Diamond River (Day 14) – 01/31/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Diamond River

Diamond River (Day 14) 01/31/2018 Photo Album

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A Morning Rainbow in Glenorchy

Gale force winds greeted us on Wednesday morning in Glenorchy. At one point I stepped outside and marveled at a huge rainbow in the southern sky, so I returned to the room and snatched my camera for a couple photos. The change in weather was welcome after the last week of intensely hot weather, but wind is a four letter word for fly fishermen. My guide on Tuesday, Nick, suggested that I return to the Diamond River on Wednesday and even showed me the best section and productive techniques. When I heard the rushing air on Wednesday morning, I decided to take my time, and for this reason Jane and I did not reach the carpark until 10:25.

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Jane Captured My Cast Nicely

Jane brought her book and beach towel, and we tramped for thirty minutes, until I reached the lower end of the section suggested by Nick. The wind was already in a blustering state, but I spotted a couple sporadic rises, so I unhooked my blow fly and began to cast. In the middle of the stream I noticed a decent brown trout, as it darted to the surface and snatched some form of unidentifiable food. I executed quite a few drifts over this area between frustrating gusts of wind, but I was unable to interest the sighted fish in another meal.

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Ready for Action

As this scenario was playing out, I observed a couple splashy rises ten feet out from the opposite bank. I responded and moved upstream, until I was above the last rise, and I began shooting casts toward the far shore. With each cast I extended the drift ten feet. I also adopted the ploy suggested by Nick of walking downstream at the same pace as the fly to avoid drag, and then allowed the blow fly to swing across the river, until it was below me. Finally I extended the rod over the water and stripped line to bring the fly back toward me, and then I allowed the fly to drift downstream along the near bank, while I wiggled my rod tip and fed line. The entire process enabled me to prospect for bank dwellers on both sides of the river with relatively long drag free drifts.

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Quite a Bend

I repeated this sequence three times, and on the fourth circuit a fish slashed at the dry fly, as it began to drag across the river. This elevated my optimism, since my fly was attracting interest, and it identified the location of a trout. Another cast and drift was ignored, but on the following effort after a long twelve foot drift, a nose emerged, and a fish chomped on the fly. I responded with a swift hook set, and a combative brown trout responded with a noble battle. I was forced to slide down the bank, where a tiny side creek entered the river in order to be in a solid position to fight and net the brawler on the end of my leader. I applied side pressure and guided the brown just below me, and then it made several attempts to dive into some thick aquatic moss. I was having none of it and managed to leverage it into my undersized net. The curled fish in front of me was heavy and in the eighteen inch range. While this episode was unfolding, Jane snapped some photos and video clips. What a thrill! I landed my first quality New Zealand trout without the assistance of a guide.

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Best Fish Landed Without a Guide

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A Bigger Smile

After this bit of fun, Jane and I moved upstream at a slow pace, as I scanned the river for additional surface feeding activity. The constant wind made spotting rises and fish quite a challenge. I stopped a couple times in quality segments to employ the Nick Clark cycle method, but I never observed another rise. The ferocity of the wind accelerated, so we decided to move directly to the lake. Nick suggested that I should not underestimate the lake, as quite a few large trout cruised the shoreline looking for food.

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Wildflowers by the Lake

Whitecaps greeted us at the outlet from the lake, and I quickly abandoned any thoughts of fishing. We sat in the midst of some small yellow wildflowers and snacked, while we admired the spectacular scenery.

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Showing the Photographer

On the return hike I stopped at two locations and blasted some casts toward the far bank. After the wind generated a discouraging tangle, I replaced the blow fly with a Jake’s gulp beetle. On a downstream drift ten feet out from the bank that I was standing on, a small brown trout elevated and nosed the terrestrial. Two casts later I drifted the beetle through the same area, and the eleven inch brown crushed it. Catching a fish on a fly I tied was my last action on Wednesday, as the wind raged with utter fierceness. In fact when we returned to the Bold Peak Lodge later in the afternoon, we discovered that there was a “power cut” (outage), because some trees between Queenstown and Glenorchy were blown down on power lines.

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Creaky Dock at Kinloch Lodge

After we stowed our gear in the van, we drove farther around the lake to Kinloch. The Kinloch Lodge was recommended by our New Zealand travel advisor, but we were unable to secure a booking because vacancies were not available on the dates we stayed in the area. We wanted to see what we were missing. The lodge rested on a hill overlooking Lake Wakatipu, and it appeared to be a charming and well maintained establishment. It was obviously a step up from the Bold Peak Lodge, but Jane and I were not exceptionally disappointed.

Fish Landed: 2

 

 

Diamond River (Day 13) – 01/30/2018

Time: 3:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Thirty minutes from the carpark.

Diamond River (Day 13) 01/30/2018 Photo Album

After we departed from the Routeburn River, Nick headed back toward Glenorchy to the Diamond River carpark. Nick described the Diamond as a spring creek, and it did in fact display spring creek characteristics. It flowed consistently between high banks, and thick aquatic vegetation lined the riverbed. The water projected a deep green color similar to the Pennsylvania spring creeks that I grew up near rather than the blue aqua shade of other New Zealand streams such as the just vacated Routeburn.

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Attractive Deep Run

While I fished sporadically during the remaining two hours of my guided fishing day, Nick was mainly preparing me for a solo trip on Wednesday. He told me that under more advantageous conditions, fish rose frequently and consequently were fairly easy to spot. On Tuesday late afternoon, however, the wind was brutal, the air temperature was oppressive, and six fishermen had just pounded the area. We knew this because we passed them on their way back to the carpark.

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Diamond River Is a Jewel

Nick demonstrated how to cast across the stream to the opposite bank and then walk downstream with the pace of the current to enable a long drag free drift. This step was followed by a surface swing, and then he walked back upstream while extending the rod out over the stream as far as possible. The last tactic was to feed out line to create a nice downstream presentation along the bank. It was readily obvious to me that this cycle created several long drag free drifts along each bank, and typically those areas are the home of large brown trout. I was sold. I practiced this technique a few times and managed a refusal over a light colored shelf on one circuit.

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Ready to Catch Some Fish

Within the last thirty minutes I shot some long casts to the far bank, and as I shuffled through the grass, the fly drifted fifteen feet when a large mouth appeared. I paused, and just as Nick shouted “set”, I reacted and felt the momentary weight of the hook catching the lip of a decent fish. Alas that was the best I could on the Diamond River, but the two hours whet my appetite for a return visit on Wednesday.

Routeburn River (Day 13) – 01/30/2018

Time: 9:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Routeburn River

Routeburn River (Day 13) 01/30/2018 Photo Album

I scheduled a solo day of guided fishing out of Glenorchy on Tuesday, January 30. My left eye was once again sealed shut when I woke up in the morning; however, I began using the antibiotic drops that Brenda procured for her eye, and the medication seemed to show signs of effectiveness. I was not feeling great, but I swallowed the prescribed dose of cold medicine and stuffed more in my pocket for later in the day. I was not about to let a cold ruin a day of guided fly fishing in the Southland Region of New Zealand.

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My Guide's Fly Box

My guide, Nick Clark, picked me up at 7:30 at the Bold Peak Lodge. Tuesday developed into another very hot day with the high around 30 degrees C. We drove a short distance and began our fishing adventure on the Routeburn River. I waded wet, and throughout the day I was quite pleased with my decision. I began fishing in a section of the river that was characterized by fast water with many pockets, deep runs, and short pools. Nick set me up with an irresistible, and I began prospecting the likely spots. Tuesday on the Routeburn was my closest New Zealand experience to my favored style of Colorado fishing. The water was very similar to Colorado high gradient streams, and Nick actually commended my casting, pace, and ability to keep the line off the water to prevent drag. It was confidence boosting to receive positive feedback on my casting compared to suggestions for improvement.

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Absolutely Stunning Water

In the early going I landed two rainbow trout in the eleven inch range on the irresistible. While I was blind casting to likely holding positions, Nick scanned the water ahead and spotted larger trout, and this supplemented my style with some exciting sight fishing. One of the first such encounters with a larger fish resulted in a refusal. I lifted the rod quickly and flicked a cast to the left, although Nick actually implored me to strip the line in for a fly change. I instinctively tossed the cast before I heard his command, and I never saw my fly, but Nick followed it and saw a fish eat. He shouted “set”, and I reacted quickly, but the fly came hurtling back toward us. I was disappointed by this sequence, but nevertheless exhilarated by the short jolt of action.

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We Began with an Irresistible

For a few of the football shaped dark spots sighted, Nick changed the top fly to a Goddard caddis and then later a parachute Adams. He also experimented with a pheasant tail nymph dropper, but these moves failed to deliver results. We concluded that the big boys were extra moody and quite skittish.

At one point the parachute Adams got snagged on an overhanging rock, and Nick instructed me to break it off. I did so, and as he searched his box for a replacement, I asked if we could try one of the hippy stompers I recently tied. Nick was game to try something new, so he knotted one with a peacock dubbed body to my line. The change paid off somewhat, as I landed two small rainbows in short order. My confidence in the hippy stomper temporarily elevated, but after fifteen minutes of prospecting some delightful fast areas with no interest from the trout, we reverted to the irresistible.

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So Clear

The next sequence was the highlight of my day. A nice deep wide run flowed along a large bank side rock that displayed a white high water mark stripe along the top edge. As we moved closer, Nick and I simultaneously spotted a solid rise within a couple feet of the opposite bank toward the tail of the run. I positioned myself slightly above and across from the scene of the rise, and I began to shoot casts increasingly closer to the far bank. As I was doing this, the target fish came into view, and we could both identify it as a tantalizing large rainbow. On the fifth cast I placed the irresistible within two feet of the rock with the stripe, and it slid downstream along the base of the rock wall with no response.

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Lovely Pink Stripe

I extended another cast to within a foot of the rock, and unlike the previous cast I allowed the fly to dead drift to the very lip of the run. Just before the dry fly was due to drag next to an exposed boulder, a mouth appeared, and it crushed the spun deer hair attractor. Nick shouted “set”, and I reacted simultaneously with his instruction. Now the fight was on. Initially the rainbow shot upstream, and I managed to apply side pressure and brought it to a position twenty-five feet directly above me. But then the resisting trout had other thoughts. It made four successive runs downstream, and I recklessly followed over slippery boulders and rocks while applying side pressure. I was reenacting scenes that I witnessed on Instagram. In a last ditch effort the trout raced into some fairly fast pocket water and stopped next to a large exposed boulder closer to the opposite bank. I lifted my rod high above my head and waded to the middle of the river and coaxed the recalcitrant fish between two rocks and then added side pressure and brought it to the bank below me, where Nick scooped it. High fives broke out, and I admired a New Zealand rainbow trout in excess of twenty inches.

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Big Shoulders

We continued our upstream progression, and I added another ten inch rainbow and a twelve inch brown to the fish count. Both of these fish showed a preference for the irresistible. We stopped for lunch at 12:30PM, and after a forty-five minute snack, we resumed the upstream dry fly prospecting. The quality of the water declined, and the temperature rose, so we decided to return to the car in order to move to another stream at 2:30.

Fish Landed: 7

 

Waitaki River (Day 10) – 01/27/2018

Time: 9:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Below several dams

Waitaki River (Day 10) 01/27/2018 Photo Album

Originally John and I were scheduled to float fish the Clutha River on Saturday, January 27 with our guide Greg, but he contacted us one day prior and offered another destination that was a longer drive, but offered the likelihood of more and larger trout. John and I conferred and elected the longer drive scenario. The extra 1.5 hour travel time translated to an earlier departure, and Greg gathered us and our gear at 7AM at the Wanaka Springs Lodge.

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Our Starting Point with Guide Greg on January 27

After an uneventful drive we arrived at a location below an upstream dam, and Greg unloaded the inflatable raft and then shuttled the SUV and trailer to the take out point. John and I fished below a bridge, while Greg rode his dirt bike back to the launch point. The air temperature spiked in the 90’s, but I never felt overheated. We stopped frequently along our route and climbed out of the raft to wade fish, and since I was wearing my wet wading garb, I was continually refreshed by the cool river water.

At each wading location Greg set John and I up in likely fish holding spots. He spotted fish and coached one of us, while the other client was encouraged to fish independently. We enjoyed a fun day, as Greg provided numerous opportunities for us to cast over large sighted fish. Most of our approaches required long accurate casts, and the afternoon wind increased the challenge of this endeavor.

The first fish that I hooked was a rainbow trout that stripped line from the reel at an outrageous pace. This incident was the first in my fly fishing life, where the fish completely unraveled the fly line, so that all that was left on my reel was backing. Much to my chagrin the nymph eventually popped free in heavy water downstream, and I invested a significant amount of time winding the line back on the reel. Greg suggested  that there was not much I could do about the situation, since the rainbow immediately bolted for the fast heavy chute next to the place where it was hooked. Nevertheless I was disappointed to miss an opportunity to land a powerful New Zealand rainbow trout.

A bit after this episode I fished a hares ear nymph without an indicator, and as the fly began to swing at the end of the drift, I felt a heavy throbbing weight. Fortunately for me this fish essentially hooked itself, and I battled the angry river resident for ten minutes, but after several powerful moves, I guided it into Greg’s net. Greg estimated the brown trout to be 26 inches, and this represented a personal best brown trout by two inches.

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My First Fish of the Day and Personal Record

After lunch I hooked another nice trout on a blow fly, but it raced down the river at a frightful pace. I followed it as best I could, but then it suddenly stopped, and I managed to regain a bit of line. Suddenly the brown resumed its downstream streak, and I could tell that the powerful fish succeeded in wrapping the leader around its body. It was not long, before the combination of the downstream move and the wrapped line caused the blow fly to break free. I chastised myself for the one out of three landing performance, and we moved on.

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Greg and John by the Raft

The drift continued, and Greg spotted two fish in close proximity to each other. I hurled ten casts to the large visible upper shadow, and eventually it spooked, but I continued to pursue the downstream trout with additional casts. On the third toss the remaining visible fish crushed the blow fly. The fight was on, and again after several spurts and deep dives accompanied by head shaking, I guided the heavy fish over Greg’s net. I experienced another South Island thrill, and I smiled, as I examined a 24 inch gem.

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Not As Large as Number One, but Much Appreciated

During the course of the day we drifted a short distance, since we stopped to wade fish most of the time. Near the takeout Greg pulled the raft on an island, and he and I waded upstream and began chucking a sink tip line with a black woolly bugger. In a deep trough where the river dropped off a gravel ledge, I made a long drift and then stripped the streamer perpendicular to the shelf. I felt a bump and made another strip, and then a stronger grab transferred through the line. It was at this moment that I made the mistake of stripping again, and the fish and my line separated. My streamer instructors at Montana Fly Company taught me to continue stripping and to not set the hook, but in this case the second grab indicated that the fish was already on my line. I expected a stronger hit from the large aggressive fish, but I suspect the depth of the water and the fairly strong current offset some of the energy transfer. Given the deep trough and the faster run, Greg was certain that my lost trout was a rainbow.

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The Blue Water Looked Like a Quality Spot

Saturday was a fun day on a different type of water in New Zealand. I liked the sprawling tailwater that featured numerous braids with riffles and runs of moderate depth. Once again I was amazed by the ability of New Zealand guides to spot fish from a distance. Greg offered me numerous opportunities to connect with large wild trout, and unfortunately I broke off two fish, failed to land another hooked fish, and spooked several through a lack of accurate casting.

Upon our return to Wanaka, Jane and I dined at Speight’s Ales House. The town was quite active with numerous patrons dining al fresco on a warm Saturday night.

Fish Landed: 2

Wangapeka River (Day 6) – 01/23/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 5:30PM

Location: Wangapeka River a mile or two upstream from our Sunday outing: Graham River (tributary of the Motueka River)

Wangapeka River (Day 6) 01/23/2018 Photo Album

I was preparing for a second day of guided fishing on Tuesday morning, when John knocked on the motel door and announced that he had a bad night and was seeking a doctor. This left me in a one on one situation with my guide, Steve, for a second day of guided fly fishing in New Zealand.

Steve arrived and picked me up a bit after 8AM, and we proceeded with the nearly one hour drive to the Wangapeka River. We visited the same river as Sunday, however, we stopped and prepared to fish a mile or two upstream from our previous location. Prior to the start of our fishing outing, however, Steve drove down a dirt lane to a farmhouse across from the river, and here he popped out of the SUV and knocked on the door. A young woman greeted Steve, and he asked for permission to fish. The daughter of the landowners of the farm called her parents and obtained clearance for us to spend the day on their property.

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Back to the Crystal Clear Wangapeka

We proceeded to a farm lane and passed through three rope gates, until we parked in the shade next to a fence. I decided to wade wet on Tuesday with high temperatures projected in the low 80’s F. The weather forecast was accurate, and I was pleased to feel the coolness of the river throughout the day. Steve set up my rod, while I tugged on my wading socks and boots, and then we ambled along the fence line for quite a distance and then climbed to the other side and stumbled through an opening in the brush, until we reached the river. The river in this upper area seemed wider and more shallow than Monday, and consequently in my opinion it offered fewer quality holding spots.

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Guide Steve Repeatedly Drank from the River

Between 10AM and 2:30PM we worked back and forth and covered mostly the water along the banks. Two sections of moderate riffles and pockets offered me the opportunity to blind cast a cicada, and I managed to hook two brown trout for a brief moment, before they escaped. Needless to say, I was frustrated by this turn of events, and I chastised my penchant for setting the hook too quickly. The prospecting involved long casts with a heavy spun deer hair cicada on a fifteen foot leader, and turning over this set up was a challenging experience.

I prospected the riffles by spraying long casts in an ever expanding arc, and then I made three steps forward and repeated the cycle. After missing the first two fish, Steve spotted a pair, and I dropped some decent casts near their position, but the fish displayed a lack of interest. My cast to a third sighted fish was short, but the brown trout heard the plop and moved three or four feet downstream to engulf the large terrestrial, at which point I set the hook and played the aggressive feeder for twenty seconds, before my fly pulled free.

A bit farther upstream along the left bank, I plopped the cicada three feet above and three feet to the right of a sighted fish, and just as Steve expected, it glided to the right and crunched the fly, and for the fourth time the hook sprung free after a brief connection. As one would expect, I was very upset with my fish hooking capability, but Steve reminded me that landing fish on a cicada is quite difficult.

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Steve Spotted a Fish in This Area

At 1PM Steve climbed a high bank and spotted a trout holding in a depression. He swapped the cicada for a size sixteen nymph with long dangly legs, and I placed six or seven casts above the fish. Twice the indicator dipped, but I was now too slow on the set. Steve swapped the nymph for a different version, and on the eighth cast the indicator paused. I lifted quickly and felt myself connected to a bulldog of a brown trout. This brown loved to dive to the bottom and shake its head, and it immediately hugged a spot on the far side of a rock. This move aroused my fears that the hooked fighter wrapped me around a rock or ledge, and that yet another trophy was about to escape. I applied pressure and eventually coaxed my combatant out of its lair and then followed it downstream for sixty feet. The brown trout continued to dive and roll in short spurts, until I finally pressured it into Steve’s net. What a beautiful fish! There before me was a fat twenty-four inch brown with glistening light yellow sides and a dense array of dark black spots.

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Heavyweight Sag

With this success behind me, we took a forty-five minute lunch break. After lunch we crossed to the side of the river where the car was parked, and we approached a nice section with numerous large white bedrocks on the bottom. Steve loved this place, because the white-tan bottom aided his efforts to sight fish. It was not long before he spotted a beauty hovering along the edge of a long white-tan bottom, and I waded into position quite a distance below. Before doing so Steve advised me to pick a landmark along the bank, so I could reorient my position relative to the fish, once I was in casting position. I began angling casts above and to the right of the sighted fish, and on the third drift after one fly change, the indicator dipped, and Steve shouted, “yep”. I lifted my rod and set the hook on another splendid Wangapeka brown.

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Blue Rocks to the Left

This trout was a bit longer than the first, and I repeatedly exerted side pressure and moved it halfway to the bank, before it thrashed and moved back toward the center of the river. Eventually I pressured it across some shallow but faster moving water until it was fifteen feet below me, and at this point the fly popped free. It was so close that I could actually see the fly tucked in the edge of its lower lip. I made a perfect cast, set on a timely basis, and battled the trout for ten minutes; and I decided that this earned it a tick on my fish count. I was mildly disappointed with not landing the fish, but I was also quite pumped by the fish fighting diversion.

After this thrilling action we found a gap in the brush and straddled three fences before returning to the SUV. It was 2:30 by now. Once we maneuvered through the rope gates again, we drove back to the Motueka River and headed north until we turned left and navigated a dirt road along the Graham River. This stream was much smaller than the Wangapeka, and it presented a higher gradient. I liked the idea of sampling a smaller more intimate New Zealand river.

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Steve Called This High Water

We parked and walked downstream along the road to a bridge and encountered a mother, daughter and two grandchildren swimming in the stream. Steve greeted the foursome and asked permission to pass upstream on the bank above the bridge. The mother and grandmother agreed, after Steve mentioned the owner’s name and cited previous permissions granted.

We hiked upstream until we reached a nice run, and here Steve spotted three fish…two on the left and one on the right. I targeted the closest on the left side, and after two fly changes and two misses, I connected with a fine chunky eighteen inch brown trout. I was fortunate to contain the muscular thrasher in the small pool, and Steve scooped it into his net to prevent any chance of escape.

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Zoomed for A Better View

We moved on and bypassed quite a bit of fast high gradient water, before Steve sighted two more trout. Unfortunately I was unable to interest these two in my flies, and we once again climbed through an open area in the bushes to reach the road.

After hiking to Steve’s car we returned to a pullout closer to the Motueka confluence, and Steve hopped out to check a quality pool. After a few minutes he reappeared and asked if I was game for a steep descent and a shot at a nice fish. I could not refuse, so I cautiously followed him down a very steep bank. Sure enough a gorgeous pool appeared and after a bit of observation, I spotted a cruising brown trout. It hovered above some dangling branches that barely brushed the surface of the stream, and it periodically glided three feet to the right to heavier current and then returned to the slack water to the left.

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Parachute Adams at the Top of Steve's Patch Did the Trick

Steve replaced the nymph that remained on my line with a size twelve parachute Adams. The scene was set, and I was admittedly feeling quite a bit of self imposed pressure. I carefully flicked a cast to the left edge of the current, but I could not see my fly, so I carefully picked up the fly and made another attempt to go above the dangling sticks and came up short of my intended target. Incredibly on the pick up I snagged the Adams to the tip of the lower branch. I handed my rod to Steve, and he yanked and snapped off the fly and replaced it with a size 14 parachute Adams. I was feeling about as low as I could and rued my ineptitude.

I mustered my concentration and flicked two side arm casts to the left and above the sticks. Nothing. I was certain that I blew this last opportunity to land a sizeable brown trout in a small stream. On the third cast I dropped the fly on the left current seam and amazingly the target moved and sipped the Adams! Steve shouted “yep”, I set the hook, and immediately I enjoyed a huge bend in my five weight. This fish was another dive, shake, and dog it brown trout, but eventually I guided it into the net. Whew! What a way to end my day. I reminded Steve of the broken off fly on the bare branch, and he waded over and recovered it.

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Steve Cleaned the Lens

On Tuesday evening our traveling group walked to Cheekdon Thai Restaurant in Motueka for dinner. I savored the Thai basil and recalled my day of fly fishing. Goodbye Motueka.

Fish Landed: 4

 

Wangapeka River (New Zealand Day 4) – 01/21/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Above confluence with the Motueka River

Wangapeka River (New Zealand Day 4) Photo Album

Our guide, Steve Perry, picked us up at 8:15AM, and by the time we drove south and geared up and configured our rods, it was 10:00AM. Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the temperature peaked in the eighties. The Wangapeka was high for this time of year and carried a tinge of color according to our guide Steve. It looked rather ideal to this uninitiated Colorado fly fisherman.

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Amazing Clarity

Steve was an excellent guide, and he patiently worked with us throughout the day. I gauge his height to be 6′ 5″ or taller, and this physical attribute served him well, as he patiently scanned deep runs and riffles in his efforts to spot target trout. Steve is a huge proponent of long leaders, and he rigged John and I up with a nine foot tapered leader plus a three foot section of 4X followed by three feet of 5X thus yielding a cumulative length of fifteen feet. I rarely fish longer than twelve feet, so it took some time to acclimate to pausing for the long leader to straighten on backcasts.

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I Hooked But Failed to Land My First Fish on the Cicada at the Edge of the Shadows

During the morning I hooked a fish on a long cast across the river to within ten feet of the opposite bank. Steve was working with John and suggested I cover the bottom of a long pool while they were engaged. A nose appeared and nipped the spun deer hair cicada, and when I raised the rod tip and set the hook, the fish shot downstream a short distance before my line went limp. The never seen fish parted the 5X section from the 4X leaving a short nub of curled line.

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I Used This Cicada Fly Off and On

Before we quit for lunch, I experienced two additional rises to the cicada, but in both instances I could not restrain my impulse to set the hook, and I raised the rod too early. Steve suggested that I repeat “God bless America” before striking, since large trout tend to slowly swirl around before chomping a large fly like a cicada. When seeking one’s first New Zealand fish, this is easier said than done.

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On Display

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Typical Nymph Used in New Zealand

Finally thirty minutes before lunch Steve spotted a brown trout in a depression between two faster moving currents. He removed the cicada and rigged my rod with a small neon green poly yarn strike indicator, and below that he knotted a size 14 nymph similar to a pheasant tail. This change finally produced results. On an early upstream cast the indicator dipped, and I instinctively responded with a hook set and landed an eighteen inch brown trout. What a blast! New Zealand brown trout are invariably large and display a silver background color with a sparse array of spots. I admired my prize and celebrated with a hand shake with Steve. I was on the scoreboard and ready to pursue more South Island beauties.

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My First New Zealand Landed Fish Was This Fine Brown Trout

We ate our lunches on a high bank in the shade next to a very deep run. After lunch we once again alternated fishing to sighted fish. Steve was very adamant about remaining behind him, keeping our rod tip down at all times while on the bank, and unhooking and stripping line before entering the water. He knew from experience the skittish nature of New Zealand South Island brown trout. It did not take long for me to buy into his philosophy.

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Steve Again Spotting

Steve assisted us as we crossed the river several times to fish the bank away from the road. Our guide’s years of experience taught him which bank provided the best holding lies for wary Wangapeka brown trout. Steve’s impressive fish sighting skills earned me shots at five or six fish, but only one moved toward my nymph, and I set prematurely and pulled the fly away. Fisherman error once again foiled my bid for a second fish.

Two very attractive wide riffle sections seduced us into blind casting, and although I was certain these areas would deliver some splendid fish, they did not. Toward the end of the day Steve spotted two excellent fish along the left bank. He worked hard for my success and changed flies four times for each target, but despite some accurate casts, the fish showed no interest.

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Solid Stretch

My first full day of fly fishing in New Zealand was amazing. Yes, I only landed one fish, but it was a muscular eighteen inch brown trout, and I had multiple shots at more fine trout. I acquired a vast amount of knowledge about casting long leaders, sight fishing, and approaching spooky sighted fish. It was a fine start to my New Zealand fly fishing adventure.

Fish Landed: 1

 

 

New Zealand Day 2 (Travers River) – 01/19/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 1:30PM

Location: Travers River above Lake Rotoiti

New Zealand Day 2 (Travers River) 01/19/2018 Photo Album

After a solid night’s rest in our new surroundings in St. Arnaud, New Zealand, Jane and I completed a walk to the car park on Lake Rotoiti. Steady overnight rain created lingering  low hanging clouds over the mountains surrounding the lake, and a large collection of puddles next to the car park provided new territory for the local ducks to explore. It was quite chilly in the early morning aftermath of the rainstorm, but we put our energy to productive use by reviewing a large sign with a map of the area. The billboard map highlighted several interesting tracks (hiking trails) in Nelson Lakes National Park near Lake Rotoiti. We also inspected the rates posted for the water taxi that departed from the dock near the car park.

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Lake Rotoiti on Friday, January 19

On the way back to the lodge we stopped at Elaine’s Cafe across from the Alpine Lodge for breakfast. I devoured an apricot coffee cake along with a small cup of yogurt and washed it down with two delicious cups of English breakfast fresh brewed tea. New Zealand breakfasts were fast becoming a favorite.

After breakfast John, Brenda, Jane and I walked to the Nelson Lakes National Park Visitor Center. A very helpful young lady advised us on various hiking (tramping) options, and after much debate we settled on crossing the lake on the water taxi to the inlet and the Lakehead Hut. Instead of paying for a return ride on the boat, we elected to tramp along the Lake Shore Track. John purchased a fishing license from the man in the visitor center, and once the transaction was complete, I peppered the park ranger with questions about fly fishing in the area and more specifically the Travers River. He informed me that we needed a backcountry permit to fish the Travers River, and I could obtain one for free at the park office I was standing in.

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We Returned for a Water Taxi Ride

Because of the recent heavy rain and the swollen nature of the streams that we crossed on our drive from Nelson to St. Arnaud, I was skeptical of the condition of the Travers River. The gentleman was persistent, however, and suggested that I should take my fishing gear and cast in the lake at the inlet of the Travers. He also mentioned that I was free to fish the river above the inlet for a stretch, before I reached the point where a trail crossed. Angling above the trail crossing required the backcountry permit that he alluded to earlier. His powers of persuasion were effective, and I resolved to wear my wet wading clothes and carry my fly fishing gear.

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Creating a Wake

The four of us returned to the Alpine Lodge with a road map for the day, and I prepared to include some fishing time. We prepared lunches and reviewed our checklist of necessary hiking essentials, and then we returned to the car park and boarded the 10:30 water taxi. I struck up a conversation with a Swiss gentleman, who was also a passenger on the water taxi, since I noticed he carried a fly rod, fanny pack and net. He planned to fish upstream from the trail crossing, so I concluded we would not interfere with each other.

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My Loves on Both Sides

I wore my hiking boots and hiking socks, but once we disembarked, I switched to wading socks and wading boots. After I assembled my Sage One five weight and strung my rod, Jane was kind enough to carry the rod case, hiking boots, and socks back to the Lakehead Hut to stash, while I fished. We agreed to meet back at the hut at 1:30, and this allotted me two hours to explore the Travers River and Lake Rotoiti. I was about to embark on my first New Zealand fishing adventure!

We snapped some photos with the spectacular backdrop of the Travers River valley, and then we said our goodbyes, and I followed a worn trail that angled across some tall brown grass to the river. The high temperature peaked at 75 F, but large clouds blocked the sun from time to time. To this uninitiated New Zealand fisherman, the conditions seemed nearly ideal. But what about the water level?

It did not take long to make the pleasant discovery that the river was crystal clear, but running higher than normal. Actually since I never fished here previously, I was not knowledgeable regarding normal, but most of the channel was covered, and the runs and riffles seemed to rush along at a fairly high velocity. I cautiously ambled back toward the lake in an effort to spot fish. My sources in the US who fished in New Zealand told me this was the key to success, and all the articles that I absorbed proposed the same sort of approach.

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High and Clear After Substantial Rain

After what seemed like twenty minutes of futile fish spotting, I crossed a braid and began fishing upstream in the main channel. I only had two hours available, and I could no longer restrain myself from making some casts. I started my pursuit with a size ten Chernobyl ant, and after I covered a reasonable distance with no success, an older gentleman appeared, and he slowly approached me from the right bank. He informed me that a guide named Hannah and her client recently worked up the left side of the river, and he suggested that I cover the myriad of braids on the right. He seemed quite knowledgeable, and after more conversation I discovered why he made this impression. He was an agent with the Department of Conservation, and he asked to check my fishing license! I extracted it from my backpack, and he wrote my name and number in a small log book. My annual license was reviewed within my first hour of fishing in New Zealand!

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Lots of Braided Areas

Once this official matter concluded, he advised me that I could fish up to a post along the left bank without a permit, and he pointed it out from our position downstream. I was relieved to hear this, as I was harboring some doubts that the man at the park office misinformed me. The DOC officer then kindly went above and beyond and implied that I should sample a nice pool a bit beyond the post. He casually commented, “I already checked your license, and I am walking the other way.” He even inspected my fly and offered that it should work, and then he went on to mention, that he spotted a couple very nice fish, as he walked the bank and warned me not to overlook shallow spots.

My optimism soared as he departed, and I worked my way through the braided area with elevated concentration. In spite of some long expert casts and superb drag free drifts, I never saw a fish in the quality braided section. I continued to some nice pools above a deadfall in the permit area since my friend promised to look the other way, but I could not spot a fish nor could I entice one to the surface with my foam ant. Next I reversed my direction and hiked downstream toward the lake, until I was beyond my initial starting point.

I added a salvation nymph dropper to my set up for the last thirty minutes, but this move was also to no avail. At 1:15PM I stumbled in some shallow water next to the bank and fell forward and completely soaked my slacks, shirt and front pack. Fortunately I was wading wet, and the air temperature was comfortable. With this embarrassing pratfall behind me, I returned to the hut and met Brenda and Jane.

After a brief snack the three of us hiked for three hours and thirty minutes along the lake on a intermittently muddy trail including quite a few dicey small stream crossings. I changed back into my hiking boots for this section of our adventure, but near the beginning both feet slid sideways on a pair of angled roots, and I once again greeted the earth with a thud. I now displayed a large bruise on my shin and created a severe bend in my trekking pole/wading staff.

As we moved along we noted many trees that displayed a dark black bark, and in many cases the bark attracted a significant quantity of wasps. The same trees also presented small yellow rectangular boxes or pink or yellow plastic triangles. Later on our trip I asked my fishing guide what these observations were all about. The explanation is quite interesting. The black bark is called sooty mould, and it exists on beech trees. Scale insects reside in the tree bark and suck sap and excrete a honeydew substance. The sooty mold fungi grow on the waste honeydew that runs down the trunk of the tree. The honeydew is a source of food for many native New Zealand birds, but it is also popular with non-native European wasps. New Zealand wildlife officials are concerned that the depletion of honeydew may affect the native bird population, so the yellow box and triangles are traps aimed at reducing the wasp colonies. It is amazing how a few observations lead to a new realm of knowledge.

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This Area Was Very Green

Eventually after a steamy return hike through the rainforest, we returned to the car park and then the Alpine Lodge. For dinner on Friday Jane and I chose to cross the street to a takeaway (takeout) fish and chips establishment. Our food arrived wrapped in several layers of newspaper, and heat radiated from the newsprint surface. We carried our meals to an outdoor patio table by our room. Jane opened her packet first, and initially she assumed that the chips were in one bundle, and the fish were in the other. Eventually we determined that the fish was buried underneath a thick layer of french fries. The meal was quite good, but we concluded that one scoop of fries exceeded our stomach capacity.

Fish Landed: 0

2017 Top Fifteen – 01/02/2018

In a year that included 106 fishing trips and 1,300 fish in my net, how is it possible to select a top ten list? It was very difficult, so I deviated from past practice and designated my fifteen favorite posts during the past year. It will be extremely difficult to best 2017 in both quality and quantity of fish in future years.

15. Piney River – 07/25/2017 – I became accustomed to outstanding days on small Piney River, and this day in late July was no exception. Tuesday included a vigorous hike and spectacular scenery accompanied by a variety of cold water trout. The fish were mostly small, but they more than compensated with vivid color.

14. Arkansas River – 07/26/2017 – Fifteen trout landed including several tough fighters in the thirteen to fourteen inch range yielded an enjoyable day. Confident takes of a Harrop hair wing green drake pushed this day into the top fifteen.

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A Harrop Deer Hair Green Drake

13. South Platte River – 04/13/2017 – Landing ten quality trout in a highly pressured section of the South Platte River tailwater in Eleven Mile Canyon was a gratifying achievement. A dense blue winged olive hatch developed in the afternoon, and I fooled sizable trout with very long downstream drifts of a size 18 CDC blue winged olive.

12. South Boulder Creek – 10/17/2017 – A forty plus fish day in the peak of the season is grounds for rejoicing, but to accomplish the feat in the middle of October when insect activity is diminished and trout metabolism is reduced due to colder temperatures or spawning desires, is cause for celebration. The fish responded to an ant, beetle and deer hair caddis.

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Zoomed a Bit Closer

11. Frying Pan River – 08/31/2017 – The size of the fish was average, but the number of fish landed was superb, and the fish responded repeatedly to my green drake imitations. A strong green drake hatch is indicative of a marvelous day, and 08/31/2017 was typical.

10. Cache la Poudre River – 07/21/2017 – 2017 included numerous outstanding visits to the Cache la Poudre River west of Ft. Collins. On this day in July the trout responded to my dry/dropper offering with red hot action.

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A Predator

9. South Platte River – 09/23/2017 – A twenty fish day in September is always welcome, but spending a day with my son in a gorgeous remote setting after he completed his return move from Pittsburgh elevated this day into the top ten.

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Dan Works the Left Bank

8. South Boulder Creek – 09/19/2017 – Tuesday was probably my best ever day on South Boulder Creek from a numbers perspective. The fish were hungry and responded to my fly choices throughout the day. The lingering effectiveness of green drakes on the small local tailwater was a nice discovery.

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Picturesque South Boulder Creek

7. Marvine Creek – 09/13/2017 – The scenery was superb, the solitude was perfect, and I lost myself in the simple challenge of catching gullible mountain trout. It is always fun to discover a new quality stream and experience success.

6. South Boulder Creek – 08/08/2017 –  I experienced numerous wonderful days on South Boulder Creek in 2017, but this Tuesday in August may have been the best. I cycled through three styles of green drake imitations, and finally settled on a winner, and it delivered a high level of success. Catching trout on western green drakes is one of my favorite pastimes.

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Quality Pockets Ahead

5. North Fork of the White River – 09/14/2017 – The scenery was spectacular, and I relished the solitude that I crave. The world consisted of me and my thoughts, as I focused on how to land wild Flattops trout. Quantity and size made this a top five outing for 2017.

4. Yampa River – 06/29/2017 – Large visible fish were packed tightly in a short stretch of the river, and I managed to land double digit numbers of the educated tailwater stream dwellers.

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The Main Yampa Tailwater

3. Yampa River – 06/22/2017 – An insane day of action transpired as the run off levels receded in the town of Steamboat Springs. My catch included five trout in the fifteen to twenty inch size range, and mayflies popped off the water for several hours in the afternoon.

2. Eagle River – 07/03/2017 – Another magnificent day developed while the flows fell but remained relatively high. Five trout were landed in the fifteen to eighteen inch range, and I witnessed a yellow sally hatch that was more dense than anything seen previously.

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Large Gap in My Grip

1.Bow River – 08/25/2017 – I enjoyed a seventeen fish day on the mythical Bow River south of Calgary, AB. The day would have been wonderful at lower catch levels, but in addition I landed two rainbows that measured in the twenty inch range. The weather was outstanding, my guide was terrific, and the fish cooperated at relatively low and challenging river levels.

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Number Two Not As Fat

 

Boulder Creek – 12/01/2017

Time: 12:45PM – 3:00PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 12/01/2017 Photo Album

Boulder Creek within the City of Boulder has established itself as my new nearby favorite winter destination. Air temperatures remain fairly consistent with those of Denver unlike other close by Front Range destinations such as South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek and the canyon section of Boulder Creek. Mild winter temperatures are an attraction; however, November 2017 weather has been so conducive to fly fishing, that I rarely needed to resort to the lower altitude alternative. Friday December 1 was an unbelievably balmy day, and I decided to make the short drive up the Boulder Turnpike for yet another day of fly fishing. Yes, you read that correctly. I planed a day of fly fishing in December. I cannot recall fishing in December within the last ten years, although I suspect that I did it sometime in my past.

I left Denver Stapleton at 11:15 and arrived in Boulder by 11:45; however, I attempted to find a different parking location nearer to a heretofore unexplored section of the stream. Unfortunately I was unable to accomplish this goal and ended up at the familiar lot used in prior visits to Boulder Creek. Circling through the back streets of Boulder added thirty minutes to my trip, and by the time I ate my lunch, pulled on my gear, assembled my Orvis Access four weight and ambled to the creek; it was 12:45PM. As forecast, the weather was spectacular with the temperature in the low sixties, and the sun blazed down on the outdoor enthusiasts of Boulder, CO all afternoon.

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Doing Its Job

A yellow fat Albert with an attached two foot length of 5X tippet remained in my frontpack from Monday, so I elected to give it another trial. Beneath the large foam attractor I added a salvation nymph and a beadhead hares ear nymph. These stalwart flies remained on my line for the entire two plus hours that I occupied Boulder Creek. The flows were on the low side and comparable to earlier November visits, but the section that I chose to explore offered numerous deep pools, where the stream residents enjoyed adequate cover. My approaches required stealth but not an excessive amount.

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Surprisingly This Type of Water Produced

I worked my way upstream for two hours and landed seven brown trout to elevate my record cumulative fish count to a nice round number. Check the fish counter tab if you are curious to discover this milestone. The first hour was quite slow, as I coaxed two small browns into my net. One nipped the hares ear and the other nabbed the salvation. In my mind I conceded that I would not reach the sought after cumulative total, but then I approached a promising section with a long wide riffle of moderate depth. This area and some quality water above it yielded five additional brown trout and enabled the attainment of my cumulative goal for the year. The largest fish on the day measured ten inches, and all the fish landed in the second hour grabbed the hares ear.

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Small but Feisty

Landing seven small fish is normally a minor accomplishment, but to do this in December was a welcome experience for this fair weather fisherman. Of course fair weather represented the reason I was on the stream, and I will continue to visit Colorado rivers and streams, as long as mild weather continues to encourage me. Is this the end of my fly fishing season and the start of serious fly tying? Who knows?

Fish Landed: 7

 

North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek – 11/27/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 3:00PM

Location: Lyons, CO; several spots

North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek 11/27/2017 Photo Album

The weather service recorded a new high temperature for Denver, CO yesterday of 81 degrees. Readers of this blog can easily guess what this meant for this retired fisherman. I packed my gear and lunch and jumped in my car and made the one hour drive to Lyons, CO to take advantage of the summer-like conditions in late November. Christmas shopping was put on hold.

I found a nice picnic table next to the stream and munched my sandwich, while I watched a small cluster of young pre-school boys and girls toss rocks into the stream. I made a mental note to begin fishing a decent distance downstream from this innocent disturbance. When I returned to the car, I rigged my Orvis Access four weight, and then I hiked across a makeshift soccer field, until I reached the edge of the creek at the downstream border with private land. I wore my long sleeve REI shirt under my fishing shirt, and even this single layer caused me to feel excessively warm during my time on the stream. The small waterway was flowing at 19 CFS, and since I was new to the section, I had no basis for comparison; but it seemed very conducive to late season fly fishing.

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Man-Made Pool Near My Starting Point

I began with a hippy stomper with a red body and added a beadhead hares ear on a thee foot dropper. The stream in the park where I fished for the first two hours contained a series of five or six spectacular deep pools and eddies, and the first one greeted me at my starting point. These pools were created by man-made stream improvements after the 2013 flood scoured the area of structure. Unfortunately on November 27 I was unable to take advantage of these deep holes, and all my landed fish emerged from pockets and runs of moderate depth between the quality holes. Perhaps I should have tested a deep nymphing rig to bounce nymphs along the bottom, but that would be second guessing.

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Bright Red Underside on This Fly

During my two hour stint, I advanced around the horseshoe curve until I reached the end of the public water on the north side of the park. I landed seven small brown trout, and the largest extended eleven inches. The second fish crushed the hippy stomper in a very small pocket along the left bank, and the other six brown trout snatched the hares ear nymph from the drift in runs of moderate depth. I circled around one other fisherman at the western edge of the park, and I skirted another deep pool occupied by a pair of lovers.

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Another Late November Eater

Since I covered the entire public section by 2:30, and the weather was spectacular, I jumped in my car and moved to a new spot along the main stem of the St. Vrain along highway 66 in Lyons. My rod remained rigged from the earlier venture, so I quickly jumped into the creek thirty yards above another fisherman and worked my way upstream, until I approached a point where the water bordered the highway. Initially I continued with the hippy stomper and hares ear combination, and I managed to land a ten inch brown trout that slurped the foam attractor in a shallow riffle along the edge of a moderate run.

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One of the Better Fish on the Day

The two fly combination seemed to lose its allure, so halfway through this one hour time period I replaced the hippy stomper with a yellow fat Albert and then added an ultra zug bug below the hares ear nymph. The change paid dividends, when I experienced temporary hookups with two fish in some narrow pockets in the section where the stream moved away from a canal and the highway. Twenty feet above the location of the long distance releases I was surprised when a ten inch brown trout shot to the surface and crushed the fat Albert. I carefully netted the aggressive feeder, but it proved to be the last fish of the day, as it created a huge tangle, when it wrapped the trailing flies around itself repeatedly. It took me fifteen minutes to unravel the mess, and I finally resorted to snipping off both the dropper nymphs.

As I ambled back to the highway through a grove of trees with bare branches, I encountered a small herd of deer. I estimated that eight to ten were grazing along the gravel path between me and my car. How ironic that the safest place for deer is within man’s communities, while hunters penetrate remote areas in pursuit.

I enjoyed spectacular weather, discovered some new water to revisit, and landed nine trout on November 27. The fish were on the small side, but I will never complain about an action packed 2.5 hours of fly fishing after Thansksgiving.

Fish Landed: 9