Eagle River – 06/12/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle

Eagle River 06/12/2018 Photo Album

Although Monday’s results on the Yampa River were decent by most standards, I was disappointed, since I compared the size and catch rate to spectacular fly fishing at similar flows from 2015 through 2017. On Tuesday I envisioned another day comparable to Monday, if I returned to the Yampa, so I considered alternatives. Reports on the Arkansas River were encouraging with flows already beneath 1,000 CFS, but my map application suggested the choice demanded a three hour and thirty minute drive. Another option I contemplated was the Eagle River. The last time I checked, the flows were in the 1100 CFS range, but I speculated that they declined to below 1,000 by Tuesday.

I stopped at a dirt pullout prior to turning on to CO 131 in order to check the flows and fishing reports for the Eagle River. This was the first location, where I received a decent cell phone signal. I quickly learned that the flows on the Eagle in Avon were in the 800 CFS range, however, the fishing report on Vail Valley Anglers was not updated since June 6. I decided to sample the Eagle, since it was at levels comparable to early July in previous years, and prior year trips translated to fantastic fly fishing. I turned left on CO 131 and made the 1.5 hour drive to the section of the Eagle River between Wolcott and Eagle, CO.

I arrived at 9:30AM, and by the time I pulled on my waders and rigged my Sage One five weight and hiked to the river’s edge, it was 10AM. I knotted a size 8 Chernobyl ant to my line along with a 20 incher and a yellow sally, and I began prospecting all the likely slower moving areas along the bank. The flows were in the 1,000 CFS range as I expected, and the water was crystal clear and cold. The weather on Tuesday yielded blue skies and sunshine, and the high temperature spiked in the low eighties. It was a gorgeous day for fishermen, but not as perfect for fish.

P6120025.JPG

Narrow Band of Slow Water Along the Bank Was My Target All Day

I fished along the left (northern bank) between 10:00AM and 2:30PM and managed to land six trout. Four of the six were quite small and barely extended beyond my six inch minimum. Another landed fish was a twelve inch brown trout, and the prize on Tuesday extended to fourteen inches. If I were offered a replay, I would choose to return to the Yampa. I observed far more insect activity in Steamboat Springs, than I encountered on the Eagle River. Pale morning duns, yellow sallies and blue winged olives were present on the Yampa River; whereas, only small blue winged olives made an appearance on the Eagle.

I cycled through a series of flies in an effort to discover a producer. On top I utilized a yellow fat Albert and a size 8 Chernobyl ant, and both were effective indicators, but neither attracted the interest of the Eagle River trout. The top nymph position was occupied primarily by the 20 incher and iron sally with a brief appearance of a hares ear nymph. The iron sally, salvation nymph, emerald caddis pupa, soft hackle emerger, and ultra zug bug spent time on the point. The iron sally and salvation nymph accounted for the small fish, and the soft hackle emerger produced the fourteen inch reward for my persistence.

Between 12:30PM and 2:00PM a light emergence of size 20 blue winged olives commenced. I was skeptical that a tiny olive imitation would attract the attention of the Eagle River trout in the heavy run off currents, so I stuck with other larger nymphs during the early phase of the hatch. Clearly the large nymph strategy was not a roaring success, so I bowed to the match the hatch conventional wisdom and placed a soft hackle emerger on the point. I was stunned to learn that the Eagle River trout responded to the small size 20 wet fly, and I landed three trout on the sparkling emerger pattern. In addition I experienced three momentary connections. This period was by no means torrid action, and the hook ups required many repeated drifts in prime areas, but the results far exceeded the production in the previous three hours.

P6120027.JPG

Went for the Soft Hackle Emerger on the Swing

A narrow band of slow moving water served as the stage for the highlight of my day. I tossed the dry/dropper rig upstream and allowed it to drift back toward me, as I raised my rod to pick up slack. The flies were no more than six feet from the bank, and they tumbled along a steady current seam. Once they passed my position, I lowered the rod and allowed the fat Albert to continue below me for twenty feet. At that point the slow water fanned out a bit just above some dead branches, so I began to swing the flies across to avoid a snag and in preparation to make another cast. Just as I began to lift the flies, the fourteen inch brown snatched the soft hackle emerger, and in this instance I overcame its resistance and led it into my net.

P6120030.JPG

Decent Brown Trout

In addition to the long distance releases during the sparse blue winged olive hatch, I also notched three or four during the period from ten o’clock until one o’clock. Several felt like decent trout perhaps in the fourteen to sixteen inch range. Aside from failing to land the fish, I was also upset with my inability to determine which of the nymphs generated the interest of the Eagle River trout.

P6120029.JPG

Promising Runs

Six fish over five hours of fishing was undoubtedly a disappointment, although double digits were easily attainable had I converted a higher and more normal percentage of hook ups. On a positive note I had the river to myself, and I gained knowledge of the conditions on another freestone river in Colorado in the 2018 post-runoff time frame. Flows are two to three weeks ahead of normal on the Yampa and Eagle Rivers in 2018. During previous years the declining flows and clear water in the 1,000 CFS range overlapped with the end of June and early July, and this time frame coincided with strong pale morning dun, golden stonefly, yellow sally, caddis and blue winged olive hatches. I attributed my success to hungry fish pushed into the slow water along the banks, but in reality the presence of strong hatches was a significant contributor to the sizzling action in prior years.

Fish Landed: 6

 

Yampa River – 06/11/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/11/2018 Photo Album

On Friday June 8, 2018 I began the annual ritual of chasing declining flows on Colorado freestone rivers. This process yielded some fantastic days of fly fishing during 2015 through 2017. Generally the first river in Colorado to fall to manageable levels is the Yampa River, and when I checked the DWR chart on Sunday, it was running at 1000 CFS, and the river did not reach this level until three weeks later in the 2015 to 2017 time frame. I enjoyed decent success in two hours of fishing on our return trip from Steamboat Lake on Friday, June 8, so I planned a two day and one night road trip on June 11-12.

P6110010.JPG

Ride the Rockies in My Favorite Parking Area

I departed Denver by 7:15 on Monday morning with a car packed with fishing and camping gear, and I arrived on the river in the town of Steamboat Springs ready to fish by 11:00AM. I was surprised to discover that the annual Denver Post Ride the Rockies event occupied my normal parking area by Howelsen Hill, so I improvised and retreated to the large free parking lot at the ice arena. I rigged my Sage One five weight and hiked down the railroad tracks to a position just above the hot springs.The smell of sulfur pervaded the air and settled in my dry throat, and consequently I was motivated to move upstream at a fairly rapid pace.

P6110011.JPG

Hot Springs Below My Starting Point

As expected, the flows subsided from Friday to the 800 CFS range, and this translated to very tolerable wading conditions. Monday’s weather was sunny and warm, but ten degrees cooler than what was experienced over the weekend.

P6110012.JPG

Sweet Deep Slow Water

I began my day with a yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. I fished tight to the right bank and accumulated a fish count of six by the time I took a lunch break at 12:30PM, when I reached some large bank side boulders above the wire unintentionally decorated with flies and lures. Another angler was visible just downstream, so I felt a bit of pressure to keep moving, and that was not a problem given the sulfur scent described earlier. All but one of the first six trout were rainbows, and the initial six netted fish snatched the salvation nymph. Quite a few of these willing eaters responded to a lift at the end of the drift. Most of the rainbows were chunky twelve inch trout, but one or two stretched the tape measure to thirteen inches.

P6110015.JPG

Decent Rainbow

After lunch I covered the remainder of the lower section, until I reached the pedestrian bridge, and then I progressed to Fifth Street, before I quit at 4:30PM. The steady catch rate of the morning continued in the early PM, but from 2:30 until 4:30, it slowed measurably. A highlight of the afternoon session was a fourteen inch rainbow trout, but most of the other fish fell in the ten to twelve inch range.

At two o’clock I began to notice refusals to the fat Albert, so I converted to a yellow Letort hopper and a salvation nymph. I hypothesized that the fish were attracted to yellow but sought a smaller profile. After a fair trial period, however, I deemed my theory faulty and once again implemented a change. I placed a yellow pool toy in the top position and tested a juju emerger and salvation nymph as the nymph combination. I observed a smattering of pale morning duns thus the choice of emerger and salvation, and the pool toy was a compromise in size between the fat Albert and the Letort hopper.

P6110020.JPG

Aim in the Right Direction

Unfortunately the mid-afternoon fly lineup failed to excite the Yampa River trout, so I returned to the iron sally in place of the juju emerger. The catch rate slowed significantly, but I managed to land three small rainbows to bring the daily total to thirteen. I hasten to note that a sizable brown trout tentatively gummed the pool toy, but I hooked it for only a split second, before it casually separated from the fly. I also generated a temporary hook up with a decent rainbow, but after a brief spurt it popped free.

P6110021.JPG

A Favorite Spot

Monday was a fair day on the Yampa River, but the size and count were subpar compared to what I was accustomed to during the high but receding flows of runoff. Pale morning duns, blue winged olives, and yellow sallies were present, but their availability was sparse as demonstrated by only one visible rise during my five hours on the stream. In previous years the high but declining flows were two weeks later and coincided with the heavier hatches. I suspect more prolific insect activity translates to more active fish and also makes the larger trout more aggressive. I believe that this theory applies to brown trout to a greater extent than rainbows, and this explains why rainbows predominated my fish count on Friday and Monday.

Fish Landed: 13

P6110022.JPG

Stagecoach Campsite

Yampa River – 06/08/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Locatoin: Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/08/2018 Photo Album

As Jane and I passed through Steamboat Springs on our way to Steamboat Lake on Wednesday, we took a slight detour to inspect the river, where it runs through town. The flows were in the 1300 CFS range, however the water clarity was excellent. I was skeptical that I could manage fishing success under these run off circumstances.

On Friday morning we packed our tent and camping gear with the intention of renting kayaks at the Steamboat Lake marina. We lathered with sunscreen, wore our swimsuits, and snugged our Chacos to our feet in anticipation of an hour on the water in the morning, before the wind kicked up. Unfortunately when we approached the counter at the general store and checked the rates, we discovered that the fee for two hours of kayak rental was $47/kayak. We regarded this as a hefty sum and were not that committed to the endeavor, so we passed and made the drive to Steamboat Springs.

I decided to attempt to fish in the Yampa River in town, so we headed to the Howelsen Hill parking area to set up a base of operations. Jane planned to cycle on the paths in town, while I edge fished a section of the river. The first drawback to our plan was the hordes of cars parked in our destination parking lot. Apparently a Triple Crown softball tournament was in progress, and the area was crawling with players, parents and coaches. I circled the parking lot with the faint hope of finding an opening, and much to our amazement a car backed out of a slot next to the rest room building. I did not waste any time and zipped into the available space.

P6080268.JPG

The River Flowing Wide and in the Willows

I quickly donned my waders and assembled my Sage six weight and then ambled beyond the skate park and down the railroad tracks, until I was within eight feet of the river. The flows were down a bit from Wednesday, and the DWR graph displayed them in the 1100 CFS range. When I gained a view of the section where I entered, I was pleased to see adequate wadeable water between the fast currents and the willow-lined bank.

I quickly knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line along with an iron sally and salvation nymph. The fly shop informed me that yellow sallies and pale morning duns were present, and these two flies imitated the nymphal stage of the aforementioned aquatic insects. A nice run and riffle of moderate depth were just below and across from my position, so I slowly and carefully moved along the shoreline, until I was within adequate casting position. On the fifth across and down drift, as the flies began to swing at the tail of the run, a thirteen inch brown trout elevated and snatched the salvation nymph. After nearly three hours of no action on Thursday, I was quite pleased with my early success on Friday.

P6080266.JPG

Number One from the Yampa River

Just below me a series of large boulders created an inviting side pool, so I carefully maneuvered my way over the large rocks and generated an array of searching casts. But before I prospected the deep hole below the current break, I snagged the flies on a subsurface impediment and broke off the iron sally and salvation. In order to thwart future such fly thefts by the river bottom, I rigged anew but used 3X leader instead of 5X. I substituted a hares ear nymph for the iron sally but continued display a salvation nymph albeit a new one.

The area below the current break surprisingly failed to yield success, so I reversed direction and systematically progressed upstream to beyond the pedestrian bridge across from Howelsen Hill. I managed to land ten fish in two hours of steady fishing, and nearly all the netted fish favored the salvation nymph. One small rainbow nabbed the hares ear, and another opted for an iron sally, after I returned one to my line in exchange for the hares ear.

P6080271.JPG

Revival

Aside from the initial thirteen inch brown trout, most of the next nine were rainbow trout in the ten and eleven inch range. The highlight of my two hours of edge fishing was a sixteen inch brown trout, and this prize catch demonstrated its muscular fitness with a valiant battle. I was thrilled to scoop the thrashing fighter into my net.

P6080274.JPG

End of Day Rainbow

In the fine quality pool and eddy just below the pedestrian bridge I was lucky to hook and land a fourteen inch cutbow that grabbed the salvation, just as I lifted the flies along the current seam twenty feet below the center of the eddy. The slash jawed beauty put up steady resistance, and I was very pleased to slide it into my net.

P6080273.JPG

Fishing Along the Swamped Willows

I moved above the bridge a short distance without success, and as the amount of viable fishing water disappeared, I elected to return to the car to join Jane for lunch. Friday was a nice introduction to post-snowmelt fishing, and I was quite pleased with my success. Unlike previous years the quantity of insects at 1100 CFS was minimal, although I spotted a few small blue winged olives and occasional yellow sallies. I will watch the flows closely and hope to make another visit within the next couple weeks.

Fish Landed: 10

Steamboat Lake – 06/07/2018

Time: 4:00PM – 6:00PM; 7:30PM – 9:00PM

Location: Willow Creek Inlet, and Meadow Point

Steamboat Lake 06/07/2018 Photo Album

Jane determined that we only had one window of time in June when we could camp together, and that was June 6 through June 8, so we made the drive to Steamboat Lake State Park on Wednesday afternoon, after I returned from a doctor’s appointment, and she came home from a tennis match. We gambled that campsites would be available during weekdays in early June, and our assumption proved to be correct, when we snagged site number 178 on Bridge Island.

On Thursday morning we completed one of our favorite mountain bike rides, Willow Creek Trail. The wide single track skirts the eastern edge of Steamboat Lake and passes the visitor center. We elected to turn left off the Willow Creek Trail onto another spur, that led us beyond the Poverty Bar; the remains of an early placer mining operation. After the ride we returned to our campsite and munched our lunches and then traveled a few miles up the highway to Hahns Lake, where we completed an out and back trek on the Hahns Lake Trail. Cycling and hiking were apparently not enough exercise, so we once again drove a short distance to Pearl Lake State Park, and here we hiked the Pearl Lake Trail for a half hour and then returned via the same route. The trail skirted the southern shore of Pearl Lake for .6 mile, before it veered through a wooded valley and then ascended a ridge requiring a continuous climb.

P6070260.JPG

Near My Fishing Location on Steamboat Lake

Once again we returned to our campsite, and I departed on my first fly fishing venture of the trip. I read that fishing in Steamboat Lake is best after ice off, and the hot spots are located at creek inlets, so I targeted the point where Willow Creek flowed into Steamboat Lake in Placer Cove on the northeast side of the lake. Thursday was an eighty degree day, so I elected to wade wet and drove to a small parking lot in Sunrise Vista Campground. From the parking area I connected with the Willow Creek Trail, and then I descended a short sagebrush covered bank, until I was along the edge of the lake. I circled along the marshy shoreline, until I reached the inlet of Willow Creek.

P6070263.JPG

Willow Creek Inlet

The lake mouth of the stream was quite wide; however, it quickly narrowed into a smooth slow moving trough. I waded along the western edge through some soft muck, until the channel was twenty-five feet wide, and here I began my stillwater fishing adventure. I tied a slumpbuster to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph as a trailer, and I began fanning casts toward the opposite bank followed by a series of intermittent strips. After I executed three across and upstream casts, I made three or four strides toward the lake and repeated. After three or four of these cycles I felt a bump and made another strip, before I felt the throb of a live weight on my line. At first I suspected a large vibrating branch, but then the recipient of my strip set streaked back toward the inlet. I held tight and endured several additional escape attempts, before I slid my net beneath a bright rainbow trout. The thirteen inch net occupant was quite chunky, and it displayed a very white-silver body with only a faint pink stripe.

P6070261.JPG

First and Only Fish on Thursday

This small success heightened my optimism, and I continued the spray and strip sequence, until I was actually within the body of the lake and beyond the mouth of the creek inlet. I wish I could report additional success, but my only action occurred when I  connected with some sort of immovable object twice, and these incidents resulted in the loss of two slumpbusters and an ultra zug bug and a hares ear nymph.

By 5:45 the wind escalated to an outrageous gale, and this blew two float tubers and myself off the lake. The wave action kicked up sediments, and casting became a challenging and dangerous endeavor with the conehead slumpbuster whizzing by my ear. I called it quits and returned to the campsite for dinner.

After dinner and clean up Jane agreed to accompany me to Meadow Point. I fished at Meadow Point in 2017, and I recalled an abundant quantity of rising fish in the last hour before dark. 2018 was no different, and by 8PM the residents of the cove in front of me began to slash the surface in pursuit of some abundant food source. During our entire stay at Steamboat Lake, I observed swarms of large size 16 midges with a dark peacock body, and I assumed these insects were the target of the cove dwellers.

I knotted a size 16 olive brown caddis to my line and exercised my arm shooting out sixty foot casts, but the active feeders ignored my offerings. I tried twitching and stripping and added a midge emerger in the form of a salad spinner, but I failed to match the favorite meal of the trout in front of me. It also seemed that the trout were wise to my efforts, as they invariably rose five or ten feet beyond my best distance casts. In addition it seemed as if the trout were cruising in a wide arc, as I directed casts to the scene of a recent riseform, only to discover the next surface ring appeared twenty feet farther to the left.

P6070264.JPG

Meadow Point Near Dark

I continued my futile efforts until 9PM when the lighting dimmed, the rising fish diminished, and the air chilled beyond my comfort level. The surface exploded with fish in the last fifteen minutes of light, but I was simply a spectator to the natural buffet at Meadow Point.

Fish Landed: 1

Penns Creek – 06/01/2018

Time: 9:00AM -10:30AM

Location: Aimeitti Lane

Penns Creek 06/01/2018 Photo Album

One of the prime purposes of my visit to central Pennsylvania was to attend my 45 year reunion at Bucknell University. Bob Sauers was a fraternity brother and friend, and after a career in the military he resided in the Lewisburg area. During our college years Bob and I enjoyed several fishing trips to Penns Creek, so I contacted him and arranged to meet for a few hours of fishing on Friday morning.

P6010188.JPG

A Roadside Covered in Wild Phlox

I arrived at the Union County Sportmans’ Club a bit after 8AM, and Bob appeared in his Jeep Wrangler with a Bison license plate holder by 8:15. Jeff was also present, so he and Bob chatted, while I made a bathroom stop. By 8:30 Bob and I were on our way, and we traveled a short distance to Weikert and turned on Aimetti Lane and continued until we parked our cars at Jim’s cabin. Jim is a close friend of Bob, and Bob performed numerous helpful chores to maintain the rustic cabin located on the bank of Penns Creek.

Bob pulled out his spinning rod and began chucking casts near the tail of the long pool, while I tied a parachute isonychia with a trailing shuck to my line. I strolled to the top of the pool and searched the entire length with the large dry fly with no success. At this point I abandoned the dry fly approach and converted to a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and prince nymph; and with these weapons at my disposal I began working the seams at the top of the pool.

Near the bank in the upper run a fish elevated to inspect the fat Albert, but no take resulted. I systematically worked my way downstream and covered the same water on my side of the pool that occupied me earlier. Again I failed to encounter any trout during this survey of the water in front of me. In the midst of this process Bob shouted that he had one, and then he eagerly displayed a ten inch brown trout for my approval. I was excited for Bob, since he informed me that it was his first fish of the 2018 season.

P6010189.JPG

Yellow Swallowtail Haven

I assessed my position and decided to inspect the faster water above the pool. I was prepared to nymph, and I hoped to find some nice deep runs and riffles of moderate depth in the area that was new to me. My desire was fulfilled, and I encountered a fifty yard stretch that displayed the very characteristics I was seeking. I employed a systematic prospecting methodology over the next half hour. Midway through this phase I spotted a subtle rise in a seam just above a large submerged boulder. I anticipated a fly change to a single dry fly was in order, but I decided to flick the three fly configuration upstream for a couple of drifts.

On the first pass I was shocked when a brown trout glided to the surface to inspect the fat Albert. For a brief instant the fish dropped down, as if to reject the foam impostor, but then a hunger pang caused it to throw caution to the wind, and it crushed the fat Albert. I executed a swift hook set, but the fish dashed five feet downstream and twisted its jaw, whereupon the flies recoiled toward me. Needless to say I was not pleased with this turn of events.

I continued my progression for another fifteen minutes, but I could not replicate the magic. At 10:30 I waded back along the edge of the creek and met Bob, and we decided to adjourn to the Old Turnpike Restaurant in Mifflinburg for lunch. After lunch I drove to Lewisburg, refueled the rental car, and meandered into Gerhard Field House to register for my Bucknell reunion. The registration process generated my dorm room assignment and keys, and I sought the comfort of some air conditioning.

P6010191.JPG

Hafer Holds Court

Friday developed into a warm and humid day, but I was undaunted and embarked on a forty minute run around the perimeter of the campus. Afterward I anxiously looked forward to a warm shower, as perspiration flowed from my pores. Imagine my surprise when I ran the shower for five minutes, and the temperature never rose above refrigerator level. While dripping in sweat, I was in no position to wait for facility maintenance, so I took the plunge. The cold spray took my breath away, and Friday’s shower may have been the shortest ever, but it got the job done. When I returned to my room, I looked up facility services and requested a review of the Schwartz Hall plumbing.

P6010193.JPG

Russel's Cornhole Toss

Meanwhile a good Bucknell classmate called to let me know he arrived, so we undertook a brief stroll around the campus and checked out the new facilities. At 5:45 we jumped in my rental car and drove four miles south on US 15, where we joined additional classmates at an outdoor cookout at a friend’s house. The meal and company were first rate, but the highlight was my dominance of the corn hole venue.

Fish Landed: 0

Penns Creek – 05/31/2018

Time: 8:00AM – 11:00AM; 12:00PM – 1:00PM; 5:00PM – 8:30PM

Location: Swinging bridge, Bingaman Lane, Glen Iron

Penns Creek 05/31/2018 Photo Album

Thursday began as an overcast day and remained that way throughout, as temperatures reached the upper sixties and low seventies. These conditions seemed ideal to two eager fishermen such as Jeff and me. Flows were another key variable, and the creek was now down to 500 CFS with reasonable clarity. Everything seemed to point to ideal conditions for a solid day on Penns Creek.

We departed from the Schafer cabins and ate a quick breakfast while in transit, before we arrived at the swinging bridge area along Penns Creek. Jeff introduced me to this stretch on Wednesday morning, after we departed from Jolly Grove. In a bit of a surprise we never witnessed any significant green drake dun emergence or surface feeding to the large mayflies despite our early arrival and overcast skies. I began fishing above the swinging bridge with a grey fox and focused my efforts on a small side channel, but the fish ignored my drifts. I began to experiment with different flies and cycled through a female green drake dun and a green drake spinner. I hypothesized that the trout were aware of the large mayflies recently present in strong numbers, but the fish harbored different thoughts, and no significant green drake hatching activity materialized.

P5310168.JPG

Merging Currents

When I reached a beautiful arced pool, I converted to a dry/dropper configuration with a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph and a prince leadwing coachman. Early on during this phase of my Thursday fishing I lost the prince leadwing coachman and replaced it with another version that Jeff tied and provided during my last visit to Penns Creek. The replacement coachman immediately attracted attention, as I landed two suckers and a tiny trout. I persisted and tossed the trio of flies to the top of a run and allowed the fat Albert to drift along a seam. The unimpeded float did not last long, before the fat Albert dipped, and I raised my arm to set the hook in a sixteen inch brown trout. What a surprise and thrill!

P5310171.JPG

Under Control

P5310173.JPG

Several Fish Rose Along the Debris

My confidence in the coachman soared, and I approached a very alluring run along the left bank. A pair of fish revealed their presence, so I tossed the three fly combination to a small eddy. The Albert immediately paused, and I set the hook and felt temporary contact with a moving object. Unfortunately the fish escaped, and I paused to assess my next move. As I scanned the run and eddy, I was amazed to notice that the rising fish resumed their steady feeding activity. I rested the area some more, while I switched to a single dry fly approach, and then I cast the usual array of Penns Creek imitations, but none pleased the occupants of the run and eddy. Jeff joined me, and he tossed another assortment their way, but we eventually walked away after an hour of futile casting. We were chastened by the wily Penns Creek trout in this location.

While we dwelled on our recent rebuke from Pennsylvania trout, we retreated to the minivan and once again drove to the Sportsman’s Club, where we ate our lunches. After lunch we traveled downstream to Bingaman Lane, where we fished from 12:00PM until 1:00PM, but the long pool and water upstream were unproductive. Another move was in order, and this time we journeyed to Glen Iron. We spotted some isonychia duns during the morning above the swinging bridge, and Jeff theorized that they would be more prolific farther downstream.

P5310177.JPG

Sweet Spot

We spent the remainder of our day in the Glen Iron area, after we ate our dinners. Just before returning to the van for dinner and in a location above the bridge, I landed a thirteen inch brown trout that smacked the parachute isonychia. This bit of success transpired while Jeff chatted with a passing motorist named Bill Webber.

P5310178.JPG

Isonychia Fan

After dinner I returned to the dry/dropper method and worked some nice runs above the bridge, but my determined efforts were thwarted. Next we hiked up the road a bit to a point where the creek forked, and I spent most of the evening above the split. I threw mostly a parachute isonychia and iso comparadun, and I experienced two brief hook ups along with one fish that leaped and shed the hook. Quite a few fish rose regularly in the wide riffle section above the split in the creek, and I was frustrated by my inability to bring one to my net.

P5310186.JPG

Wild Iris

We chose to remain in Glen Iron to avoid the hordes that undoubtedly chased the green drake spinner fall in the No Kill area, and we encountered some moderate isonychia activity. We had the place to ourselves and cast to rising fish on a pleasant evening in central Pennsylvania. No complaints from this Colorado based fly fisherman.

Fish Landed: 2

 

Penns Creek – 05/30/2018

Time: 8:00AM – 10:00AM; 11:00AM – 1:00PM; 6:30PM – 10:00PM

Location: Jolly Grove, Swinging Bridge, Long Pool

Penns Creek 05/30/2018 Photo Album

Chasing green drakes as the hatch migrates up Pennsylvania waterways is a time-honored tradition, and Jeff and I joined the search with renewed intensity. We stopped to view the creek at Glen Iron on Tuesday, and several fishermen were casting to rising fish at 9AM. In a casual conversation with one of the anglers, we learned that the green drake hatch ended at 9:00, when the sun burned off the fog and haze. On Tuesday evening we visited the popular No Kill section, and little evidence of the presence of green drakes was present. From our initial exploration we concluded that the epicenter of the hatch and spinner fall was somewhere in between these to points.

We woke up at 6AM on Wednesday morning and after a quick breakfast of tea and a muffin, we departed Millheim and drove to Penns Creek. We approached from the east and made our initial stop at Jolly Grove. A small parking lot was located near the intersection of the paved road and dirt lane, and a sign announced that public fishing was available by walk in only. I climbed into my waders and assembled my Sage four weight, and Jeff and I hiked a decent ways to place some distance beyond the fishermen that occupied the first two attractive pools. Lodging in Aaronsburg enabled an early start, and we capitalized with our rods prepared to cast by 8AM. We hoped to catch the morning green drake dun emergence before the sun once again burned off the cloud cover.

P5300133.JPG

Green Drake Dun Eater

I observed for a few minutes, and my optimism soared, as I spotted several rises along some seams between large submerged boulders. I began with a male green drake dun with an extended foam body, and I was fortunate to land two brown trout in the twelve inch range. The early success, however, was followed by a period of adversity as several fish turned away at the last instant and refused my offering. Many of the duns floating on the surface were quite large, and the females outsize males, so I converted to a larger extended body foam imitation. This exchange paid dividends, when I landed a slightly larger thirteen inch brown, but then several refusals dampened my optimism once again.

P5300137.JPG

Random Spots

As was the case on Tuesday the sun broke through at 9AM, and suddenly the surface of the stream was devoid of mayfly filet mignon, consequently the trout ceased their surface feeding. Jeff and I decided to halt our efforts at Jolly Grove and moved on to another location farther upstream.

P5300143.JPG

So Prehistoric

Our second fishing location on Wednesday was near a swinging bridge. We descended a steep bank to the creek and began fishing upstream. By now the sun was blazing, and the air temperature escalated into the eighties, and the humidity seemed fairly heavy to this Colorado fisherman. Before I began my quest for Penns Creek trout, I inspected some tree branches that dangled over the water, and my gaze stalled on a strand of spider webbing. At least twenty-five green drake spinners were trapped in the dense web, and Jeff and I concluded that we were in close proximity to the sought after epicenter of the spinner fall.

P5300156.JPG

Perfect

P5300151.JPG

Lots of Spider Food

I prospected some very attractive pools and runs in a small side channel along the left side with a green drake dun, but the trout were not fooled. I decided to convert to my trusted dry/dropper technique, and I featured a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and a prince nymph. These flies were also ignored by the local residents, and I decided to experiment with a yellow Pat’s rubber legs.

P5300146.JPG

Decent Size. Very Wide.

Imagine my surprise, when I began to lift the flies at the tail of a short pool, and the Pat’s rubber legs was attacked by a hungry fish. As I began to fight the nymph eater, I caught a brief glimpse of my foe, and it displayed a very wide body. I was beginning to think I hooked a rare bluegill in Penns Creek, but then I applied  pressure and brought the hooked fish to the surface and realized I was tangling with another bass. Unlike the small battler on Tuesday, this smallmouth was around twelve inches long, but it carried quite a bit of weight on its short frame.

The fishing in this area of Penns Creek was quite slow despite some very nice structure, and I attributed the lack of action to the heat and time of day. We once again retreated to the minivan, and Jeff decided to drive to the Union County Sportsman’s Club to take advantage of the WiFi to check the weather. We also utilized the break to  down our lunches.

In the late afternoon we returned to the segment of the stream that occupied us on Tuesday morning. It was between Jolly Grove and the swinging bridge, and we surmised that we were near the center of the green drake emergence. I hiked down the gravel lane, until I was below the cluster of cabins in the area. My line contained the yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph, and a large stonefly with a peacock dubbed body. I found myself behind a cabin, where two beach chairs were mounted on a stump next to a sign that read “BYOB Beach”. I fished the edge of the fast water in this area thoroughly with no sign of fish, and then I swapped the stonefly for a slender prince nymph.

I moved upstream to a spot where a tree extended horizontally over the stream for fifteen feet, and in this area I landed a thirteen inch brown trout followed by a seventeen inch version of the same trout species. Both fish attacked the slender prince wet fly, and needless to say, I was thrilled with this dose of nymphing success on the ever challenging Penns Creek.

P5300163.JPG

Pleased With This Specimen

Jeff and I designated our rendezvous time to be 6:30, and we met at the bottom end of Long Pool at the appointed moment. We carefully staked out our claim to the prototypical long relatively slow moving pool, and I found a log and consumed my dinner which looked amazingly similar to lunch. By 7:30 fish began to rise sporadically, and this activity continued until 8:30. I began casting to fish that were within my range with a grey fox parachute and comparadun, but the fish were having none of them.

P5300164.JPG

Nice Pool Ahead

I pondered the situation and gathered the facts. A fair number of fish were rising, but I saw no evidence of sailboat-like wings on the surface. Perhaps some form of sparse spinner fall was responsible for the occasional sip? A March brown spinner duped an eighteen inch brown trout on Tuesday evening. Could the same fly work its magic on Wednesday evening? I tied one to my line and after ten casts, a thirteen inch brown elevated and chomped the spinner. Once in awhile my logic leads to success.

P5300166.JPG

Display

By 9PM darkness descended on the creek, and the green drake spinners swarmed up and down the waterway. They performed their mating dance and began to fall on to the surface. The sound of slurps became louder and more frequent, and my heart rate accelerated, as I anticipated a fat Penns Creek brown trout on the end of my line. Alas I was only able to manage two temporary connections and a splashy refusal, before my casts became futile attempts to blind fish to the sound of rising fish. I attempted to estimate where my fly was, and if I heard a slurp near the assumed position, I executed a steady set. During the one hour after darkness I hooked an enviable quantity of water.

Although I failed to land a trout during the intense spinner fall, it was an amazing scene etched in my memory banks. Huge spinners buzzed up and down the creek and bounced off my rod and banged into my face. Rarely does one experience a dense hatch or spinner fall of an insect with a body that extends for one inch. Nature creates some incredible moments.

Fish Landed: 6

Penns Creek – 05/29/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 9:30PM

Location: Penns Creek and Elk Creek

Penns Creek 05/29/2018 Photo Album

I flew from Charlotte, NC to Philadelphia, Pa on Monday, May 28, Memorial Day. Jane returned to Denver, while I continued on the second leg of the eastern swing with three days of fly fishing in central Pennsylvania and a weekend attending my 45th reunion at Bucknell University. I anxiously followed the weather in Pennsylvania, and I was encouraged to see that the flows on Penns Creek diminished to the 600 CFS range. This level of water remained high, but my fishing companion, Jeff, assured me it was manageable. The weather projections forecast the potential for heavy rain on Thursday, but I remained fairly certain that at least two days of decent fishing were in my future.

I rented a car and drove from the Philadelphia airport to Whitehall, Pa., where I met my friend Jeff. We loaded the minivan on Monday night and scheduled an early departure for Tuesday. Jeff wanted to be on the water early before the sun burned off the clouds to produce challenging fishing conditions. I set my alarm for 4:30AM Eastern time, and I actually woke up a few minutes before the alarm sounded. I pulled on my clothes and grabbed my bag, and we were on our way before 5AM. As dawn emerged, heavy clouds filled the sky, and dense patches of fog shrouded the hills and valleys along our route. We were pleased to see this level of cloud cover, and optimism crept into our thoughts.

P5290096.JPG

Chasing Green Drakes

We stopped for a quick breakfast in Mifflinburg at the Old Turnpike, and we arrived at a parking space at the end of a gravel road near Penns Creek by 9AM. We were anxious to inspect the water, so we quickly climbed into our waders, and I assembled my Sage four weight. We hiked down a gravel road at a quick pace, and I finally stepped into the water at 9:30. By now the clouds burned off, and the sun began to elevate the temperature. The flows were in the 600 CFS range, and the olive tinged water provided decent clarity. Steady food on the surface would certainly catch the attention of the local stream residents.

P5290109.JPG

Light Coloration

Jeff directed me to the right braid around a small island at the end of the lane, and as we observed, two fish made their presence known. I tied on a male green drake dun, that Jeff graciously loaned to me, and flicked a short cast to the spot where the lower fish rose minutes earlier. On the fourth cast a mouth appeared, and I set the hook and temporarily connected with my first fish of the day. I moved on to the location of the second rise observed, and a ten inch brown accosted the green drake and enabled me to guide my first Penns Creek trout of the day into my net. It was only a feisty ten inch fish, but I was nonetheless pleased to enjoy green drake success.

P5290111.JPG

Placid Penns Creek

Just above the point of the island a stone wall bordered the creek, and I tossed some casts to within a foot of the solid structure. The ploy paid dividends, when a smallmouth bass blasted the green drake. The warmwater species was no longer than eight inches, but it resisted admirably against the inevitable destination of my net. A bit farther upstream an eleven inch brown trout crushed the green drake dun imitation, and I was thrilled to experience early success, as the sun blazed and the temperature soared.

At 11:30 I exited the stream and circled to the lower end of the entry road below a long narrow island. I patiently surveyed the area, but rising fish were absent in the riffles of moderate depth. The structure of the stream in the area suggested that a dry/dropper approach might yield positive results, so I converted to a fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. This trio of flies were mainstays in Colorado. Would they produce similar success in Pennsylvania?

P5290115.JPG

Best Fish of the Day So Far

Initially the answer was no, and I cycled through a march brown nymph and green drake nymph before settling on a 20 incher. I covered half of the attractive water in the right braid, before I approached some nice deep runs below a tree that projected ten feet out and parallel to the surface of the creek. Finally the 20 incher earned its keep, as it enticed a pair of nice twelve inch and thirteen inch chunky browns to my net. Another decent fish bumped the fat Albert and then drifted back for 1.5 feet and aggressively slurped the large yellow foam creation. I played the hungry feeder for a bit, before it escaped and somehow broke off the two bottom flies.

P5290113.JPG

Dry/Dropper Catch

At 1:30 Jeff and I returned to the car, and we decided to explore some new water. By now the sun was high in the sky, and the air temperature and humidity were soaring, so my expectations for fishing success were minimal. We traveled west and north and checked in to our lodging at the Schafer cabins in Aaronsburg. Since we were in the neighborhood, we drove a bit farther west on route 45 to Millheim, and we stopped to sample Elk Creek. Elk Creek is a small spring creek tributary to Penns Creek, and it flows through the center of the small town of Millheim.

P5290117.JPG

Exploring Elk Creek

We limited our stay to an hour, and I covered .3 mile during this time. The stream displayed the characteristic milky olive spring creek color, but it was flowing high from the heavy rain a week prior. The high volume of water made it more difficult to identify the prime spots, and as expected fish were not rising during the middle of a hot afternoon. I persisted with a dry/dropper arrangement, and my only action was a foul hooked wild brown that resided in a small bank side eddy.

Jeff and I agreed that Elk was an interesting piece of water, but we departed and returned to the No Kill section of Penns Creek, in case activity heated up during the cooler evening hours. We consumed some sandwiches and snacks for dinner and then proceeded to the creek, where we fished until 9:30. We were disappointed to learn that no significant hatch or spinner fall developed, and therefore dry flies were mostly ineffective. We experimented with green drake duns and spinners as well as an assortment of grey foxes and sulfurs, and despite the presence of these aquatic insects, the fish did not respond.

P5290127.JPG

March Brown Spinner Attracted This Brown Trout

During a one hour period I knotted a March brown spinner on my line and prospected some juicy sections in a side channel. This tactic rewarded me with the fish of the day, when an eighteen inch brown trout confidently sipped the spinner. I cast across the main current to a four foot wide band of slower moving water next to the bank, and a downstream drift worked its magic.

P5290130.JPG

Penns Creek Beauty

A five fish day on Penns Creek is quite good based on my experience, and a hefty wild eighteen inch bruiser was icing on the cake. My central Pennsylvania fishing adventure was only beginning, and we were zeroing in on the highly sought after green drake emergence and spinner fall.

Fish Landed: 5

South Platte River – 05/17/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/17/2018 Photo Album

When I reviewed the flows on several rivers and streams on Monday prior to my visit to the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, I noted that all the tailwater sections of the South Platte River remained at excellent flow rates. One of the advantages of this blog is the ability to check back on fishing trips and conditions in previous years. I did just that on Wednesday, when I read my post of 05/12/2016. I recalled a spectacular day, and I was curious to remember the date, weather and flows. The weather was cool with air temperatures peaking in the sixties and the flows were 64 CFS. May 17 was five days later, and the high temperature was forecast to reach the low seventies, while the flows registered in the 85 CFS range. I concluded that these factors were close enough to 5/12/2016 to justify another trip to the South Platte River in an attempt to capture even a fraction of the success bestowed upon me during that day.

P5170001.JPG

83 CFS

I assembled my Sage four weight rod and waded into the South Platte River by 10AM on Thursday morning. The air temperature was in the mid-sixties and the flows were as displayed on the DWR graph. The sky was deep blue and totally devoid of any clouds, and this held true for 90% of my time on the river. I could not have asked for a more ideal scenario; as I knotted a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph to my line. I began tossing the three fly searching combination to the likely deep pockets and runs, as I methodically moved upstream. Very little time elapsed, before I landed a few small brown trout, and after fifteen minutes I built the fish count to five.

P5170005.JPG

Chunk of Butter

P5170004.JPG

Such a Pretty Sight

My expectations soared, but my confidence was tested in the next fifteen minutes, as trout began to elevate and refuse the fat Albert. I endured this frustration for a bit, and then I pulled in my flies and replaced the fat Albert with a size 10 Chernboyl ant. The Chernobyl proved to be less of a distraction, and I began to hook and land trout at a regular pace. By eleven o’clock the tally of fish that rested in my net mounted to ten, and the salvation nymph generated two fish for every one produced by the hares ear.

P5170011.JPG

Another hour elapsed, and I chose to eat my lunch on the east side of the river just below an island, where some large flat rocks served as reasonable replacements for tables and chairs. By this time the number of fish that slid into my net ballooned to twenty-one. In the process of landing two fish that favored the topmost fly, the salvation nymph broke off as a result of being dragged over an adjacent rock or stick. I was reluctant to deplete the supply of salvations in my fleece wallet, so after lunch I experimented with several alternatives.

P5170013.JPG

Long and Lean

I prospected the smaller left side channel next to the island first, and I began with an amber March brown nymph below the hares ear nymph. Periodically I enjoy trying some of my legacy flies from my early days of fly tying and fishing in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately on May 17, the South Platte River trout ignored the classic, and I once again paused to exchange it for a nymph; that contained a glass bead, pheasant tail body and marabou tail. This fly performed slightly better, as it accounted for one fish, but during its stint on the line I also experienced two long distance releases. I sensed that my catch rate was slowing, so I once again stripped in my line and made another change. I swapped the glass bead nymph for an ultra zug bug; and the Chernboyl ant, hares ear, and ultra zug bug became my stalwarts for the remainder of the day.

P5170014.JPG

One of the Better Fish on the Day

Seven additional trout materialized from the east channel next to the island. The flows in the left braid were only one fourth of the volume that churned down the right channel, so this condition necessitated stealth and long casts. When I reached the upstream tip of the island, I climbed the bank and circled back to the bottom point, and then I migrated up the larger and faster right branch. At the tip of the island I progressed through additional attractive pocket water that carried the full combined flows of the river, and I finally quit at 3:30. The two hours between 1:30 and 3:30 evolved into a fish catching spree, as I pushed the fish count from twenty-eight to forty-seven.

P5170020.JPG

Oh Those Deep Pockets

The most productive water types were slow moving shelf pools next to faster currents. A cast to the seam was a solid bet. Across and downstream drifts along the bank also provoked aggressive grabs, if the water depth was sufficient. During the two hour period of fast action, I surprisingly extracted some decent brown trout from fairly shallow riffles. Two thirteen inch rainbow trout joined the mix in the afternoon, and they crushed the ultra zug bug from positions in faster currents. Three decent brown trout smashed the Chernobyl ant in another surprise afternoon development.

P5170024.JPG

Fine Spots. Might Be Cutbow.

P5170021.JPG

Thursday evolved into another outstanding adventure on the South Platte River. It did not quite measure up to 05/12/2016, but that may have been a lifetime best event. While freestone rivers swelled and dams opened their valves, I fished in nearly ideal flows and thoroughly enjoyed my day in May.

Fish Landed: 47

 

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 05/15/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Button Rock Dam

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 05/15/2018 Photo Album

The euphoria from three fun days of fly fishing on the Frying Pan River abated, and I felt the itch to wet a line on a Colorado stream on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. When I researched stream flows and fly shop fishing reports, I quickly discovered that my options dwindled, while I cast my flies in the relatively low clear waters of the Frying Pan tailwater. The Big Thompson River, South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek and Cache la Poudre graphs reflected varying degrees of early stage run off, and I did not wish to undertake a one hour plus drive only to encounter difficult stream conditions.

Bear Creek displayed 42 CFS, and although high, this reading represented a manageable level. All sections of the South Platte River were in play, but I decided to reserve the longer drive for later in the week, when the weather stabilized. Tuesday’s forecast predicted a fairly high probability of afternoon thunderstorms. I settled on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek as my low risk alternative. The flow data displayed 111 CFS, and the drive was one hour and fifteen minutes. In addition I had first hand knowledge as a result of the Mothers’ Day hike that Jane, Dan, Ariel, Zuni and I completed on Sunday.

P5150003.JPG

Slow Water Along the Edge Was the Place to Be

I launched my adventure at 9:40, and after donning my waders I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked up the road in the Button Rock Preserve for a considerable distance. I started my effort to fool St. Vrain trout with a size 8 Chernboyl ant, beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph. The temperature when I began my hike was 61 degrees, and it climbed gradually to a high of 69 in the canyon. I estimated that clouds blocked the sun’s rays forty to fifty percent of the time during a pleasant day. The flows were in the 113 CFS range, and my casting was relegated to all the areas that presented slower velocity and protective depth for the resident trout.

P5150005.JPG

Nice Slick Below the Rocks

I covered a fair distance in the first fifteen minutes with no success, as I gained familiarity with the stream at higher flows and developed knowledge of the most productive locations. Finally a small brown trout snatched the salvation, and shortly thereafter another somewhat larger brown followed suit. By the time I perched on a large midstream rock to consume my lunch, the fish count registered five, and all the landed trout grabbed the salvation except for one maverick that snatched the hares ear.

P5150002.JPG

Same Fish, Better Lighting

P5150007.JPG

My Lunch Spot

After lunch I continued my upstream quest for St. Vrain trout, and I boosted the tally to nine, before I reeled up my line at 3PM. The only variation in my approach was my fly offerings. I somehow snapped off the two nymphs while executing across stream casts and downstream drifts. Normally I feel the snag or grab that causes such an outcome, but in this case I stripped in my line and discovered that I was fishing with only a Chernobyl ant and dangling empty tippet. I used this interruption to modify my lineup, and I replaced the hares ear with an emerald caddis pupa and swapped the salvation for a small size 16 prince nymph. The prince delivered a small trout to my net, and then I thoroughly covered some outstanding water with no response. I sensed that the fish were less attracted to the prince than the salvation, so I returned to the source of my early success with a salvation nymph as my bottom fly.

P5150009.JPG

Best Fish of the Day Took a Salvation Nymph

P5150010.JPG

Those Orange Spots

The Chernboyl, caddis pupa, and salvation remained on my line for most of the afternoon and accounted for the last five fish that rested in my net. The emerald caddis fly fooled one trout, and the salvation generated the other four takes. During Tuesday all the landed fish were brown trout except for one outlier rainbow.

On Tuesday it was a matter of moving quickly to cover a significant amount of water. The high flows concentrated fish in places, where the current slowed, and water depth provided cover from overhead predators. Once I determined the prime trout lies, I skipped marginal spots and focused my casting on the high probability pockets and pools.

P5150006.JPG

I Liked This Scene

Ten fish in three plus hours is a reasonable catch rate, although the largest fish may have extended to eleven inches. The quality of the fish and pleasant weather more than offset the lack of size, and I thoroughly enjoyed my day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. I was thankful for the opportunity to fish clear water within 1.5 hours of home, while other rivers raged with snow melt. Hopefully my good fortune will extend a bit longer.

Fish Landed: 10