Hippy Stomper – 11/18/2018

Hippy Stomper 11/18/2018 Photo Album

My history with the hippy stomper is well documented in my post of 01/13/2018. This report notes that I experienced a small degree of success during several fall outings in 2017, and these experiences convinced me to produce twenty-five in preparation for the 2018 season. This raises the obvious question, how did the hippy stomper perform during live field tests in 2018?

A size 12 peacock hippy stomper joined my stable of prime producers during the spring, summer and fall of the past year. As I suspected, it served as an effective option between the larger foam attractors such as the fat Albert and Chernobyl ant and the smaller Jake’s gulp beetle. The hippy stomper became my first fallback choice when finicky trout rejected the size 8 and 10 terrestrials on my dry/dropper presentations. Although the hippy stomper contains thinner foam and offers a smaller surface area than the larger foam flies, it possesses adequate buoyancy to support two size 14 beadhead nymphs. Jake’s gulp beetle struggles to support two medium size nymphs, and this capability is important, as I love the three fly dry/dropper approach. I believe that the weight of two beadheads places the nymphs within the feeding range of the trout on a more consistent basis.

Since my experience with the hippy stomper was minimal, I tied ten with red bodies, ten with peacock bodies and five with silver ice dub bodies last winter. I speculated on effective body colors based on a few successes in the fall time period. During 2018 I deployed the hippy stomper throughout the season, and I learned that the peacock body versions outpaced the others in terms of desirability to the wild trout. This translated to peacocks spending significantly more time on my line, and of course this resulted in the loss of peacock body flies in the heat of battle.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookSize 12 standard dry fly hook
Thread Black 6/0
TailBlack deer hair
BodyTwo layers of foam; black 1.0 MM and dark green .5 MM
UnderbodyLigas peacock dubbing
LegsSmall Sililegs of preferred color
IndicatorWhite McFlylon poly yarn
HackleLarge grizzly hackle

In fact, I used my last hippy stomper during an October trip, and this required an in-season visit to my fly tying station. I generally try to avoid this circumstance, but the hippy stomper secured the status of required in my fly fishing arsenal. During the first in-season tying session I manufactured eleven using peacock dubbing, and these were immediately assigned active status. Once the weather cooled down at the end of October, my fishing outings became infrequent, and I added fourteen additional models to my storage container to reach a beginning inventory of twenty-five. I suspect the hippy stomper will continue to excel as the surface fly in a dry/dropper rig while serving as a superb fish attractor in solo dry fly mode.

I settled on the Anglers All tying demonstration on YouTube for my guidance on tying hippy stompers. I also discovered that Andrew Grillos is the designer of this relatively new fly, and I was already an enthusiastic adopter of his pool toy hopper pattern. I am very anxious to continue the hippy stomper experiment in 2019.

Prince Nymph – 11/17/2018

Prince Nymph 11/17/2018 Photo Album

In all likelihood the prince nymph is ranked among the top five nymphs by fly fishermen in the United States and perhaps only surpassed by the hares ear nymph and pheasant tail nymph. In my view the prince nymph lost a bit of its luster over the last three years, as I replaced it with the ultra zug bug, and the simplified version of the prince nymph proved to be very productive. Historically I found the goose biot wings on the classic prince nymph difficult to mount, and they were always the first component to fail during stream usage. The small slippery white biot wings inevitably became loose, and eventually I found myself fishing a peacock nymph with no wings. The white wings are probably the key triggering characteristic of a prince nymph, so fishing without them failed to take advantage of their attraction.

Mounting the brown biot tails was also a bit challenging, but I managed to master that step; although when I tied the ultra zug bug, I eliminated that complication as well. I simply tied in brown fibers from a pheasant feather as the tail, and the pattern design eliminated the white biot wings. The simple zug bug was very productive, and I valued it as one of my mainstay nymphs.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 2487 for size 16; Tiemco 5262 for size 12, 14
BeadGold sized to fit the hook
ThreadBlack 6/0
Tail2 brown goose biots curving away from each other
Wing2 white goose biots tied with the tips pointing forward over the bead and eye of the hook
RibFine gold or copper wire
Abdomen4 or 5 strands of peacock herl twisted with a section of thread
LegsTwo clumps of brown pheasant fibers tied on both sides of the thorax area
Wing PositionFold the white biot wings back over the body of the fly and tie down behind the bead with the tips split and forming a V
ThoraxPeacock ice dubbing over the thread wraps behind the bead.

But this piece is about the prince nymph, and I discovered two scenarios during the 2018 season, when the classic prince seemed to represent a favored food of Colorado trout. During the grannom caddis activity in April and May, a prince nymph in size 16 seemed to outperform the ultra zug bug, particularly when adult egg layers were active. Perhaps the natural iridescent peacock body or the white V-shaped wing explain this effectiveness, but in any event I like to carry a supply of the smaller prince nymphs in my fleece wallet.

During the 2018 season I also discovered that knotting a size 12 prince nymph to my line during green drake season produced some fairly consistent subsurface action. My total supply of these larger nymphs consisted of five, and I depleted them during fishing outings on the Cache la Poudre and South Boulder Creek during the time frame when green drakes were present. I suspect that better green drake nymph imitations exist, but field success counts a lot in my experience, so size 16 and 14 prince nymphs continued to earn slots in my fly containers.

Given the two situations outlined above, when prince nymphs provided a boost to my fly fishing fortunes, I decided to replenish my depleted supply. I remembered a series of tying tips in Fly Tyer Magazine that applied to tying prince nymphs, so I searched through my pile of old issues and found the piece that remained in my aging memory bank. One tip provided guidance to enable consistent mounting of the biot tails, so they split evenly and remain on the same plane. A second tip outlined the steps for locking down the white goose biot wings. I applied these recommendations and whipped out some quality prince nymphs in size 12, 14 and 16. I am fairly certain that the wing procedure greatly enhances the durability of a classic prince nymph.

My prince inventory now consists of five size 12’s, 15 size 14’s, and 20 size 16’s. I will no longer be reluctant to offer prince nymphs due to fears of depleting my supply. Hopefully these flies will continue to produce in the caddis and green drake situations as well as during general searching periods.

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 11/15/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Lavern Johnson Park

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 11/15/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

A snowstorm on Sunday deposited three or four inches in Stapleton, but according to news reports it delivered a foot to Boulder and the front range foothills. The weather forecast predicted highs of 60 degrees in Denver on Wednesday and Thursday, and I targeted one of these days for a late season fishing adventure. I dropped the Santa Fe off at the auto body shop on Monday for repairs to the bumper after a minor rear end incident on an earlier fishing trip to Boulder, and this reduced Jane and I to two cars. Adding to the logistical challenge of getting away for some stream time, the 1998 RAV displayed battery woes, and I was unable to start it on Tuesday. With Jane’s assistance we started it using jumper cables, and I immediately drove it to the nearby Brakes Plus. The man at the counter checked the schedule and committed to a diagnosis on Wednesday. Our two person family with three vehicles was now reduced to one on Wednesday, and I was reluctant to strand Jane with no transportation, so I delayed my fishing plans to Thursday.

Fortunately Brakes Plus lived up to their commitment, and they replaced the battery in the RAV on Wednesday. Jane needed her Forte for tennis permanent court time on Thursday, so my fly fishing venture was dependent on the twenty year old RAV 4. Originally I selected Boulder Creek within the city of Boulder as my destination, but when I checked the flows, I noticed a 10 CFS spike on Tuesday and Wednesday. I suspected that this resulted from low elevation snow melt from the dumping on Sunday and Monday, and I never enjoyed much success under these conditions. I checked the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and the graph displayed a nice even line at 28 CFS. Of course this was measured at the outflow from the dam, and melting snow would impact the conditions below that location, but I surmised that there was less distance for run off effect.

I stuffed all my gear in the tiny RAV 4 and departed Denver by 10:30AM on Thursday morning. The air temperature was already at 54 degrees in Denver, and by the time I pulled into a parking space at Lavern Johnson Park, the temperature in Lyons was 58 degrees. Thursday evolved into a very mild sunny day in Lyons and Colorado, and I was optimistic that I might land some late season trout. Before I paid my $5 fee for four hours of parking, I visited the rest room and checked out the stream along the way. The creek was crystal clear and flowing at 28 CFS. Residual mounds of snow were evident in the shade, and full scale thawing was in effect, but I concluded that the conditions were favorable for a few hours of fly fishing.

I rigged my Orvis Access four weight and quickly strode across the park to the downstream border with private land next to the RV camping space. I knotted a silver ice dub body hippy stomper to my line and added a beadhead hares ear on a 3.5 foot dropper, and I began to prospect the small stream. The St. Vrain in the park forms a  huge horseshoe, and man made dams and rocky stream improvement structures create a series of deep pools and eddies throughout the public area. These were my prime targets, although I allocated a few casts to the deep runs and pockets in between the human creations. The stream improvement project evidently was a response to the 2013 flood.

After thirty minutes of focused fishing I recorded only a rude refusal to the hippy stomper, so I paused and found a picnic table in the sun, whereupon I consumed my small lunch. At 12:15 I resumed my quest, and I added a beadhead ultra zug bug to my offerings. Finally in a deep shelf pool along the current seam formed by a deep run, I connected with two small brown trout. The first extended to eight inches, and I paused to snap a photo. This proved to be a fortuitous choice, as it represented the first and largest fish of the day.

My optimism elevated somewhat, and I continued around the curve and into the sunlight in the western section of the horseshoe. Although the temperature was nearly sixty degrees, my wet hands sent out a stinging sensation, while I dwelled in the shade from the steep hill on the south side of the creek.

One of the first places I encountered when I migrated into the sunshine was a long clear pool, and I sprayed some long casts through the bottom end of the area. A deep trough bordered the left bank next to a large rectangular rock, and I shifted my back cast to the right in order to angle a cast to the left side. I was surprised and depressed, when I discovered that I wrapped the trailing nymphs around an overhanging branch high above the creek. I was very reluctant to write off three flies, but the limb was out of reach, even when I climbed to the top of the bank. Finally I conceded to the tree and grabbed the leader as close to the hippy stomper as I could, and gave the line a strong steady pull. The tippet snapped below the hippy stomper, so I salvaged the largest and newest fly, but the two nymphs taunted me from their perch near the end of the overhanging branch.

I was about to replace the nymphs with a new set, when I developed another scheme. A jumble of dead branches was visible at the base of a tree on the opposite side of the creek, so I waded across at the tail of the pool and lifted the longest of the cluster. It was quite thick and extended to twelve feet, so I grasped it in the middle to balance the weight and lugged it back to the top of the high right bank. I used the clumsy branch like a jousting pole and managed to thrust the tip into the monofilament jumble and then lowered it toward the ground. Amazingly I snagged the ultra zug bug in the split in the end of the long pole, and I quickly recovered it, but the hares ear was no where to be found.

I congratulated myself for recovering two out of three, but then I made one last inspection of the branch dangling high above the creek. I spotted another tangled mass of line, and I concluded that it was the end of my dry/dropper rig, and a beadhead nymph dangled from the mess. I deployed the battering ram one more time and thrust it into the tangled web, and once again I succeeded in stripping the line from the tree. I placed my impromptu tool on the ground and rushed to the tip, where I discovered a previous angler’s line and a decaying beadhead nymph. The bead and hook were all that remained of an aging unidentifiable nymph imitation. I took credit for removing the fishing waste from the tree and returned to reconfiguring my line.

Since I was faced with nearly a total rebuild, I used the interruption to swap the silver hippy stomper for one of my trusted peacock body versions. I replaced the ultra zug bug and hares ear with fresh versions of the same flies, and I resumed my casting in the attractive pool. Of course I was extremely conscious of the streamside trees during my return engagement to fly fishing St. Vrain Creek.

The head of the pool paid dividends, when I connected with two additional small brown trout on the hares ear, and then I moved to the next attractive man-made structure. At some point during this interval a fish rose to the hippy stomper, and I quickly lifted the rod tip and felt a solid connection. This fish was clearly larger than my previous catches, but I was disappointed to discover that it was foul hooked after refusing the foam attractor. The victim of this inadvertent hook up was a stunning rainbow trout with a wide orange-red stripe along its side. I was disappointed with the foul hook, but I was excited to discover the existence of rainbow trout in the Lavern Johnson Park stretch.

During the remainder of my time on the creek I curled around the northwest section of the bend until I reached the huge pool just below the Riverbend dance floor, where Dan and Ariel performed their first dance on September 14. Along the way I notched a fifth small brown trout to finish the day at five. Five is a relatively low total, and the size of the fish was in the six to eight inch range, but I was nonetheless pleased with my small level of success. The sun was bright, and the temperature approached sixty degrees, and I escaped a skunking during ice cold snow melt conditions. A five fish day on November 15 is always welcome in my book.

Fish Landed: 5

 

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 11/10/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 11/10/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

After a superb outing on October 29 on South Boulder Creek, I was itching to wet a line a few more times during 2018; however, the weather in early November was being unusually uncooperative. Between October 30 and November 10 a series of light snowstorms and cold fronts kept the high temperatures in the forties and thirties, and I desire temperatures to remain in the 45 -55 range to allow a modest amount of comfort. Highs in the mid-fifties in Denver generally translate to ten degrees cooler in the mountains and foothills, so I used the first two weeks of November to kick off my production fly tying for the 2019 season.

Finally when I checked the long term forecast, I noticed that Saturday November 10 was projected to yield a high in the mid to upper fifties in Denver. Jane and I were dog sitting our grandpuppy Zuni, and she loves the trails and off leash area at Buttonrock Preserve, so we scheduled a combined fly fishing/dog walking excursion. The high temperature in Lyons, the closest nearby town, was forecast to reach fifty-one degrees on Saturday, so I gambled that I could tolerate the chill and land a few trout.

Jane and I departed Stapleton by 9:30 and after stopping to fuel the car and buy a new leash for Zuni, we arrived at the nearly full parking area below Buttonrock by 10:50. The abundance of vehicles elevated my concerns over angler competition, and I passed a few fishermen on my way to the stream, but most of the visitors were dog walkers. I later told Jane that the Buttonrock Preserve is the boardwalk of dogs, as we passed a steady parade of canines of every variety.

Jane was prepared to leave the parking area almost immediately, and Zuni was not demonstrating an abundance of patience, so they departed, while I cycled through my fishing preparation ritual. One of Jane’s water bottles leaked and swamped the floor mat in the back of the Santa Fe, so I spent additional time repositioning  clothing and bags to avoid saturation. The stool and carpet sample that I normally use to pull on my waders were drenched with water, so I sat on a boulder in front of the car to wader up, and this added additional preparation time to my venture.

I elected my Orvis Access four weight to coddle my elbow, even though my final physical therapy appointment occurred on Thursday. The air temperature on the dashboard registered forty-one degrees, and a stiff breeze blasted down the canyon. The wind was strong enough to periodically create dust clouds, and this was a weather factor that I failed to consider. The sky was overcast and remained mostly in this state for my entire time on the creek.

I wore my fishing shirt and a fleece and stuffed my light down coat in my backpack along with my lunch and then cinched my long sleeved Under Armour shirt around my waist. For head gear I chose my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps, and during my 2.5 hours in the canyon, I was thankful for this choice. I hiked for over a half hour at a decent pace, and the wind chill and shade forced me to stuff the hand that was not holding the rod inside my waders to prevent numbing and aching from the cold. The wind was a huge negative, that I did not bargain for, and I actually considered returning to the car to eat my lunch and wait for Jane and Zuni to complete their loop.

Finally I reached my targeted starting point, and I angled down to the stream, where I removed all my upper body layers and pulled on my Under Armour shirt. To combat the chilling impact of the wind I added my fishing shirt, fleece and light down and snugged my ear flaps over my ears. In the process of returning the sweaty undershirt to my backpack, my sandwich wrap tumbled to the ground and dumped my sandwich on to some rocks. I lost some of the extras on my ham sandwich, but quickly slapped the bread layers back together along with the ham and lettuce to salvage a reasonably appetizing lunch option.

I was now ready to begin my fishing adventure. I knotted a peacock hippy stomper to my line and then added an iron sally as the solitary dropper, and I began to prospect the deep holes and likely fish holding locations. The flow was low but actually quite acceptable for early November. In a nice long run early in the game, a fish darted to the surface and refused the hippy stomper, and in a spot slightly above this rejection I felt the temporary tug of another fish, as it latched on to the iron sally. I was encouraged that two fish found my flies interesting, but I was disappointed that the fish counter remained locked on zero.

After the two early fish encounters I suffered through an extended dry spell. I did learn during this lull that the fish were concentrated in deep slow moving pools. I wasted my time prospecting faster runs and riffles of moderate depth, before I isolated the prime holding water on November 10. During the first 1.5 hours I registered a few more temporary hookups on small fish, before I approached another nice long pool with a moderate center current and four to six feet of depth in the upper section.

By now I added an ultra zug bug as a third fly below the iron sally, and I cast toward the midsection of the long pool. The hippy stomper paused, and I reacted with a solid hook set, and this action resulted with a small rainbow trout in my net. The length of this trout was in the vicinity of six inches, so I tentatively counted it as my first fish of the day. I carefully waded to the middle portion of the run and paused to observe, and I was both amazed and encouraged to witness a few sporadic rises. Initially the rises were in the top fourth of the pool along the perimeter of a deep pocket, where the creek spilled over a curved and spaced wall of exposed rocks.

I lobbed some casts to this upper section, but the fish continued their sporadic feeding and ignored my large hippy stomper and subsurface offerings. What could these fish be eating? As I continued to observe, I spotted some small insects, as they skittered across the water. I was unable to identify the food source, nor was I able to place the species as mayfly, caddis or stonefly. Given the cloudy conditions and the time of year, I concluded that a sparse blue winged olive hatch was in progress, so I swapped the ultra zug bug for a RS2, and I began drifting and swinging the flies through the pool.

My logic was sound, but the trout ignored my nymphs whether dead drifted or active, and I was about to modify my approach, when a fish suddenly crushed the hippy stomper. I was almost caught off guard, but I responded in time to hook and land a ten inch rainbow, with the foam attractor solidly attached to its lip. This trout was clearly above my minimum threshold, so I made it my first legitimate catch of the day, and then I resumed casting.

After ten unsuccessful drifts I once again paused. By now five or six fish were rising throughout the length of the pool. I scanned the air above the creek, and I saw tiny midges and two small stoneflies. The stoneflies were easily distinguishable, because two sets of wings were visible, as they fluttered above the water. I also noticed an insect as it tumbled and skittered across the surface, and I assumed that it was a stonefly. I was undecided over my next step, but I decided to try a size 22 CDC blue winged olive first.

I tied the CDC BWO to my line and began to target the various rises around the pool. One fish that was fifteen feet below me in the center of the pool was a more consistent riser than the others, so I delivered several downstream drifts over the feeder. Twice the small aggressive sipper elevated, but each time it dropped back to its holding position. This was a strong sign that they were not eating baetis mayflies, so I defaulted to my back up plan. I replaced the BWO with a size 18 dark stonefly adult, that I tied for autumn emergences on South Boulder Creek. This was the smallest stonefly in my possession, although the naturals that I observed appeared to be lighter in color.

I will never know whether it was size or color, but the dark olive body imitation with a dark gray wing never fooled the residents of the North Fork pool. One trout displayed a splashy refusal directly across from me, but the stonefly searching period was characterized by an abundance of futility. I was frustrated that I did not possess any small light colored stonefly imitations, so I pondered my predicament once again. I was fortunate to encounter surface feeding late in the season, yet I was unable to unlock the secret code that would deliver fish to my net.

The only small light colored flies in my box were the light olive blue wings. I decided to give them another try, and I knotted a different size 22 to my tippet. During this repeat engagement of the CDC BWO, I managed to fool the small sipper that refused me earlier, but it escaped before I could net it, and it was below the six inch cut off. As this drama was unfolding, Jane and Zuni arrived, and Zuni nudged my waders to make me aware of her presence. After we exchanged greetings, she ascended the path, and I tossed the car keys to Jane, so they could return to the warmth of the Santa Fe.

I committed to quit by 2PM, and only ten minutes remained. I was evaluating a new plan of attack, when I saw a decent brown trout swirl to the surface three times in quick succession in the very attractive deep pocket at the top of the pool. Perhaps a caddis could induce a take? My caddis were larger than anything I saw on the water, but perhaps a large mouthful would generate an opportunistic slurp? I replaced the blue winged olive with a size 16 deer hair caddis with an olive brown body, and I drifted and skittered the hackled fly through the top section. Nothing. I fired a few casts to the location of the riser across from me and then fed some downstream drifts to the fish in the lower half of the pool. I was not rewarded for my efforts, and it was 2PM, so I stripped in my line and climbed the bank and ambled back to the parking lot at a brisk pace.

One fish in 2.5 hours of fishing was not great, but the time was far from boring. At least five or six fish rose in the quality pool, and I was consumed by my efforts to fool the small feeders. I mostly failed in the undertaking, but I registered one rainbow trout on a newly tied hippy stomper, and I encountered several additional opportunities but failed to convert. As snow descends outside my office window, I question whether this was perhaps my last outing of 2018. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 1

South Boulder Creek – 10/29/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/29/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

The long range forecast projected rain turning to snow and cold temperatures beginning on Tuesday, October 30. Monday on the other had was expected to be gorgeous with highs in Denver peaking in the upper seventies. This could translate to only one thing; an opportunity to sneak in a day of autumn fly fishing before wintry weather predominated. Perhaps this would be my last day of fly fishing in 2018.

But where should I invest my scarce amount of remaining nice weather equity? I scanned the stream flows, and of course the first drainage that I check was South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. The water managers were famous for making dramatic shifts in flows on the small tailwater west of Golden, and late October 2018 was not an exception to this tendency. My last visit to South Boulder Creek was on October 19, and I enjoyed an exceptional day, while the flows were a mere 14.4 CFS. The current DWR chart displayed a vertical rock wall for 10/24/2018, when the valve was opened to release 96 CFS. A dramatic change such as this caused me some concern, but it was five days ago, and I concluded that this allowed ample time for the stream residents to acclimate. I decided to give it a go.

I got off to a reasonably early start; and after I arrived at the trailhead, assembled my Orvis Access four weight and hiked down the path, I was in a position on the stream prepared to make my first cast by 10:30. The air temperature was in the mid-fifties, and the stream flow was indeed multiples higher than my previous trip. In fact the places were I was able to cross the creek were limited to wide shallow sections, and these were minimal within the predominantly narrow canyon environment.

Because of the higher flows akin to spring conditions, I opted to begin my day with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and ultra zug bug. The first two pockets did not produce, but then I positioned myself near the middle of the creek and initiated some drifts through a prime deep run along the north bank. On the third pass a respectable South Boulder Creek brown trout pounced on the ultra zug bug, and I was very pleased to score my first fish of the day. I continued to prospect the quality run with across and downstream drifts, and I was pleasantly surprised to land five additional brown trout in the nine to eleven inch range. What a start to my day! Perhaps the elevated flows were not so bad after all, and the preponderance of brown trout relieved my fears of encountering mostly lockjawed spawning fish.

I wish I could report that this pace of success continued through my remaining time on the stream, but that was not the case. When I cast to the productive run three successive times with no resulting action, I departed and continued my upstream progression. Between 10:45 and noon I incremented the fish counter from six to ten, so clearly my catch rate declined; however, I remained quite pleased with the 1.5 hours of morning fly fishing. The yellow fat Albert began to distract the trout in the next several pools, and a string of refusals was ample testimony. I concluded that the fly was too large, and I converted to a size 12 peacock hippy stomper. The smaller foam attractor was an improvement, and it accounted for a few fish during the last hour before lunch.

After lunch I resumed my quest for South Boulder Creek trout, and I recorded quite a record of success. The fish count zoomed from ten to thirty-six, before I ended my day at 3PM. Although the three fly combination yielded fish at a steady rate after lunch, I sensed that I could improve my success rate, so I experimented with several fly exchanges. I removed the ultra zug bug and replaced it with a size 20 soft hackle emerger. This was an attempt to match a blue winged olive hatch or an emergence of small black stonefles. From past experience I knew that the small stoneflies were present on South Boulder Creek in the late October time frame. While the soft hackle emerger was on the line, it failed to yield a singe fish, but the hares ear became a favorite target.

Twenty minutes of no response to the soft hackle emerger caused me to once again make a change. This time I selected a size 14 iron sally from my fly wallet, and I positioned the heavier fly with the coiled wire body in the top position and moved the hares ear to the point. The hippy stomper, iron sally, and hares ear maintained their place on my line for the remainder of the afternoon, and they generated the most success.

Unlike my last outing at 14 CFS when upstream casts proved effective, the best approach on Monday was across and downstream drifts. The brown trout could not resist attacking one of the nymphs, as they began to swing at the end of the run, and many of my netted fish were victims of this tactic. Four rainbows joined the mix of catches, and they emerged from faster riffles of moderate depth, and the iron sally was their preferred food source. The hippy stomper was not purely a strike indicator, as it contributed quite a few respectable cold water fighters to the fish count.

By 3PM I reached a section characterized by fast chutes and whitewater, and the south canyon wall blocked the sun thus creating shadows over the entire stream. Tracking the hippy stomper became challenging and the catch rate plummeted, so I called it a day and made my exit hike. The air temperature remained quite comfortable, and climbing the steep path out of the canyon made me wish I had removed a layer or two of clothing.

In summary I landed thirty-six trout on a gorgeous fall day on South Boulder Creek. Five of the netted fish were rainbow trout, and as usual the rainbows were larger on average than the brown trout. Eight of my catch crushed the hippy stomper, four were duped by the ultra zug bug, six nabbed the iron sally, and the remainder snatched the hares ear. The higher flows made it more difficult to determine fish holding locations, which was a relatively easy exercise at 14 CFS. Counter balancing this factor was the relative ease with which I could approach fish holding lies, and the reduced level of stealth required.

If this was my last outing of 2018, it was a solid final episode. I suspect, however, that I will tally a few more days before my enjoyment of fly fishing is more that offset by the discomfort of cold hands and feet.

Fish Landed: 36

Eagle River – 10/26/2018

Time: 1:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Avon and Edwards

Eagle River 10/26/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

When I returned to the Santa Fe after prospecting Brush Creek for an hour, I heard my phone ringing. I quickly hit the green accept button and heard the voice of Dave G. We agreed to meet at the Grand Avenue Grill, as that was a convenient point along our route to the Eagle River between Edwards and Avon. Since I planned to continue on to Denver upon the completion of our time on the river, we drove separately.

We pulled into a nice wide pullout along US 6, and since both of our rods were assembled and ready for action, we immediately hiked along a path to the river. Dave configured his line with a strike indicator, beadhead pheasant tail and RS2 and immediately charged into the tantalizing long run next to our position. I, meanwhile, pulled my small lunch from my backpack and quickly snacked on a sandwich, carrots and yogurt.

Clouds began to dominate the sky during the afternoon, and this change in weather was accompanied by a constant chilling breeze. I pulled on my raincoat to trap body heat and serve as a windbreaker, and it was partially effective. I suspect the temperature along the Eagle River never spiked higher than 54 degrees.

After lunch I grabbed my Orvis Access four weight that was already equipped with a hippy stomper and iron sally, and I began exploring the nice riffle of moderate depth below the large pool that Dave G. occupied. This endeavor occupied me for fifteen minutes, and although I was unable to coax any fish into my net, I did generate one very brief connection in the frothy water, where the river spilled over some large rocks at the top of the riffle.

Convinced that I thoroughly covered the area below the pool, I scrambled over the rocks at the lip and waded along the shoreline, until I was opposite the mid-section. I paused on the beach and observed for five minutes, and during this time I noticed four very sporadic rises from different fish spread out in the center of the pool.

I decided to begin my quest for trout and waded into the pool, until I was mid-thigh deep in cold river water. I began to lob casts with the two fly dry/dropper, although I was not very confident that the large hippy stomper would attract attention. It was at this time that I glanced at Dave G. and noticed a huge bend in his rod. I stripped in my line and waded back to shore, so I could photograph his catch, which turned out to be a splendid rainbow trout in excess of fifteen inches. Dave G. proudly displayed his catch and informed me that it was fooled by a pheasant tail nymph.

When I returned to the middle of the pool, the pace of rising fish accelerated, so I removed the hippy stomper and iron sally and tied a tiny size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line. I began shooting casts above the scene of the rises and utilized downstream drifts over the target locations. Normally this technique is fairly routine, but the upstream blasts of wind made it nearly impossible to locate the tiny speck of fluff that served as my fly, and I was unable to flutter the fly down with any amount of slack to counteract drag.

Nonetheless on the tenth drift I miraculously tracked the baetis imiation and saw a subtle sip, whereupon I lifted the rod tip and hooked a hard fighting twelve inch rainbow trout. I was very pleased to enjoy this modest success under some fairly adverse conditions.

I took time to dry the fly and my hands and to fluff the matted CDC wing. I pivoted to survey the river, and the feeders in the center of the pool remained active, so I reclaimed my previous position. During this foray into the river I focused on a pair of feeders directly across from me. They were sipping naturals in a nice regular rhythm, so I lengthened my line and fired casts toward a seam closer to the far bank. On the fifth drift a bulge appeared under my speck of a fly, and I once again reacted with a confident set. This fish immediately streaked upstream and then down, and it was evident, that I had a larger foe on my line.

I maintained constant pressure, and after several additional spurts, I lifted the scarlet head of a chunky fifteen inch rainbow trout and guided it into my net. As expected I was very pleased with this sudden dose of good fortune, and I carefully removed the fly and snapped a series of photos of my prize catch of October 26.

Again I meticulously blotted the fly, doused it in dry shake, and fluffed the CDC wing. I waded back toward the middle but took a few steps downstream toward the tail. This placed me closer to a small pod of risers fifteen feet below my previous casts. The fish in this area hovered just below some swirly water, and this made following my fly even more of a challenge. Nevertheless I persisted, and on the tenth cast I spotted a sip in the neighborhood of where I estimated my fly to be. I raised the rod tip and connected with another twelve inch rainbow.

My confidence was now soaring, but the wind accelerated, and the trout seemed to eat in waves. I waited out a brief feeding lull, while I tended to refurbishing my fly, and then some subtle surface disturbances resumed. I targeted one of the more frequent feeders, but after three cycles of catch, dry and fluff; I was unable to track the size 24 CDC BWO. I remembered some Klinkhammer emerger style BWO’s that I tied over the winter, so I located one in my fly box and replaced the CDC BWO. On the fourth cast another rainbow lurched to the surface to sip my fly, and again I scooped a twelve inch rainbow into my net.

The white poly wing post on the emerger was much easier to track than the gray CDC wing of the previous fly, and I was pleased to enjoy some early success. My confidence elevated, and I began to shoot casts to the pod of risers across from my position. I allocated another thirty minutes to the emerger with the white wing post, but it was rudely ignored. Perhaps it was too large or maybe the wind made achieving a drag free drift impossible, but eventually I surrendered to the selective fish in front of me.

Again I pondered the situation, and I remembered some 2017 success in a similar situation with a Craven soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film. Again I searched my fly box and found a size 22 emerger with no bead, and I applied a sufficient layer of floatant to the body and wing. My optimism increased, as I waded to the tail of the pool in order to obtain improved lighting and a better casting angle to some of the lower risers.

The thought process was sound, but the remaining thirty minutes of casting delivered only frustration. The low riding small wet fly was nearly impossible to track, so I opted to set the hook upon seeing a rise in the vicinity of where I estimated my fly to be. This was my only option, but it was not effective. The wind continued to gust, and my feet morphed into stumps, and my body began to shiver. My watch displayed 3PM, and I decided to conclude my day on the Eagle River.

In two hours of fly fishing I landed four rainbow trout including a very respectable fifteen incher. I was pleased to have rising fish in front of me for nearly my entire time on the Eagle River. It was a successful outing, but the wind and cold became intolerable. Friday was a fairly typical day of autumn fly fishing.

Fish Landed: 4

Brush Creek – 10/26/2018

Time: 10:45AM – 11:45AM

Location: Confluence with Eagle River upstream to just beyong US 6

Brush Creek 10/26/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

After spending my second night at the Gaboury’s luxurious home in Eagle Ranch, my friend Dave G. was finally free to join me in some fly fishing. The night before we discussed a split session with a few hours in the morning on Brush Creek followed by an early afternoon session on the Eagle River. Based on my experience on the Eagle during the same calendar time period in 2017, I was fairly certain that we would encounter a decent blue winged olive hatch in the PM.

On Friday morning we tracked the hourly temperature on my weather application, and the graph displayed 45 degrees for 10AM warming to 49 by 11AM. Upon seeing this projection of chill, Dave G. decided to forego Brush Creek, so I made the short drive to Brush Creek Confluence Park myself. Although the air temperature was in fact in the forties, as I strung my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my waders, the bright sun made it seem much milder. I wore my long sleeved insulated Columbia undershirt, my fishing shirt and a gray fleece; and I was relatively comfortable during my one hour on lower Brush Creek.

When I was properly attired and geared up, I completed the short hike on a well worn path to the point where Brush Creek empties into the Eagle River. The Eagle was quite turbid, so I was not tempted to make a few prospecting casts to the run below the merge point. I immediately veered to the left and knotted a peacock hippy stomper and iron sally to my line.

Over the next hour I progressed upstream, until I was just above the US 6 bridge that spanned the creek. Along the way I cast the two fly dry/dropper to all the likely trout holding locations. I maintained a decent distance, as the water was at low autumn flows, and I was very efficient in my prospecting. For the most part I limited my casts to three per spot, and only a couple places merited five or six drifts.

The strategy rewarded me with six landed brown trout in one hour of focused fly fishing, but all the trout were in the ten to eleven inch range. I was pleased with my catch rate but disappointed with the size of the fish. My cautious approaches were mainly effective, although I did observe a few fleeing trout at the tail of select pools. At 11:45 I reeled up my line and hooked the iron sally to the bottom rod guide and returned to the car.

Fish Landed: 6

 

Mountain Creek – 10/25/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 4:15PM

Location: One mile from the trailhead.

Mountain Creek 10/25/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

The temperature was in the low forties as I began to hike along the trail that followed Mountain Creek. I planned to persist for forty minutes, but the low clear stream and inviting pools induced me to quit after twenty minutes of walking at a fast pace. I estimated my stopping point to be a mile, and I concluded that I was beyond the most pressured section of the creek. I rigged my Orvis Access four weight with a peacock hippy stomper and added a beadhead hares ear, and I approached a gorgeous pool to execute my first cast of the day at 10:30AM.

Between 10:30 and noon I landed seven brown trout and one brook trout, and most of the action was generated by the hippy stomper. The morning time frame was research and development, as it was my first visit to Mountain Creek, and it took me awhile to discover that marginal spots were a waste of valuable fishing time. Another bit of acquired knowledge made me realize that the low flows and clear water dictated cautious approaches. I witnessed quite a few rapid evacuation drills in the early going.

After lunch I removed the dry/dropper in order to experiment with a Jake’s gulp beetle, but the only response was a couple of tentative looks. Next I reverted to the dry/dropper and added an ultra zug bug to the hares ear to achieve greater depth, and the move seemed to work. Between 12:15 and 4:15 I built the fish count to 42! The main producer was the beadhead hares ear, but the hippy stomper contributed one out of four landed fish, and the third fly in the alignment was an occasional producer. I tested a bright green caddis pupa, emerald caddis pupa, and a size 14 iron sally as the top fly during the afternoon.

Three browns landed in the afternoon were in the fifteen to sixteen range, and I was quite elated to encounter them in the close quarters of Mountain Creek. I observed several pairs of actively spawning trout, but my larger catches were individual fish that remained in a feeding mood. I debated whether they were pre-spawn brown trout or large resident trout, but I will never know the answer to that question.

Two twelve inch rainbow trout were in the mix in the afternoon and added to the diversity. I speculated that the rainbows were on high protein diets, and they were scavenging brown trout eggs. In addition to forty-two landed fish, I registered many temporary hook ups, and I spooked too many trout to count.

What a day! I explored new water and stumbled into a very productive mountain freestone creek. I refined my approach during my five hours on the water and gradually elevated my catch rate. I learned to approach cautiously and to pause to observe before casting. If I adhered to these tenets of fly fishing in a small stream with low clear flows, I enjoyed a high level of success. I am certain to return in the future, and I will hike deeper into the high country in my quest for wild trout.

Fish Landed: 42

 

 

 

Colorado River – 10/24/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Glenwood Canyon

Colorado River 10/24/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

Several years ago Jane and I completed a bike ride along the entire length of Glenwood Canyon. During this cycling adventure I nearly crashed several times, as I was unable to keep my eyes off the tantalizing water of the Colorado River. Between the power plant and No Name Rest Area, I noted a continuous bank containing large boulders with a steady supply of exposed in-stream rocks and numerous attractive slicks, deep runs, and plunge pools. The area appeared to be very similar to the Arkansas River and exemplified quality brown trout water.

In the intervening years I attempted to verify my suspicions, but various impediments thwarted my efforts to discover the quality of fishing in Glenwood Canyon. Road construction, closed ramps, and murky water were a few of the obstacles that I encountered in my quest to fish the Colorado River in the spectacular canyon setting.

Finally on October 24, 2018 the factors lined up to create my first opportunity to sample the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. The fly shop reports suggested excellent clarity, and several days of mild weather made an autumn trip possible. I met my friend, Dave Gaboury, for dim sum at the Star Kitchen in Denver, and he invited me to stay at his house in Eagle Ranch on Wednesday and Thursday night. Dave G. had a list of chores to attend to, so he was unable to join me in fishing ventures on Wednesday and Thursday, but a bed thirty minutes away from Glenwood Canyon was too good to refuse.

I departed Denver at 8AM on Wednesday morning, and this enabled me to arrive at my chosen destination in Glenwood Canyon by 11:10AM. The high temperature on Wednesday peaked at sixty degrees, and this translated to substantial chill in the shadows, and when the sun was blocked by clouds. My first view of the river revealed mostly clear water with a tinge of olive.

I rigged my Sage four weight and began with a strike indicator, split shot, iron sally and ultra zug bug. The iron sally has become a favorite fly as a result of its productivity in fall conditions. I hiked downstream from my parking space for ten minutes and then scrambled over some large rocks and began lobbing casts in the river. During my entire time on the Colorado River I confined my exploratory casts to within twenty feet of the north bank.

In the thirty minutes before lunch I landed two brown trout; one that measured twelve inches and another that extended to thirteen inches. Both fish were fooled by the iron sally. During the late morning session I became acquainted with the most annoying aspect of the day; the constant need to remove a fibrous moss from the nymphs.

After lunch I removed the ultra zug bug and replaced it with a size 12 20 incher, and I took advantage of this change to rearrange the flies so the iron sally was in the point position. This combination served me for the remainder of the afternoon except for thirty minutes, when I experimented with two streamers. I read many articles in the fly fishing periodicals that hyped the effectiveness of streamers for brown trout in the fall, and I was certain that the conditions were prime for such a tactic on Wednesday, October 24. Between 3:00 and 3:30 I stripped a cheech leech and sparkle minnow, but I never generated a follow. Count me as a skeptic of the hype coming from the fly fishing community.

Despite the streamer shutout I added nine additional brown trout to the fish count over the course of the afternoon, and most of these netted fish crushed the iron sally. My confidence in the yellow sally stonefly imitation continues to grow. All but one of the eleven trout landed on Wednesday were in the twelve to fifteen inch range, and the tally included one fifteen incher and another brown that approximated fourteen inches.

When I resumed fishing after lunch, I continued moving upstream next to the Interstate 70 off ramp, until I was beyond a green sign, and then I reversed and hiked downstream for ten minutes. At this point I cut down to the river and fished the edge of a stretch of fast water. This section of the river yielded the most fish.

Deep troughs of moderate velocity were the most productive areas, and eventually I discovered that I was wasting time casting to the marginal areas of shallow depth. I suspect that prospecting the riffles of moderate depth might be more successful during the summer, when the brown trout spread out to binge on increased insect activity.

I was extremely pleased with my success during my initial visit to the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. I sampled only a small section of the public access available, and I hope to make the area a more frequent destination. The towering red canyon walls are unsurpassed, and even I took frequent breaks from fly fishing to marvel at my surroundings.

Fish Landed: 11

Big Thompson River – 10/22/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Four miles below Lake Estes and then near the downstream border of the special regulation water

Big Thompson River 10/22/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

Mild autumn weather continued on Monday, October 22, and this stroke of good fortune prompted me to make a drive to the Big Thompson River below Lake Estes. I arrived by 11:15AM, and after I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I was on the water casting by 11:30AM. The air temperature was in the low fifties, so I wore my long sleeved Under Armour undershirt, fishing shirt, and a gray fleece. When the sun was out, I was a bit warm, but when a cloud obscured the sun, and the wind kicked up, I was dressed appropriately. The Big Thompson flows were 47 CFS, and this seemed on the low side, as quite a bit of the riverbed was exposed, but adequate deep pools and pockets provided cover for the stream residents.

I began my day with a single size 18 gray deer hair caddis, but the ten minute trial period was a resounding dud, and the tiny caddis adult was very difficult to track in the shadows and glare. I swapped the caddis dry fly for a peacock body hippy stomper and added a beadhead hares ear and ultra zug bug. With this three fly combination I was confident that I would attract attention, but after an hour of futile casting I could point to only one small brown trout as my reward for perseverance.

At 12:30 I found myself below a very high bank that was recently excavated during the reconstruction of US 34, and a SUV with a rod vault was parked along the shoulder of the highway. I never saw another fisherman, but given my lack of action I surmised that perhaps a fisherman or two disrupted the water ahead of me. I decided to pursue a fresh beginning, and I returned to the car and then drove east for another three miles, until I was just above the downstream border of the catch and release section.

I crossed the highway and found a welcoming rock and paused to eat my lunch, while I observed the water. The river in this area consisted of huge exposed boulders with deep pools and pockets interspersed with fast rapids and chutes. Very little vegetation was present, as the the flood of 2013 scoured everything in its path.

After lunch I began to prospect a nice deep run along the opposite bank, and on the second cast a very nice trout rose and smashed the hippy stomper. I quickly lifted my rod to set the hook, and a rainbow surfaced, splashed and quickly ended our brief association. After the slow frustrating morning I was very disappointed with this turn of events, but I was at least encouraged to attract attention from a respectable fish. I reeled up my line, and I was disgusted to note a curled end of my leader. All three flies were lost, as the line broke at the knot that held the hippy stomper. I was relieved to remember that I tied five new peacock body hippy stompers on Sunday night, but I now faced the task of re-configuring my line.

I extended my tapered leader with a section of 5X and then attached my one remaining carryover hippy stomper. Below the foam attractor I added a beadhead hares ear and sparkle wing RS2, and I was quickly back in business.

Another juicy pool presented itself above the scene of the unfortunate separation, and I tossed the three flies into the sweet spot. Almost immediately a fish attacked the hares ear, and I quickly stripped in a five inch rainbow trout. The second cast resulted in a similar response, but on the third drift a ten inch rainbow crushed the peacock stomper. The contrast between this downstream section and the area that I visited in the first hour was dramatic.

I released the rainbow and continued to lob casts to the center of the quality pool, and I connected with another six sub-catchable rainbow trout. What was going on here? I moved on and continued the upstream progress, and the sequence of events that I described in the previous paragraph persisted for the remainder of my time on the river. I managed to elevate the fish count from two to seven. All of the counted fish except for the first were rainbow trout, and three were very nice brightly colored pink striped fighters in the twelve to thirteen inch range. The rest were very small bows barely over my six inch minimum standard for counting.

This account of my day on Monday, October 22 would be incomplete, if I failed to mention the other thirty fish that attacked my flies. They were all rainbow trout in the three to five inch size range. They were actually a persistent nuisance, as they consumed time to release, and in several cases they created moderate line tangles. At least another twenty tiny trout grabbed my flies temporarily, but with my approval they fell off before I was forced to release them.

I concluded that the Department of Wildlife stocked sub-catchable rainbows in the areas where CDOT made emergency repairs to the highway. Five years after the flood the road construction work was completed, and as promised,  stream improvements were finished. I am guessing that efforts to repopulate the river with rainbow trout are in progress. These are merely my own personal assumptions, and I have not read about any DOW population enhancement projects.

At any rate Monday was a somewhat frustrating day. I managed to land seven trout including three very nice feisty rainbows. The weather was delightful for October 22, and I encountered a small herd of bighorn sheep, when they crossed the highway and approached the river for cold refreshing drinks. Dealing with the ongoing nuisance of handling and releasing countless small trout was an unforeseen negative to my day on the Big Thompson River.

Fish Landed: 7