Time: 1:30PM – 4:30PM
Location: Approximately two miles beyond the end of the bike path.
Fish Landed: 11
The spring snowstorm forecast for the weekend of April 16 materialized and dumped accumulations ranging from twelve to thirty-six inches along the Front Range. The snow began on Friday night and continued through Sunday, and then the air temperatures dropped to wintry highs in the thirties and low forties. Although I was extremely anxious to return to a stream after my encouraging outing on Friday, I am not fond of fishing in temperatures below 45 degrees, so Jane and I spent a day skiing at Breckenridge. It was a smart choice as the recent snow in the mountains provided excellent skiing conditions for the middle of April.
By Wednesday I could no longer avoid my attraction to spring fly fishing. High temperatures were forecast to reach the upper fifties in Denver, so I searched for a destination that was warm enough to satisfy my desire for minimal comfort, but I also sought reasonable flows unaffected by low level snow melt from the recent storm. The place that combined these criteria was Boulder Creek west of Boulder, CO. Highs in Boulder were projected to reach the upper fifties, and the flows were listed at a very manageable 33 cfs. The chart on the DWR stream flow site did not show a recent spike, so I was encouraged that rapid snow melt was not impacting the creek.
I took my time on Wednesday morning, as I knew the temperatures would not reach my comfort zone until the early afternoon. When I arrived in Boulder and turned left on Boulder Canyon Boulevard, I was encouraged by both the level of the water and the clarity. I hoped to fish west of the high gradient section that rewarded me with some success last summer, so I traveled west for eight or nine miles. Unfortunately as I ascended the steep grade next to the river, I realized that the amount of snow increased. The combination of snow and steep rocky banks forced me to reconsider my plan, and I executed a U-turn and progressed back toward Boulder. Approximately two miles west of Orodell I found a wide pullout and parked the Santa Fe. It was now close to 1PM, so I broke out my lunch and gulped it down before I prepared to fish.
Even at this location quite a bit of snow remained along the road and on the banks along the creek, but the gradient of the stream was less severe, and the banks were not as steep thus enabling a safer descent. I hiked downstream along the shoulder of the highway for .3 miles and then angled down a rocky embankment to the edge of the water. At this point I tied a size 14 olive bodied stimulator to the line on my Sage four weight, and beneath the stimulator I added a salad spinner on a three foot dropper. I cast to the likely trout holding locations, and after fifteen minutes a small brown trout zipped to the surface and gulped the stimulator. This occurred after a fish refused the surface fly twice, so I assumed that the landed fish was too hungry to ignore my offering a third time.
I continued on for another fifteen minutes, but the magic of the early brown trout was not repeated. The salad spinner was not attracting attention, and I desired to switch to a larger nymph, so I clipped off both flies. I knotted a fat Albert to my line as the indicator fly, and then I added an ultra zug bug on the three foot dropper along with a bright green caddis pupa as the last of three flies. I began casting this trio to likely spots, and it was not long before a ten inch brown attacked the caddis pupa as it began to swing away from a small deep nook along the left bank.
After releasing number two I covered quite a bit of water without any encouraging action, but eventually another decent brown trout nipped the ultra zug bug, and I elevated my fish count to three. I began to rationalize that a three fish day was decent particularly with run off reducing the stream temperatures to winter levels. Just as these thoughts filtered through my brain, I tossed the fat Albert to the middle of a foam patch, and I was shocked to see a fish smash the foam attractor. I landed four brown trout in the first ninety minutes of fishing, and each fish ate a different fly.
My catch rate improved over the remaining two hours, as I landed seven additional brown trout. At one point I noticed some sporadic rises, so I swapped the bright green caddis pupa for a beadless size 18 soft hackle emerger. This was a nice tactic, but the emerger never produced a fish. Two of the late afternoon seven grabbed the ultra zug bug, and I was surprised to witness the others aggressively smash the fat Albert. Landing trout on a bright yellow foam attractor pattern in the middle of April was a blast, although I am still a bit stunned that the fish responded to my surface offering.
I also became more selective in where I cast, as I noticed that most of the fish came from slow deep eddies or small pools next to the bank. Moderate riffles and seams along faster runs are some of my favorite places to cast and catch fish in the summer, but during the cold spring conditions of Wednesday, these spots were not productive. I learned to recognize the water types that produced fish and focused my efforts in those places.
An eleven fish day on Wednesday on Boulder Creek was truly a bonus, as I did not expect to fish until Friday after enduring the storm and examining the weather for the latter half of the week. I was reasonably comfortable in fifty degree temperatures, and I unlocked enough of the code to generate some reasonable action. The brown trout were small, but wild and spunky and gorgeous with bright orange spots sprinkled on buttery yellow bodies. Best of all it temporarily satisfied my fly fishing addiction. The key word is temporarily.