Category Archives: Fishing Reports

Fishing Reports

North Fork of the White River – 09/16/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: National forest area

North Fork of the White River 09/16/2021 Photo Album

Thursday felt like a repeat of Wednesday. I spent Wednesday evening filling two empty fly boxes with dry flies from my boat box to replace my MFC box that broke free from its leash on Wednesday. Needless to say I am still grieving over the loss of a box stuffed with hopper patterns, chubby Chernobyls, classic Chernobyls, ants, beetles, stimulators, caddis, yellow sallies, and comparaduns. I am anxious to fill another MFC brown trout box with my mainstay patterns, when I return home.

Trout Expected

The temperature at the car, as I prepared to fish, was already in the sixties, and by the time I returned to the Santa Fe at 4PM, it was 69 degrees. I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked to my chosen starting point. During the afternoon some large puffy clouds rolled across the sky on a regular basis, and I actually resorted to wearing my rain shell for additional warmth for most of the afternoon.

Brilliant Red Says It All

For the day I kept my fly selection rather basic, as I started and ended with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper, a size 14 prince nymph, and a size 16 salvation nymph. Thursday’s game was more about casting to the right water than choosing the correct fly.

Love the Deep Color

Another Look

I began my quest for trout at 10:30AM, and by lunchtime the fish counter rested on eleven. Quite a few chunky twelve and thirteen inch rainbows rested in my net, but the ones that escaped were the most impressive. I quickly learned that marginal spots were a waste of time, and I focused my casting on places with depth and length. Of course, as is usually the case, the farther I moved from easy access, the better my catch rate. The hopper only generated a couple fish, but the prince nymph delivered most of the damage. The salvation induced ten grabs, and the prince accounted for the remainder. Inexplicably numerous prime spots failed to produce, but I discovered that movement was my friend. Rather than dwelling on the failure, I pressed on and found spots that produced multiple trout.

Spawning Colors

I Know You Are in There

The ratio by species was around seventy percent rainbow and cutbow and thirty percent brook trout. At one point I considered adopting Wednesday’s lineup of a hippie stomper and salvation nymph, but I concluded that the configuration might attract more small trout, and I was pleased with the steady stream of energized eleven to thirteen inch rainbow trout that were finding their way to my net.

Like Opening a Christmas Present

By 2:30PM the catch rate slowed considerably, my arm was sore and weary from four straight days of casting, and I grew increasingly concerned about my exit plan. I called it quits at 3PM to allow time to find the main dirt road, and after a .9 mile hike I arrived at my car.

Outfitter and Horseback Riding Stables Next to Ute Lodge

Although I fell short of fifty fish on Thursday, I registered another outstanding day of fly fishing. I estimate that half of the thirty-six fish were robust rainbows and cutbows in the eleven to thirteen inch range. A sprinkling of vividly colored brook trout added to the mix, and I ended my week in the Flattops in a satisfied state of mind.

Fish Landed: 36

North Fork of the White River – 09/15/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: National forest area

North Fork of the White River 09/15/2021 Photo Album

Another spectacular day of fly fishing was overshadowed by an expensive loss, but I will return to that misfortune at the end of this report. After a terrific day on the South Fork, I returned to the North Fork on Wednesday.

Typical Productive Bank Pocket

Once again the weather was perfect, as the dashboard displayed 53 degrees, and I assembled my Sage four weight and prepared for a day of fly fishing. I felt a bit chilly, so I slipped into my rain shell, but within fifteen minutes of fishing I shed the layer and remained in my fishing shirt for my 6.5 hours on the creek. The air temperature was 75 degrees, when I started the Santa Fe for my return drive to the cabin. The stream appeared to be in prime condition, although a bit lower than previous Septembers. Eventually I would discover that greater than normal stealth was required to fool the wild trout on Wednesday.

Pool Toy Hopper 2

Very Fine Specimen

The day of fly fishing essentially breaks down into three segments. During the two morning hours I prospected a significant distance from my starting point and landed eight trout. The fish count included a couple of chunky twelve inch rainbows and a mix of smaller brook trout and rainbows. Perhaps I was spoiled by my ridiculous success on the South Fork, but I sensed that I was not catching fish in prime shelf pools that produced in previous years. I used a size 8 tan pool toy with a salvation nymph for most of the morning. I did hook up with two above average beasts that I failed to land, so I had a shot at double digits.

Promising Pocket

Orange Belly

After lunch I began to experiment with dry/dropper combinations. I added an ultra zug bug along with a salvation for a short period, but the results were no better than the two fly approach. I also added a sunken ant below the salvation, and that move seemed to provide a temporary boost, as the fish count advanced to the thirteen range. Still, it seemed as though I was casting to prime lies with no sign of fish, and I was not catching my normal quota of hot cutbows and rainbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range.

Lowered for Release

Stunning

I pondered the situation and concluded that the large hopper and nymph tandem was disturbing the water too much at the lower than normal water level. I remedied the excessive splash down by replacing the hopper with a smaller yet buoyant hippie stomper and matched it with a salvation nymph and sunken ant. This combination turned the tide, and the fish counter zoomed from fifteen to fifty-two during the remaining hours on the creek. After some time I realized that the ant was simply getting in the way, so I revisited the two fly dry/dropper, and judging from the numbers, the trout obviously approved.

Defined Slashes

Elegant Trout

I’m not sure whether to credit the fly selection, the rise of the water temperature to a prime feeding range, or my increased distance from the trailhead; but suddenly the North Fork was on fire. The afternoon action was equal to or better than previous years, and my net was visited by bright orange-bellied ten inch brookies, a host of muscular rainbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and two copper-hued cutbows. One of the cutbows may have been the best fish of the day, as it stretched the tape to fifteen inches. The salvation was easily the star fly of the day, although five trout crushed the foam-bodied stomper.

Amazing Yellow Spots

Below the Woodpile

Highlight of the Day

By 4:30PM I was quite weary from climbing over rocks and deadfalls, and I was positioned below a short steep bank, so I called it quits. When I returned to the car, I decided to replace flies that I lost throughout the day, and one of those was a hippie stomper. I grabbed my waders and reached in the bib pocket for my MFC dry fly box. Imagine my shock, when all I found was half of the fly line that served as a tether, and it was frayed where the fly box was previously connected. My pulse and heartrate elevated at the thought of losing my valuable selection of dry flies. I quickly returned to my exit point and carefully maneuvered down a steep bank to a place, where I remembered fishing through some difficult shrubs, but the box was nowhere to be found. I estimate that the box contained at least 400 flies. I thought about spending Thursday retracing my path, but I concluded that it would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Did the fly box fall in the water or on the bank? If on the bank, which bank? I would need to search both banks, since I criss-crossed the stream on a regular basis. I decided to write off the flies and move on. Fortunately, I had my boat box along on the trip, and it contained a deep supply of backup dry flies. I planned to fill two spare fly boxes that evening and continue my Flattops adventure on Thursday and possibly Friday.

Chinese Wall

The loss of my flies put a significant damper on what should have been the celebration of another fifty fish day. Hopefully as time passes, my memory of the magnificent day of fishing will overshadow the loss of a fly box.

Fish Landed: 52

South Fork of the White River – 09/14/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: National forest area

South Fork of the White River 09/14/2021 Photo Album

The temperature was 51 degrees, when I began my hike, but the exertion from hiking quickly warmed my body temperature. I never wore a layer beyond my fishing shirt, and I was comfortable all day. The sun was bright and warm with only a rare cloud. There were some periods of breeziness, but not enough to impact my casting. The river was very clear and perhaps slightly lower than previous visits, but not enough to impact my fishing.

Near the Start

Not a Bad Start

I knew from past trips that the cutbows and rainbows of the South Fork are very strong fighters, so I rigged my Sage One five weight for extra leverage. This proved to be a very prescient move. I hiked a good distance from the parking lot and then cut to the river and configured my line with a size 8 yellow fat Ablert, a size 12 weighted prince nymph and a salvation nymph. I extended the leader, so that the total distance from the fat Albert to the salvation was four feet. I wanted to make sure that I was getting deep enough in the relatively high and cold flows of the South Fork.

Nice Deep Water in This Area

Jagged Wing Edge

Look at That Tail

The system apparently fit the circumstances on Tuesday, because I never changed the flies through six hours of fly fishing. I lost four salvation nymphs and replaced them, but I never changed to different patterns. I also knew from previous years, that extreme efficiency was necessary to succeed on the Flattops river. I skipped wide sections with shallow riffles and marginal pockets, and I focused my efforts on long slots and riffles of moderate depth. I knew my strategy was paying off, when I paused for lunch at 11:45AM with eight rainbows already notched on the fish counter. In addition, two very respectable fish escaped from my line and prevented me from upping the fish count total to ten.

Smooth Water by the Bank Enticing

Pastel Pink Stripe

Dense Speckle Pattern

The remainder of the day was simply amazing. I concentrated my casts to quality spots with depth and progressed upstream for .7 mile, and the fish count soared from eight at lunch to fifty-one, when I quit at 4:30PM. The fishing was simply outstanding. Of the 51 trout landed, one was a brook trout, and the remainder were rainbows and cutbows, but the rainbows clearly dominated the net. I estimate that thirty-one trout gobbled the prince nymph and twenty snatched the salvation. By the end of the day the prince nymph was essentially a tapered peacock cylinder with gold rib and a gold bead. I find it amazing that the fly held up that well through thirty fish.

Inviting

Love This Shot

But what about size? The size and energy of these fish is what makes Tuesday potentially the number one day of fishing in 2021. I landed at least three rainbows that stretched the tape to the sixteen and seventeen inch range. The predominant size was twelve to fourteen inches, and the rainbows were pound for pound some of the toughest I have ever wrangled with. Of course there were probably fifteen below twelve inches, but if you do the math, you will realize that my day included an abundant quantity of above average size fish. Can someone pinch me?

Reentry

On Tuesday fifty-one fish were landed on a stream that historically has proven to be quite temperamental. What was different about this venture? I am placing credit on the longer dropper leader and the extra weight of the prince nymph. These modifications to my approach enabled me to get my nymphs in front of large trout in deeper lies. I suspect I was drifting over the top of likely eaters on previous trips. Being disciplined on my river coverage was also a major positive. How can the next several days in the Flattops possibly compare to Tuesday? Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 51

North Fork of the White River – 09/13/2021

Time: 1:15PM – 5:00PM

Location: National Forest area

North Fork of the White River 09/13/2021 Photo Album

Every year around the second week of September I schedule a trip to the Flattops area of Colorado. It is a relatively remote area that is difficult to access from Denver, and this circumstance is probably an essential part of the allure. The area is teeming with wildlife and lacking human beings, at least that is the case during weekdays in September. The timing of my trip overlaps with muzzleloader and archery hunting seasons, so I do share the wilderness with orange clad hunters, horses and horse trailers, and large canvas tents. Modern amenities are very basic, and I always struggle to find a strong enough cell phone signal to maintain contact with my wife, Jane. Normally I camp during my one week stay in the Flattops area, but for 2021, in a concession to my advancing age, I rented the rustic Pine cabin at the Ute Lodge near Marvine, CO. For $150 per night I dwelled in luxury with heat, a bed, a refrigerator, a bathroom with a shower and a kitchen that enabled me to prepare meals. It was rather basic, but cozy, and it served my needs perfectly.

Very Respectable Rainbow

I began the week on Monday morning, as I departed Denver at 8:05AM, and this allowed me to pull into a nice wide pullout next to the North Fork of the White River by 12:30PM. I quickly inhaled my small lunch and pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage One five piece rod. I intended to tangle with some above average fish on Monday; and, therefore, chose the larger rod for the extra leverage. The air temperature was a cool sixty degrees, and heavy clouds dominated the sky for most of the afternoon. When I arrived along the edge of the river, I noted that the stream seemed lower than normal for mid September, but it was still decent for fly fishing in my estimation.

Wide, Fast Shallow Water

Distinct Spots

I began the afternoon with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper and added a size 12 prince nymph and a size 16 salvation nymph. Between 1:15PM and 5PM I worked my way up the river from the starting point, until I was forty yards above the confluence with a small tributary. Two brief periods of light rain forced me to wade to shore to pull on my raincoat. I stuck with the pool toy for most of the afternoon, and the prince nymph was a constant. The end fly rotated between the salvation nymph, ultra zug bug, hares ear nymph, iron sally, sunken ant, and an emerald caddis pupa.

Nice Size

After a series of refusals to the hopper at 4PM, I swapped the pool toy for a gray parachute hopper, and as a final act I exchanged the parahopper for a fat Albert for visibility and floatation. Over the course of the afternoon I landed three trout on the pool toy hopper (one was a rewarding, fat twelve inch brook trout), one on the salvation nymph, two on the sunken ant, and the remainder on the prince nymph. Three countable trout were brookies, and the remainder were rainbows. A pair of chunky bows in the thirteen to fourteen inch range were the highlights of the day along with the two twelve inch brook trout and seven energized rainbows in the twelve inch range.

Some Nice Deep Runs Ahead

Greedy for the Pool Toy Hopper

Large for a Stream Brook Trout

I covered roughly .7 mile in just under four hours, so I was skipping a fair amount of unproductive wide shallow riffle sections. Prerequisites for success were depth and length. Short deep pockets did not produce. The key to a decent catch rate was constant movement and being very selective about where to cast. The afternoon encompassed quite a few refusals to the pool toy, and I was tempted at times to experiment with a double dry, but I never made the change because of the performance of the prince nymph.

Look at the Dense Spot Pattern on This Cutbow

In summary, I rated Monday as a solid success. Eighteen fish in four hours was a decent catch rate, and eleven chunky brook and rainbow trout in the twelve to fourteen inch range was a respectable showing. Last year I landed fifteen in the same section over a similar period of time, so Monday’s performance was an improvement. By the end of my fishing day on Monday I was looking forward to day two in the Flattops.

Fish Landed: 18

Cozy Cabin Bedroom

South Boulder Creek – 09/10/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/10/2021 Photo Album

The star of my fly fishing outing on September 10, 2021 on South Boulder Creek was the sunk ant. My history with the sunk ant is rather brief relative to my fly fishing lifetime, but it has recently climbed my fly rankings as a promising producer. Click on the sunk ant link to read more about my history with sunken ants, and you will also find the source of the pattern I choose to deploy.

But I am getting ahead of myself. If you read my previous post on Pine Creek, you know that my attempt to return to South Boulder Creek for a fourth time this summer was thwarted, when the Denver Water powers reduced the outflows from Gross Reservoir on Wednesday from 95 CFS to 15 CFS. This spooked me, because at the time of my decision on a fishing destination, the downward spiral on the graph was at 65 CFS, and I was uncertain how low it would go. I am also leery of visiting a stream after a dramatic change in flows, as it takes some time for the stream residents to adjust to their modified environment.

The DWR graph eventually settled at 11.1 CFS and remained at that level Wednesday through Thursday. On Thursday evening I searched through my South Boulder Creek blog reports on this site, and I found two from October 2017 that described my experience, when the flows trickled at 9.3 CFS and 10.5 CFS. I actually enjoyed double digit days in both instances, and this encouraged me to make the drive to South Boulder Creek on Friday morning.

11.1 CFS

The air temperature upon my arrival in the parking lot was 71 degrees, and I was tempted to pull on my wet wading pants and wading socks; however, historically me feet get numb at the small tailwater, even when I wear my waders, so I adhered to the wader approach, even though I knew I was in for a hot hike. I strung my Orvis Access four weight and descended the steep path to the edge of the creek; and, sure enough, the stream was flowing along at a reduced level from what I became accustomed to. Bare rocks and dry streambed characterized the view, but even at 11.1 CFS the creek was the size of some of the high mountain streams that I recently explored.

Superb

Early Winner

Parachute Ant Took Over

By 10:30AM I was perched along the creek ready to pursue the wild denizens of South Boulder Creek canyon. My blog posts highlighted the success of beetles and ants, and I was present on the creek one month before my 2017 visit, but IĀ  decided to experiment with a Jake’s gulp beetle first. The size 12 foam terrestrial attracted attention in the early going, and I landed three nice brown trout, before the trout seemed to scorn my offering more frequently than they ingested it. On one of the 2017 posts a black parachute ant was on fire, so I exchanged the beetle for a size 18 black ant with a pink wing post. The low floating bug duped a pair of nice fish, but it also floated unmolested through some very attractive smooth pools. As my morning evolved, I spotted five yellow sallies, as they slowly glided skyward toward the streamside trees. Could this be a hot menu item?

Stealth Required

I once again swapped flies and replaced the ant with a size 16 deer hair yellow sally. The move paid quick dividends, and I landed five more trout to elevate the fish count to ten, as I found a nice flat rock on the south bank and chowed down with my lunch. Several of the trout attacked the yellow sally aggressively, when I twitched it across some shallow riffles, so movement was part of the program during the yellow sally phase.

Nice Width

After lunch I suffered a lull, and I no longer witnessed natural yellow stoneflies in the atmosphere, so I once again changed the game plan. I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line under the assumption that it was close enough to a green drake, that it would attract attention, if western green drakes were still active. A couple of aggressive feeders snatched the foam attractor, but refusals were also part of the equation. The foam hippie stomper is large enough to support a dropper, but I knew that a beadhead would create too much of a disturbance in the low and clear conditions, so I opted to tie on a sunk ant on a 1.5 foot leader. What a move this turned out to be!

A Rainbow Emerged from the Right Side

Out of the Shadows

For the remainder of the day I progressed upstream with the dry/dropper combination and boosted the fish count from ten to thirty-four. Friday afternoon represented the type of fishing I thoroughly enjoy. I fluttered casts to all the likely pools, pockets, riffles and runs; and more often than not the trout cooperated. The hippie stomper remained as the top fly for much of the time, but I also cycled through a parachute green drake, green drake comparadun, and user friendly green drake. Each green drake produced a few trout, but the South Boulder Creek cold water trout were not locked into green drakes with the same fervor that they displayed on my three prior trips. I returned to the hippie stomper after the green drake experiment, and it accounted for four eats, but the real star of the show was the sunk ant.

Lovely Spot Pattern

I was pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of the shallow drifting sunken terrestrial. I was concerned that the fish would gravitate to the large surface offerings and ignore the small ant, but this was not the case. In several instances an above average trout attacked the ant, almost as soon as it entered the water, and this reaction always surprises me. Quite a few times I cast the dry/dropper to the top of some very clear shallow riffles, and near the tail I spotted a swirl and set the hook under the assumption that the trout grabbed the surface fly only to discover an ant embedded in the lip. Clearly a tumbling sunken terrestrial was not an uncommon occurrence in South Boulder Creek.

What a Pool!

By 2:30PM the sun was bright above and the heat in the canyon was oppressive. The trout seemed to take a siesta, and this angler felt like doing the same. My fish count was already locked on thirty-four, and the most recent fish came from deep slots that bordered oxygenated water next to structure such as large boulders. Quite a few small caddis flitted about on branches along the bank, so I forsook my treasured ant and replaced it with a size 16 deer hair caddis on a one foot dropper off the hippie stomper. I continued prospecting the double dry combination through some very attractive plunge pools and deep runs for another half hour, but the effort proved futile. At 3PM I surrendered to the heat and completed the hike back to the parking lot including the steep ascent at the end. I was a soggy piece of toast by the time I unlocked the tailgate.

Promising Deep Spot Beyond the Log

Friday was another fabulous day on South Boulder Creek. On September 10 I was forced to work harder than my previous outings. During those day I simply knotted a green drake pattern to my line and enjoyed the outstanding success. Of course I needed to respond to the conditions a few times, as I rotated through my green drake styles, but the solution to the puzzle was rather apparent. Friday’s success required adjustments, as the day progressed. I began with terrestrials and then shifted to yellow sallies and eventually settled on green drakes and sunken ants. 11.1 CFS dictates cautious approaches and long delicate casts, but Friday proved that success can be found at relatively low flows, and sunken ants were part of the equation.

Fish Landed: 34

Lake Creek – 09/01/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Colorado backcountry

Lake Creek 09/01/2021 Photo Album

Wednesday, September 1, 2021 was a very memorable day. What a way to kick off the month of September! September is usually my most productive month of fishing, and if Wednesday’s adventure is indicative, 2021 may be no different. When I decided to visit this high mountain stream, I checked back on this blog and read my reports from 07/29/2020 and 08/27/2019. I considered the 08/27/2019 post more relevant, since it took place within five days of Wednesday’s visit. I utilized some of the same flies that served me well on the previous two trips, and they yielded fantastic results.

I arrived at the parking lot across from the trailhead by 10:15AM, and after I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I departed on a 1.5 mile hike to reach my intended destination. My two major concerns were the level of the water after a below average snow pack and the threat of rain in the afternoon. The air temperature was around 70 degrees, as I prepared to fish, but I elected to wear waders in case the cloud cover and rain created a chill. This proved to be a wise decision, as heavy clouds rolled into the area after lunch, and steady rain became a reality for the last hour on the creek. Of course the 1.5 mile hike generated a fair amount of perspiration, but when the chill arrived, I was pleased to have the extra layer.

Perfect

Yikes!

Changing Leaves

I began with an ice dub olive hippie stomper solo and landed a couple decent brown trout in the first twenty minutes, but the number of refusals to the small foam attractor far surpassed the number of eats. In a narrow slow moving side pool, a large mouth rose above the creek surface, but it turned away at the last second to avoid the hippie stomper. I was tantalized by the wide open jaw, so I invested extra time to add a parachute green drake to the hippie stomper on a twelve inch dropper. The time spent was well worth it. On the first cast a twelve inch brown trout snatched the trailing green drake. Normally after a fish refuses a fly, it is futile to cast for it again, but the image of the large open mouth caused me to eschew the conventional wisdom. I carefully sopped up the excess water from the green drake, dropped it in my dry shake canister, and applied a fresh coat of floatant. I lobbed the double dry to the small eddy fifteen feet to my right, and as the flies began to accelerate toward the downstream border of the pool, something grabbed the trailing parachute. I felt heavier than normal weight, and I was shocked when I caught a glimpse of the sixteen inch brown trout attached to my leader. I carefully applied pressure and relaxed the tension, as the small stream behemoth dove and executed several classic brown trout head shakes. I was beyond ecstatic, when I slid my old net beneath the creek monster. Wow!

With the Contour of the Net

Lovely

I stayed with the double dry until three o’clock, when I shifted to a size 8 tan pool toy hopper and trailed a salvation nymph. The olive hippie stomper and parachute green drake enabled me to boost the fish count from two to twenty-eight, before I made the change to the dry/dropper. I estimate that 60% of the landed trout slurped the green drake, and the remaining 40% crushed the hippie stomper. I reveled in the aggressive attacks, as nearly every viable trout holding location yielded a fish or two. Some of the primary holes with above normal depth produced three or four feeding inhabitants. All the netted trout on Wednesday were brown trout, and many displayed deep buttery sides and bellies sprinkled with ink black spots and a line of orange spots along the side. These were wild fish in both appearance and fighting spirit. A large proportion of the landed fish measured in the eleven to twelve inch range with the sixteen inch outlier and another fourteen inch beast thrown into the mix. I’m certain that a few thirteen inch browns also graced my net. The average size of the trout on Wednesday easily surpassed the brook trout jewels from Big Blue Creek, and they were a notch above the netted population from South Boulder Creek.

Must Hold Trout

Amazing Colors on This Robust Brown Trout

Love the Sheen

By 3PM the heavy clouds overhead delivered steady rain, but I was so consumed by my search for trout that I ignored the weather and continued my upstream migration. It was at this time that I was stuck at twenty-eight trout, and I decided to shift gears to a dry/dropper approach. I attached a size 8 tan pool toy hopper and then added a salvation nymph on a 2.5 foot dropper. The catch rate slowed a bit, but I managed to increment the fish count from twenty-eight to thirty-four over the last hour, as the rain intensified. Two of the final six grabbed the salvation, and the remainder crushed the hopper. Several of the final six fish were very decent catches in the twelve and thirteen inch range.

Arched Log

As I write this report, I am still feeling the euphoria of a grand outing on September 1, 2021. Thirty-four wild brown trout of above average size in a small stream setting is really hard to believe. The hike was a challenge, and the rain was a nuisance, but the effort and persistence were rewarded with a fabulous day of fishing on a high elevation creek in Colorado.

Fish Landed: 34

South Boulder Creek – 08/30/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/30/2021 Photo Album

Another forecast of ninety degrees in Denver, CO had me craving a cold water wading destination. On Sunday night I checked the flows, and I stopped my research abruptly, when I learned that South Boulder Creek was tumbling along at 95 CFS. I visited the relatively close tailwater on 8/13/2021 and 08/18/2021 and enjoyed much success. Were green drakes still hatching, and could the canyon tailwater deliver similar results on August 30, 2021? There was only one way to find out. I made the trip to the Kayak Parking Lot below Gross Reservoir on Monday morning.

The temperature on the dashboard was already 71 degrees, as I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. Even though it was cooler than Denver, it was clearly going to be a warm day even in the shaded canyon tailwater. I was tempted to wet wade, but the cold bottom release water from the dam numbs my feet even with my waders on. I played it safe with waders, and of course quite a bit of perspiration was part of my hike in and out of the canyon.

Six cars besides mine occupied space in the parking lot, so I was concerned about competition and pressure, as I began the descent of the steep trail to the creek. I passed two anglers in the upper section and a pair of hikers walking a dog. In the middle section of the creek I encountered three senior fishermen with backpacks, as they congregated along the path, and that was the extent of human presence on my inbound hike. Perhaps the three gentlemen drove separately and met in the parking lot? That was the only explanation that made sense out of the comparatively few number of anglers given the presence of six cars. As one might expect, I was quite pleased to only encounter five other fishermen in spite of six cars in the parking lot.

Productive Water Type

By 11AM I was perched along the creek ready to configure my line to begin fishing. I began my day with an ice dub olive hippie stomper, prince nymph and salvation nymph. I was hoping the hippie stomper mimicked adult green drakes, the prince covered the presence of green drake nymphs, and the salvation nymph imitated the nymph stage of pale morning duns. Between 11AM and noon I landed one spunky eleven inch rainbow trout that rose and smashed the hippie stomper in some riffles of moderate depth. Needless to say the catch rate was not what I expected, but at least I was on the board.

On Display for the Crowd

After my standard lunch I resumed prospecting, and the creek structure changed, as the stream widened, and this translated to more fish holding lies with slower water velocity. In the thirty minutes after lunch I raised the fish count from one to six, and all but one were energetic rainbow trout. The salvation nymph became the main producer, and the turbulent oxygenated water perhaps explained the disproportionate quantity of pink-stripped trout.

Surprising Girth

By 12:30PM I spied a pair of natural green drakes, so in spite of enjoying a decent catch rate, I took the plunge and removed the dry/dropper arrangement and migrated to a parachute green drake. The first green drake that I knotted to my line displayed a narrow turkey flat wing and a short moose mane tail. This fly generated a couple of takes, but it was refused five times for each time a fish consumed it. I decided that the profile was too narrow, and I dug in my green drake box and extracted one of the new ones, that I tied last week. It possessed a white McFlylon wing and a clump of body-length moose mane tail fibers. The wing portrayed more bulk, and the tail was apparently a significant keying characteristic, because the trout responded in a major way to the new parachute green drake. With this fly on my tippet the fish count mounted to twenty-two. If one does the math, that is sixteen trout over two hours of fishing.

Asters Along the Creek

Featuring a Parachute Green Drake

During this time period I spotted quite a few natural green drakes; and, in fact, between two o’clock and 2:30PM, I observed more naturals than were seen during the entire time of my two previous visits. It seemed that the hatch reached a crescendo by 2:30PM and then abruptly reverted to the sporadic emergence that characterized the early afternoon time frame. The size of the trout that crushed the low floating parachute green drake was another fortuitous development, as brown trout and rainbow trout in the eleven to twelve inch range were fairly common.

Great Colors

As this fantastic fly fishing was transpiring, both my feet slid out from under me on a long angled and slippery submerged rock. I caught myself with both hands, before I fell in, but a bit of water trickled over the lip of my wader bib. Suddenly ice cold water ran down my legs and created a soggy foot bed for my woolen socks. The wet long underwear and socks actually felt fairly comfortable given the warm air temperatures. Once I gathered myself and took stock of the impact of the near dunking, I was ready to resume casting, but at this point I discovered that my lucky parachute green drake was MIA. I was not pleased and uttered a few choice words about my bout of bad luck, and then I replaced the green drake with another similar version with a poly wing and long moose mane tail. Later when I removed my waders in the parking lot, I noticed a strand of monofilament above my wading boot, and I was pleased to discover the long lost paradrake hooked into my wader cuff!

By 2:30PM the parachute drake lost its magic. The trout continued to inspect it, but most turned away in the last second in a rude lack of respect for my offering. It seemed that one out of every five looks resulted in a landed fish, with the others categorized as refusals. The number of looks were also spaced out causing my catch rate to plummet. On my previous South Boulder Creek visit, I converted to a green drake comparadun at this juncture, so I decided to execute the same ploy.

I replaced the parachute with a comparadun with a large deer hair wing profile, and suddenly the trout began to grab the size 14 fraud. Four additional trout rested in my net including a pair of twelve inch brown trout, and they all savored the green drake comparadun. Why does the parachute style work early and the comparadun late? Perhaps the low lying parachute with the long tail mimics the emerging green drakes early in the hatch? The long tail portrays a tail and trailing shuck, and in the early stages it takes longer for the drake to free itself from the nymph casing? As the air and water temperatures warm, the transition from nymph to adult speeds up; and, thus, the comparadun with its large full upright wing presents a more more fully emerged adult that fits the profile sought by the hungry trout. These are simply my own theories and not based on any scientific research.

Best Brown Trout of the Day

I landed a deeply colored brown trout at 3PM, and as I reached for my net, I realized that it was absent. I managed to release the trout without the benefit of a net, and then I tried to recollect, where I left the crucial fly fishing instrument. I removed my backpack, and inspected it to see if perhaps the ring pulled out of the handle, but the female end of the snap mechanism remained in place. This meant that I unsnapped the net to photograph and handle a trout, but I apparently never reconnected the retractor device. I waded downstream for fifty yards and surveyed the rocks on both banks and attempted to remember my last photo shoot. Alas, I never spotted the net, and I was forced to acknowledge that it was a lost item of equipment. I suspect that I disconnected it and dropped it in the water after releasing the fish, and I failed to realize that it was no longer tethered to my backpack. I mourned the loss for a bit, and then I decided to call it quits at 3:15PM. Handling and releasing trout without a net becomes proportionately more difficult, and I was not interested in harming South Boulder Creek trout.

Moderate Depth

Monday, August 30 developed into another solid day on South Boulder Creek. I landed twenty-six trout in four hours, and the fish count included a higher ratio of rainbow trout and trout that were a bit larger than my previous two visits. The green drake hatch was on time and heavier than previous emergences, and my imitations proved effective. I lost my favorite net, but I have a viable backup for future outings this week. Hopefully the green drake saga will continue for a few more weeks on South Boulder Creek, and I will be able to participate.

Fish Landed: 26

Lake Fork of the Gunnison – 08/25/2021

Time: 1:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Red Bridge and Gateview

Lake Fork of the Gunnison 08/25/2021 Photo Album

As I contemplated our camping trip to central Colorado, I envisioned the centerpiece river for fly fishing to be the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, and I hoped to schedule that day on Tuesday, August 24. However, when Jane and I completed the trip on Sunday, it became clear that traveling back and forth on CO 868 was not a viable scenario. The drive from CO 149, a paved highway, to Big Blue Campground on CO 868 was twelve miles on a narrow and frequently rocky surface. It took us roughly forty minutes to travel twelve miles, and this translates to an average speed of 18 MPH. When we saw the low tire pressure warning on the dashboard of the Santa Fe on Monday morning, I concluded that the best scenario for our trip was to remain at our remote campground location for Monday and Tuesday and then visit the Lake Fork on our return trip to Denver on Wednesday. On Wednesday morning we packed up our camping gear and made the relatively short drive to the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Fortunately the pressure in the left rear tire remained constant, and we arrived at the Red Bridge Campground without incident.

We parked at one of the open campsites and took advantage of the picnic table to prepare and consume our lunches, and then I climbed into my waders and organized my fishing equipment for an afternoon of fly fishing. Jane and I drove north on CO 25, and the well maintained dirt road closely tracked the canyon section of the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. It had been twenty years, since I last fished this section of river, so I was unable to recall the stretch that I fished, but every inch of the river looked amazing. The flow was quite healthy, and the water was clear, as it cascaded through plunge pools, pockets, riffles and long runs. The only negative to fishing conditions was the bright sun and the air temperature, which climbed into the low eighties for most of my time on the river.

Jane Near My Starting Point

After a slow drive of a couple miles I turned into a wide pullout on the river side of the road and parked. I was seeking interesting water while also being cognizant of shade and a place, where Jane could be comfortable, while I fished. I strung my Sage four weight and ambled downstream along the dirt road for a short distance, until I found a reasonably manageable path to the river. My Colorado fishing guide book mentioned stoneflies as the “go to” fly for the Lake Fork, so I configured my line with a tan pool toy hopper, 20 incher, and beadhead hares ear nymph. I fished for thirty minutes through some outstanding structure, but the flies produced only two tiny rainbow trout and several refusals to the hopper.

I paused to reassess the situation. I decided to try some different nymphs before resorting to dry fly fishing. The 20 incher was returned to my fleece wallet along with the hares ear nymph, and I replaced them with an iron sally and salvation nymph. Now that my line carried lighter nymphs, I swapped the pool toy hopper for a peacock hippie stomper. I was hoping that pale morning duns and yellow sallies might make an afternoon appearance. For the next 1.5 hour I prospected the three fly combination in all the likely spots, until I was one hundred yards above where the car was parked. During this time I netted four trout; three rainbows and one brown trout, and the largest was nine inches, while the others barely exceeded the six inch minimum. In addition I hooked an equal number of tiny rainbows not large enough to meet my minimum criteria for registering on the fish counter. The salvation nymph was the popular offering, with one independent minded trout falling for the iron sally.

One of the Better Fish

The fish that flashed to the hopper and turned away seemed to be slightly more substantial than the dinks that were fooled by the nymphs, so I decided to make a change to the top fly. I replaced the pool toy with a yellow Letort hopper. My theory suggested that the pool toy was too large, and the Letort hopper presented a smaller and narrower profile. It did not work, and the Letort hopper earned a quick hook. Were the fish looking for yellow sallies? I replaced the Letort hopper with a size 14 yellow stimulator, and the high floating attractor generated some interest in the form of splashy refusals. I did not observe any green drakes, but the guide book hatch chart suggested that green drakes hatched until the middle of August. Perhaps the fish had long memories. I employed a double dry approach with an olive ice dub hippie stomper twelve inches behind the stimulator. No dice.

Productive Slow Moving Water on Opposite Bank

I was stuck on four landed trout, yet the river was cold and oxygenated and looked absolutely fabulous for fly fishing. Most of my minimal action occurred in fast water sections with deep runs and pockets. Perhaps my nymphs were not getting down deep to the larger fish? In a rare concession to difficult fishing conditions I resorted to indicator nymphing. I rigged up a New Zealand strike indicator and added a split shot and knotted the iron sally and salvation to my leader. I began drifting the nymphs deep along current seams and next to large exposed rocks, and I managed a few temporary connections with fish that felt a bit heavier than my previous catches.

Gorgeous River

In the early afternoon I spotted a handful of mayflies that appeared to be pale morning duns, and this probably explained my success with the salvation nymph. Between three and four o’clock, however, some clouds rolled in, and I began to notice some small mayflies, as they fluttered skyward. Could the fish be keying on tiny blue winged olive nymphs? I snipped off the salvation and replaced it with a sparkle wing RS2. This move proved to be the most effective among a fairly weak series of ploys. I landed two more rainbow trout including my best fish of the day at eleven inches. In addition I felt the weight of four other trout, as they grabbed the small BWO nymph, when it drifted deep along the current seams or swept in front of a large protective structure. It was the best I could do on Wednesday, but admittedly it was a slow 2.5 hours on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River.

Fish Landed: 6

Big Blue Creek – 08/24/2021

Time: 1:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Near Big Blue Creek Campground

Big Blue Creek 08/24/2021 Photo Album

The temperature at 10,000 feet when we awoke on Tuesday morning was around 40 degrees, and it elevated to 48 by the time Jane and I completed a hike on the Big Blue Creek Trail. We covered 5.0 miles during our out and back.

Our neighbor at the campground departed during the morning, and this raised our concern about the lack of human contact in case of emergencies, such as the dead battery we encountered at Peaceful Valley Campground. We carried jumper cables, but there was no source of power to jump from! A new concern appeared on Tuesday morning when the tire pressure warning light alertedĀ  us to low pressure in the left rear tire. I cycled through the maintenance screen and learned that the culprit tire dropped to 26 PSI. Cold temperatures and driving on a rough rocky dirt road probably explained the new worrisome circumstance. When we returned from our hike, we utilized a bicycle pump to inflate the left rear tire, and we reviewed the Santa Fe manual to assure ourselves that we had a spare tire for backup. Fortunately we did.

Nice Hole Near the Start

Productive Beaver Pond

After lunch I drove a mile from the campground to a trailhead, where I prepared to fly fish. I was reassured, when the tire pressure screen displayed 34 PSI after our energetic hand pumping effort. I wore my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight and hiked a couple tenths of a mile on a trail, until I intersected with the Big Blue Creek. Unlike Monday the section of the Big Blue that I fished on Tuesday meandered through a wide valley. This translated to more beaver ponds and long sweeping runs and riffles with periodic deep bend pools. The prime fishing spots were easier to spot, and I logged more time wading between fishing locations. In addition the creek was generally more placid, and this led to longer casts, stealthy approaches, and the inevitable scattering of fish after a clumsy cast or snag.

Outstanding Wild Brookie

Long Casts to the Feeding Run Were Productive

As was the case on Monday I spent most of my angling time tossing a peacock hippie stomper with a beadhead hares ear nymph dropper. This combination accounted for the first eleven fish, with roughy half smashing the stomper, and half nabbing the hares ear. An extended lull, when the count paused at eleven, caused me to cycle through some fly changes. The hippie stomper was a constant, but I combined it with a pheasant tail nymph and an assortment of dry flies including a light gray size 16 comparadun, a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis, and a size 14 parachute green drake. The pheasant tail, comparadun and caddis each recorded a landed trout, but the hippie stomper continued to surprise with a few netted fish. During the late afternoon phase the catch rate slowed, but I landed a pair of gorgeous hook-jawed male brook trout with flaming orange colors, as they entered their spawning phase.

Ready to Flip

Tuesday was a slower day than Monday, and I had to work harder for my success. The brook trout were on average a bit larger. Sixteen trout in 2.5 hours was a satisfying day given the more challenging stream conditions.

Fish Landed: 16

Big Blue Creek – 08/23/2021

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Near Big Blue Creek Campground

Big Blue Creek 08/23/2021 Photo Album

Jane and I completed a scouting hike on the Alpine Trail in the morning, and I used my Garmin watch to clock the distance. This information was useful, as I planned my afternoon fishing venture. It was 68 degrees, when I began to fish on Monday afternoon, and this may have been the high for the day as a result of afternoon clouds, wind and breezes.

Beaver Pond at the Start

After a decent hike I angled down to the creek and arrived at a long, slow-moving beaver pond, and the telltale rings of feeding fish up and down the pool caught my attention. I quickly rigged my Orvis Access four weight with a peacock hippie stomper and a beadhead hares ear nymph on a two foot dropper. On the first cast a four inch brook trout clobbered the stomper, and as I worked my way up along the left side of the pond, I continued casting and netted three brook trout that met my criterion for counting. One crushed the hippie stomper, and two nabbed the trailing hares ear. I was pleased to discover that both flies were liked by the pond residents.

Stunning

Wading a beaver pond with its mucky bottom is always a challenge, and this one was no exception. I grew somewhat bored with the “stillwater” fish and began seeking an exit strategy. If I turned left, I needed to wade through the marshy area filled with some sort of low woody shrub that tended to grab fly rods and lines. A right side exit involved crossing the pond with its silty bottom and deep water. If I could pull it off, however, there was a shorter distance through the shrub filled marsh, before I reached the sagebrush hill and higher ground. I chose the second option, although I waded along the left bank for a ways, until I found a shallower spot to cross. Once I was on high ground, I followed the contour of the hill, until I reached a spot, where the creek nearly bordered the sagebrush.

Top of the Beaver Pond

The creek at this point met my expectations; moving water consisting of riffles, pockets, and occasional deep pools. Between 1:15PM and 3:30PM I methodically worked my way up the creek and built the fish count from three to twenty-three. Roughly 75 percent of the brook trout that I landed snatched the trailing hares ear, and 25 percent darted to the surface to slurp the hippie stomper. There was a section early on, where I was catching trout in obscure shallow runs of a foot or less in depth, and these trout were colorful nine inch brookies.

Nymph Eater

I noticed that nice pools that were easily accessed often failed to produce; whereas, marginal spots in difficult to reach stretches yielded some of my better fish. Angler pressure was clearly a factor. Tamped down grass and scuffed dirt clearings made it easy to identify the presence of man.

The Only Trout, Not a Brook Char

By 3PM the catch rate slowed, and the thread head on my hares ear began to unravel. I replaced the hares ear with a salvation nymph, and in the process of landing a brook trout, I snapped off the newly attached fly. I uttered some choice words and replaced the salvation with an ultra zug bug. The fishing gods must have been looking out for me, because the hippie stomper dipped in the next deep hole, and I connected with a larger than average and aggressive fish. I carefully played my catch around the pool and eventually netted a feisty thirteen inch rainbow trout that gulped the ultra zug bug. It was the only fish that ate the shaggy peacock dubbed imitation, and it proved to be my only fish that was not a brook trout and the largest fish of the day. Unfortunately the ultra zug bug could not resurrect its magic, and I suffered a lull, so I made a radical change and swapped the stomper for a tan pool toy hopper, and exchanged the ultra zug bug for another hares ear nymph.

Interesting Spot

The hopper attracted immediate interest in the form of bumps and refusals, but no trout came to the net. I suspect the size 8 hopper was bigger than the plentiful naturals surrounding the creek and too large for the mouths of the smaller brook trout. As a final act, I returned to the hippie stomper and paired it with a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis. The caddis fooled three very colorful brookies and brought the fish count to thirty-one. It was 4PM at this point, so I stripped in my line and hooked the caddis to the rod guide and climbed an extremely steep bank, before I intersected with the trail.

Streamlined

Monday was a blast on Big Blue Creek. I landed thirty brook trout and one rainbow trout in three hours of fishing. I prospected with mainly two flies, and I enjoyed the confident feeling that a fish would grab my offering, if I presented my flies in a natural manner to likely holding spots. That is one of my favorite mental states while fly fishing. Bring on Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 31