Category Archives: Fishing Reports

Fishing Reports

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 01/26/2020

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Laverne Johnson Park

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 01/26/2020 Photo Album

I am the first to admit that I am a reluctant winter fisherman, so it takes multiple days of mild weather to motivate me to make a rare outing. Fortunately, that is exactly what transpired between January 24 and 26. Three consecutive days with high temperatures in the upper fifties in Denver including the forecast of a high of 56 on Sunday, January 26, prompted my first fishing outing of the new year. My friend, Trevor (@rockymtnangler), suggested the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and I jumped on the idea. Flows were a steady 20 CFS, and the small tailwater in the foothills is lower in elevation than other options, and consequently offers higher temperatures, albeit colder than Denver.

I was extremely careful to review my checklist, since it was my first trip after an extended layoff. I departed my house in Denver by 10:15, and this enabled me to arrive at the parking area at the trailhead for the Buttonrock Preserve stretch. Tilt. Abort. I cruised the long row of pull-in parking spaces, and every opening was occupied, while several vehicles surveyed the lot ahead of me. I feared that a mild January day on a weekend might cause a mass migration of Coloradans to the outdoors, and my quick assessment of the available parking confirmed this to be the case.

I made a brief review of my options and decided to retreat to Laverne Johnson Park within the town of Lyons. Trevor mentioned this as a solid alternative, and I experienced modest success there on previous fly fishing ventures. By the time I reversed direction and returned to Lyons, I wheeled into the parking lot at 11:45AM. I paid my day use fee and returned to the car, where I hastily chomped my lunch. By noon I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight and meandered to the creek. A large ridge bordered the stream on the south side of the park, so I directed my steps to the sunnier extreme western section of the oxbox loop formed by the St. Vrain in this area. I stopped on the top of the bank and surveyed the gorgeous long pool and run in front of me and decided to make it my starting point for 2020.

I pulled a new and untried Amy’s ant with a peacock body from my box and knotted it to my line. Next I added a beadhead hares ear on a two foot dropper, and then I extended another six inches and added a size 12 prince nymph. I cautiously approached the tail of the pool and prospected to the very top without any action or signs of fish. As this scenario unfolded, a couple arrived and perched on the rocks at the top of the pool, and then in an act of bravery the young man removed his shoes and socks and waded to the opposite bank to pose for a photo. He did not wade through the area I intended to fish, but his silhouette may have startled any potential hungry fish in the area.

A Nice Run

Throughout my time on the water I competed with similar non-fishing park users, and this forced me to circle around quite a few prime locations. The most frequent obstacles were families with small children, who could not resist the urge to toss or skip stones in the small stream. I could not be upset with these families enjoying the outdoors, but I am fairly certain that I could have caught a few more fish if they were not present.

Kids Throwing Stones Was the Theme

After an hour of fruitless wading and casting I approached the pedestrian footbridge that spans the creek just below the Riverbend wedding venue that hosted my son and daughter-in-law in 2018. Another army of boys pelted the creek in this area, so I pulled back and crossed the park to the southern border. I spotted another fisherman downstream near the campground, so I cut to the water midway between him and the ice hockey rink. The Amy’s ant was low in the water and difficult to follow in the shadows created by the high ridge, so I swapped it for a bright yellow fat Albert. I used this change out as an opportunity to reconfigure the nymphs as well, and I replaced the hares ear with a size 12 Pat’s rubber leg and then added an orange scud as the point fly. The rubber leg and scud were both products of my recent winter production tying, so I was anxious to test them.

This Area Yielded Two Rainbows

I worked my way to the top of the gorgeous pool created by man-made rock structures, and despite the appealing nature of the water in front of me, the fish counter remained locked on zero. I positioned myself on one of the flat rocks that were part of a wing that forced the creek through a narrow chute, and I began to drop casts in the drop off and allowed the flies to drift along the near current seam. On the fifth such pass the fat Albert darted sideways, and I reacted with a hook set and found myself attached to a significant opponent. Early in the struggle I determined that the fighter was a rainbow trout, and after several bursts up and down the pool, I netted a sixteen inch beauty. What a way to begin the year! I commemorated the event with a couple photos and a video, and then I plunged my hands in the frigid flows and wiggled the Pat’s rubber leg free and released my prize. A new fly produced, and I began the year with a sixteen inch fish. My day was complete regardless of what transpired during my remaining time.

Pat’s Rubber Legs Produced

I dried my hand on a blue towel, that I stuffed in my front wader bib pocket, and I resumed casting to the pool next to me. A similar deep run along the center current seam existed on the opposite side of the stream, so I began to toss the dry/dropper setup next to a protruding in-stream rock and allowed the current to pull the flies through the eddy and along the deep border with the faster current. On the fourth cycle, the fat Albert plunged six inches below the surface. I was uncertain whether this resulted from a fish or some conflicting currents, but I lifted just in case. Once again I felt the throb of a live fish, and after a short battle I landed a thirteen inch rainbow. I was once again pleased to discover the Pat’s rubber leg in the corner of the mouth of this silvery catch.

Quick Release

My optimism elevated, as I continued my upstream progression along the southern section and then curled around the curve on the western end, where I launched my day, but I was unable to generate additional interest from the resident trout. I switched out the scud for a size 20 salad spinner midge emerger, but the move failed to improve my fortunes. In fairness to myself, quite a few couples and families rested along the stream, and of course this prompted stick throwing, dogs swimming and pebble tossing. The scene was less than ideal for stealthy approaches in the low clear water conditions.

Number Two Came from the Nook Next to the Rock

Eventually I approached the large pool above the pedestrian bridge, and I spotted a young fisherman on the large rock stream improvement wing. I hooked my flies in the rod guide and asked the angler whether he could see fish, and he replied that he could, and quite a few rises were visible, until a dog disturbed the pool. I watched him and chatted for twenty minutes, and I learned that his name was Denver, and his handle on Instagram is @denverhoughton, and we follow each other. It was fun to meet an Instagam follower face to face.

Denver recommended the pool next to the campground, so I said goodbye to him, as I ambled across the park to the suggested location. Sure enough I found another huge man-made pool, and I began working my dry/dropper through the wide shelf pool along the right side. I failed to generate interest, so I slowly moved out on the stream improvement wing at the very top of the pool. I paused to observe and spotted two small trout and one larger one facing into the back eddy. I attempted an abundant quantity of drifts through the eddy and along the deep current seams, but I was unable to generate a take. On one drift along the center run I saw a decent fish move toward the droppers, as they began to swing. After fifteen minutes of futility I noticed a couple sporadic rises, so I switched to a single CDC blue winged olive, but the visible fish exhibited no interest. In a last ditch effort to dupe the pool dwellers I exchanged the CDC BWO for a size 18 parachute ant, and the larger of the trio facing the back eddy eyed it and moved a few inches, but that was the extent of the interest. With the shadows lengthening and the temperature cooling, I called it quits and returned to the Santa Fe.

Two trout in three hours of fishing is a low catch rate, but I was more than pleased with these results given the distractions and disturbances at the park. Netting a sixteen and thirteen inch fish on my first outing was assuredly icing on the cake. I will resume my fly tying regimen and patiently wait for another string of mild weather, when I can further test some of the new patterns that I tied in the off season.

Fish Landed: 2

2019 Top Ten – 01/02/2020

Unlike 2018, the 2019 season did not include any destination fishing trips. My fishing ventures in the Wallowas were relatively short and a sidelight to the main events of camping, hiking and cycling. A day of guided fly fishing on the Green River below Flaming Gorge and a day on a fine stream in Pennsylvania were my only other ventures outside the state of Colorado. Heavy snowpack and late run off definitely impacted my normal seasonal routine. I fished only lakes between June 20 and July 9, and this time period spanned normally productive stream and river fishing in the Rocky Mountains. Late June and early July also coincide with prime mayfly hatches such as pale morning duns and green drakes on the freestones, and I largely missed out on these highly anticipated events.  Nevertheless, I still managed to complete 85 outings and landed in excess of 1,000 fish. The late run off improved the quality of August fishing; however, not enough to offset the loss of four weeks during normally prime conditions. Ten of my outings involved stillwater destinations, and this was easily a personal record, although my success on these bodies of water was somewhat disappointing.

With this backdrop I introduce my top ten days of 2019 –

10. Yampa River – 07/16/2019 – My post run off days on the Yampa River were a month later than normal, but this day made it worthwhile, as I landed twelve trout, and most exhibited above average size.

Better Perspective

South Platte River – 06/14/2019 – This outing occurred just before the water managers opened the floodgates from the dams, but I managed to land a generous quantity of nice fish on a gorgeous late spring day. Between one and three PM, the action was torrid, as trout attacked my salvation nymph during a sparse pale morning dun hatch.

8. Green River – 04/18/2019 – I last visited this northeastern Utah tailwater in 2002. On this day I found out that I was missing out on a lot of fun. Guide Charley put my friend and I into some very nice fish using small midge larva and baetis nymphs. I was anticipating dense blue winged olive hatches, but they were delayed. Charley made sure we were not disappointed by adjusting to subsurface offerings.

Another Look

7. Marvine Creek – 09/16/2019 – An abundant quantity of vividly colored brook trout were accented by two gorgeous rainbows and a cutbow in a spectacular backcountry setting. It was hard to rank this day as low as number seven.

More Cutthroat Coloration on This One

6. South Platte River – 05/07/2019 – Three waves of blue winged olive hatches allowed me to land fifteen trout on this day, and most were very respectable fish in the fourteen to sixteen inch range.

5. Elk Creek – 08/28/2019 – This day in late August was truly a fishing adventure. My exit story on this post almost overshadows the fishing.  Since I am still here to write about it, I can assert that the fantastic day of fishing justified the backcountry scare.

So Fine

4. South Boulder Creek – 08/24/2019 – An abundant quantity of fish were landed in a gorgeous setting to put this in the top ten, but spending a rare day with my son and watching him elevate his game raised this day to the top five. Near the end of our day we experienced an insane green drake hatch in a prime pool, and Dan got a taste of how intense fly fishing can be.

3. South Boulder Creek – 08/15/2019 – A forty fish day with twenty-five slurping a green drake dry fly. What more needs to be said about this spectacular day on my home water?

Money in the Bank

2. Eagle River – 07/24/2019 – Hot fish of above average size were the feature attraction on this day in July. July 24 on the Eagle River made me realize why I clear my calendar to hit freestones, as they subside from peak run off.

1. North Fork of the White River – 09/14/2019 – Abundant rainbows and cutbows of above average size in a remote backcountry setting placed this day in September at the top of my 2019 top ten list. If I could select one day to repeat, this is it.

Long One

RS2 – 12/14/2019

RS2 12/14/2019 Photo Album

Imitation is a form of flattery, and if this adage is true, Rim Chung’s RS2 has earned its share of adulation. I, myself, recently began tying sparkle wing RS2’s, but I noted various modifications of the classic fly on web pages, books and magazines. In spite of the array of spin offs and impostors, I remain partially loyal to the classic RS2 tied with all natural materials. For a materials table check out my post of 01/21/2011. A more current update of my views on RS2 variations is available in my 01/15/2019 post.

A Functional RS2

Although the sparkle wing RS2 advanced to a more prominent role in my baetis nymph arsenal, I continued to carry a significant number of classic RS2’s in my fly storage boxes. The natural muskrat fur, and the fluff from the base of a pheasant body feather breath and generate the impression of a living organism, and I continue to experience a high degree of success with the original pattern.

Focused on a Clump of Five

My annual count of RS2’s in my various storage compartments revealed that I carried an inventory of forty. Since I began deploying the sparkle wing RS2 in many situations that previously suggested the classic RS2, I reduced my goal quantity to forty-five, and I cranked out five new imitations. I will be curious to learn whether the the flashy sparkle wing or earthy classic lead the way during 2020.

Nine in Total

South Platte River – 11/20/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 11/20/2019 Photo Album

A forecast of 68 degrees in Denver had me anxiously anticipating another day of fishing in 2019. Fly tying is a pleasant winter diversion, but being out on the stream is a far better option. November 19 is late in the season for this avid fair weather fly fisherman, and a lot depended on my chosen destination for what could possibly represent my last day in 2019.

My day on Friday on the Cache la Poudre River was nice, but it confirmed that rainbows were more willing eaters than spawning brown trout at this time of year. What streams offered the highest ratio of rainbow trout to brown trout? The Big Thompson River, South Boulder Creek and the South Platte River immediately came to mind. I quickly ruled out the Big Thompson under the assumption, that 68 degrees in Denver translated to fairly chilly temperatures at the higher elevations near Estes Park. South Boulder Creek was interesting, as the flows returned to 89 CFS, but I was concerned that the narrow canyon walls would shield the warming impact of the sun, and snow and ice might remain from storms during the prior week.

More Snow Than I Expected

The projected high temperature in Lake George near Eleven Mile Canyon was 60 degrees, and the releases from Eleven Mile dam registered flows of 99 CFS. These two factors weighed heavily in my decision, and I made the two plus hour drive to Eleven Mile Canyon on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately as I advanced along the dirt road that provides access to Eleven Mile, I was disappointed to discover significant remaining accumulations of snow throughout the canyon. Apparently the factor that ruled out South Boulder Creek was an equal negative in Eleven Mile, although fly fishing in this area did not require an extensive hike in a manner similar to that of South Boulder Creek.

Icy Perch

I found a plowed pullout along the road and prepared for a day of fishing. The temperature on the dashboard display was in the upper thirties, so I pulled on my Under Armour undershirt, a fleece, and my North Face light down in addition to my New Zealand billed cap with ear flaps. I added some fingerless woolen gloves to my array of winter attire, and I never regretted the multi-layer approach during my 3.5 hours of fishing. I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked toward the dam a short distance. I faced a new challenge; the task of getting down the steep bank that separates the access road from the South Platte River.

The Path to the River

After a short walk I encountered three “paths” that enabled me to descend to the river’s edge. I placed paths in quotation marks, because they were simply large sunken footprints in deep snow. I elected to maneuver down the set closest to the dam and carefully stepped down backwards to avoid a face first fall. The ploy worked, and I reached a nice pool unharmed.

With flows at 99 CFS and relatively deep snow lining the banks, I decided to deploy a deep nymphing rig. I looped a thingamabobber to my line and added a split shot, orange scud and beadhead size 20 RS2. I prospected some attractive deep runs between 11:30 and noon, but I encountered no evidence of the presence of trout. A layer of clouds blocked the sun’s warming rays, and the air temperature lagged my expectations, so I found a large rock that was devoid of snow and consumed my small lunch. At this point in my day I was not optimistic that a trout would grace my net, even though I only fished for thirty minutes.

A Splash of Color in November

After lunch I migrated upstream to a very attractive pool, and I prospected the tail and midsection with an abundant number of casts, but again the trout were uncooperative. I allotted many more drifts to each prime location than was my normal summer practice, but patient persistence was not translating to success. Finally I arrived at the gorgeous deep trough that ran along the main current seam near the top of the pool, and much to my amazement the indicator paused on the first cast, as the flies tumbled out of the whitewater froth and into the deep slower moving slot. I reacted with a hook set, and the torpedo streaked downstream, and within seconds my line was limp, and the first connection of the day slid into the long distance release column. I persisted in the same area, and once again the indicator paused, and again I hooked a strong trout that chose a downstream escape route and managed to shed my fly. Given my misgivings over my ability to land a fish on the cold November day, you can imagine my state of mind after two consecutive escape episodes. The twin incidents did, however, elevate my confidence and prodded me to persist in my pursuit of South Platte River trout. Gaining knowledge of which fly duped the trout would have been welcome, but the releases pointed to the small classic RS2 with a small hook gap.

I once again progressed upstream along the river and carefully avoided ice patches and packed snow, until I arrived at another large quality pool. Earlier I spotted another angler in the area, but he was absent by the time I arrived, so I covered the large pool very thoroughly. I was certain that the large prime hole would produce fish, but it did not. I decided to exchange the orange scud for a 20 incher, since it was weighted and when combined with the split shot would provide deeper drifts.

The next section of the river was comprised of faster chutes and short pockets, and I made some cursory casts, but when results were not forthcoming, I continued on to the gorgeous pool below the first tunnel. This pool entertained me and friends on numerous occasions, and I was somewhat optimistic that it might erase my skunking on November 19.

The Area That Produced

I moved immediately to the nice riffles that spanned the river at the top of the pool, and I sprayed casts across the entire area, but my hopes sank, as the flies only collected moss and aquatic debris. I took three steps downstream and once again executed casts starting within eight feet of my position and then extending outward. In the blink of an eye the indicator dipped, I set the hook and a spirited rainbow trout thrashed near the surface. The pink striped fighter performed some acrobatic maneuvers, but eventually I guided the fish into my net and observed the 20 incher in its lip. The skunking was avoided, and I silently congratulated myself for persistence and a hard earned reward.

A Welcome Catch

I continued probing the upper section of the pool, and on a subsequent cast I felt a jolt, as the flies began to swing at the downstream end of the drift. Again a rambunctious rainbow trout appeared, but once again I maintained tension and eventually slid my net beneath its swirling body. The second trout of the day was a mirror image of number one, but this specimen displayed the RS2 in its lip.

I worked my way down the pool for another ten minutes, and then I resumed my upstream progress. Just above the top of the pool a small relatively shallow shelf pool appeared, and although I judged it to be relatively marginal, I flicked a cast to the top. Imagine my amazement, when after a short drift I lifted to make sure that the flies were not hung up, and I found myself attached to a nine inch brown trout that gobbled the 20 incher.

Happy for Any Size

I continued onward for another hour, and I thoroughly fished two additional first-class locations, but I was unable to recreate the magic of the tunnel pool. The sun broke through for a few short time periods, but for the most part a thin layer of clouds prevented significant warming. I suspect the temperature topped out in the fifty degree range, and my feet and fingers reminded me of the chilly circumstances. By 3PM my confidence once again plummeted, and this mental state when combined with my gnarled fingers and numb feet prompted me to return to the car to call it a day.

Last Hour Spent in This Area

My return hike necessitated two river crossings, and I utilized the same packed footsteps that aided my descent to climb to the road. Tuesday was a challenging day, but I am proud to report that I landed three trout and connected with two others. In retrospect I underestimated the impact of the narrow canyon and the temperature differential between Lake George and Eleven Mile Canyon. I enjoyed a day outside in the middle of November, and I avoided an injury in spite of the dangerous snow and ice conditions. I consider Tuesday, November 19, 2019 a success.

Fish Landed: 3

Fingerless Wool Gloves Were Effective

Cache la Poudre River – 11/15/2019

Time: 9:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Within the town of Fort Collins

Cache la Poudre River 11/15/2019 Photo Album

The forecast of a 63 degree day along the Front Range of Colorado on Friday, November 15 caused incessant brain messages that implored me to visit a trout stream. I contacted @rockymtnangler, also known as Trevor, and learned that he was off from work on Friday and planning a day of fishing. With that news in hand we planned a day on the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins, CO. Trevor logged sixty plus days on the city section of the Cache la Poudre, and he has become a bit of an expert on the nuances of the urban fishery. In fact, Trevor shared a sample of his impressive art work with me in the form of a pen and ink rendition of a map of the Cache la Poudre. I am convinced that Trev could have a future in art, if he tires of his current occupation.

We agreed to meet in Fort Collins at 9AM, and I arrived at our designated rendezvous point at that exact point in time. Trevor was already clad in waders, and since he owns a rod vault, his rod is in a constant state of readiness. He waited patiently, while I cycled through my preparation routine which included the assembly of my Orvis Access four weight.

Very Low Flows on the Cache la Poudre in Fort Collins

The air temperature remained quite chilly at this early juncture of the morning, so I slid into my North Face light down coat. By the time we quit at 12:30 the temperature rose to the low sixties, but I was never uncomfortable in my chosen attire. In a text message on Thursday Trevor warned me to temper my expectations due to the low water conditions, and evidence of his advice was apparent, as we approached the low narrow stream of flowing water to begin our day. I estimate that only 1/3 of the stream bed was covered by water with the remainder a jumble of bleached river rocks.

We hiked downstream for .5 mile and jumped in the river just below the water gauge bridge. Trevor grabbed a pool downstream, while I targeted a spot, where the river flowed against the north bank and created a nice deep run. Within minutes Trevor hooked and landed an eight inch rainbow trout, but I was unable to lure anything to my line. I began my day with a Jake’s gulp beetle and a size 16 salvation nymph, as I searched for a surface fly that was small yet visible and buoyant enough to support a beadhead dropper.

Trevor Focused on a Run

Trevor and I continued fishing upstream through the remainder of the morning and played hopscotch among the intermittent attractive pools. The most productive locales featured a bit of current that fed large smooth pools, and the trout seemed to gravitate to the top to intercept food, before it spread out in the slower sections. Within the first thirty minutes Trevor added a second rainbow, and both landed fish attacked his small parachute Adams. We both were convinced that my nymph should be generating more interest, so I swapped the salvation for a beadhead sparkle wing RS2. Surely the Poudre trout could not resist the small baetis imitation in the prevalent low conditions. Since the beetle was difficult to track in the shadowed areas, I opted for a peacock body hippie stomper with a white wing, and this move proved effective, as the large wing contrasted nicely with low light conditions.

My strategy seemed viable, but in a twist of trout contrariness, the hippie stomper became the desired food object and not the RS2. During the remainder of my time on the water, two rainbow trout smashed the attractor dry fly, but the small nymph went unmolested. In fact, I swapped the RS2 for a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail nymph for an extended period, and it also was ignored.

A Pod of Rainbows Next to Trevor

By 11:30 the infrequent rises in the pools ceased to appear, and we persisted in our upstream mission, but the fish were no longer willing to accept our offerings. At a spot that contained a large quantity of man-made stream improvement boulders, we agreed that the best fishing of Friday, November 15 was behind us, so we climbed the bank and ambled back to our cars. Once we removed our gear, Trevor led the way to the Odell Brewing tasting patio, and we quaffed craft brews and enjoyed the unseasonably warm afternoon.

The fishing was slow, but my expectations were appropriately lowered. The highlights of Friday were the companionship of a fishing friend, pleasant weather, and a tasty brew at Odell Brewing. Any nice day with a few fish is a bonus in mid-November.

Fish Landed: 2

Boulder Creek – 11/10/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 11/10/2019 Photo Album

With a high of 65 degrees forecast for Denver on Sunday, November 10, 2019 I could not resist the siren call of Boulder Creek. Boulder Creek within the City of Denver is one of my favorite destinations in late November, as it remains milder than the streams in the foothills and those at high elevation.

I departed my house in Denver at 10:40AM on Sunday morning, and this enabled me to arrive in Boulder across from the stream by 11:15AM. My normal parking space at Scott Carpenter Park was off limits, as the parking lot was fenced off for some sort of construction project. This forced me to reverse my direction on 30th Street, and after I crossed the bridge over Boulder Creek, I made a left and parked in a CU parking lot next to some greenhouses. The lot was empty, and signs warned against parking without a permit on Monday through Friday. An advantage of my rare weekend fishing excursion was the availability of parking.

Near the Start

I assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod and quickly ambled to Boulder Creek just below the 30th Street Bridge. I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. These flies remained on my line during my entire stay on Boulder Creek. The stream was seasonally low, but no snow remained from the back to back storms of the previous week. The temperature was in the low sixties and the sun was bright, so I elected to forego additional layers beyond my fishing shirt over a long sleeved Columbia undershirt.

A Rare Rainbow from Boulder Creek in Boulder, CO

I covered .6 mile of water in my 3.0 hours on Boulder Creek, and I landed eight trout in the process. All except one of the temporary net residents were brown trout, with the outlier being a colorful rainbow. The largest trout was barely eight inches, and most fell within the six to seven inch range. The hippie stomper served as an indicator, although two or three fish flashed to the surface only to veer away at the last instant thus registering only teasing refusals.

Love the Leaf Wrap

The shallow condition of the stream caused me to skip significant sections, as I sought slower moving areas with greater than normal depth. The most effective technique was an up and across cast followed by a long drift to a point three quarters below my position. Most of the trout nabbed one of the nymphs, as the flies began to accelerate away from the bank, or as I executed a lift to initiate a new cast. I tried to remain on the north bank as much as possible, as this position avoided the strong glare that made tracking the hippie stomper difficult from the south bank.

The Slack Water by the Roots Produced

Sunday was a short outing and the fish were small, but I took advantage of one of a dwindling number of warm days in November. The Boulder Creek bike path was swarming with skateboarders, dog walkers, runners, walkers, and cyclists; however, I only saw one other fisherman, and I was pleased with that circumstance on a rare weekend outing. I checked the weather forecast, and a high of 65 is predicted for Wednesday. Perhaps another visit to Boulder Creek is in my future for 2019.

Fish Landed: 8

One of the Best Fish of the Day

 

 

 

Beaver Creek – 11/08/2019

Time: 1:30PM – 3:00PM

Location: Backcountry

Beaver Creek 10/08/2019 Photo Album

I parked at the trailhead and grabbed my already strung fly rod and packs and completed a .6 mile hike, until I found a suitable spot to enter the stream. I knew from a previous trip, that Beaver Creek supported a decent population of rainbow trout, and rainbows spawn in the spring, so I was confident that the residents of this stream would not be preoccupied with reproduction. I knew that the cold temperatures and melting snow slowed the metabolism of the trout, but I felt confident, that I could entice a few trout to grab my offerings.

Snow and Sunshine

The temperature during the first hour remained in the low fifties, and the low sun in the western sky cast my long shadow ahead, as I moved in a northward direction. My first two interactions with trout were brief temporary hookups, so I paused and swapped the RS2 for a salvation nymph. I speculated that the larger hook translated to more netted fish.

Brilliant

My theory was proven to be accurate, as I landed six fish from the small backcountry stream during 1.5 hours of fishing on Friday afternoon. Five of the fish that rested in my net were rainbow trout and one was a brook trout. The catch rate was slower than my earlier visit during the summer, but I expected that given the cold temperatures of early November. One small rainbow casually nipped the fat Albert, and the other trout were split between the hares ear and salvation.

Those Markings Are Brilliant

During the last thirty minutes I entered a section that was totally covered by shadows from the canyon wall to the west. The last two trout arrived in my net during this time period, and my threatening shadows were no longer a concern. Fly fishing always offers trade offs, and in this case the lack of sun benefited my approach but also resulted in very cold fingers and hands. A dull burn and stinging sensation forced me to call it quits a bit after three o’clock, and the discomfort persisted for much of my return hike.

Barriers to Progress

My move to a stream with a significant rainbow population paid dividends, and I elevated the fish count to six and seven for the entire day. Fishing in the small stream amid ice, snow and tight overhanging branches created a difficult series of challenges, but I persisted, until my hands cried for relief. Several of the rainbows were plump trout in the twelve inch range, and a lift or swing seemed to be the catalyst that produced strikes.

Fish Landed: 6

Ice Chunk Remains

Elk Creek – 11/08/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Backcountry

Elk Creek 11/08/2019 Photo Album

Another break in the early winter-like weather of Colorado on Friday, November 8 motivated me to undertake a fishing excursion. I arrived at the trailhead of the small backcountry stream that is quickly becoming a favorite, and I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight and made a .6 mile hike along the snow and ice covered trail. The temperature was thirty-two degrees, when I arrived at the trailhead parking lot, and when I departed at 1PM, the thermometer rose to the mid-fifties. The weather was fairly tolerable during the two hours on Elk Creek, as the sun’s rays created solar warming.

Sumptuous Pool

The flows of the small creek were low and clear and ideal for my late season venture. I began my fly fishing effort with a yellow fat Albert, 20 incher, and salvation nymph; but when I broke for lunch at noon, the fish counter remained solidly locked on 0.

More Tantalizing Water

All the gorgeous pools that yielded one or two nice trout in the summer and early fall seemed devoid of fish. I momentarily hooked up with one decent trout at the tail of a small deep pool, but that was the extent of the action in the first hour. Normally I manage to spook fish, but on Friday I only spotted three fleeing fish, as I slowly progressed up the backcountry stream.

First and Only

After lunch I continued my upstream migration, and in an effort to change my luck I swapped the two nymphs for a beadhead hares ear and size 20 RS2. The move improved my fortunes slightly, as I hooked a nice brown trout and played it for a second or two before it escaped. Finally at approximately 12:45PM I felt some weight, as I lifted my flies from a deep eddy, and after a short battle I netted a nice thirteen inch brown trout that nabbed the RS2.

Foam Was Home

During my time on Elk Creek I struggled with long shadows, since I was fishing upstream to the north, and the low sun was shining from the south, and I suspect this had an impact on my lack of success. Another fifteen minutes with no action convinced me that the predominantly brown trout stream was in advanced spawning season, and the fish were more interested in procreation than eating. I never spotted spawning fish, but I have no other explanation for the absence of trout in an area that held abundant quantities during previous visits.

I decided to cut my losses, so I hiked back to the parking lot, stashed my gear in the Santa Fe and shifted my base of operations to another stream that contained predominantly rainbow trout.

Fish Landed: 1

Clear Creek – 11/05/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Tunnel 3 and Big Easy; Just West of Tunnel 6

Clear Creek 11/05/2019 Photo Album

After an extended spell of snowstorms and cold weather, a short break in the weather tempted me to make another 2019 fishing trip. The high temperature in Denver was predicted to peak at 61 degrees, and I speculated that this translated to fifty in the high country, so I hedged and chose Clear Creek Canyon as my destination. The high for Golden, CO was 61, and Idaho Springs was projected at 52, so I concluded that Clear Creek Canyon would top out in the mid to high fifties.

As I traveled along Clear Creek on U.S. 6 west of the intersection of CO 93, I noted a considerable amount of snow along the creek along with the presence of shelf ice. I should have realized that snow and ice would be a factor, since the low temperature on October 30 was -1 F. In spite of the ice and snow discovery, I resolved to persist in my late season attempt to land a few trout.

Lots of Ice and Snow

I traveled through Tunnel 3 and after a couple miles pulled into a wide pullout along the north side of the highway. The stretch between Tunnel 3 and the Big Easy Peak to Plains Access produced for me on previous trips, and I was convinced that it held promise on November 5.

Once I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I hiked east along U.S. 6 for .3 mile and then dropped down a snowy angled path to the creek. I wore my North Face light down coat and my New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps, and these outer clothing choices served me well, until I entered the ice cold flows of Clear Creek. I rigged my line with a yellow fat Albert, 20 incher and salvation nymph. The 20 incher was selected to provide weight, as I anticipated drifting my nymphs close to the bottom given the 38 CFS flows and melting snow and ice.

Nice Run Ahead

During the last hour of the morning I progressed upstream and prospected likely holding spots with the three fly dry/dropper set up. Originally I probed some short deep pockets and moderate riffles, but these failed to produce, until I encountered a nice long steadily moving trough, where a six inch brown trout latched on to the 20 incher. I was not convinced that another trout was in my future given the challenging conditions, so I snapped a photo of the small jewel. Just before I stopped for lunch, another trout grabbed one of the nymphs, but this connection ended within seconds, when the panicked trout rolled and shed the pointy irritant in its lip.

First Fish on 20 Incher

Shortly before noon my feet morphed into stumps, and a serious chill invaded my body, so I found some nice large ice free boulders along the north bank and consumed my lunch. The break restored feeling to my feet, and I resumed my upstream progression in a slightly improved state of warmth.

I decided to skip marginal pockets and faster water in order to target slower slots and shelf pools similar to the two places that yielded interaction with trout in the morning. The strategy seemed reasonable, but I must report, that I failed to generate any interest in my flies between noon and 1PM. I was successful, however, in acquiring another significant chill, as my feet once again attained a state of numbness, and the cold of the creek migrated upward to my ears and hands. A constant burn and sting emanated from my fingers, and the deep shadows of the canyon prevented the warming effect of the sun’s rays from mitigating my discomfort. I decided that relief from the cold was higher on my hierarchy of needs than catching more fish, and I returned to the car.

As I pondered my next move, I decided that I underestimated the beneficial impact of the sun, and I decided to drive west beyond Tunnel 6. I remembered that the creek shifted to the north side of the highway in the western section of the canyon, and this in turn meant that sunshine would prevail. I was surprised to discover that no cars were present in the wide pullout just beyond Tunnel 6, so I quickly grabbed a prime spot and pulled on my packs and grabbed my fly rod. I ambled east toward the tunnel and then dropped down a bare path between snow-covered rocks, until I perched next to the stream just above a zip line, that rock climbers utilized to cross the creek.

I prospected my way upstream for forty yards and experienced a refusal to the fat Albert and a tentative nip on one of the trailing nymphs. As I surmised, the sun bathed the creek in light, and this circumstance was a welcome development after the frigid shaded canyon section that abused me during the first two hours.

I Spent Some Time at This Pool

By two o’clock I approached a gorgeous deep pool, and I remembered it from several previous visits to Clear Creek. I paused to observe the aqua hued area which was in fact a large eddy. The main current swept along the north bank and then curled around and flowed back toward the western edge of the pool. Initially I spotted only a small trout near the south side of the curl, but as I continued to peer into the blueish clear pool, I noted at least eight fish.

I initiated my effort to fool the pool residents with the dry/dropper, but it was treated like inert flotsam, so I removed the three flies and considered alternatives. Would a size 18 parachute black ant fool these wary trout? I plucked one from my box and knotted it to my 5X, but after ten minutes of casting, I could only point to a couple nose to fly refusals. I stripped in the ant and replaced it with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. I plopped the foam terrestrial in the vicinity of all the visible finned creatures, but once again a pair of inspections with no take was my reward.

I decided that something small was probably the answer, and I once again inspected my MFC fly box. I spotted a vertical row of size 18 gray stoneflies that matched an October and November hatch on South Boulder Creek. I concluded that the tiny stonefly imitation could imitate several aquatic life forms, so I tied it to my leader and took it for a ride. Unlike the two terrestrials, the small stonefly failed to entice even a look from the hovering trout in front of me.

Happy

By now a decent fish was tipping up to sip something from the edge of the current, where it began to curl across the creek. It was late afternoon in early November, and I decided I would be remiss, if I did not try a CDC blue winged olive. I removed a tiny size 24 from my box and replaced the stonefly with the minuscule tuft of CDC with an olive body. The change proved effective, when two nine inch brown trout tipped up and sipped the small olive to increase my fish count to three. The third fish slowly elevate and then pressed its snout against the fly and then slowly inhaled it. I somehow mustered enough patience to allow the excruciatingly slow process to unfold.

Overview

After fish number three a shadow enveloped the north side of the pool, and this made tracking the tiny mayfly along the current seam impossible, so I abandoned the honey hole and moved upstream to another quality area. The creek spread out and created five nice channels of moderate depth. The flows in this area were faster, and prospecting with the size 24 olive seemed like an exercise in frustration, so I swapped it for the Jake’s gulp beetle. I sprayed casts upstream and across, until I covered the many wide troughs and channels, but the trout were either not interested in the beetle or not present.

I retreated to the south bank and worked my way toward the head of the attractive section. A series of narrow deep slots existed along the bank above me, and much to my amazement I spotted a subtle rise eight feet upstream along a large exposed boulder. I plopped the beetle four feet above the site of the rise, and a decent trout elevated and then drifted back to its holding position along the bottom. A second plop, however, evoked another upward movement, but this time the fish sipped the beetle, and I quickly lifted the rod tip and felt a brief throb of weight. Unfortunately the take was very tentative, and the fish quickly flipped free of the beetle. I was certain that I botched my last chance at a fish on November 5, but I flicked another cast six feet above the previous one, and a brown trout rushed from the depths to devour the foam impostor. Fish number four rested in my net.

I continued upstream for another ten minutes and generated another look, but that was the extent of my additional action, before I reached a long wide shallow riffle area. The sun was very low in the sky, and this created an impossible glare, so I hooked the beetle to the rod guide, climbed the bank, and strolled back to the Santa Fe.

Four small trout in four hours of fishing was not a memorable experience, but the move to the sun bathed area west of Tunnel 6 salvaged a chilly November day. The dry/dropper technique was not producing, so I was happy to linger at the large pool and cast to sighted fish. I cycled through four standalone dry flies, but I eventually found one that fooled two fish. Catching three of four trout on dry flies is probably the most surprising aspect of my day of fly fishing on November 5.

Fish Landed: 4

South Boulder Creek – 10/26/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/26/2019 Photo Album

Weather was the impetus for my rare weekend day of fly fishing on Saturday, October 26, 2019. My daughter, Amy, visited from October 17 through October 20, and I devoted my time to her and put a moratorium on my fly fishing efforts. Cold temperatures and a snowstorm prevented me from pursuing trout between Octoboer 21 and October 24. A glance at the seven day forecast revealed that back to back storms were about to slam Colorado on Sunday. October 27 and extending through Halloween. What recourse did an avid fly fisherman have?

One glimmer of hope filtered through my thoughts of despair. Saturday’s high in Denver was predicted to be seventy degrees, and this translated to the upper fifties in some of the nearby front range streams. The flows on South Boulder Creek were 82 CFS, and that was enough information to encourage a trip to the small tailwater west of Golden, CO.

The temperature registered 50 degrees, as a I pulled into the kayak parking lot, and quite a few vehicles occupied prime spots on the southern half, and as I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, several more anglers arrived. I experienced a brief taste of weekend fishing in the Colorado Rockies.

Deep Snow Next to Long Pool

As I trudged along the stream on the way to my chosen starting point, I was surprised to discover five to six inches of snow on the south side of the creek. The deeper than expected snow and the warming temperatures raised concerns over the water clarity as well as the chilling impact on the trout, but these misgivings would eventually prove to be unfounded.

At the Start

I arrived at my favorite starting location by 11AM, and I configured my line with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a size 12 20 incher, and a salvation nymph. I viewed the 20 incher as a substitute for weight, because I wanted to get my nymphs to the bottom in the cold 82 CFS flows. Between 11:15AM and 3:30PM I retained the fat Albert and 20 incher as the upper flies in my three fly dry/dropper system. I switched the end fly out after lunch and shifted to a soft hackle emerger, but eventually reverted to the salvation, when I spotted some pale morning dun mayflies in the air.

Fat Albert Duped One Trout

Mangled 20 Incher Was the Number One Fly

During the dry/dropper segment of my day I landed twenty-one trout including two rainbows and nineteen brown trout. One aggressive brown trout slurped the fat Albert, two brown trout nipped the soft hackle emerger, and two additional catches grabbed the salvation. The fourteen remaining netted fish savored the 20 incher, and I was very surprised, that a fly that was merely deployed to provide ballast proved to be the most popular. One rainbow was a respectable and chunky specimen, and a few of the brown trout extended to the twelve and thirteen inch mark. Other than these outliers, most of the fish fell within the nine to eleven inch range.

Marvelous Spots

The most productive spots for brown trout were slack water shelf pools next to faster runs. The creek inhabitants conserved energy in these areas and picked off tumbling subsurface food offerings, as they drifted away from the faster current. In addition to the landed rainbows, I also tangled temporarily with some pink striped residents that escaped, and these trout seemed to prefer faster water and deep slots between large boulders.

Pleased with This One

Change of Pace Rainbow

By 3:30PM I reached my usual end point, and I skipped around a narrow whitewater chute and then dropped back down to the creek. I cherry picked some above average spots in this section to no avail, and then I decided to begin my return hike. When I arrived at the pool, that I deemed to be the best on South Boulder Creek, I paused to observe and spotted three very subtle dimples along the main current seam. I could not resist the temptation to log some bonus time, so I clipped off the three flies and tied a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line. Why? It was just a hunch based on success at the same time of day and year on previous trips.

I made some quality drifts along the center seam, and induced a refusal, before I turned my attention to the section on the right, where two smaller runs angled from the bank back toward my position. I lobbed a cast to the right side, and a subtle swirl revealed itself below my fly. I quickly raised my rod tip and felt weight for a split second, and my optimism sank, as I realized that I probably put down a willing feeder.

Surprise Rainbow on a Dry Fly

I returned my attention to the left shelf pool and the center current seam, but a series of casts were ignored. The shadows extended across the entire creek, and the lack of sun created a chill, when the breeze whistled through the branches. I entertained thoughts of resuming my trek to the parking lot but decided to lob another cast to the angled run on the right. The choice proved to be fortuitous, when another sucking swirl materialized beneath my fly, and this time I paused a split second and then executed a solid hook set. When the hook pricked the greedy feeder, it performed an acrobatic roll on the surface, and this revealed the brilliant crimson strip of a rainbow trout. The fight was on, and the battler crossed the right shelf pool several times before it relented and slid into my net. Whoa! A husky fourteen inch rainbow nestled in the bottom of my net, and I let out a self congratulatory hoot.

Size 16 Light Gray Comparadun Worked

After releasing my prize catch of the day, I moved to the bottom of the left side of the pool, and I shot some relatively long casts to the slow section in the upper left area. Amazingly, despite the absence of rises, I enticed three trout to smack the light gray comparadun. Evidently I stumbled into a fly that matched a food form that was present in South Boulder Creek in late October. When my casts drifted through the pool without molestation, I stripped in the fly and proceeded on my outbound hike. I stopped at one more favorite pool and tempted a small rainbow to eat the comparadun, before I permanently called it a day.

What a surprise Saturday turned out to be! I landed twenty-six trout in total, and this included several in the 12 – 14 inch range. These results accrued despite the presence of snow and snowmelt. Five landed fish on a size 16 comparadun during the late afternoon shadows were icing on the cake. If this was my last outing of 2019, I would be satisfied with the memory.

Fish Landed: 26