Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM
Location: Within the City of Boulder
After a fantastic day on Tuesday that featured five landed trout in three hours including four rainbows in the fifteen to sixteen inch range, I was quite anxious to return to a stream. Originally I planned to make a trip to a local creek on Thursday, but then I discovered that my Bucknell Bison were playing West Virginia University in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. I concluded that many additional days of fishing were ahead of me, but the opportunities to see Bucknell in the tournament were infrequent. I spent Thursday afternoon in front of the TV set in spite of spectacular weather. Unfortunately Bucknell lost by six points, but it was a great game, and I was proud of the effort put forth by my alma mater. Bucknell is much smaller than WVU, and it does not compromise its academic standards for sports, so hanging tough with the Mountaineers was quite an achievement.
My calendar displayed commitments for Friday, so the next viable weekday available for a fishing trip was Wednesday, March 22. Normally I spurn weekend fishing, but eight days was too long to wait for another chance to wet a line, and the summer weather in March was too spectacular to bypass. I considered my options for a Saturday trip. Clear Creek flows were spiking in the afternoon, and this reflected the impact of low level snow melt. My success fishing among ice chunks and run off was limited. I consider South Boulder Creek my home stream, but flows were trickling through the canyon at 14 CFS. The combination of low flows and potential crowds at the popular tailwater made visiting South Boulder Creek a risky proposition. The Big Thompson flows were reasonable, but this is another fishery that receives above average pressure on weekends. The North Fork of the St. Vrain remained an option, and I experienced decent success there on two earlier trips. The last option that I reviewed was Boulder Creek. The stream gauge at Orodell at the bottom of the canyon was not displaying a reading, but then I remembered that my new friend, Trevor, suggested Boulder Creek within the city.
I decided to explore new water once again. Trevor would not devote trips and hours to Boulder Creek, if it did not contain trout, and the trendy place to fish on a balmy late winter day in March was more than likely the mountains. I gambled that most fishermen would rush to the higher elevations and ignore the more mundane flows within the City of Boulder.
I arrived at a parking space near Boulder Creek at 11AM on Saturday morning, and after rigging my Orvis Access four weight, I hiked .5 mile downstream from a bridge and paused to assess the water. Boulder Creek within the city limits is much more placid than the tumbling mountain torrent that passes through the canyon to the west. My starting point was just below a gorgeous deep pool that contained a deep center current and shelf pools on either side. I tied a size 14 medium olive body stimulator to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear on a two foot dropper, and I warmed my arm up by casting to some marginal runs, while I progressed toward the aforementioned pool.
On the third cast to the center of the pool, a small brown trout darted from its holding lie and snatched the hares ear near the lip. I was excited to break the ice early, and cautious optimism flushed my thoughts. I continued with some additional unproductive casts, and as I was doing this, I observed quite a few large midges hovering near the water. I judged them to be size 20, and for the midge species in flowing water they bordered on giants. One rise is not enough to suggest a switch to a dry fly, but it did prompt me to add another length of tippet to the hares ear, and I knotted a mercury flashback size 20 black beauty to the end of my line.
As I began casting to the left shelf pool, a cluster of midges appeared and shortly thereafter I witnessed a couple more rises. Surely these feeding fish could not ignore my three fly offering, could they?. I did not wait long for the answer. Within the next forty-five minutes my net felt the weight of five additional brown trout. The largest was eleven inches, and all except one nabbed the hares ear, but I enjoyed the fast action in the small stream on a warm weekend in March despite the small size of the fish. The black beauty produced the brown trout that ignored the hares ear.
Before I paused for lunch at 12:30 I continued upstream and added two additional brown trout to the fish count. Another nipped the black beauty, and the other fell for the hares ear nymph. Each fish emerged from the tail of nice deep slow moving pools. Boulder Creek exhibited a nice mix of small deep pools next to undercut banks and logs, as well as deep runs that fed the pools and some narrow fast moving chutes.
After lunch I progressed upstream, as I prospected the likely spots, and I landed two more small browns on the hares ear. The slowing catch rate correlated with the rising temperature, but I was thrilled to reach the double digit milestone. Meanwhile the bike path was buzzing with all manner of traffic, as the summer weather brought out the walkers, skateboarders, inline skaters, dog walkers, joggers and cyclists in abundant quantities. For the most part the outdoor enthusiasts did not bother my fishing other than the occasional splashing dog.
By 1:30 I approached a deep pool that represented the most attractive fishing structure of the day. As I paused to assess my approach, I spotted a decent fish resting along the inside edge of the shelf pool created by the main current. The fish appeared to be actively feeding, as it made occasional sudden moves to intercept items from the underwater drift. I made five or six passes with my dry/dropper configuration, and each was ignored by my sighted target. I decided to change tactics, and I swapped the stimulator for a yellow fat Albert to support two size 14 beadhead nymphs. I retained the beadhead hares ear and added a beadhead ultra zug bug to the end of my line, but this change in strategy had no impact on the trout eight feet in front of me.
After ten drifts along the current seam and through the short pool I moved on, and I managed to fool a small brown trout that snatched the ultra zug bug during the next thirty minutes. The sun was now high in the sky, and the air temperature climbed toward the eighty degree mark. The bare limbs of the numerous streamside trees afforded scant shade, although the narrow shadows from the branches and limbs caused my top fly to alternate between sunlight and darkness. On several drifts I reacted to the illusory disappearance of the top fly, when it transitioned from sun to shade.
Near the end of my day I encountered a long slow moving pool, and I was excited to notice a series of dimpling rises in the flats twenty-five feet above me. I quickly concluded that the splash down of the fat Albert would scatter the feeding fish, so I undertook the time consuming task of removing the three fly dry/dropper set up. I surmised that the fish were consuming tiny midges, but I was not ready to resort to a size 24 griffiths gnat, so I opted instead for a size 18 black parachute ant with a pink wing post. I stripped out sufficient line to shoot a longer than normal cast, and on the second attempt I checked my rod tip high and allowed the fly and leader to flutter down above the position of one of the risers. Sip. A quick reflex enabled me to lift my rod, and a spunky ten inch brown trout frolicked on the end of my four weight. I quickly brought it to my net and snapped a photo and released it back to its natural environment. I ended my day with a wild brown trout that sipped an ant in a smooth slow flowing pool. It was a fitting conclusion to a warm late winter day on Boulder Creek.
Fish Landed: 12