Time: 10:00AM – 2:00PM
Location: High gradient section downstream from Boulder Falls
I completed three successive days of fly fishing, and I found myself reviewing the stream flows in search of a destination on Thursday. Three physical therapy appointments provided modest improvement to my inflamed elbow, as the pinching sensation subsided to intermittent burns. I began a regimen of daily icing, nerve glides, and stretches; and my new therapy toy, a yellow flex bar, arrived in the mail. How does one explain this madness? As a fellow angler once told my wife, “he has the disease”. I suppose my continuing passion for fly fishing is a testimony to the complexity and challenge of the sport. After thirty-five years I continue to learn and encounter new and unique experiences. Thursday was August 2, and the summer was flashing by, and I was not about to rest during the prime summer season. That is my explanation for the madness.
I was not interested in a long drive, so I confined my search to Front Range streams. I ruled out the Cache la Poudre after a lackluster day of guided fishing with my friend Dan on July 20. The North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek was flowing at a paltry 21 CFS, so another stream was crossed off my list. The Big Thompson River dropped to 93 CFS, and the lower volume intrigued me, but my recent visit was rather average, and the canyon is heavily pressured by guides with Rocky Mountain National Park visitors. Clear Creek remained an option with flows in the 80 CFS range, but I tested those waters on Monday and Wednesday, and I was seeking some variety. I was encouraged to note that South Boulder Creek dropped to the 134 CFS level, and I love the small tailwater west of Golden, but that option required a hike into the canyon. Boulder Creek was tumbling along in the canyon west of the city at 41 CFS. Based on prior experience I was certain that this level was adequate, and I liked the idea of fishing the high gradient section with numerous plunge pools and highly oxygenated white water. In order to confirm my hunch about Boulder Creek, I searched this blog and found an entry for July 29, 2016, when I enjoyed a twenty fish day in the steep canyon section that I was considering. This clinched it, and I made the short drive to Boulder Canyon.
The high temperature for Denver was forecast to reach ninety degrees, and I assumed this translated to the low to mid-80’s in the canyon, so I opted to wade wet. The decision proved to be prescient, as the starting temperature in the mid-70’s quickly warmed to the eighty degree mark. The cold flows of Boulder Creek were very refreshing, and I alternated between climbing the rocky bank and wading up to my knees in the icy current. The flows were as reported and high enough to provide deep pools and runs, yet moderate enough to enable comfortable wading and stream crossing. I rigged up my Orvis Access four weight, crossed the highway, and carefully negotiated a rocky bank to the edge of the creek. A small promising pool appeared just above my entry point.
My 2016 report informed me that I fished a gray stimulator successfully in the morning; and a three-fly dry/dropper configuration consisting of a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph produced results in the afternoon. Late in the day a size 16 gray caddis allowed me to add to my growing fish count. This historical knowledge guided me to tie a gray stimulator to my line to begin my day, and I sprayed casts across the pool with great optimism.The stimulator did indeed capture the attention of the stream residents, but the large attractor was apparently close to their desired snack, but not close enough. Splashy refusals ruled the first ten minutes, so I resorted to downsizing.
I withdrew a size 16 gray deer hair caddis from my fly box and knotted it to my line, and instantly the fish were fooled. I rolled the fish counter to six in the first hour, and the small caddis was the star performer. I repeatedly grasped the fly firmly to remove it from the lips of the netted fish, and despite my care, hair loss became a disease of the wing. The fish did not seem to mind, but it reached a point, where I was challenged to follow the small drifting nearly wingless caddis adult.
I retired the sparse gray caddis and replaced it with another with a full wing, but guess what happened? The persnickety trout once again snubbed my offering. What was going on here? Were these fish selective to a gray body caddis with a minimal wing? During this time I observed four or five small mayflies, as they became airborne and gained altitude over the water. From a distance they appeared to be pale morning duns. Did the fish that I landed in the morning mistake the gray-bodied caddis with a nearly missing downwing for an emerging pale morning dun?
I decided to test my theory. I plucked a size 16 light gray comparadun from my box and affixed it to my tippet. Several fish in the pool in front of me rejected the caddis previously, so I covered the same area a second time with the comparadun. Voila! One of the finicky residents rushed to the surface and inhaled the slender comparadun. I moved on and duped two additional brown trout during the remainder of the morning, and that equated to three trout that were bamboozled by the mayfly imitation.
At 11:45 I approached an area where two large trees arched over the creek from both sides. The obstruction dictated that I climb the bank to the shoulder of the highway to bypass the wading blockade, and since I was forty yards above the car, I returned and consumed my lunch.
At noon I resumed my western progression, and I cut down to the creek just above the aforementioned hindering tree branches. I continued to cast the small comparadun with high expectations, but the early afternoon developed into a lull in action. The small gray fly was very difficult to track, and evidence of emerging pale morning duns disappeared prior to my lunch break, so I elected to make a change. Although the air temperature increased to eighty, the sky alternated between high clouds and bright sun in a 50/50 ratio. A slight breeze ruffled the leaves of the trees in the canyon intermittently, and I decided to try a Jake’s glup beetle. The conditions seemed ripe for a plopping terrestrial.
The hunch was spot on, and two small brown trout charged the foam beetle in the first pool that accepted the telltale splash. The beetle was the smallest one in my box, and I suspect that it was a size 12, but tied with a narrower than usual section of foam. Between twelve o’clock and two o’clock I plunked the beetle in all the likely spots, and more times than not a trout rushed to the top and crushed the terrestrial impostor. Needless to say I had a blast. The fish count skied to twenty-four, before I called it quits fifty yards below the point, where the stream that forms Boulder Falls merged with Boulder Creek. All of the afternoon trout were browns except for a lone brook trout that gulped the beetle in the middle of a deep plunge pool.
Thursday was a fun day on Boulder Creek. True, the largest fish barely reached eleven inches, but I was challenged to uncover the correct fly, and ultimately it became a game of reading the water and executing short drag free drifts to likely holding spots away from the rapidly rushing current. The sun was high in the sky and the thermometer soared, but I was content to wade wet in the clear cold rushing waters among huge boulders, while I netted an abundant quantity of wild trout. I have the disease.
Fish Landed: 24