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

South Boulder Creek – 11/22/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/22/2017 Photo Album

Yet another mild fall day in Colorado motivated me to load the car with my fishing gear in preparation for a local fishing trip. Wednesday November 22 was a day to cherish for  another reason unrelated to the weather. My son, Dan, claimed a rare vacation day from work and agreed to join me on a venture to South Boulder Creek. I regularly updated him with tales of my fishing success on the small front range tailwater, and he agreed to join me for a late season adventure.

We arrived at the kayak parking lot below Gross Reservoir, and by the time I assembled my rod and climbed into my waders and hiked a fair distance from the parking lot, we began casting at 11AM. Dan and I both began with a Jake’s gulp beetle on our line, and that was probably not smart given our opportunity to present two different food imitations. Within twenty minutes Dan connected with a nice eleven inch trout, when he flicked a fairly long cast to a narrow pocket along the right bank. After the beetle drifted six inches, the head of a brown trout appeared, and it confidently chomped on the fake terrestrial. I was thrilled to watch, as Dan reacted with a swift hook set and then expertly guided his catch to his net. It was a great start to a fun day on South Boulder Creek.

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A Happy Fisherman

We continued fishing for the first hour, and I endured quite a few refusals to my beetle, until I finally hooked and landed a small brown trout that stretched slightly beyond my six inch minimum requirement for counting. Dan, meanwhile, enjoyed a bit more success, as he built his fish count to two, before we paused for lunch in an area bathed in sunlight on the bank high above the creek.

After lunch I concluded that the beetle no longer possessed the fish attracting charm, that it exhibited earlier in the fall, so I swapped it for a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. The change was somewhat beneficial, and I enticed two additional small brown trout to my net. Dan added a third trout to his cumulative tally with the beetle, and then after witnessing my moderate success with the caddis, he followed suit.

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Shadows and Glare Were a Challenge

By two o’clock the stream was almost entirely covered in shadows, and this condition translated to difficulty tracking the small size 16 fly. Dan progressed upstream along the right bank which remained in sunshine. After several hours of fishing I concluded that most of our success originated in slow pools along the rocky bank. The faster runs and pockets in the middle of the creek were not productive unlike my earlier trips to the same section of the stream. With this observation described to Dan, he approached a very nice long narrow pool along the right bank that matched the description of attractive water.

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Dan Landed Two Trout from the Area Next to the Rock Shaped Like a Whale

He placed a nice cast to the top of the gently flowing trough, and after a five foot drift his caddis sank, and Dan alertly spotted a subsurface flash. He reacted with a quick hook set and quickly netted fish number four. I was quite impressed that Dan’s fly fishing skills advanced to the point, where he reacted to a subtle take below the surface. Once he released his recent catch and refreshed his caddis dry fly, he placed a similar cast upstream in the same area but closer to the large rock along the bank. An instant replay resulted, when another brown trout snatched the caddis just after it dipped beneath the surface near the streamside boulder.

We resumed our upstream migration and approached a spot where a nice deep run cut down the center of the creek and then split around a large rock that was mostly submerged, except for the small round top that poked above the water. Dan spotted a rise in the swirly current just above the rock, so I targeted that area with my casts. Unfortunately the caddis did not appeal to the riser, so I decided to experiment with a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. I quickly made the change and executed five nice drifts along the current seam, but again the cagey feeder refused to be fooled. What would cause this recalcitrant stream dweller to eat?

I decided to make a last ditch effort with a dry/dropper approach, and I knotted a hippy stomper with a red body to the end of my leader and then added a beadhead hares ear on an eighteen foot dropper to the bend of the foam top fly. As Dan looked on, I lobbed the two fly combination to the scene of the single rise, and after a two foot drift the hippy stomper dipped, and I connected with a ten inch brown trout. Dan was impressed with the instant success, and I was appropriately inspired by this late good fortune.

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Zoomed on a Nice S Boulder Creek Brown Trout

Dan stashed his backpack downstream at our lunch spot, so he decided to embark on a retrieval mission, while I continued to evaluate the effectiveness of the recent shift to a dry/dropper approach.  Over the final twenty minutes of my fishing day I landed two more brown trout in the ten to eleven inch range. Number five grabbed the hares ear in a deep slot between two large exposed boulders, and the last landed brown trout smacked the red hippy stomper in a small shelf pool along the left bank. I was pleased with my late burst of success, but three fish in thirty minutes left me pondering whether I should have converted to the dry/dropper system earlier in the day.

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Another Shot of the Hippy Stomper

Six fish on November 22 was a fine outing, and the setting was glorious. The weather enhanced our enjoyment, and spending 3.5 rare hours with my son on a remote trout stream was an occasion to treasure.

Fish Landed: 6

Boulder Creek – 11/20/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 11/20/2017 Photo Album

The mild fall weather continued in November 2017, and I could not resist the temptation to cast some flies. On Thursday November 16 I enjoyed three hours on Boulder Creek within the City of Boulder, so I decided to make another trip to the university town a mere thirty minutes from my home. The flows were decent, and the creek seemed more conducive to cold weather fishing, even though a high in the low sixties is hardly indicative of winter conditions.

I arrived at the parking lot near Boulder Creek by 11:45, and after I downed my small lunch, I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight and meandered across the park grass to Boulder Creek. I knotted a size 10 black Chernobyl ant to my line as the top indicator fly, and beneath it on a two foot dropper I added a beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. These were the same subsurface offerings that delivered six fish to my net on November 16.

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Salvation Nymph on the Point

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A Good Place to Begin

Over the next 2.5 hours I worked my way upstream with these three flies, and I enticed five brown trout to nab the nymphs during this venture. Two favored the hares ear and three snatched the salvation. Although my catch rate was comparable to my previous visit, I felt as though I never settled into a rhythm. One of the difficulties was the low position of the sun in the southern sky. This circumstance created a variety of lighting challenges including glare, shadows and an alternating combination of both. To combat the lighting complication, I shifted from one side of the creek to the other frequently, and perhaps the repeated movement disturbed the fish.

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As Good As It Gets

The temperature did indeed reach the mid-sixties, and I was quite comfortable as I wore my light fleece throughout my time on the stream. I covered the exact same section of the creek that entertained me on the previous Thursday, and by 2:30 I grew weary of the lighting conditions and decided to call it a day.

Although for me 2.5 hours is a relatively brief fishing experience, I was satisfied to land five small brown trout on November 20. I covered a significant amount of water, but the weather was unusually mild for late November, and any fishing success this late in the season is greatly appreciated. The weather for the remainder of the week is forecast to be favorable, so a few more trips and reports may be forthcoming.

Fish Landed: 5

 

Boulder Creek – 11/16/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 12:00PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 11/16/2017 Photo Album

After a frustrating and disappointing day on Tuesday on Clear Creek, I essentially closed the book on fly fishing in 2017. Surely a cold winter weather pattern was around the corner, and I eagerly welcomed some relaxed fly tying while listening to my favorite playlists. And then Thursday happened. The weather forecast predicted a warm sunny day on Thursday with a high temperature of 72 degrees in Denver. This windfall of mild November weather prodded me to text my Instagram friend, Trevor (@rockymtnangler), and he replied that he was off from work and available to fish on Thursday morning. After a few additional exchanges we agreed to meet in Boulder at 9AM on Thursday morning to sample some urban fishing.

I arrived a bit early, and the timing afforded me an opportunity to realize that I forgot to pack my sunscreen. I had an old backup supply in my fishing backpack, so I extracted it and used up the contents. While I waited for Trevor to arrive, I opened the tailgate, and I was surprised to discover a puddle of water under my fishing bag. Fortunately the bottom of the bag is waterproof, but the start to my fishing day was not very auspicious. I persisted with my preparation after tightening the hose on my hydration bladder, and then I assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod. As I was doing this, Trevor pulled into the space next to me, and since I knew he required some time to prepare, I decided to knot a fly to my line. I stretched out the tippet to find the end of the line, and I was disappointed to notice a wind knot tucked between two surgeons knots. How can this happen? The cause was irrelevant, and I snipped out the three knots and reattached the end of my leader. Three strikes and you are out. Fortunately I was fly fishing and not playing baseball.

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That's Shilling Patiently Waiting at Trevor's Side

Finally Trevor and I were ready to attack the stream, so we ambled across a patch of lawn to the creek, and we began fishing above a bridge. Trevor began with a buoyant humpy dry fly and a hares ear nymph dropper, and after five minutes of casting, he connected with and landed a nice eight inch brown trout. The creek was in fine condition, and the flows were low but not at a challenging level. I left Trevor in his nice run and moved below the bridge to a very nice deep hole. I cast the beetle upstream and prospected some quality locations for twenty minutes with nothing to show for my efforts. Trevor abandoned his starting point to join me, and I managed to generate a swirl to the beetle as he looked on.

The sight of a surface refusal caused me to reevaluate, and I replaced the beetle with a parachute black ant. This tactic proved successful on many occasions during 2017 particularly in the autumn season. On Thursday, however, the Boulder Creek trout were having none of it. Trevor’s success came from his hares ear dropper, so I borrowed a page from his book and added a RS2 on a two foot dropper. This addition simply increased the number of artificial flies that were ignored by the resident trout.

We decided to move upstream, and we migrated above the bridge and above Trevor’s starting point. Trevor allowed me to inspect his nymphs, and I noted that his size 16 represented a bigger mouthful than my small RS2, so I once again reconfigured. I knotted a hippy stomper with a silver body to my line as the surface fly, and then I added a beadhead hares ear, and a soft hackle emerger. This combination stayed in place for fifteen minutes and resulted in another resounding rejection of my offerings. In a last ditch effort to find a winning combination I replaced the soft hackle emerger with a salvation nymph. My lineup now included the most productive nymphs in my fly box, and I reminded myself that I was playing the percentages.

My luck began to turn in a wide relatively shallow riffle. I tossed the three fly dry/dropper upstream, and as the hippy stomper drifted slowly back through the middle of the riffles it paused, and I reacted with a hook set and stripped in a small brown trout barely over the six inch minimum. It was a small triumph, but after an hour of fruitless casting, I was pleased to land a fish.

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Best Fish on Thursday Grabbed a Hippy Stomper

Over the remainder of the morning we progressed upstream beyond several bridge crossings, and the fish counter swelled from one to six, before we called it quits at noon. The third fish to find my net was a ten inch brown trout that swirled and refused the hippy stomper on the first drift, but then savagely attacked the same offering on the next pass. Another fish in the ten inch range grabbed the salvation nymph in a deep depression along the left bank. In addition to the six landed fish, I experienced four or five temporary connections, so the action accelerated significantly during the last 1.5 hours of the morning. The juicy deep pools did not yield fish, and I enjoyed much greater success in riffles and runs of moderate depth.

Thursday was a fun day and restored my confidence after a dismal outing on Tuesday on Clear Creek. The high temperature reached 75 degrees in the afternoon, and the pleasant weather in and of itself made the day memorable. Spending a morning with Trevor and catching up on his life was the main purpose of the outing, and that goal was realized. Landing six brown trout in the middle of November was a welcome bonus. The day on Boulder Creek may have been my last of 2017, but the one week forecast remains relatively mild for late autumn. Who knows, I may report on some more urban fishing days. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 6

 

 

Clear Creek – 11/14/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 2:30PM

Location:  West of Tunnel 6 and then between Tunnel 3 and Mayhem Gulch

Clear Creek 11/14/2017 Photo Album

The difference between tailwater streams and freestone streams is accentuated by the cold weather months in Colorado. One day after enjoying a successful outing on South Boulder Creek, a small tailwater along the Front Range, I sampled Clear Creek. Clear Creek is a freestone creek that tumbles from its source near the Eisenhower Tunnel, and the contrast between the two at the same time of the year with similar weather was stark.

I arrived at a parking space along US 6 just west of Tunnel 6 by 12:15, and I immediately devoured my small lunch. The high temperature in Denver on Tuesday was expected to reach 72 degrees, but the dashboard in my car registered 50 as I completed my lunch and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. The narrow canyon was almost completely covered by shadows, and the lack of sun combined with the chilly temperature prompted me to wear my fleece and light down layers. Attired in this manner I was comfortable throughout my 1.5 hours of fishing during the early afternoon. The stream flows were around 44 CFS, and the conditions allowed me to wade fairly easily and to cover both sides of the creek.

Before embarking on my Tuesday afternoon adventure, I read my post from November 14, 2016. I visited Clear Creek on the same date a year prior and landed eight trout. Most of the netted fish were attracted to a hares ear nymph, so on the 2017 revival I elected the same approach. I configured my line with a yellow fat Albert, an ultra zug bug, and a beadhead hares ear; and I began to toss the trio of flies to all the likely pools, deep runs and pockets. I was certain that my focused efforts would secure a few small trout, but after forty minutes of fruitless casting, my confidence tumbled to new lows. In fact during this period of intense concentration, I never witnessed a look or refusal. Generally wading triggers a fish or two to bolt from bank side cover, but even this reaction was lacking on Clear Creek on November 14.

The area west of Tunnel 6 seems to attract more pressure than any other stretch in Clear Creek Canyon, so I concluded that perhaps bait fishermen harvested a proportionately large number of fish from the area. I assumed that general state fishing regulations applied to the length of Clear Creek Canyon. With this thought firmly planted in my brain, I elected to crest the steep bank, and I returned to the car and drove to a pullout halfway between Mayhem Gulch and Tunnel 3. This area was slightly upstream from the section that yielded eight trout on the same date a year ago. Surely the same tactics that worked then would salvage my day.

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Snow Remains in the Narrow Canyon Section of Clear Creek

I carefully negotiated the steep snow covered path to reach the edge of the creek, and I resumed my rapid searching method for another fifty minutes. The canyon in this area was even narrower than my first stop, and quite a bit of snow remained on the large rocks that bordered the stream. I focused on deep slow moving sections, and I executed some nice long downstream drifts along the opposite bank, but once again I was convinced that Clear Creek was barren of fish of any sort. By 2:30 I was chilled and bored, and I scaled the bank and returned to the car and shed my gear. I never saw a fish during 1.5 hours of fishing in two locations, and I attributed this to the cold water temperatures from early snow melt, or perhaps the brown trout continued their spawning ritual.

Two positive conclusions resulted from my 1.5 hours on Clear Creek on November 14. I stopped for gas and fulled my tank on my way to the stream, and I eliminated Clear Creek from my list of possible fishing destinations until the spring of 2018.

Fish Landed: 0

 

South Boulder Creek – 11/13/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/13/2017 Photo Album

Jane and I returned from four fabulous days in Moab on Saturday, November 11, and I noted that the weather forecast predicted a high of 69 in Denver on Monday, November 13. I thoroughly enjoyed four days of hiking and cycling in the Utah canyons, but I also missed my frequent weekly fly fishing adventures. An abnormally warm day in the middle of November in Colorado was too much to pass up.

The time changed on November 5, and consequently I planned an earlier start to my fishing day. Prior to the time change, the prime period for fly fishing was 11AM until 3PM, so with a one hour fall back, the ideal time shifted to 10AM until 2PM. I departed the house at 7:45AM, and this enabled me to arrive at the kayak parking lot below Gross Reservoir by 9AM. I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my waders. The temperature was around fifty degrees, so I tied my fleece cardigan around my waist and under my waders. I knew I would overheat on the hike to the stream, if I wore the fleece, but I desired the insurance of an extra layer in case I fished in the shadows of the canyon walls.

Two cars were already parked in the lot, but I never encountered another fisherman during my entry walk. After a decent hike from the parking lot I cut down to the stream and began my quest for South Boulder Creek trout. I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line for the trek to the creek, and it remained on my line for the first three hours of fishing. The section that served as my entry point was mostly in sunshine with only five feet along the left bank covered by shadows.

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Quite a Jumble of Rocks and Logs

The stream flows were 15.8 CFS, and this level is below ideal, but adequate for enjoyable fly fishing. My outing on 10/17/2017 was strong testimony that excellent fly fishing was available on South Boulder Creek at low flows. I prospected some very attractive water in the first fifteen minutes with no reward for my efforts, but then I lobbed a cast in the shadows in a deep run along the left bank. I was unable to follow the beetle, but a sudden swirl where I estimated my fly to be evoked a quick hook set, and after a short battle I guided a deep olive-colored eleven inch brown trout into my net. I was pleased to register my first fish of the day.

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Better Light

I moved on and landed a second brown, but the catch rate lagged my expectations, so I made an adjustment and added a size 20 RS2 on a two foot dropper. The addition was a solid move, and when I stopped for lunch, the fish count paused at eight including one rainbow and the remainder browns. Two of the netted fish favored the RS2, and six savored Jake’s gulp beetle.

While eating lunch on a large rock bathed in sunlight high above the creek, I observed quite a few small stoneflies, as they fluttered in the streaming beams of sun next to two large evergreen trees. After lunch I persisted with the foam beetle and RS2 combination for a bit, and the RS2 delivered a third trout to my net. My results were decent, but I approached a nice pool and observed several fish rising, so I decided to once again change my tactics. I swapped the RS2 for a size 20 soft hackle emerger with no bead. I applied a thick coat of Gink floatant to the body and fished the emerger in the surface film. I was hoping that the small emerger would cover two bases; blue winged olives and small gray stoneflies.

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Beauty with Fins

The foam beetle and bwo emerger tandem enabled the fish count to elevate to twelve by 1:30, and two landed trout devoured the emerger. It was gratifying to receive some positive feedback on my greased emerger ploy. At the twelve fish milestone I could attribute three to the RS2, two to the soft hackle emerger, and the remaining seven slurped the beetle. I was rather pleased with my twelve fish day in the middle of November, and I settled on a two o’clock quit time, as the shadows lengthened over the stream.

Just as thoughts of quitting crossed my mind, I noted a pair of fairly large mayflies, as they slowly floated up from the surface of the creek. On my last visit to South Boulder Creek I experienced decent success with a size 16 cinnamon comparadun, so I copied the move and knotted a pale morning dun imitation to my line. I was situated along the right bank above a gorgeous deep run that fanned into a nice deep pool. I began presenting the comparadun on downstream drifts by checking my cast high and fluttered the single dry to the seam at the top of the run. On four successive casts a very respectable rainbow emerged and hovered beneath the mayfly, but on each drift it resisted the temptation to sip the fraud.

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Love the Sheen

I opted to employ my usual tactic in response to refusals, and I knotted a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line. Unfortunately on this occasion, downsizing was not the answer, and the rainbow never budged from its hidden lie to inspect the smaller offering. Perhaps size was not the issue? I pondered the situation and decided to test a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. A tan body would have been preferable, since the cinnamon color of the comparadun seemed to attract attention, but light gray was the best I could do.

It was one of those situations where making do paid off. During the remainder of my time on the water I added nine trout to the fish count and ended the day at twenty-one. In many cases the first cast to a likely pocket or pool elicited a confident slurp. Several times I watched as a brown trout darted two or three feet to snatch the small drifting caddis adult. I am always amazed by how fast a trout can snatch a piece of food from the surface.

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Likely Productive Spot

A few minutes before 3PM I reached a convenient point to step out of the water. The path was within a few feet of the bank, so I began the return hike to the car. The sun was now positioned quite low in the western sky, and the entire stream was shrouded in shadows. The temperature dipped noticeably, but my quick strides warmed my body. When I started the car, I checked the dashboard thermometer, and I was surprised to see a reading of 51 degrees.

Monday was a very enjoyable day on South Boulder Creek. I landed twenty-one trout, and sixteen fell for a dry fly. I was quite pleased to experience a twenty fish day on November 13, and I plan to take advantage of any additional unseasonably mild weather breaks.

Landed Fish: 21

 

Clear Creek – 11/03/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 3:30PM

Location: Near Tunnel 6

Clear Creek 11/03/2017 Photo Album

Not all fishing days are created equal. Friday was a stark reminder of the truth of that statement. A second overstated weather forecast lured me into a trip to the western section of Clear Creek Canyon. The temperature in Denver as I drove west at 11AM was 41 degrees, and I based my decision to fish on a projected high of sixty degrees in Idaho Springs. Could the meteorologists be accurate? Amazingly by the time I entered the eastern end of Clear Creek Canyon, the dashboard temperature elevated to 49 degrees; and when I backed into a parking space on the eastern side of Tunnel 6, I was basking in the comfort of 55 degrees. The air temperature seemed to be rising, as one traveled west and gained elevation. It was a peculiar weather phenomenon.

South Boulder Creek on Thursday provided a splendid outing especially for early November, but I ratcheted down my expectations for Clear Creek. Flows were in the ideal range at 55 CFS, but I was concerned that the trout would be preoccupied with procreation given the predominant presence of brown trout. Since my arrival coincided with my normal lunch time, I remained in the car and chowed down on my sandwich, garden-raised carrot and Greek yogurt. With the matter of nourishment out of the way I pulled on my waders and set up my Orvis Access four weight. A well worn path led me down a hill from the parking area to the edge of a long featureless pool.

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The Hoped For Fish Attractor

Jake’s gulp beetle was favored by Clear Creek trout in previous autumns and in a few earlier outings in 2017, so I knotted a size 12 version to my line, and I began to cast directly upstream along the left bank. I might as well have been floating leaves in the creek, because no trout stirred or revealed their presence. When I reached the top of the long pool, I made some across and down drifts, and finally a small brown trout elevated and pressed its nose against the beetle and firmly rejected my offering. I was disappointed, but at least I located a fish to target. I sensed that Friday was not going to be a day of fast action, so I decided to focus on this fish, and I exchanged the beetle for a size 18 black parachute ant with a pink wing post. Negative. The fish never even bothered to rise to inspect the small terrestrial.

I finally surrendered and moved to the next section, which was characterized by a series of fast chutes and short pockets. Presenting the small ant in these turbulent conditions caused my confidence to sink, so I returned to the Jake’s gulp beetle, although this time I added a three foot dropper and tied a flashback baetis nymph to the end. Near the top of the cascading pocket water section a larger shelf pool appeared, and I lobbed the two fly combination to the left side of the fast current. On the fourth drift a fish refused the beetle, but on the next drift I lifted the flies near the scene of the rejection, and a barely six inch brown trout nabbed the trailing nymph. Hooray, I was on the scoreboard on November 3.

I was now on the north side of the oxbow bend, where the stream curves around the mountain that was pierced by Tunnel 6, and shadows extended over the entire width of the creek. I began executing across and downstream drifts of the beetle and nymph in slack water areas along the far bank, and I managed to generate one more refusal to the foam beetle. When I emerged from the shadows near the western portion of the bend, I encountered another section with fast shallow water, and I skipped this stretch and ambled westward until I was below US 6. A group of female rock climbers were clustered at the base of the rock edifice on my left before I reached the highway.

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Nice Deep Run

I scanned the stream ahead of me, and I spotted a spectacular pool that stood out due to the aqua color of the slow moving water. A smaller pool was situated just below the granddaddy of holes, so I prospected it first, but it offered no proof that trout called it home. I decided to go for the big boy, and I carefully approached the bluish-hued hole. As I paused to observe, I spotted three dark shadows that hovered just off to the left of the curling main current. The fish closest to the lip of the pool maintained a position near the surface, so I targeted it for my casts. Surely I could entice one of these active feeders to consume one of my delectable creations. I began with the beetle, and the visible trout slowly elevated, pressed its nose against my fly, and then sank back to its holding position. Drat, that was not the desired outcome from my effort.

Rather than disturb the pool with more casts, I resorted to swapping the beetle for an ant. Alas, five drifts of the ant generated yet another rejection from the trout closest to the lip of the pool. I paused and observed again, and I thought I noticed some tiny blue winged olives. Of course, I thought to myself, there was a sparse BWO hatch in progress, and one of my CDC olives would finally unlock their jaws. The ant came off my line, and a size 22 CDC blue winged olive replaced it. I fired some nice casts to the edge of the current seam, checked my rod high and fluttered the tiny mayfly down to the surface. The blue winged olive failed to induce even a look, and the constant motion of my casting caused the visible fish to flee out of sight. In addition to my inability to find the right fly to fool the trout, another factor came into play. The wind began to gust in fierce bursts, and my casts morphed into random efforts with the fly landing only a few feet in front of my feet. The whole scene reminded me of tossing dandelion seeds into the wind.

I was once again in the shadows, and my hands were beginning to stiffen. My confidence was a smidgen above zero, so I decided to end my frustration and called it a day. I hiked back on a nice trail above the creek and welcomed the shelter of my car. Why was I able to land only one small brown trout on Friday, November 3? I blamed it on the spawning process. I did not observe any spawning beds or see actively spawning fish, but it is rare to visit Clear Creek and not see much more evidence of the presence of fish. One six inch fish on November 3 was a notable accomplishment.

Fish Landed: 1

South Boulder Creek – 11/02/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/02/2017 Photo Album

Fishing with cold hands is not fun, but that is one of the conditions I endured on Thursday, November 2, 2017. I could not resist the temptation to fish for a second day in a row, when I noted a weather forecast with high temperatures peaking around seventy degrees in Denver, CO. I reviewed the usual assortment of front range destinations, and I was pleased to learn that Denver Water boosted the outflows from Gross Reservoir from a trickle of 9.3 CFS to 16.7 CFS. During September I enjoyed some robust action at 15 and 13 CFS, so I decided to make the short drive to the parking area below Gross Dam. The high temperature at Pinecliffe just west of my chosen fishing spot was projected to reach 54 degrees.

Unfortunately my path to fly fishing incorporated the stretch of highway named Interstate 270. Inevitably the section between Interstate 70 and Colorado Boulevard requires stuttering along in bumper to bumper traffic, and Thursday was not an exception. I maneuvered into the left lane and progressed slowly in fits and starts, and during one of the stalled periods I was surprised by a thwacking sound, as my car lurched forward for an instant after the impact. I quickly steered the Santa Fe on to the left shoulder and opened the car door to determine the cause of this sudden interruption of my progress toward fly fishing. A woman exited the car behind me, and she quickly announced that it was not her fault. Another car was parked along the shoulder behind her, and the driver was surveying the situation. Apparently the young driver of the rear automobile failed to stop in time and smacked the woman next in line, and her car smacked into the bumper of my vehicle.

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The Most Damage on the Middle Car

I quickly examined the rear of my car, opened the hatch and pushed on the trailer hitch. Everything seemed to be in working order, and all I could find was a small deep scratch on top of the bumper. I was hesitant to leave in case some non readily visible damage lurked, so I began collecting contact information from the other two drivers. Vanessa was the driver of the sandwiched vehicle, and she immediately dialed 911 and asked for the police. This made sense, since the rear of her vehicle suffered the most damage. Gerardo, the driver of the rear most car, meanwhile paced about in a white T-shirt. I approached him and obtained his key information, while he shivered almost uncontrollably. It was not clear if his condition resulted from shock or being attired in a short sleeved shirt in 35 degree temperatures.

As this scene evolved I heard sirens, and an ambulance and fire truck rushed through traffic on the eastbound lane. Within minutes the emergency vehicles exited the eastbound lanes, crossed the highway and proceeded west until they reached our little impromptu gathering. The ambulance parked in the left lane in front of my car, and the fire truck angled and blocked the left lane behind the rear vehicle. The first responders approached each occupant of the three vehicles and asked our conditions. Vanessa accompanied the female medical professional to the ambulance, and the passenger in Gerardo’s vehicle joined her.

We waited impatiently for another twenty minutes, as a large traffic jam developed in the one remaining westbound lane. Finally a Commerce City patrol car pulled over ahead of the fire truck and an officer emerged. He collected driver’s licenses, registration and insurance cards from each of the drivers and returned to his patrol car. Vanessa and I began chatting, and she asserted that Gerardo reeked of marijuana. Finally the officer returned and spoke to Vanessa and I together. He gave us a card with the traffic report number and his contact information, and he informed us that the rear driver was at fault and would be fined. We could use the police trip report, if we filed an insurance claim, and we were free to go.

Forty-five minutes after being struck, I was once again on my way to South Boulder Creek. I arrived in the kayak parking lot at 11AM, and after I pulled on my waders and strung my Orvis Access four weight, I hit the trail by 11:20. I descended to the stream below the dam and hiked a good ways downstream. The flows were indeed higher than my last visit at 9.3 CFS, but the stream level remained on the low side compared to ideal conditions. The temperature in the parking lot was in the upper thirties, and consequently I wore my light down coat and hat with ear flaps.

Once I reached my designated entry point, I unzipped my backpack and pulled out my lunch and ate while observing some nice deep pools in front of me. No aquatic insects revealed themselves, so I decided to begin my day with a parachute black ant with a pink wing post. The ant has been a hot fly for me during the autumn season of 2017 on front range streams. I prospected the ant through two delightful sections with deep slow moving pools, and the terrestrial imitation failed to draw even a slight amount of interest.

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First and Best Fish on Thursday

I reeled up my line and decided to swap the ant for a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. The change proved fortuitous, and a fat thirteen inch rainbow surged to the surface and crushed it at the tail of a gorgeous deep pool. This was my first fish of the day and likely the longest to find my net. I continued on my upstream path and landed four more trout on the beetle, although I sensed that some quality areas contained fish but did not produce. In an effort to increase my chances, I added a three foot dropper and knotted a size 20 beadhead RS2 to the extension. These two flies occupied my line for the next 2.5 hours, and they were very effective. I nudged the fish counter to twenty, and most of the fish between four and twenty snatched the beetle. However, between two o’clock and three o’clock the RS2 caught fire, and six trout nipped the small baetis nymph on the lift or as it tumbled behind the beetle. I nearly removed the trailing nymph, as it created moderate tangles on several occasions, when fish smacked the surface beetle. I was rewarded for persistence, as the fans of the RS2 were some of the larger brown trout landed during the day.

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Very Inviting Section

By 3PM the shadows extended over nearly the entire creek, and my hands were stinging from the evaporation and intermittent breeze. I was about to call it quits in order to initiate the exit hike, but then I spied three large mayflies. It was refreshing to see a mayfly that dwarfed the tiny blue winged olives that dominated my recent dry fly fishing, and I guessed that the bugs that tumbled across the surface were extremely lagging pale morning duns. They seemed to have a pink hue to their bodies, although they bounced along the surface in a haphazard manner making color determination a difficult chore.

I delayed my departure and decided to experiment with a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. Could I catch trout on November 2 on a pale morning dun imitation? PMD’s typically hatch from mid-June until mid-July in freestone streams in Colorado, although they are prevalent in tailwaters during August and September. I followed through on my plan and began casting the comparadun to all the likely pools. Positioning was now critical, as the sun was low in the western sky, and this created severe glare depending on the angle of my view. I moved to the right bank and adopted the practice of making across and downstream drifts, and the fish responded. I landed eight additional trout between 3PM and 4PM, and the South Boulder Creek residents smacked the comparadun with absolute confidence. I recall one or two refusals, but in most cases a fish shot through the water and inhaled the low riding dun on the first cast to a pool or pocket. Pale morning dun dry fly fishing was an enjoyable way to spend the last hour of my day on South Boulder Creek.

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Another Member of the Brown Trout Parade

Finally at 4PM the temperature dropped, and I reeled up my line and tucked the PMD into my rod guide. A twenty-eight fish day on November 2 was a satisfying accomplishment. My hands grew stiff and began to resemble fleshy claws, so I climbed the rocky bank and ambled pack to the parking lot. I was fortunate to escape a fender bender without damage or bodily injury, and I managed to post a fine day of fly fishing in November. Not bad.

Fish Landed: 28

Eagle River – 11/01/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Avon and Edwards.

Eagle River 11/01/2017 Photo Album

True to character I sought an opportunity to return to the Eagle River after a successful late season adventure on October 25, 2017. The weather forecast for Tuesday, November 1 indicated a high temperature in the low seventies in Denver, and this translated to a high in the upper fifties in Avon, CO near my intended destination. I loaded the car with my gear and contacted my friend Todd, who lives in Arrowhead, and I anxiously anticipated a late season foray into the Rocky Mountains. Todd agreed to meet me, although he had a commitment at ten o’clock and suggested that he would find me later.

As I completed some last minute preparations on Tuesday morning, Jane perused the Denver Post, and she announced that there was a high wind advisory on interstate 70. I quickly followed up on this unwelcome piece of news, and sure enough wind velocities of 19 MPH were forecast for Avon. I decided to roll the dice and persisted with my plans.

When I approached the long ascent west of Denver on interstate 70, I was greeted with digital signs announcing high wind restrictions on high profile vehicles, and quite a few tractors and trailers were lined up at the Morrison exit as well as the Hidden Valley exit before Idaho Springs. When I reached Georgetown, I scanned ahead, and I was alerted by flashing police lights. Just prior to the exit ramp to Georgetown a large tractor/trailer rig was situated on its side, as it was apparently the unfortunate victim of high winds, and this unfortunate scene served as a warning to the other impatient high profile vehicles in the area.

I pressed on and arrived at my destination just before 10AM, and I borrowed a page from Todd and rigged two rods for my quest for Eagle River trout. During our visit the previous week we stayed in a relatively tight area, so I was reassured that it would not be a hindrance to carry two rods; and I liked the flexibility of being able to quickly switch from a nymph approach to dry flies, should a hatch develop similar to the previous Wednesday.

The temperature in Avon at 10AM was in the middle forties, and the wind made its presence felt with periodic strong gusts, and consequently I bundled up with a layer of fleece and an outer coat of light down. I tugged my New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps on my head and wore two layers of long underwear and socks under my waders. To guard against frozen toes, I added toe warmers to my ensemble.

My Sage One five weight was rigged with the deep nymphing system that Taylor Edrington taught me. A short section of 0X ran from the fly line loop to a Thingamabobber, and a five foot section of level 5X was knotted to the indicator as well. The terminal end of the 5X featured a split shot, ultra zug bug, and RS2, and I began chucking this assemblage into the deep run at the upper section of a long attractive pool. I spent an hour from 11AM until noon prospecting the upper and middle section of the area, which I knew contained plenty of trout, but none were interested in my flies. My hands grew chilled from the cold temperatures and the wind, so I decided to pause for lunch and found a large boulder near the midsection and downed my sandwich, carrots and yogurt.

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My First Fish Came from the Riffles Below the Rock Dam

Just as I finished my snack, Todd appeared on the path, and he immediately jumped into the upper section with his nymph rod. I lingered a bit longer to bask in the sun and eliminate my chill, and then I decided to explore a wide riffle just below the jumble of angled rocks that formed the downstream border of the pool. I switched my flies to a copper john and RS2, and I began lobbing casts to the three foot deep area above me. I covered the section with ten casts, and then before departing, I shot a cast to the deep portion just under the rocks near the right bank. The indicator drifted five feet, and I raised the rod to pick up the line, when I felt significant weight. I reacted with an immediate hook set, and a bullet shot across the riffles toward the center of the river and then streaked downstream.

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Broadside

After some stiff resistance I was able to guide a fifteen inch rainbow trout with a copper john in its lip into my net. Imagine my excitement and surprise after over an hour of futile casting with the nymph set up! After I released the rainbow, I lobbed another cast to the same area, and I was very surprised, when I once again connected with a throbbing resistance. In this instance, however, the stream resident was able to free itself from my hook and escape.

Bursting with new optimism I circled around Todd and moved to some deep pockets above the pool he occupied. I covered the area thoroughly and managed to foul hook a small rainbow, before I returned. I asked Todd for a report, and he offered that he landed thirteen and nine inch rainbows, and he observed some rising fish in the slack water next to the bank across from his position.

I decided to warm up a bit, and then I grabbed my Sage four weight and waded to a position at the bottom of the pool. As I looked on, I witnessed several rises in water with a slight swirling surface. My line featured a size 24 CDC olive, so I began to cast it upstream to the area of activity, but these efforts were ignored. The wind continued to blast, but fortunately it was blowing from the west and provided a tailwind to my casts. I swapped the tiny olive for a size 18 black parachute ant, and I spent twenty minutes drifting the terrestrial through the scene of rising fish, but except for one heart stopping swirling refusal, the ant was unproductive.

The rising activity seemed to come in waves probably related to the emergence of tiny mayflies. During the next pause in feeding activity, I waded back to the shore and warmed my feet and body. When I returned, I reverted to a larger CDC BWO, and after a heavy dose of futile casting, I managed to tempt a twelve inch brown trout to attack my fly, as I gave it a short strip before lifting to make another cast. As was the case on Thursday, October 26 on the Frying Pan River, the trout seemed to be feeding on subsurface emergers, and they were not focused on drifting adults.

I pondered this theory and decided to try a different approach. I knotted a juju baetis to my line, and below that I added a Craven soft hackle emerger. I executed across and downstream drifts, swings and strips in the manner of accomplished wet fly experts, but my efforts were once again thwarted by the Eagle River residents. I never felt a tug nor witnessed a bulge to my unweighted flies, as they knifed through the water just below the surface.

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Way to Go Todd

Again I returned to the bank and pondered my options. Todd enjoyed one hook up with a beetle, so I copied his tactic and tied a Jake’s gulp beetle size 12 to my line, and then I supplemented it with a Craven soft hackle emerger on an eighteen inch dropper. I dabbed some floatant on the body of the emerger, and as a test I flicked the two flies into a slow moving section across from where I was standing, and an eleven inch rainbow darted to the surface and confidently inhaled the trailing fly. Perhaps I was on to something. I returned to my position at the tail of the pool and once again began making medium range upstream presentations to the cluster of feeding fish. It required a significant number of unproductive drifts, but eventually I induced a fourteen inch rainbow to snatch the trailing emerger, and the fish count mounted to four.

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Respectable November Rainbow Trout

Two takes on the emerger elevated my hopes, but another thirty minutes of fruitless casting cured me of optimism, and I shuffled back to the bank. Todd by now surrendered to the wind and picky fish, and I joined him, as we grabbed our two rods and hiked back to our cars. I overcame tough conditions on Tuesday to land four trout including two very nice rainbows of fifteen and fourteen inches. The Craven soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film accounted for half the fish, and I vowed to tie some size 22’s before next season to test during a blue winged olive emergence during windy conditions.

Fish Landed: 4