Bear Creek – 05/29/2020

Time: 11:45AM – 2:45PM

Location: Lair of the Bear Park

Bear Creek 05/29/2020 Photo Album

As mentioned in my last post on May 28, 2020 my streak of catching at least one trout in each month of 2020 was in dire straits. Three days remained in May to guide one measly fish into my net. Of course I spent the first twenty-five days of May recovering from heart valve surgery, but I am not hiding behind that circumstance as an excuse. On May 26 and May 28 I made futile attempts to catch a trout, so for Friday May 29 it was time to get serious. I contacted my friend, Trevor (@rockymtnangler), and asked for his recommendation. Trevor is always well informed on Front Range streams, and he suggested the Cache la Poudre River and St. Vrain Creek. The flows on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek were 165 cfs, and I knew that level to be challenging from previous experience. The Poudre was intriguing, but since I was in surgery recovery mode, I was reluctant to make the longer drive for a few hours of fishing. I was uncertain whether my heart, chest and shoulder were recovered enough to endure a long day of fishing.

I began to review the stream flows on the usual suspects along the Front Range. I quickly ruled out South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek, Boulder Creek and the Big Thompson River. All were over my upward limit and rising. Bear Creek was encouraging at 26 CFS, and Waterton Canyon momentarily had me excited with very favorable flows between 60 and 118 CFS. Unfortunately I recalled that Waterton Canyon was closed due to the coronavirus, and a quick web search confirmed my memory. The South Platte tailwaters were all in prime flows and conditions, but again I was not interested in a trip of that length. I decided to cast my lot with Bear Creek near Morrison, CO.

Near My Starting Point

I completed my cardiac rehab on Friday morning, and upon my return home I hustled to gather up my fishing gear. Since I only expected to fish for a couple hours, I skipped lunch preparation and instead threw a box of trail mix granola bars in my bag. Traffic was light, as I traveled west and then southwest to Morrison, CO; and I arrived at a small parking lot at Lair of the Bear Park by 11:30AM. The lot was completely full except for one slot near the trailhead, and I quickly grabbed it. I pulled on my waders and rigged my Orvis Access four weight and cut directly to the stream in front of me.

Kept the Steak Alive

I began my quest for a May trout with a tan pool toy hopper trailing a size 12 prince nymph and an emerald caddis pupa. The park was quite busy with dog walkers and hikers, but I did not spot another angler for the first hour. I advanced upstream and plopped the three fly configuration into all the likely trout holding spots. The stream volume was reasonable, but a fair amount of discoloration made the deep pools quite opaque. In the first hour I managed to land two fish. A small brown trout that snatched the prince nymph, as it tumbled along the far bank, was my first catch, and it represented the continuation of my “trout in every month” streak.

A Small Rainbow in the Mix

As I progressed upstream, I began to observe quite a few fairly large insects, as they hovered above the creek. I was uncertain whether they were caddis adults with an egg sac or golden stoneflies or yellow sallies. Eventually I swatted one from the air with my hat and brought it close for examination. The insect in my hat was clearly a golden stonefly that could be imitated with a size 14 2XL stimulator or deer hair golden stonefly. I had yet to spot any rising fish, so I swapped the emerald caddis pupa for a size 14 iron sally nymph.  The move quickly paid dividends, when I landed a ten inch rainbow from the tail of a deep run. I was very optimistic at this point that the iron sally was the appropriate fly, and my expectations soared.

Rainbow Was in Front of the Stick Dam

High expectations are rarely fulfilled, and Friday was no different. I suffered a lull in action, as I dropped my three fly rig in all the likely locations. Meanwhile the insect activity intensified, as caddis and a small mayfly joined the golden stoneflies, and in response I witnessed a few sporadic rises. Surely, the decent number of fluttering stoneflies suggested the surface feeds were a response to the largest and most prevalent food source, stoneflies.

I plucked a size 14 deer hair yellow stonefly pattern from my MFC fly box and knotted it to my line. I executed numerous gentle casts to some very attractive shelf pools and current seams, and I was certain that I solved the dry fly riddle. Alas, I did not. The fish showed no interest in my slender stonefly imitation. Perhaps a more heavily hackled pattern would create the illusion of movement? I replaced the deer hair version with a size 14 yellow body stimulator. Once again the stream residents were unimpressed, as I covered a significant amount of water without even a look or refusal. I probably invested forty-five minutes in fruitless dry fly casting, so I decided to cut my losses and reverted to the dry/dropper approach.

One Final Little Guy

I flipped open my fly box and scanned my collection of large foam top flies and selected a chubby Chernobyl with a tan ice dub body. This fly is very buoyant and quite visible, and I was interested in both those qualities. The prince nymph produced my first fish, so I retained it in my lineup, but for my point fly I selected a fusion nymph. This was one of the new patterns I tied during my surgery recovery phase.

Lots of Options Here

I prospected this three fly arrangement for the last hour and managed to land a second small brown trout on the fusion nymph.  By 2:45PM I approached a footbridge, and the character of the stream was less attractive with long wide and shallow sections. Given my weakened post surgery condition, I used the marginal stream structure as an excuse to exit and hike back to the parking lot.

Three small fish in three hours represents a very slow catch rate, but I was pleased to keep my one trout per month streak alive. I was also happy to find a stream that provided a fly fishing option on May 29, a relatively late date in the snow melt cycle.

Fish Landed: 3

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