Author Archives: wellerfish

South Boulder Creek – 09/21/2022

Time: 10:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/21/2022 Photo Album

Having finally recovered from an intense but enjoyable four days in the Flattops area, I once again set my sights on a day of fly fishing along the Front Range. I quickly checked on South Boulder Creek, and I noted that the flows were recently adjusted to 86 CFS. I checked other Front Range possibilities, but this action was simply an exercise in thoroughness, because 86 CFS is near my ideal range, and I was sold on a trip to the small tailwater almost immediately. Weather, however, was the one negative, as high temperatures for Pinecliffe were projected to be 55 degrees, and rain was an increasing likelihood from 2:00PM on. I decided to take the risk of another day of bad weather and departed from Denver on Wednesday morning.

Three vehicles arrived in the Kayak parking lot, while I prepared to fish. One angler dressed in shorts departed with his dog, before I was prepared to do the same. I knew that Wednesday was destined to be a chilly day, so I wore my light down coat over my quick dry undershirt and fishing shirt and stuffed a long sleeved Under Armour thermal shirt in my backpack along with my raincoat. I opted for my Loomis two piece five weight, because I enjoyed it on two days of fly fishing small streams in the Flattops. I recognized that I was at a high risk of overheating on my inbound hike, but I did not have a proper place to stow my light down coat.

A Small Amount of Color Change

My concerns were well founded, and when I perched along the creek and configured my line, I felt the clammy wetness of my undershirt. In fact, I sensed that the perspiration had soaked through to my fishing shirt. I was relatively warm from the exertion, so I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line and began to cast to likely spots with the hope that the atmosphere would warm, or the layers would wick away the sweat. These were both bad assumptions, and although I set a goal to last until lunch before making changes, I was forced to deal with my sweaty state by 11:30AM. High gray clouds blocked the sun throughout the morning, and when a breeze commenced, I felt very uncomfortable. I stripped down to my bare chest and attempted to sop up the perspiration on my upper body, before I snugged on my Under Armour layer. It instantly felt better. I skipped my fishing shirt and went right to the down coat as my next layer, even though it displayed signs of sweat in several locations. For my final layer I pulled on my rain shell. I was hopeful that this would seal in my body warmth and block the wind and cold and eventually rain. In addition, I unfolded the earflaps on my hat, and these moves along with my lunch placed me in a tolerable level of comfort, while I continued my efforts to hook and land some South Boulder Creek trout. I rolled up the short sleeved undershirt and fishing shirt and stuffed them in the backpack in place of the raincoat and Under Armour.

Small but Appreciated Early

As mentioned earlier, I began probing the depths of the stream with a peacock hippie stomper, but gorgeous deep pools, that I was certain harbored trout, failed to deliver, so I paused to reload with a Jake’s gulp beetle. Why the beetle? I had decent success with beetles and ants during previous September trips to South Boulder Creek. It was a great thought, but the beetle attracted zero interest, so I paused once again to reconfigure. The surface flies failed to create a refusal, so I concluded that the fish were more focused on subsurface food morsels, and this thought caused me to attach a size 8 tan pool toy hopper along with a prince nymph on a three foot dropper. Although I continued to fish very attractive spots with no results, I did hook and land three small trout on the prince. Even this success, however, did not convince me that I was presenting the desired offering, so I once again began to experiment. I replaced the prince with a salvation nymph with the hope that a pale morning dun nymph imitation might kick start some action, and similar to the prince, it generated a few small fish, but it did not seem to be a prevalent food source.

Sweet Spot

Out of the Water

By noon my fish count rested on seven, and these fish were small and hard to come by. The morning fishing experience was a huge deviation from two earlier days on South Boulder Creek, when green drakes enticed a trout to eat on nearly every cast. Between 12:15PM and 2:00PM I benefitted from my layer rearrangement, and I was at my peak level of comfort for the day, although I was not basking in a glow of satisfying warmth. What I really needed was more fly fishing action to divert my attention away from my body temperature.

Certain Trout Home

Love the Orange Shade of the Lower Body

I was dissatisfied with the dry/dropper results, so I decided to revert to a dry fly approach. Could the South Boulder Creek trout still respond to green drakes? The weather remained quite summerlike up until Wednesday, so it was worth a shot. I knotted a parachute green drake to my line, and it mostly provoked refusals, although I did net a pair of very aggressive feeders with long memories. I liked the visibility of the green drake, so I left it on my line and added a size 16 gray caddis on a one foot dropper. These two flies allowed the fish count to mushroom to double digits, but I was not convinced that I was optimizing my time on the usually productive creek.

Fish the Slick

I concluded that I could generate refusals just as easily with the more buoyant peacock hippie stomper, so I swapped out the parachute green drake, and as I was performing this transition, I noted a small stonefly and a couple small pale morning duns. A few random rises appeared, and I interpreted these as a sign to tie on a PMD comparadun. I replaced the caddis with a size 18 light gray comparadun, and my fortunes suddenly looked promising. For the remainder of my time on the water I probed slower moving pockets, riffles and slicks; and the comparadun became a favorite target of the stream residents, although the stomper nailed its share of takers particularly along faster seams, where the trout had less time to inspect my offering. At some point the comparadun wing became a sparse wisp of deer hair, so I replaced it with a size 16 gray comparadun with a full fan-shaped wing, and this fly maintained the elevated catch rate, although probably a bit slower than the smaller mayfly imitation. Toward the very end of my time on the creek I replaced the comparadun with a classic size 16 Adams, and that fly also accounted for four trout.

Lovely Ink Spots

Predator

The fish count moved steadily to twenty-eight, and as this hot action transpired, a light rain began to descend, and the temperature slid downward. I used these factors as an excuse to exit, and I hiked back to the parking lot. Jane and I had a dinner commitment at 6:30PM in south Denver, so that obligation also played into my decision to quit a bit earlier than usual. On my return hike I paused at a spectacular pool, and as I gazed across the deep, smooth water, I noticed that it was boiling with rises. I estimate that at least fifty fish were in a feeding frenzy. I lobbed ten casts with my hippie stomper and Adams, but they were totally ignored by the ravenous feeders. Clearly they were locked into something very small. I did not have time to experiment with fly changes, but I was very curious regarding the source of the surface eating feast, so I stretched my quick seine mesh over the mouth of my net and seined the water for a minute or two. I was not surprised to find a size 20 blue winged olive with perky upright wings, and this explained the scene in front of me. I filed this for future reference and hiked back to the car.

Two Trout from This Pool

Twenty-eight trout in 4.5 hours of fly fishing was appreciated by this avid angler. The size of the fish was average for the South Boulder Creek tailwater, and once I locked in on the comparadun, the catch rate was more than satisfactory. The two hour window, when I caught the most fish, coincided with an increase in insect activity, so perhaps my fly choices were not as important as the time of the day. Nevertheless, I was pleased to post a solid day after green drake season, and I look forward to more trips to South Boulder Creek before the season winds down.

Fish Landed: 28

South Fork of the White River – 09/16/2022

/Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Upstream from South Fork Campground

South Fork of the White River 09/16/2022 Photo Album

A year ago I fly fished the South Fork and enjoyed one of the most spectacular days of 2021. In fact, it was one of the best days of my life. On Friday, September 16 I revisited the same Flattops gem. I did not expect a repeat, but I also could not predict the adventure that unfolded.

My Destination

The sky was very foreboding, as I assembled my Sage R8 four weight. Knowing that I would perspire on my entry hike, I stuffed my raincoat in my fishing backpack. This left me with a quick-dry undershirt, fishing shirt, and light down parka. After a mile of exertion, I was beginning to sweat, and light rain commenced. I paused under a large evergreen for shelter, and removed all my layers, and then dressed again for the impending weather conditions. I began with my fishing shirt next to my skin, and then my light down parka, and finally my raincoat. The move was timely, as it began to rain steadily, and the raincoat contained my body heat; thus, accelerating my perspiration. It rained so hard for a fifteen minute period, that I once again sought the shelter of a large evergreen.

Goodbye Noble Buddy

Tough Fight

By 10:30 I reached my chosen starting point, and the rain subsided to a steady light downpour. I began fishing with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a prince nymph and a salvation nymph. I reviewed my post from 2021, and these flies delivered outstanding success, so why not attempt to repeat the magic? It was not long before a twelve inch rainbow smacked the pool toy, but in the process of landing the zealous fighter, the trout created a monster snarl. I was forced to cut off all the flies and essentially start over with my rig.

Pretty Aspen Grove Still Green

The Prize I Was Seeking

Between 10:30AM and noon I landed four trout including a brightly colored and chunky fourteen inch rainbow, but the catch rate lagged 2021, and I developed a severe chill while fishing through steady rain. The air temperature, when I began my hike was 44 degrees, and I checked it before lunch only to discover a modest increase to 48 degrees. During the heaviest period of rain the wind kicked up, and I was forced to address another massive monofilament snarl. Once again I snipped off all three flies, but this time I extended the main dropper below the hopper by a foot to four feet. At least I thought I did. When I began attaching my flies, the long dropper was nowhere to be found, so I uncoiled another four foot length. I was feeling bad about unknowingly littering four feet of 4X, but just as I staged my line to cast, guess what I found wrapped around my fly line? It was the recently missing extended four foot section. I coiled it as best I could and stuffed it in my wader bib pocket for potential later use. As the reader will note, I spent a disproportionate amount of time tending to line issues, and this circumstance along with the weather partially explained my low morning fish count.

So Clear

Take Two

Meanwhile, I was beginning to exhibit a slight shiver, so I stripped down to my bare chest and pulled on the quick-dry undershirt and swapped the sweat drenched fishing shirt back to my backpack. This exchange along with food and pulling down my earflaps allowed me to outlast the rain, but the thought of hiking back to the car surfaced in my brain several times. I stayed with the same three fly configuration for most of my remaining time, although I experimented briefly with an amber ice dub pool toy, an iron sally, a 20 incher, and a go2 caddis pupa. None of the trial flies yielded results.

Head Shot

During the afternoon I improved the fish count to fourteen. Of course, there were some six and seven inch tiddlers, but I also added four robust rainbows and cutbows in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. I also experienced my share of long distance releases, and several of them were respectable fish in the same thirteen to fifteen inch range.

I was considering an end to my day, as I was stuck on fourteen, when I snagged three flies in a dead limb due to a lack of awareness. It was just plain stupid fishing, but I suspected that I could pull on my line and bend the branch down enough to unravel the errant flies. This was not a sure thing, but I thought three flies deserved the effort. I pulled the branch down and broke it off, but my right foot, which supported most of my weight, slipped, and I sat back in some relatively deep current next to an exposed boulder. The ice cold water rushed over the top of my waders, and I was in a state of shock and anger. This episode made my decision to quit a no brainer, and I immediately sloshed back to the car over a considerable distance. Of course, the trail was a slick muddy quagmire that was chewed up by pack horses and hunters. When I eventually dumped my waders in the parking lot, I spilled two quarts from each foot.

Left Center Was the Place to Be

On the plus side, I landed five gorgeous wild rainbows and cutbows in the thirteen to fifteen inch range, and these robust South Fork trout were some of the hardest fighting fish of that size that I encountered. Given my chill early and late and the dunking, I am not sure the effort justified the results. 2022 was a far cry from 2021, but I will likely give the South Fork another chance in the future, if my health permits.

Fish Landed: 14

North Fork of the White River – 09/15/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Flattops Area

North Fork of the White River 09/15/2022 Photo Album

What does one do for an encore after a sixty-three fish day? Read on.

I heard the pitter patter of rain on the roof of my cabin, so I expected a wet day on Thursday; and I was not disappointed. However, with my light down coat, rain shell, and billed hat with earflaps I was reasonably comfortable during my day on the North Fork of the White River. The temperature as I departed the Santa Fe was 48 degrees, and because of overcast conditions, it never climbed above 60 degrees. As was the case on Wednesday, the flows were normal for mid-September.

Nice Run and Pool

Worth a Second Snap

I copied my wildly successful fly choices on Wednesday, and began with a peacock hippie stomper and salvation nymph on my Loomis five weight. I applied ferrule wax to the single connection on the two piece, and separation at the end of the day was a snap compared to Wednesday. During the 1.5 hour morning session I moved quickly in order to get deeper into the national forest than any of my previous visits, and along the way I picked up nine trout. Unlike Wednesday I discovered that this section of the White held 70% rainbows and cutbows, and this nearly reversed the ratio compared to Wednesday. Several morning cutbows were chunky thirteen inch fish, but I also connected with quite a few decent trout that flopped free, just as I was preparing to hoist them toward the net. This circumstance repeated so often that I actually removed the salvation and replaced it with another during lunch with the hope that it contained a sharper hook point.

Deep Gold

Check Out the Orange

Zoomed in Close

After lunch I continued with the stomper and salvation and nudged the fish count to thirteen. Some dense clouds filled the sky in the early afternoon, and I weathered a fifteen minute period of heavy rain. I grew frustrated with the slow period and the difficulty of tracking the hippie stomper in the intermittent glare, so I replaced the stomper with a size 8 tan pool toy. The pool toy/salvation combination enabled the fish count to blossom from thirteen to twenty-four, but once again the nymph accounted for most of the netted trout. As was the case in the morning, but to a lesser degree, I suffered quite a few temporary hook ups with seemingly nice sized cutbows.

Trout Town

Outstanding Markings

When I reached twenty-four, I stumbled into another fish catch rut, so I swapped the pool toy for an amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl. This exchange preceded my arrival at a gorgeous long run and pool along some fallen logs. On my second cast a large trout grabbed the salvation and immediately dashed downstream toward the downstream border of the pool which featured several angled logs. I tried to arrest  the run with side pressure, but the ploy was ineffective, and I stripped in my line devoid of a chubby and salvation. Once again I failed to net one of the best fish encountered during the day.

Tucked Deep to the Logs

Mighty Fine

Classic Rainbow

I was humbled by the experience and replaced the chubby with a classic Chernobyl ant and added another salvation. For the remainder of the afternoon I progressed upstream at a steady pace and augmented the fish tally to thirty-six. Several thirteen to fourteen inch cutbows graced my net during this time. At 3:50PM I decided to fish one last deep hole below a cluster of fallen logs. I landed a small brook trout, but I was convinced the prime location supported some better fish. In a final effort to extract one of these assumed big boys, I added a size 14 prince nymph below the salvation, and I plunked a cast tight to the stick jumble at the top of the run and pool. I was fortunate to avoid a snag, and the Chernobyl dipped thus prompting a swift hook set. Imagine my excitement, when I landed a gorgeous fourteen inch cutbow. The deep golden body filled with large black spots suggested that this fish was more cutthroat than rainbow.

I enjoyed a thirty -six fish day including some stunning cutbows, and I accomplished this in spite of adverse weather conditions. Once again the Flattops delivered outstanding fishing to this appreciative angler.

Fish Landed: 36

North Fork of the White River – 09/14/2022

Time: 10:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: National forest

North Fork of the White River 09/14/2022 Photo Album

Wednesday was an amazing day and a stellar payback for my disappointing Tuesday afternoon. Let me explain.

Ooh and Ah Pool

Pleased

The last weather forecast that I examined before getting out of cell range on Tuesday predicted a high probability of rain on Wednesday afternoon with a high temperature in the low sixties. This forecast caused me to postpone my hike in to the South Fork, and instead I chose to spend the day on the North Fork, where I was closer to civilization in case of heavy rain. The temperature at 10:00AM was fifty degrees, so I wore my light down parka with my raincoat as an external layer and windbreaker. In addition, I wore my New Zealand billed hat with earflaps. I chose this hat, as it is more compatible with a raincoat hood than my western wide-brimmed head piece. During the morning and early afternoon the sky featured large high clouds and sporadic rain, but thunderstorms and heavy rain never materialized. Some blue sky appeared between 3:00PM and 4:00PM, and I was actually borderline overheated with my layers.

Another Promising Slot

Workhorse Stomper

Nestled

The flows appeared to be normal for the second week of September, and I took full advantage. I began with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper combined with a size 14 prince nymph and these flies allowed me to build the fish count to nine by the time I adjourned for lunch at noon. Although the morning results were decent, I was plagued with quite a few refusals and temporary connections to the pool toy, so I removed the hopper and shifted to a size 14 peacock body hippie stomper. The ninth fish that I landed snapped off the salvation, as I raised it to my net, so I experimented with the stomper fished solo. The single dry performed admirably, and the fish count climbed to nineteen.

Gold, Pink and Black

Spectacular

At this point in the early afternoon, I suffered through a rare fifteen minute slump, so I added a salvation nymph to the arrangement. Voila! The stomper and salvation remained on center stage, until I quit at 4:30PM. What a winning combination it was, as the fish count exploded to sixty-three! The overwhelming star of the afternoon performance was the salvation nymph, although the hippie stomper continued to be in demand.

On Fire

Fat and Orange Like a Pumpkin

Of course, a huge number of landed trout were brookies in the 6-8 inch range, but I estimate that at least twenty rainbows and cutbow hybrids chomped on my flies during the course of my fly fishing expedition. Of the bow family haul at least ten trout were dynamic finned creatures in the twelve to fifteen inch range. I was quite pleased to interact with these feisty creek residents. I do not wish to overlook the brook trout, as I was fortunate to touch five in the eleven to twelve inch range with brilliant orange bellies. A foot long brook trout is a catch to be proud of. In this small stream environment beauty more than made up for size. As usual, the most productive locations were characterized by depth and length, and as time passed, I became more adept at placing my casts in the higher probability trout locations. Hopefully the torrid high mountain angling can continue on Thursday.

Fish Landed: 63

Closing In

Next to the Foam Produced

North Fork of the White River – 09/13/2022

Time: 1:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Flattops area

North Fork of the White River 09/13/2022 Photo Album

September 13 was the beginning of my annual four days of fishing in the Flattops area of Colorado. I returned from family reunions in Pennsylvania and New Jersey on Sunday, September 11, and I was anxious to get reacquainted with high country fly fishing. For the past ten years this trip during the second week of September has become a tradition. The five day weather forecast called for sunny and dry on Tuesday, September 13; however, rain was a high probability over the remainder of the week. For the second year in a row I abandoned camping in favor of a small rustic cabin at the Ute Lodge. A bed, flush toilet, running water, a refrigerator and heat qualified as luxury in this remote region of the Flattops.

North Fork of the White River

As usual, I stopped along my route to the Ute Lodge to fish on Tuesday afternoon. The air temperature was in the low sixties, when I arrived at my chosen starting point, and the thermometer probably peaked around 66 degrees, before some dense gray clouds slid in from the west. After thirty minutes of fishing I was forced to don my raincoat, as two brief periods of heavy rain made my effort worthwhile. Toward the end of the afternoon the western sky appeared to be even more threatening, and the wind kicked up and dropped the temperature to 60 degrees. I was on the edge of a significant chill. As I gazed down to the river while preparing to fish, I noted that it seemed lower than previous years, but the flows were easily adequate for my purposes.

Lovely Fish

Speckles Everywhere

I began my quest for White River rainbows and cutbows with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a size 14 prince nymph, and a size 16 salvation nymph. Except for the final hour, when I replaced the salvation with an ultra zug bug, these flies remained on my line. I covered .6 mile of river and landed thirteen trout. All the fish that rested in my net were rainbows and cutbows, and the tally included three respectable cutbows in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. I moved fairly quickly and limited my casts to spots with depth and length.

Some Deep Runs

Very Nice Chunk

I must admit that Tuesday was a bit disappointing. Thirteen trout is certainly respectable, however, I traditionally scoop more and larger fish from this section on day one. I sensed that lower flows reduced the number of prime holding spots for larger fish. I also suspect that improved signage denoting public water increased the pressure on this section of the White. Tomorrow is a new day, and the weather forecast predicts a high likelihood of rain. It will be interesting.

Fish Landed: 13

Elk Creek – 09/02/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: National Forest

Elk Creek 09/02/2022 Photo Album

After completing a hike with my daughter, Amy, along this creek, I was apprehensive about my day of fishing on Friday, September 2, 2022. Although the stream corridor was stunning in beauty, the relatively low and extremely clear flows suggested that stealth and caution would be required to connect with a few fish. In fact, during our hike along the creek, I was unable to observe a single fish in spite of extreme clarity.

The temperature was in the mid-sixties, as I began my hike, and the bright sun and clear skies caused the air temperature to peak around eighty degrees by the time I quit at 3:30PM, but the water temperature remained ice cold from its source at high elevation. When I arrived at my chosen starting point, I knotted a tan pool toy hopper to my line and then added a salvation nymph and a black sunk ant. I was concerned that the three fly dry/dropper might create too much impact and spook the skittish residents, but I was certain that the trout were hiding in the faster and deeper oxygenated runs, and I needed a buoyant top fly to support the two subsurface offerings.

Starting Point

My approach paid dividends in the morning, as I landed nine trout, before I broke for lunch next to a massive hole by a large uprooted tree. The hopper attracted its share of refusals, but it also accounted for four of the nine trout, while three grabbed the salvation and one nipped the sunk ant. Two of the landed AM fish were in the thirteen to fourteen inch range, and they eventually represented my best trout of the day. After lunch I tossed the dry/dropper in the deep slow moving pool next to the root ball, and another respectable thirteen inch brown trout attacked the salvation, as the fish count mounted to ten. I photographed and released the welcome catch, and then I noticed a small triangular slot between the fast current, an exposed boulder and a large rock with a vertical wall. The main current was deflecting off the wall, and this created a nice deep hole upstream of the deflection.  I dropped a short cast in the tight space with no reaction, but a second flick caused the water to erupt, as a heavy trout crushed the hopper, with its momentum carrying it above the surface. I responded with a hook set and then applied side pressure to prevent the prize from heading downstream under a small cluster of branches. My efforts were to no avail, and the irate trout snapped off two flies. By this time I had removed the trailing sunk ant. Needless to say, this angler was quite upset with this turn of events. Not only did I lose perhaps the heaviest fish of the day, but I was now faced with re-rigging my entire setup.

Home to a Nice Brown Trout

Another Fine Brown Trout

I plucked another pool toy hopper from my box and tied it to the 5X tippet. This hopper contained an amber ice dub body, and then I added a new salvation nymph to replicate my previous arrangement. I continued upstream with this combination and elevated the count to twelve, before the frequency of refusals to the hopper forced me to reevaluate.

My Lunch Pool from Below

Salvation in the Corner of the Mouth

I paused and pondered and decided to continue with the dry/dropper, but I downsized the surface fly to a size 14 peacock body hippie stomper. My choice proved to be on the mark, and between 12:30PM and 3:30PM, when I retired, I increased the fish counter from twelve to thirty-four. Five of the afternoon netted trout were browns in the twelve inch range, and the remainder measured between six and eleven inches. The salvation accounted for 60% of these fly eaters, and 40% responded to the hippie stomper.

So Clear!

Happy With This One

I had a blast during my first visit to the high country creek on Friday. I moved steadily and kept my distance from the prime locations. This required longer than normal casts, but fortunately the creek was wide enough to enable long back casts. Deploying only one nymph minimized messy dry/dropper snarls and in turn allowed my flies to be in the water more than in my hands unraveling monofilament snarls. What a joy to watch trout magically materialize from what appeared to be a rocky streambed devoid of life. Even a small fish was a welcome surprise in these challenging conditions.

Hole Along the Ledge

Fun Catch

During my time on the stream, the most productive water type was riffles over moderate depth, and this condition tended to occur at the tail of deep pools. I am always amazed when a trout grabs my nymph, as the top fly accelerates at the lip of a pool, but this was a frequent occurrence on Friday. A few very visual surface grabs of the hopper and stomper in deep runs along the bank were also valued encounters.

Postcard

Tilted for Effect

My morning apprehension gradually disappeared, as I learned to read the water and coaxed fish from spots that looked devoid of life. The combination of the gorgeous setting; cold, clear water, and willing trout certainly made this a destination I look forward to visiting again in the future.

Fish Landed: 34

Lake Creek – 08/31/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: .5 mile up trail

Lake Creek 08/31/2022 Photo Album

After three previous visits to this high country creek, I harbored high expectations for a stellar day of fly fishing on the last day of August. The weather was a bit warmer than desired, as I began my short hike at 10:00AM with the dashboard thermometer registering in the mid-sixties. By the time I quit in the late afternoon, it was probably around eighty degrees. The flows were seasonally low, but as expected for late summer.

Money

I began my backcountry adventure with my Orvis Access four weight, and I tied on an olive body hippie stomper and trailed a beadhead hares ear, but the early going was disappointing, as numerous refusals to the hippie stomper ruled my progression upstream. A few fish below six inches managed to get their tiny mouths around the size 14 stomper, but disappointment ruled the first twenty minutes. All the action was on top, and the nymph was irrelevant, so I swapped the dropper for a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. I finally kick started the fish counter with an eleven inch brown trout and a couple barely six inch browns on the caddis, but prime spots were not producing as expected. This was not the creek I remembered from previous visits.

Black and Brown

I began a period of experimentation, which included a brief marriage to a size 10 classic Chernobyl ant. The Chernobyl was treated as inert flotsam, so I switched to a size 14 parachute green drake. Initially the drake duped a few eager small browns, but then it also reached a state of ineffectiveness. I gazed inside my fly box and settled on a size 14 yellow stimulator. Surely this small creek was the home to yellow sallies and golden stoneflies. To some degree the move paid off, and I augmented the count to nine by 11:45AM, when I grabbed a mossy seat on a rock and munched my lunch.

Oooh!

Prime

Although I managed nine trout during my morning session, the size of the fish was disappointing, with most in the six to nine inch range. The most productive water types were marginal small pockets and short riffles; the types of locales, where one would expect smaller fish. The deep, prime holes were inexplicably not revealing larger trout.

Just before lunch I snapped off the yellow stimulator on a branch during a backcast, so I replaced it with an olive size 14 stimulator. This fly continued my record of spotty success, and I eventually added a size 14 olive deer hair caddis on a one foot dropper. The double dries enabled me to build the fish count to twelve, but I sensed that I was missing out on trout in attractive pools.

Soft Re-entry

I decided to resort to my bread and butter approach…a dry/dropper with two subsurface flies. I knew I was risking snags and tangles, but I was desperate for more consistent action. After a brief pause for reconfiguration, my line featured an olive hippie stomper, salvation nymph, and a black sunk ant. Finally the stream residents began to respond, and before I quit at 3:30PM, the fish count blossomed to twenty-five. The size of the trout improved with a thirteen inch brown in the mix for the best of the day award, and a few eleven and twelve inch fighters also visited my net.

Does Not Get Any Better

All was not perfect, however, as the three fly arrangement led to an abundant quantity of nasty tangles. The main cause of this frustration was a small fish eating the leading stomper and then twisting the two trailers in a ridiculous pattern of tight loops. Needless to say, this fisherman was not happy with the adverse circumstances.

Small Stream Prize

Wednesday evolved into a decent day numbers wise, but size of fish was a negative compared to earlier trips to this high country jewel. It did seem that somewhat larger fish appeared, as I moved farther away from my parking space, so my next venture will likely entail a longer hike. The conventional wisdom of getting away from a parking lot or campground seems to apply. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day in the Rocky Mountains, and for that I am thankful.

Fish Landed: 25

St. Vrain Creek – 08/26/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Upstream from Lyons

St. Vrain Creek 08/26/2022 Photo Album

Jane and I along with some pickleball friends reserved campsites near the St. Vrain from August 14 through August 17. Unfortunately a family emergency caused us to cancel our reservation, and it also thwarted my plans to fish the St. Vrain. Today, however, August 25 I returned to the St. Vrain for a day of fly fishing.

The temperature was sixty degrees, as I pulled into the parking lot and prepared to fish. I assembled my Orvis Access four weight for the small stream with tight vegetation, and I hiked a decent distance to create a buffer from the parking lot angling crowd. When I approached the creek, I was pleased with the perfect clarity, and the flows seemed a bit higher than normal for late August. I was actually pleased with this circumstance, since the conditions dictated less stealth than required at lower levels.

Ready to Start

I began my day with a peacock hippie stomper fished solo, but after ten minutes with only refusals, I swapped the stomper for a size 16 olive body deer hair caddis. The refusals transitioned into takes, and I quickly built the fish count to five before a fairly lengthy lull suggested another change in flies. The small caddis was difficult to track, especially in faster runs and in riffled pockets, so I made a radical change to a classic size 10 Chernobyl ant. The Chernobyl produced several swirls and a temporary hook up, but it was ignored in some prime pools, so I reverted to the hippie stomper with a beadhead hares ear dropper. My evaluation of the dry/dropper was cut short, when I set the hook on an imaginary fish and catapulted the two flies into a live evergreen that was out of reach. Direct pressure resulted in the loss of both flies, and I used the pause to settle on a mossy bank to consume my lunch.

Gold Speckled Brook Trout

Trout Lair

After lunch I replaced the dry/dropper with a Jake’s gulp beetle, since the fish showed interest in the Chernobyl, which I consider a large beetle. I hoped that a downsizing strategy would incite the resident fish to eat, but it did not, and I quickly converted once again to a yellow stimulator. The yellow stimulator accounted for several fish, and the fish count blossomed to double digits. The sixty degree air temperature by now had moved up moderately to the mid-sixties, but I was chilled from the perspiration from my inbound hike, so I pulled on my raincoat for additional warmth. This move proved to be a winner, as several waves of heavy cloud cover moved over the stream during the remainder of my time fly fishing. In fact, I spent the last hour fishing in the rain.

Nice Little Pool

Sought After Cutthroat

As was the case with the previous flies, the stimulator wore out its welcome, and I paused to assess my choices. I decided to once again prioritize visibility, and I returned to the peacock hippie stomper, and during this installment, I added a black sunk ant on a 1.5 foot dropper. I wanted the ant to be near the surface, since most of the feeding seemed to be in the top layer of water. I finally found a consistent producer, and I maintained the stomper/ant dropper combination for the remainder of the afternoon and built the fish count to thirty-three. Once I settled on the productive combination, I had a blast. I moved relatively quickly and focused on the water types that generated the best results. Long riffles over coble bottom with two feet of depth or greater were sure bets. Soft shelf pools and deep plunge pools with slow moving current were also attractive options. Depth and cover were the two main qualities that defined consistent positive results on the high country stream on Friday.

On Display

Maybe Best of the Day

Wide Body for This Creek

What was I catching? My largest fish were cutthroats, and I landed six absolutely gorgeous slash jawed trout during my four hours. The cutthroats were not as populous, but they definitely guarded the prime locations. The rest of the fish that dwelled in my net were brook trout, and they were much more aggressive feeders and disbursed throughout the system, but the largest brookie measured eleven inches, and most fell within the six to eight inch range. The brook trout made up for their lack of size with their color schemes, as I released many with bright orange bellies.

Several Fish Emerged from This Long Slow-Moving Pool

Another Prime Cutthroat Spot

Friday was a fun day. I love prospecting high country streams in spite of the tendency for the fish to be on the small side. The surprise of a surface smack by a wild trout never grows old, and the possibility of encountering a copper hued speckled cutty with bright red cheeks and a slash under the jaw is hard to resist.

Fish Landed: 33

Deep Colors

Brook Trout Magnificence

 

Avalanche Creek – 08/22/2022

Time: 3:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Below campground

Avalanche Creek 08/22/2022 Photo Album

While staying in Carbondale with my daughter, Amy, I visited the Crystal River Fly Shop, and I purchased a few items, before I pumped the salesmen in the store about small high elevation streams in the Roaring Fork Valley. They suggested quite a few options to explore, but the one that caught my immediate attention was Avalanche Creek. This stream is a tributary of the Crystal River and only a thirty minute drive from Amy’s house.

On Monday morning Jane, Amy and I drove to Aspen Highlands and rented e-bikes, which we utilized to ascend the Maroon Creek Road to the Maroon Bells. We snapped a decent quantity of photos and completed the Maroon Lake Loop Trail, before we set the bikes on eco and cruised back to Aspen Highlands. The entire experience was breathtaking. I am still trying to figure out how to access Maroon Creek for some fly fishing.

At any rate, after our return to Carbondale, I ate a quick lunch and launched an exploratory expedition to Avalanche Creek. I was concerned about discoloration from recent rains, as the Crystal River exhibited a reddish-cream color, but I was willing to invest a short drive and a few hours for research and development.

The weather was pleasant with temperatures in the seventies and partly cloudy skies. As I drove along Avalanche Creek, I was unable to catch a glimpse of the creek; and, thus, the water clarity, until I bounced over the rough dirt road for a mile or two. Finally I obtained a look and concluded clarity was not an issue. Since it was my first visit, I had no basis for comparison, but the flows seemed quite strong for late August.

Near the Start

I parked in a small pullout along the dirt road and rigged my Orvis Access four weight and then navigated my way down a sparse path to the creek, where I had to slide over a steep five foot embankment. For the next two hours I battled the steep gradient and overhanging canopy to land three trout; one rainbow and two brook trout. None of the trout exceeded eight inches. Two hours of fly fishing in these conditions equated to four hours in a more forgiving riparian environment.

One of Three

Early in my efforts I tested a classic Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear, and the rainbow nabbed the hares ear in a small depression. This combination fell out of favor, and I switched to a tan size 8 pool toy hopper trailing the hares ear and a salvation nymph, but the tight overhead vegetation combined with the dropper nymphs was unmanageable and led to constant snags and tangles. I finished the day with a medium olive hippie stomper and a gray size 14 stimulator in a double dry fly configuration, and the two brook trout slurped the stimulator. I also experienced quite a few momentary hookups with what were likely small brookies, but two more sizeable catches managed to escape my hook after very brief connections.

High Gradient and Overhead Canopy

Would I return to Avalanche Creek? Possibly. If I could locate a stretch with a more gradual gradient, and if flows were reduced, I could anticipate more success. Until I identify more favorable conditions, I will move Avalanche Creek down my priority list, while I continued to explore more options.

Fish Landed: 3

Frying Pan River – 08/19/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: East of Basalt

Frying Pan River 08/19/2022 Photo Album

After a series of storms, the stream and river levels in the Roaring Fork Valley elevated significantly, but by Friday I was ready to visit the Frying Pan River. The upper river dropped from 130 cfs to 79 cfs over a two day period, and that convinced me to make the drive from my daughter’s condo in Carbondale, CO. The dashboard displayed a temperature of 60 degrees, when I arrived at my chosen pullout, and as the day progressed, the air warmed into the upper 60’s. Dark clouds and rain, however, dominated the sky in the early afternoon, and this forced the temperature to drop back to the low 60’s  At lunch I pulled out my raincoat, and I wore it until I ended my fishing adventure at 2PM. The raincoat protected me from the rain and kept me warm in the early afternoon.

Nice Pockets

As I began my fly fishing venture, I crossed to the north side of the river and configured my line with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a beadhead hares ear nymph, and a beadhead salvation nymph, while casting my new Sage R8 four weight. I chose the Sage R8 because the river level was higher than normal.

Salvation Nymph Fancier

By the time I broke for lunch at noon, eleven fish visited my net. Nearly all were rainbow trout, and a third of my catch smacked the hopper, another third nabbed the hares ear, and the remainder grabbed the salvation. The rainbows were predominantly spunky trout in the ten to eleven inch range. I managed to lift five silver-sided bows from one particularly productive deep run along the south bank.

Deep Slots Produced

After lunch I continued with the same approach until just before 2PM, and I built the fish count to twenty-four. The early afternoon results were very similar to the morning with a few brown trout sprinkled in including a gorgeous thirteen incher. The success rate on the hares ear faded a bit, and the salvation compensated. The only negative was an increase in the number of temporary hook ups on the pool toy.

Great Fish for These Waters

Friday was a fun day after a week away from fly fishing. Twenty-four trout in three hours of fishing was appreciated. A thirteen inch rainbow and brown trout topped the tally with most of the landed trout in the nine to eleven inch range. Another trip to the Frying Pan would be a welcome addition to the 2022 season.

Fish Landed: 24