Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM
Location: First bridge downstream from Noel’s Draw
Fish Landed: Dave 9; Dan 5
Jane felt she recovered enough from her pelvic fracture so that I could leave her to go fishing. In fact she was encouraging me to go, so perhaps she needed some time to herself. Dan texted me on Saturday morning (1AM!) to check if I was planning to fish, so I suppose the stars were aligned in favor of me getting out for another fishing outing in 2012. The weather forecast called for a high in the low to mid-60’s for Denver with overcast skies, so this appeared to be another favorable factor.
Sunday appeared to be similar to Saturday but marginally warmer, so I replied to Dan that I planned to fish on Sunday and we made our plans. My original thought was to return to South Boulder Creek and hopefully experience the little black stonefly hatch one more time. On Friday I drove to Old Arvada and visited Charlie’s Fly Box to purchase some size 20 dry fly hooks, so on Saturday I spread these out on my fly tying desk and constructed twelve nice imitations using the charcoal sculpin wool that my friend Jeff Shafer shared with me.
Unfortunately when I visited the DWR site on Saturday evening to check stream flows, I discovered that the stream flows on South Boulder Creek had dropped from 100 cfs to 14 and this happened on Saturday! I was reluctant to fish at such low flows particularly since it had happened recently even though I had some decent luck on a September visit at flows below 10 cfs. I checked the South Platte in Waterton Canyon and the web site registered 75 cfs so this emerged as a possibility. Clear Creek was running at 29 cfs, also quite low, but probably an option although Dan and I have grown a bit weary of the small Clear Creek browns. Finally I checked the Big Thompson River and the DWR site indicated 45 cfs below Estes Lake. The stream reports from the fly shops were favorable with the possibility of BWO’s on overcast days, so this was my choice. Dan agreed with my choice and we planned to meet at 9AM at my house.
We had the advantage of an extra hour on Sunday morning due to the time change, but I wanted to leave earlier to account for the sun setting earlier in the day. I transferred all the flies I tied in October to the amber boxes in my fishing bag and inserted three of the little black sculpflies in one of my plastic fly boxes. We transferred Dan’s fly gear to my car, and we were on our way to Estes Park. Since Dan was accompanying and it was his first fishing trip to the Big T, I elected to fish starting below the first bridge downstream from Noel’s Draw, an area that I fished frequently and I knew it held a decent number of fish.
We parked above the bridge and were ready to fish by 11AM. It was quite chilly with the air temperature around fifty degrees as we walked down the shoulder and across the bridge to the large bend along the road. Dan and I both began with a Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear nymph as we fished through some deep pocket water in a narrow stretch just off the highway. The wind was gusting frequently and combined with the 50 degree temperatures sent chills down my back. Finally in a short pocket above the fast water, I felt the tug of a fish and brought a brilliantly colored rainbow to my net with a hares ear nymph in its mouth.
Within a few minutes I watched Dan flick a back hand cast upstream to a narrow slot along the bank, and then he set the hook and his five weight bowed under the weight of a fine brown that smacked his Chernobyl ant. I continued working up the left side and arrived at a nice slightly riffled area with a depth of approximately three feet. Here I experienced two refusals to the Chernobyl ant so I decided to remove it and replace with a size 14 dark olive body deer hair caddis, and this provoked three more refusals in the moderate riffles. Clearly the fish were tuned into my fly but something was missing. Perhaps they required something smaller? I opened my plastic fly box and searched for the size 18 deer hair little black stoneflies I’d tied after my first encounter on South Boulder Creek.
I flicked a cast upstream into the riffles where I’d experienced a refusal and a feisty rainbow nosed up and slurped in the stonefly. I netted the thrashing eleven inch rainbow and photographed it in case it would be my last fish of the day. After I dried the small stonefly I cast it to the right and spotted a swirl as it drifted back toward me and once again set the hook in a small but chunky rainbow. In short order I hooked and landed a third rainbow on the deer hair stonefly, and at this point I waded back to Dan and plucked another one from my box and presented it to him. Dan quickly removed his tandem rig and tied on the small stonefly and much to my amazement hooked and landed a nice brown on his first cast. Once he released this fish and dried his fly, he fired another cast upstream and landed a second trout on the black stonefly imitation. It all seemed so easy, but we continued fishing up the stream toward the bridge through some water that wasn’t quite as attractive and the stonefly feast abated.
When we reached the bridge I suggested we break for lunch as my feet were cold and the wind was really chilling my hands. Dan agreed and we adjourned to the Santa Fe and feasted on our lunches while checking in on the Broncos. The Broncos led the Bengals 17 – 10, but Manning threw an interception while we listened, so that outcome remained in question as we grabbed our rods and returned to our exit spot just below the bridge.
We waded under the bridge and continued to work the little stoneflies through some attractive water, but these fish apparently possessed different tastes. We both covered quite a bit of water with no refusals or takes, and I began to experiment with different flies. I spied one tiny BWO fluttering up from the stream so I tied a beadhead RS2 below the stonefly for a while. Next I switched the RS2 for a soft hackle emerger and again there was no response. The small stonefly was not buoyant enough to float with the small beadhead attached, so I switched it for a size 12 olive stimulator, and this elicited one refusal. Next I decided that the small soft hackle emerger wasn’t working and I needed something larger so I clipped off both flies and tied on a gray parachute hopper and trailed a salvation nymph. Finally in a narrow slot the hopper dipped and I hooked and landed a small rainbow on the salvation nymph. Unfortunately this success could not be repeated so Dan and I skipped over the remainder of the straight relatively narrow and fast stretch to the nice pool just after the large bend.
By this time it was around 3:00PM and some high clouds moved in front of the sun. Dan had returned to the Chernobyl ant with a beadhead hares ear, so I decided to go back to what worked earlier, except I elected to tie on a little sculpfly instead of the deer hair stonefly. The little sculpfly had a charcoal sculpin wool wing and was tied on a size 20 hook. It was more difficult to follow in the riffled water, but I fired a cast directly upstream to the left of the main current seam and a fine rainbow rose and confidently sipped in the size 20 stonefly replica. It was quite gratifying to land a fish on a fly I designed and tied the previous day. A cast a few minutes later to an area higher up and to the left of the larger center current led to a swirl and I hooked another rainbow. This was perhaps my best fish of the day with a blend of pink, red, and purple hues in a wide band along the sides. Dan photographed my catch and tied on a small dark olive caddis, and we switched sides, and in a short amount of time he was attached to a pair of nice fish on his caddis. One was another bright rainbow and I snapped a photo of him cradling the shining jewel.
It was now beyond the time we’d agreed to quit, but the action was heating up, so we continued upstream through some attractive pockets and riffles. I managed to land a nine inch brown that I spotted nestled on the bottom in a small pocket, and Dan landed another fish and experienced several refusals. Finally we reached an area where there was a break in the thick vegetation between the stream and the road, so we agreed to call it a day and returned to the car. It was a fun productive day in early November on the Big Thompson, and we were both surprised that some of the best fishing occurred late in the afternoon when the sun dropped low in the sky and the air temperature plummeted.