an effort to begin farther downstream. It was warm and sunny, and the temperature peaked in the upper sixties at the high elevation river. Flows were comparable to July 26 although a bit lower, as I was able to cautiously cross at selected spots, where wide shallow riffles reduced the strong velocity.

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Wide Riffle

Since it was 11:30 by the time I entered the river, I decided to go directly to my Harrop hair wing green drake. It was a bit early compared to the previous Wednesday, but I theorized that the large mayfly imitation might serve as an attractor, since the hatch even a week ago was very sparse. My optimism soared, when I spotted a solitary gray drake, while I was attaching the hair wing to my line. Unfortunately this represented my sole gray drake sighting for the day.

The green drake imitation generated a couple refusals early on, so the fish were tuned into something similar, but I began to fear that it would be a tough day. There was no hesitation from the Hayden Meadows fish on July 26, so why the reluctance on August 1? Perhaps the Harrop was a bit too bushy or perhaps the trout were really locked on smaller caddis with a similar profile? I switched to a size 14 gray stimulator, and the smaller fly produced a look, but no take.

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Lunch Spot

After half an hour of fruitless casting I sat down on some rocks and ate my lunch, while I contemplated my next move. The mental sifting led me to shift to a dry/dropper featuring a yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. The nymphs yielded five nice brown trout on July 26 before I migrated to the Harrop green drake, so perhaps my application of the dry fly was too early in the daily feeding cycle.

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First Fish

From 12:30 until 1:30 I landed three brown trout using the dry/dropper method. The first fish was one of the best on the day; a fifteen inch bruiser that gulped the salvation nymph. Somehow during the fight the iron sally wrapped around the head of the brown, and this made the battle extra challenging. Another of the three early afternoon fish was small, and the third was a decent twelve inch specimen. Hayden Meadows brown trout seem to be pound for pound tougher fighters than other brown trout in the Rocky Mountains.

At 1:30 I began to worry that I was missing out on drake action, so I converted back to the Harrop style fly. Although the hair wing did not produce in a manner similar to July 26, I managed to net five additional browns. One was a carbon copy seven incher, but three measured in the eleven to thirteen inch range, and the last one on the day was another hard fighting fifteen inch brute. I cast to a narrow slow moving band of water along the bank from above. On previous casts drag commenced within seconds, but in this instance I managed to create a pause which enabled the fly to hover next to the seam in a tantalizing fashion. The brown could not resist the large mayfly about to escape, and it flashed to the surface and crushed the tempting morsel. The visual take was clearly the highlight of the day.

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Vivid Deep Colors

I fished on for another forty-five minutes, but the water seemed increasingly dead as the afternoon slid by. At 3:30 I was uncertain how far I was from the parking lot, and I did not wish to be late for my rendezvous with Jane in Leadville, so I reeled up the green drake and hooked it to my rod guide and found my way back to the car.

Tuesday August 1 was clearly inferior to July 26, but two of my catch were larger than anything that found my net the previous week. As I was stashing my gear at the car, a young Department of Wildlife gentleman appeared, and he asked me a series of questions for a survey. When I communicated to him that I landed eight brown trout with two in the fifteen inch range, he volunteered that I caught 80% of the trout landed in Hayden Meadows that day. His surveys found only two other fish caught on August 1, so while eight fish in four hours is average on my scale, my numbers were quite acceptable based on the DOW survey. More importantly it was a gorgeous first day of August with cool temperatures and spectacular fourteeners in the background.

Fish Landed: 8

Cache la Poudre River – 07/31/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Upper Landing to Stevens Gulch

Cache la Poudre River 07/31/2017 Photo Album

I could not bring myself to pack the car with fishing and camping gear on Monday, so I decided to make a foray into the local Front Range streams. Unfortunately when I reviewed the DWR stream flow charts, the status of the local drainages remained largely unchanged. Bear Creek was an option, but I desired something larger in scale. South Boulder Creek was down to 185 CFS, and that is quite high for the small tailwater west of Golden, CO, but I considered giving it a try. Once again the most viable options were the North Fork of the St. Vrain and the Cache la Poudre River. I fished the St. Vrain on Thursday July 27, so I elected to take another trip to the Cache la Poudre. My previous three visits were very productive, so why not revisit a known quantity.

During my previous experience on the Cache la Poudre, the morning was relatively unproductive, so I completed my normal morning exercise routine before I departed at 9:10. In one minor deviation from past practice I decided to experiment with new water, and since the new locale was east of the Pingree Park area, the trip was shortened a bit. I arrived at the Upper Landing Picnic Area by 10:30, and I stepped into the water across from the parking lot and began fishing by 11AM. I chose my Loomis five weight in order to test my new Orvis Battenkill disc drag reel.

A woman was sitting in a lawn chair on a gravel beach next to a nice shelf pool, so I asked her permission to fish. She quickly voiced her approval, and I tied a medium olive size 14 stimulator to my line. I was not more than five feet in front of her, when I spotted a small rainbow trout, as it sipped the stimulator, and I quickly guided the pretty seven inch fish to my net. After I released the small gem into the river, a man appeared, and he began talking to the woman in the chair. I gathered that he left his fly rod at home, and he stood on the beach with a relatively heavyweight spinning rod. I took the hint and quickly moved upstream and vacated the quality shelf pool to the newly arrived gentleman.

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Edge Fishing on July 31

 

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Small Guy Near Start

In the hour between 11AM and noon I moved quickly from pocket to pocket, and I incremented the fish counter to six before I sat down on a flat rock and ate my sandwich, carrots and yogurt. Although the catch rate was excellent, the fish were on the small side for even the Poudre, and I felt that I cast to some quality locations that did not yield fish, and I was fairly certain that trout existed in these attractive locales.

Before resuming my casting I took advantage of my break, and I reconfigured my line with a three fly dry/dropper set up. I chose a size 10 Chernboyl ant as the top fly, and then knotted the beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph beneath the large foam attractor. These three flies served my purposes admirably over the next 3.5 hours, as I lifted the fish tally from six to twenty-six. Three of the netted fish smacked the Chernobyl ant on the surface, and 75% of the remaining landed fish gobbled the salvation nymph. The remainder nabbed the upper offering, the hares ear nymph.

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Rainbow Liked Chernobyl

The action was not as frenetic as my last session on the Poudre, but it was steady and kept me focused. I adhered to my three to five cast rule, and in the process I covered the left bank from Upper Landing to Stevens Gulch. This is likely .5 mile or more of shoreline. Quite a few of the trout attacked the nymphs, as I lifted at the tail of a run to make another cast, and another popular tactic was to cast across to a nice slot and then allow the nymphs to swing at the end of the drift. As this solid day of fishing unfolded, it was accompanied by quite a few temporary connections. I estimate there was one long distance release for every two fish that rested in my net.

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Decent

 

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Nice Water

At 2PM I waded near a section that looked particularly attractive, and it was bathed in sunlight thus providing excellent visibility. Even though I did not observe green drakes in the surrounding environment, I was curious to discover if a large juicy drake would tempt the resident river dwellers. I removed the three flies that served me quite well, and I replaced them with a size 14 Harrop hair wing green drake. Initially two fish refused the bushy mayfly imitation, but then a nice eleven inch brown trout crushed it in a fairly shallow pool next to the bank. Perhaps my move would pay off after all. Sadly my optimism was misplaced, as two or three refusals followed the release of my solitary green drake eater.

The experiment taught me that the fish were looking toward the surface, so I returned to the medium olive size 14 stimulator. This fly produced six takes in the late morning, so why not give it an encore? It was worth a try, but the twenty minutes of drifting the stimulator failed to induce even a look or refusal. I was now in the middle of a series of quality deep runs and pockets, and not wishing to waste an opportunity, I returned to the Chernobyl ant, hares ear and salvation. The green drake experiment took place while I rested on a fish count of eighteen, and the resumption of dry/dropper prospecting lifted the count to its final resting place of twenty-six.

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So Vivid

By 3:15 I reached the Stevens Gulch day use area, so I turned right and traveled along a paved entry lane to a wide gradual beach that served as a launching point for whitewater rafters. As I ambled to the water, I looked downstream and noticed a short elderly angler at the very tail of the large pool. In order to provide space I began casting my flies at the very top of the pool where a series of choppy rapids entered. I sprayed five drifts to this area, with each one farther toward the middle of the river, but the fish were either not present or not interested in my flies.

I applied my rule and moved to a small marginal pocket below some shrubs, and I hooked a cast beneath the limb, and when I lifted to make a second cast, I felt some weight and landed an eight inch brown trout. Several bushes extended over the river tight to the bank, so I began to circle inland with the intent of resuming my upstream progression, when I noticed the same elderly fisherman that was positioned forty yards below me at the tail of the large pool. He had just moved into position ten feet above me, and I concluded he was not aware of my presence, so I shouted, “I’m here”. I expected he would apologize and give me some space, but instead he replied, “I see you”, and he resumed his preparation to cast. I was more dumbfounded than angry at this point, so I reeled up my line and hiked back to the car. In excess of fifty miles of river exist on the Cache la Poudre, and this angler felt compelled to cut in ten feet above me. Sometimes the thought process of other human beings is very perplexing.

After I reached the car, I stashed my gear and drove east beyond Stove Prairie to a segment of the river that was wide with a long fast riffle structure. I surmised that I could fish the narrow ribbon of slow water along the bank, so I geared up and walked to the base of the long fast section. Before resuming the edge fishing, I prospected around some large exposed boulders where the river angled away from the highway, but this was not productive. The clock was ticking toward four, and I wanted to prospect the left bank, as I was certain that few fishermen endured the hassle of sliding down the steep bank through thick bushes to fish relatively unattractive water. My light pressure theory may have been correct, but twenty minutes of tough wading and casting rewarded me with only one more nine inch brown.

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Typical

The one fish I did land resulted in the loss of my two nymphs. When I hooked the spunky brown trout it raced downstream past a large submerged block-shaped rock, and the trailing nymphs snagged the rock on the side away from me. I waded close to the fish and lifted it above the water and swooped my net under it. Somehow this action caused the leader to break above the first nymph, and all that remained was the Chernobyl ant. I reached my hand around the rock, but I could not feel any line or flies, so I added them to my lost inventory.

Monday was an enjoyable day on the Cache la Poudre River. Twenty-six fish is a solid tally for five hours of fishing, and the action was relatively steady throughout the time on the river. I encountered only a couple other fishermen, and I proved that other sections of the river besides the Pingree Park special regulation area could provide decent results. Unlike my previous visits, I observed very few insects, but the above average flows seemed to please the trout, and they continued to feed opportunistically.

Fish Landed: 26