Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM
Location: Boulder Canyon west of Boulder, CO
Jane and I attended the Rockies trouncing of the Phillies at Coors Field on Wednesday night, and the later than normal bedtime caused me to rule out a long day trip for fly fishing on Thursday. With flows on South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir continuing to trickle at 7.5 CFS, I ruled out my favorite local fishery. The vagaries of Denver water management were on display with the Big Thompson River rushing down the canyon below Lake Estes at 130 CFS, and I was not interested in edge fishing in September. I narrowed my search to two remaining options; Boulder Creek and Clear Creek. The streamflow data displayed 16 CFS for Boulder Creek, when I reviewed the web site, and the popular canyon section west of Boulder, CO became my destination on Thursday, September 27.
Although the high temperature was forecast to reach 86 degrees in Denver, CO, I knew that the morning would be quite chilly in the shadows of the canyon, so I took my time and delayed my departure until 9:30. I arrived at a pullout along Boulder Creek by 10:45, and after I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I descended a steep bank and stood in the stream ready to cast by 11AM. I began my quest for Boulder Canyon brown trout with a Jake’s gulp beetle, and very little time transpired before a ten inch brown trout darted to the surface and smashed the foam terrestrial. Within the first thirty minutes three additional browns slurped the beetle, and I was quite pleased with my early success. Would it continue?
Not exactly. During the next half hour I covered many quality pools, and the trout seemed to go into hiding. At noon I paused to down my small lunch, and while doing so I observed a gorgeous long pool just upstream from my flat rock vantage point. I never saw evidence of trout in the pool, but shortly after lunch I converted to a two fly dry/dropper. I switched the foam beetle to a peacock hippy stomper and added a salvation nymph on a thirty inch dropper. The dry/dropper experiment lasted for twenty minutes, and I added three more small brown trout to the count, but the plunk of the nymph caused numerous fish to scatter to hiding places. The fish that I landed nabbed the nymph along fast current seams or at the lip of a pocket, when I lifted, but I covered quite a bit of the stream in order to catch three small fish, and I decided to make another change.
Clearly the low clear water placed the stream residents in a skittish mood, and I reasoned that a small light dry fly might be a strong producer. I knotted a size 16 gray deer hair caddis to my line, and I began to prospect the likely spots with a single dry fly. The low riding caddis adult did fool two fish to elevate my total to nine, but it was very difficult to follow in the shadows and swirling currents, and it was not a hot producer. In fact the number of refusals outnumbered the takes, so I once again made a change. I reverted to a Jake’s gulp beetle, and this mainstay terrestrial became my steady fish magnet for much of the remainder of the day.
I plopped the beetle in all the likely spots and moved quickly, and the fish count swelled from nine to twenty-six. At one point I hooked a fish, and within seconds the fish was free. Upon closer inspection I discovered a curly end to my leader, and I was minus one Jake’s gulp beetle. I replaced it with another and continued netting brown trout; however, the success was matched by nearly an equal number of refusals. I suspect, however, that the fish that rejected the beetle were quite small, and the size 12 beetle was an overwhelming mouthful.
My most effective technique was to cautiously approach, and when I was across from a deep pocket or shelf pool, I flicked the beetle to the upstream portion of the target area. I held my rod tip high to keep the fly line off the water, and this minimized drag. Quite often the slow moving beetle with no drag was too much for a Boulder Creek resident to resist, and the plop with no line contact seemed to minimize spooked fish.
At 2:30 I approached a spectacular pool, and after witnessing several refusals I decided to experiment with some different dry flies. First I replaced the beetle with a parachute ant, and I was certain that this would arouse the interest of the low water feeders, but it was a huge dud. Next I returned to the size 16 gray caddis adult, and this earlier producer generated several refusals. Could the size and color be correct, but the fish were attuned to an up wing insect such as a pale morning dun? I tied a light gray comparadun to my line, but this offering failed to elicit even a look or refusal.
Finally I gave up on the quality pool and moved on and reverted to plopping the beetle and boosted the fish count total to its final resting place of twenty-six. By 3:30PM I began to think more about the Phillies vs Rockies afternoon game than fly fishing; so I hooked the beetle to my rod guide, climbed the bank and hiked .5 mile along the highway, until I reached the car. After I removed my gear, I quickly tuned the radio to the ballgame, and I was pleased to learn the Rockies held a 5 – 1 lead in the seventh inning. On my return drive I listened to the remainder of the game, and the Rockies held on for a 5-3 win; their seventh consecutive win in their push for a division championship.
Thursday was a fun day in Boulder Canyon. Yes the fish were small, although I did land two thirteen inch fish, and that is lunker size for Boulder Creek. I was challenged to solve the puzzle of what to offer the canyon residents, and the low clear water placed a premium on long drag free casts and stealthy approaches. The changing variables of fly fishing are what keep me coming back.
Fish Landed: 26