South Boulder Creek – 08/09/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/09/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

I continually monitor the flows on South Boulder Creek, as it remains my favorite Front Range destination. A check last week revealed that the water managers dropped the flows to 127 CFS, and although this remains on the high side, it remained within a comfortable range for fly fishing. I generally prefer water levels in the 50-80 CFS range. I planned a trip, and Thursday morning I packed the car and made the slightly over one hour drive to the kayak parking lot below the dam but high above the small tailwater creek. When I arrived four or five cars occupied spaces, and while I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, three additional vehicles secured spaces to my left. Needless to say I was concerned about solitude and space.

To my pre-fishing ritual I added elbow glides and stretches, and on Thursday I secured my new cho pat strap just below my right elbow. I was anxious to determine if the device would reduce the pinching pain that plagued my casting elbow on Tuesday on the South Platte River. Even at the elevated flows I was able to ford the creek at the bottom of the steep path, and this enabled me to hike along the south side of the stream. This is a positive, as the north path involves quite a bit of rock climbing. Fortunately I passed four solitary anglers along the way on the upper water, and this accounted for most of the vehicles. I hiked a decent distance beyond the active fishermen, and I encountered two outliers who endured a longer hike.

When I sufficiently distanced myself from the other fishemen, I cut down to the creek and began my day with a size 8 Chernobyl ant, a size 12 beadhead prince nymph, and a salvation nymph. I chose the prince nymph with the hope that green drakes were active, and that the long slender prince might serve as a reasonable representation. I carefully approached a nice deep pool along the right bank and began flipping short casts to the likely fish holding locations. In the first pool a small trout spurned the Chernobyl, and I immediately feared that refusals might rule the day. Another rejection occurred in the next nice pool, and I began to formulate alternative approaches.

Fortunately a small brown nabbed the prince in the next decent location, and I delayed my plan to change tactics. Adhering to the Chernobyl/prince/salvation proved to be a solid strategy, as the fish counter climbed to sixteen by the time I paused for lunch at 12:15. One brown trout crushed the Chernobyl, and a couple nipped the salvation, but the coveted offering proved to be the prince. I will never know for sure whether my green drake nymph theory was the reason, but the results were outstanding regardless of the reason.

At some point during the morning the salvation and its attached dropper disappeared in the process of releasing a fish, so I replaced it with an ultra zug bug. My fly box contained only one size 12 2XL prince nymph, so I was hopeful that the smaller ultra zug bug might be equally effective, but unfortunately it was not. When I snapped off the zug bug on a dead tree limb, I decided to continue with a two fly arrangement, since the prince nymph was overwhelmingly the main attraction, and this choice proved to be sound.

After lunch on a large flat rock I continued prospecting with the two fly dry/dropper, and I incremented the fish count to twenty. At this point the jagged teeth of twenty trout reduced the prince nymph to a peacock body with no additional appendages. The tails were long gone, and the thread began to unravel, and this resulted in the loss of the two goose biot wings. I would have continued, but the long strand of dangling black thread portended a near term end to the life of the prince.

I removed the productive fly and experimented with an ultra zug bug and salvation nymph for ten minutes, but I sensed that the fish were not interested in these two substitutes. I looked in my fleece wallet and found a size 14 prince tied on a standard length hook, and I knotted it to my line and retained the salvation nymph. The performance of these flies outpaced the previous ones, and I managed to bolster the fish count from twenty to twenty-six, but the pace was much slower than that of the morning, and I covered considerably more stream including some appealing spots that should have produced more fish, than what I was able to attract.

In the midst of this early afternoon period I began to observe a decent quantity of yellow sallies and even larger golden stoneflies. I almost switched to a yellow stimulator, but before doing so I swapped the prince for an iron sally. Several of the seven fish that moved the count from twenty to twenty-six grabbed the salvation, while it was paired with the iron sally.

By three o’clock I was perched on twenty-six, and the catch rate slowed measurably. The sun was now high in the afternoon sky, and it beat down on the canyon and caused the temperature to elevate. The impact of the heat seemed to slow this fisherman and the fish. I contemplated quitting for the day, but again I noticed a wave of yellow sallies, so I decided to implement the single dry fly idea that crossed my mind earlier.

Initially the size 14 yellow stimulator prompted a couple refusals, but then I executed a cast across a main current to a long shelf pool along the opposite bank. I raised my rod high to avoid drag and managed a long drift, whereupon a brown trout surfaced and slashed the stimulator. Maybe there was something to the yellow sally dry fly after all?

I exited the creek at a place where huge boulders on both sides made additional progress impossible, and I hiked a fair distance until I reached two very nice pools. The most attractive water in the first pool was again on the far side, and I deployed a similar technique that fooled number twenty-seven, but in this instance I failed to generate a response.

The next pool was a crown jewel with a deep run down the center and pulse-raising shelf pools on either side. I fired ten casts to the area on the right side, and the yellow stimulator went unmolested. I was certain that fish inhabited this place, and I noticed several green drakes near the 3:30 time frame, so I switched to a size 14 parachute green drake. I tossed the newly attached fly to the top of the pool, and a bulge and swirl ensued. At least the green drake attracted attention, but how could I prompt a take?

I persisted with a few more casts, and the large low riding piece of meat became too much to resist. I had my first South Boulder Creek green drake victim in the form of a small brown trout. My switch to the green drake and the small dose of success led to another 1.5 hours of fly fishing, and eleven additional trout found my net, before I called it a day a few minutes before five o’clock. A few refusals marred the successful late afternoon action; however, I stayed in a zone of angler bliss most of the time. Green drakes continued to appear albeit in a very sparse hatch, and a few pale morning duns joined the party. During the hot afternoon days of August, the drake hatch apparently delayed, until the shadows lengthened from the steep canyon walls on the south side of the creek. I moved quickly and sprayed casts to moderate riffles and runs, and quite often a brown trout rewarded me with an aggressive bite. A few very colorful rainbows joined the mix as well to add a bit of diversity to my stay.

On Thursday I had a blast on South Boulder Creek. I learned that fly fishing at 127 CFS can be very worthwhile, and I also documented that green drakes appear in early August. I also learned that leaving early on hot days carries the risk of missing the best insect activity on the small tailwater. Prior history suggests that the best of the green drake hatch is in the future, and I anxiously anticipate those occasions.

Fish Landed: 38

South Platte River – 08/07/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 08/07/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

I felt a strong urge to visit a river that could potentially yield larger fish, yet I was apprehensive about placing additional strain on my gradually improving tennis elbow. Larger water and bigger fish generally dictate a heavier and longer rod, and ever since I began physical therapy, I relied exclusively on my Orvis Access four weight.

After physical therapy sessions on Friday and Monday and four straight days of no casting, I decided to put my elbow to the test and made the drive to the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. Tuesday was cool and cloudy in the morning; however, by the time I strung my Sage four weight and pulled on my waders, the temperature elevated into the upper seventies. I was actually chilled while standing in the shade of the canyon wall next to the Santa Fe, and I considered wearing my raincoat, but once I strolled down the dirt road and dropped down an angled path that descended a steep bank to the river, I was comfortable. Flows of the canyon tailwater were 107 CFS, and this level was actually higher than what I experienced during my spring trips earlier in the 2018 season. I was actually pleased that the water regulators were releasing water in excess of 100 CFS, as higher flows buffer the hot summer temperatures and allow fishing without the risk of stressing the coldwater residents.

I stopped next to a long deep pool that rolled along a vertical rock wall, and I paused to observe, before I addressed the choice of flies for my line. Within minutes I noticed two brown trout, as they hovered a couple feet below the surface, and they periodically swam upward and snatched some form of food. A pair of rises appeared in the current seam two-thirds of the way across the river, and a few tiny bugs fluttered about. I assumed that the minuscule insects were tricos, so I knotted a size 22 black body and poly wing version to my line. Ten casts later I acknowledged that my fly was probably too large, as each of the risers refused my downstream presentation, and the trout nearer to me totally ignored the surface offering.

I pondered the situation and realized that the trico spinner that I drifted through the pool was the smallest imitation in my box. Rather than continue to fuel my frustration, I decided to try another approach. Several times in the past I experimented with a sunken trico with some success, so I decided to follow that route on Tuesday. A size 10 Chernobyl ant assumed the top position in my lineup, and below it I tied a size 22 RS2 and a size 22 sunken trico. The trico contained tiny plastic wings, and they were wrapped around the body in a haphazard manner, just as one would see on a trico after it swirled through tumbling whitewater.

For the next 1.5 hour until I took my lunch break, I tossed the three fly dry/dropper alignment to likely trout holding locations, and I succeeded in landing five representative South Platte River trout. All except one were brown trout, and the feisty morning inhabitants of my net were in the twelve to thirteen inch size range. The other catch was a small rainbow trout. I discovered that the most productive places were deep slots next to large boulders. I suspect that the trout favored the hidden positions afforded by the large rocks, and the deep holes next to fast current provided perfect launch points to grab food items, as they drifted by.

After lunch I noticed fewer tricos, and instead occasional pale morning duns made an appearance. Simultaneously a decent hatch of small blue winged olives appeared, and I responded to the new insect dynamics with another fly change. I exchanged the sunken trico for a salvation nymph and reversed the positions of the nymphs, so that the salvation was the top fly, and the RS2 was on the bottom. The move was somewhat effective as I added two more trout to the fish counter in the after lunch time period.

One of these two netted fish was the highlight of the day. I backhanded a toss to a marginal narrow slot just upstream of an exposed angled boulder, and a fish confidently chomped on the Chernobyl ant. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a hook jawed brown trout with bright orange and yellow coloration on my line, after I executed a swift hook set. When the thrashing prize settled down, I estimated that it measured fifteen inches, and I was quite pleased with my good fortune.

In addition to the two fish landed in the one hour after lunch, I experienced quite a few temporary connections. The blue winged olive hatch was more dense than I expected on August 7, and the fish seemed to tune into the small trailing RS2. During this time frame the heads of  relatively shallow pockets provided fairly consistent grabs, but I failed to maintain contact in many cases.

As the afternoon progressed, the clouds disappeared, and the warm rays of the sun had their impact on the air and stream temperatures. Yellow sallies made an appearance and outnumbered the pale morning duns, so I swapped the salvation nymph for a size 16 iron sally. From 1PM until I quit at 3PM I covered a significant amount of water and added two additional trout to the fish count. A brown trout and small rainbow spent time in my net, and both nabbed the RS2, as it swept along exposed rocks.

Two anglers occupied one of my favorite pools on the river, below where the car was parked, so I circled around them and fished the two channels that split around a narrow island. The west channel presented a gorgeous deep shelf pool on the side of the main current away from me, and I could see two very nice trout facing into the eddy. They frequently moved a foot or two to nab underwater food items, and the larger of the two elevated infrequently to sip something from the surface. My dry/dropper rig was totally ignored, so I made the difficult decision to convert to a dry fly. I removed the three flies and placed a cinnamon comparadun on my line. Nothing happened, not even a look. I segued the comparadun with a size 22 blue winged olive, and I was quite optimistic that the tiny match for the prevalent naturals would seduce the pool dwellers. Once again they snubbed my artificial food offering. I remembered the presence of yellow sallies and knotted a size 14 yellow stimulator to my line. The yellow stimmy duped many trout in the early part of the season, but today it was not effective. In a last ditch effort to find a surface fly that would appeal to the eddy trophies, I snatched a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle from the fly box. Another rousing round of futile casting ensued, so I saluted the selective residents and moved upstream.

The beetle failed as a solution to the puzzle, so I reverted to the three fly dry/dropper approach. I switched from the Chernobyl ant to a tan pool toy hopper, and below the large buoyant top fly I presented the iron sally and RS2. As I mentioned previously, this set up enabled me to add two fish to the tally to reach nine on the day.

As three o’clock rapidly approached, I was mired in a mild slump. In truth my confidence was low, and I was very warm and weary, as the bright sun beat down on the canyon. I approached a nice wide run, and I spotted a location that fit the recipe for success, that I described earlier. A narrow deep run deflected off a large exposed boulder and created a V-shaped band of slow water. I lobbed the three flies above the boulder, and as it swept by the upstream side of the rock, I caught a glimpse of a fish, as it turned perpendicular to the current. The movement was several feet to the right of the pool toy, and I suspected it grabbed one of the nymphs, so I swept the rod sideways and upstream. The hook penetrated the mouth of the feeder, and a heavy fish shot upstream, and then I angled it ten feet toward me. The brown trout was not happy, and it streaked perpendicular to the current, until it reached the faster water just beyond the site of the hook set.

Boing! The line rebounded toward me and went limp, and I instantly went into grieving mode. I suspected that perhaps the fish was foul hooked, but when I reeled up the line, I discovered that it snapped off all three flies. A telltale curly end on my line suggested that I tied a faulty knot on the line to pool toy connection. Needless to say I beat myself up for a bit, and then in a fit of disgust I found a path and scrambled up the steep bank to the car. It was close to 3PM, and I was not about to endure the task of knotting three more flies to my line.

Fish Landed: 9

 

Boulder Creek – 08/02/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: High gradient section downstream from Boulder Falls

Boulder Creek 08/02/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

I completed three successive days of fly fishing, and I found myself reviewing the stream flows in search of a destination on Thursday. Three physical therapy appointments provided modest improvement to my inflamed elbow, as the pinching sensation subsided to intermittent burns. I began a regimen of daily icing, nerve glides, and stretches; and my new therapy toy, a yellow flex bar, arrived in the mail. How does one explain this madness? As a fellow angler once told my wife, “he has the disease”. I suppose my continuing passion for fly fishing is a testimony to the complexity and challenge of the sport. After thirty-five years I continue to learn and encounter new and unique experiences. Thursday was August 2, and the summer was flashing by, and I was not about to rest during the prime summer season. That is my explanation for the madness.

I was not interested in a long drive, so I confined my search to Front Range streams. I ruled out the Cache la Poudre after a lackluster day of guided fishing with my friend Dan on July 20. The North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek was flowing at a paltry 21 CFS, so another stream was crossed off my list. The Big Thompson River dropped to 93 CFS, and the lower volume intrigued me, but my recent visit was rather average, and the canyon is heavily pressured by guides with Rocky Mountain National Park visitors. Clear Creek remained an option with flows in the 80 CFS range, but I tested those waters on Monday and Wednesday, and I was seeking some variety. I was encouraged to note that South Boulder Creek dropped to the 134 CFS level, and I love the small tailwater west of Golden, but that option required a hike into the canyon. Boulder Creek was tumbling along in the canyon west of the city at 41 CFS. Based on prior experience I was certain that this level was adequate, and I liked the idea of fishing the high gradient section with numerous plunge pools and highly oxygenated white water. In order to confirm my hunch about Boulder Creek, I searched this blog and found an entry for July 29, 2016, when I enjoyed a twenty fish day in the steep canyon section that I was considering. This clinched it, and I made the short drive to Boulder Canyon.

The high temperature for Denver was forecast to reach ninety degrees, and I assumed this translated to the low to mid-80’s in the canyon, so I opted to wade wet. The decision proved to be prescient, as the starting temperature in the mid-70’s quickly warmed to the eighty degree mark. The cold flows of Boulder Creek were very refreshing, and I alternated between climbing the rocky bank and wading up to my knees in the icy current. The flows were as reported and high enough to provide deep pools and runs, yet moderate enough to enable comfortable wading and stream crossing. I rigged up my Orvis Access four weight, crossed the highway, and carefully negotiated a rocky bank to the edge of the creek. A small promising pool appeared just above my entry point.

My 2016 report informed me that I fished a gray stimulator successfully in the morning; and a three-fly dry/dropper configuration consisting of a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph produced results in the afternoon. Late in the day a size 16 gray caddis allowed me to add to my growing fish count. This historical knowledge guided me to tie a gray stimulator to my line to begin my day, and I sprayed casts across the pool with great optimism.The stimulator did indeed capture the attention of the stream residents, but the large attractor was apparently close to their desired snack, but not close enough. Splashy refusals ruled the first ten minutes, so I resorted to downsizing.

I withdrew a size 16 gray deer hair caddis from my fly box and knotted it to my line, and instantly the fish were fooled. I rolled the fish counter to six in the first hour, and the small caddis was the star performer. I repeatedly grasped the fly firmly to remove it from the lips of the netted fish, and despite my care, hair loss became a disease of the wing. The fish did not seem to mind, but it reached a point, where I was challenged to follow the small drifting nearly wingless caddis adult.

I retired the sparse gray caddis and replaced it with another with a full wing, but guess what happened? The persnickety trout once again snubbed my offering. What was going on here? Were these fish selective to a gray body caddis with a minimal wing? During this time I observed four or five small mayflies, as they became airborne and gained altitude over the water. From a distance they appeared to be pale morning duns. Did the fish that I landed in the morning mistake the gray-bodied caddis with a nearly missing downwing for an emerging pale morning dun?

I decided to test my theory. I plucked a size 16 light gray comparadun from my box and affixed it to my tippet. Several fish in the pool in front of me rejected the caddis previously, so I covered the same area a second time with the comparadun. Voila! One of the finicky residents rushed to the surface and inhaled the slender comparadun. I moved on and duped two additional brown trout during the remainder of the morning, and that equated to three trout that were bamboozled by the mayfly imitation.

At 11:45 I approached an area where two large trees arched over the creek from both sides. The obstruction dictated that I climb the bank to the shoulder of the highway to bypass the wading blockade, and since I was forty yards above the car, I returned and consumed my lunch.

At noon I resumed my western progression, and I cut down to the creek just above the aforementioned hindering tree branches. I continued to cast the small comparadun with high expectations, but the early afternoon developed into a lull in action. The small gray fly was very difficult to track, and evidence of emerging pale morning duns disappeared prior to my lunch break, so I elected to make a change. Although the air temperature increased to eighty, the sky alternated between high clouds and bright sun in a 50/50 ratio. A slight breeze ruffled the leaves of the trees in the canyon intermittently, and I decided to try a Jake’s glup beetle. The conditions seemed ripe for a plopping terrestrial.

The hunch was spot on, and two small brown trout charged the foam beetle in the first pool that accepted the telltale splash. The beetle was the smallest one in my box, and I suspect that it was a size 12, but tied with a narrower than usual section of foam. Between twelve o’clock and two o’clock I plunked the beetle in all the likely spots, and more times than not a trout rushed to the top and crushed the terrestrial impostor. Needless to say I had a blast. The fish count skied to twenty-four, before I called it quits fifty yards below the point, where the stream that forms Boulder Falls merged with Boulder Creek. All of the afternoon trout were browns except for a lone brook trout that gulped the beetle in the middle of a deep plunge pool.

Thursday was a fun day on Boulder Creek. True, the largest fish barely reached eleven inches, but I was challenged to uncover the correct fly, and ultimately it became a game of reading the water and executing short drag free drifts to likely holding spots away from the rapidly rushing current. The sun was high in the sky and the thermometer soared, but I was content to wade wet in the clear cold rushing waters among huge boulders, while I netted an abundant quantity of wild trout. I have the disease.

Fish Landed: 24

Clear Creek – 08/01/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Above first bridge after Tunnel One

Clear Creek 08/01/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

In a situation similar to Monday, an afternoon appointment precluded me from taking a long day trip to fly fish on Wednesday, August 1. I enjoyed a productive two hours on Clear Creek on Monday, so I decided to test the local stream once again. I departed my house in Denver at 9:15AM and arrived at the same parking space that served my needs on Monday at 9:50AM. I hustled to pull on my waders, assembled my Orvis Access four weight and zipped through my elbow exercises; and this hasty preparation enabled me to drop a fly on the creek a bit after ten o’clock.

The sky was overcast and the air temperature was refreshingly cool, as I began my quest for trout on Clear Creek. I began my day just above the first bridge after Tunnel 1 and directly below the parked Santa Fe. A hippy stomper was productive on Monday, so I knotted one with a red body to my line and dropped a cast in a nice deep hole along the bank and in front of a collection of dead tree branches. On the very first drift a small brown trout darted to the surface and unabashedly engulfed the hippy stomper. Needless to say my optimism soared with this instant dose of success.

I continued on my way westward; however, the early prosperity soon waned, and refusals took center stage. The section of the creek that I occupied was narrow and fast, but it featured numerous quality shelf pools on both sides of the stream, and I was certain that my offerings were ignored by hungry fish. I concluded that the red body was repelling the Clear Creek trout rather than attracting them, so I swapped the top fly for a hippy stomper with a peacock dubbed body. On Monday the combination of the peacock stomper and an ultra zug bug delivered my best action, so I followed suit and added an iridescent zug bug on a 2.5 foot dropper.

Over the next hour I covered a significant amount of stream real estate, and the rapid movement enabled me to boost the fish counter to five. Two of the first five trout crushed the hippy stomper, and three nipped the ultra zug bug. My watch registered noon, as I netted number five, and I was pleased to have moderate success, yet I felt that better results were attainable. I cycled through a series of fly changes in an effort to boost my catch rate, but my goal was never reached.

I removed the hippy stomper and ultra zug bug and plopped a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle¬† through four promising pools and pockets, but only a pair of refusals developed. I added the ultra zug bug to the beetle in an attempt to cover surface and subsurface feeders, but the beadhead addition had no effect. Again I removed the two flies and knotted a medium olive size 14 stimulator to my line, and this move provoked only a couple wary looks. I recalled previous Clear Creek expeditions, when a parachute hopper duped the residents, so I tied a size 10 version with a light gray poly body to my line and combined it with the ultra zug bug. The large hopper pattern looked great, as it bobbed through the deep runs and riffles, but the selective cold water inhabitants of Clear Creek simply refused it with some splashy misdirected rises.

Finally I considered a three fly dry/dropper approach. Many times I defaulted to this mainstay method, and it rescued my day. I plucked a yellow fat Albert from my fly box and added the ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear and spent the final forty-five minutes prospecting all the likely fish holding lies. I theorized that the weight of the two beadheads and the extra length of tippet associated with the second dropper would enable my offerings to get deeper and in front of more trout.

Alas the strategy did not pan out that way, although a brown trout surfaced and crushed the fat Albert. When I inspected it in my net, I was pleased to learn that it was the best fish of the day and measured at twelve inches. A seventh brown trout grabbed one of the trailing nymphs at 12:45, and I began a steep rocky ascent to the road at 1PM. When I ambled back to the car along the shoulder of US 6, I was amazed at the distance I covered in three hours.

It was fun to take advantage of some delightful summer weather on Wednesday, but I was somewhat disappointed by my results. The catch rate lagged Monday, and I never uncovered a fly combination that delivered consistent success. Seven fish landed in three hours is a fairly average catch rate for this fly fisherman. I suspect that I will rest Clear Creek for a bit and explore other Colorado streams over the next couple weeks.

Fish Landed: 7

Dream Lake/Lake Haiyaha – 07/31/2018

Time: 7:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Dream Lake and Lake Haiyaha

Dream Lake 07/31/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

Sometimes it is not all about the numbers. That is the lesson I learned today, July 31, 2018. I exchanged text messages last week with my friend, Trevor, and we arranged to make a summer foray into Rocky Mountain National Park in a quest for greenback cutthroat trout. Trevor is an avid fan of high mountain lakes within the popular Colorado national park, and I planned to tag along in an effort to improve my stillwater fly fishing knowledge.

During the last five years Trevor invested many hours on treks to high country lakes, and he suggested that we start very early on Tuesday. Rocky Mountain National Park is the third most visited national park in the United States, and Trevor knew that the only way to procure a parking space at the trailhead was to be there very early. Our preferred plan had us parking at the Glacier Gorge parking lot, and that positioned us for a three mile one way hike to The Loch. As a backup Trevor proposed parking at Bear Lake, and this alternative put us in line for a .75 mile hike to Dream Lake followed by another 1 mile trek to Lake Haiyaha.

We arrived at Glacier Gorge at 6:30AM, and I was shocked to learn that the small parking area was full. Who were these tourists that woke up before dark to snag parking spaces in Rocky Mountain National Park? Plan B immediately advanced from backup to our main destination. A short drive from Glacier Gorge delivered us to the Bear Lake parking lot, where we easily found an angled space, since only 25% of the capacity was used at our arrival time.

We quickly grabbed our gear and departed on the trail to Dream Lake. Again I was amazed to learn that we did not have the trail to ourselves, as avid hikers and backpackers joined us. By 7AM we arrived at Dream Lake, and Trevor led me to a spot on the eastern side of the lake that contained several very large rocks. Trevor was rigged and ready to cast, so he began his day, while I pulled my gear from my backpack and rigged my fly rod. After ten minutes I was outfitted and anxious to join Trevor in pursuit of wild greenback cutthroat trout.

Trevor advised that the strategy for hooking high country trout was to pause and observe. Spotting fish was essential to achieve any level of success. Once a fish was sighted, the next challenge was to anticipate the direction of fish. According to Trevor most of the cutthroats tended to cruise in a circle, but the size and direction of the circle varied from trout to trout.

I applied my lesson to the task at hand and spotted two fish, as they cruised along the edge of the rocky shelf fifty feet from my perch on top of the large boulder. I was about to launch a cast ahead of one of the traveling trout, when Trevor announced that he had one, so I made a quick detour and snapped a few photos of his first catch of the day. When I returned to my previous position, I carefully slid down the steep rocky contour and began casting to the vicinity of observed fish. Trevor informed me that he was using a size 22 comparadun with a tan body, but I elected to begin with a size 24 griffiths gnat.

It took me awhile to improve my ability to anticipate the direction of the moving fish, but eventually I placed some casts several feet in front of some cruisers, but they ignored my tiny midge imitation. During the course of our time on the lakes I learned that dwelling at one spot was counterproductive, as the cutthroats gradually became aware of our presence. This knowledge dictated our pattern for the remainder of the day, as we stayed at one place for no more than ten minutes and then moved on to another spotting location. We moved counterclockwise and crossed the small inlet stream at the north end of the lake and then circled along the less populated eastern edge. We had the side away from the trail to Emerald Lake to ourselves, but the offset to this advantage was the abundance of fallen logs and the close proximity of large evergreen trees that impeded our backcasts.

Trevor demonstrated his advanced experience at this game, as he landed seven or eight nice cutties. Before we crossed the inlet stream, I determined that the griffiths gnat was not in high demand, and following Trevor’s lead I knotted a size 22 CDC blue winged olive to my line. Finally as we neared the junction with the path that would lead us to Lake Haiyaha, we located several cruisers within reasonable casting distance, and under Trevor’s direction I placed a cast ahead of one of the targets. The scene that unfolded was surreal, as a greenback patiently elevated until its nose was against my CDC olive, and then it subtly sucked in the fake fly. I held my breath for a split second and then set and found myself attached to a brightly colored wild twelve inch greenback cutthroat. I scooped it in my net and snapped a few photos and then carefully removed the tiny mayfly imitation. I achieved my goal of landing a high country greenback from a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I was very excited.

We continued a short distance, and then we met the intersection with the trail to Lake Haiyaha. I stashed my frontpack and fishing backpack in my large backpack, and we engaged in the one mile climb to the next high country lake. Fewer hikers joined us on this extended hike, but I was once again surprised by the number of adventurous tourists that preceded us to Lake Haiyaha. Trevor made one prior trip to the larger and higher lake, and thus his familiarity with the conditions and approach was minimal.

The most obvious characteristic of Lake Haiyaha was the abundace of huge jagged boulders that bordered the shoreline in the first area that we encountered. Hikers were perched on many of the hard rocky retreats; and they sipped water, ate snacks and basked in the sun before undertaking their return hike. Trevor and I meanwhile went into scramble mode in order to reach the edge of the water away from the non-fishing spectators. This endeavor was quite a challenge, as many rocks were too high to climb, and in some cases the steep edges prevented an easy dismount. Furthermore some areas contained water of varying depths between the boulders, and we avoided wading deep in the uncharted waters.

Eventually we arrived at the edge of a deep inlet that circled a huge exposed rock, and Trevor spotted a couple cruising fish. According to his research Lake Haiyaha contained Yellowstone cutthroats, so we were very excited to observe a species that is quite rare in Colorado. He managed a couple casts to the sighted cruiser with no success, and then the moving trout migrated in my direction. My heart pounded, as it came into view, and I managed three decent casts that landed two feet ahead of the cruising fish, but in each case it swam underneath and paid my offering no attention. I judged from the speed of the trout, that it was not primarily in feeding mode.

We continued our mad scramble in a clockwise direction until we attained a high vantage point where we could scan the lake for cruisers or rises. Quite a few rings appeared on a regular basis, but of course they were in the center of the lake much beyond our casting skills. The water close to us was quite deep and murky. The cloudiness hindered our ability to sight fish, as we could only peer into the water for four feet at most.

Finally we reversed our direction and cut on a diagonal to an area near our arrival point, but the task of negotiating the large randomly spaced jagged rocks was even more daunting than our first bouldering experience. We managed to arrive at a point where a web of canals and moats enveloped a rock garden of boulders, and we observed a bit for rises, but seeing none we decided to cut our losses and return to Dream Lake. Landing a Yellowstone cutthroat from Lake Haiyaha remains a future goal for both of us.

We quickly tramped back down the trail, and when the path traversed a high steep hill above the area of Dream Lake just above the outlet, Trevor spotted several nice cutthroats. We carefully slid down the pine needle embankment, and Trevor expertly landed a pair of very nice greenbacks. I positioned myself twenty yards above him, but I never spotted trout within casting distance. If you cannot see them, you cannot catch them.

Once again we resumed our descent to the parking lot, but one more opportunity remained for me to add to my fish count. A large pool appeared next to the trail fifty yards below the outlet from the lake, and this small annex of Dream Lake contained an abundance of cutthroats. Four or five were hanging in the current, where the small stream entered the pool, and I generated several looks from these fish, but they refused to close the deal. Next I tossed my CDC tuft to a spot, where the current slowed and fanned out, and after the speck rested for thirty seconds, a cutty slowly finned under the fly and inhaled it. Much to my astonishment I landed my second jewel on the day. Another round of photos ensued, and then I released the gem back to its natural environment.

Playing the hooked cutthroat scattered the other nearby fish, so I shifted my focus to some visible fish in the center of the pool. These circling targets nosed my fly a few times, but they were too educated to entice. I turned my attention back to the area at the end of the current, and I noticed a nice trout that slowly moved next to some tall grass four feet away from my position. I paused and watched, as the feeding cruiser changed direction and swam to a small indentation just beyond the tall grass. My fly rod was longer than the distance to the trout, so I reached it out beyond the grass clump and slowly lowered the fly to the surface of the pond two feet beyond the grass. I held my breath, and the target trout very confidently drifted under my fly and sipped it in. I could not believe my eyes and good fortune. I executed a solid controlled hook set, and after a brief battle I had my third greenback cutthroat in my net.

Trevor landed a pair of beauties in the same area, and he announced we needed to be on our way. I hooked my fly in the rod guide and reeled up my line, and twenty minutes later we found ourselves in the congested Bear Lake parking lot. People were everywhere, and I was certain that I had been transported to Disney World.

Wow! What a day. I landed three greenback cutthroats from Dream Lake, but more importantly Trevor taught me the basics of stillwater fly fishing at high elevation. Catching trout at Dream Lake is a game of stalking, observing, anticipating and casting. We discussed future trips, and tentatively scheduled a return to The Loch in September, when the crowds thin and parking at Glacier Gorge becomes a possibility.

Fish Landed: 3

Clear Creek – 07/30/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Downstream from first bridge after Tunnel 1

Clear Creek 07/30/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

With only a few hours to fish on Monday as a result of a physical therapy appointment at 2:45PM, I decided to make the short drive to Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO. I was apprehensive regarding my choice after a mixed bag of success and failure during my most recent trips to the narrow canyon along US 6.

Monday’s projected high in Denver was 77 degrees, and when I arrived next to the tumbling stream, the sky was overcast, and the air was cool, especially compared to the hot weather that settled over Colorado in early July. It was actually quite refreshing, and I appreciated the cool breeze, as I donned my waders and set up my Orvis Access four weight rod. The flows were also very reasonable at 81 CFS. This level enabled comfortable conditions for wading, yet was elevated enough to protect the trout from high summer temperatures.

I parked just west of the first bridge after passing through Tunnel 1, and I shared the pullout with three vehicles that transported rock climbers to the high vertical wall on the south side of the creek. I crossed the highway carefully and hiked along the south bank for three hundred yards, and at that point I carefully picked my way through some rocks and vines, until I was at the edge of the stream.

I rigged my rod with a Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear nymph and prince nymph and began to probe the likely fish holding locations with the dry/dropper method. After ten minutes of fruitless prospecting, I became disillusioned with the prince nymph and replaced it with an ultra zug bug. The change paid dividends, when I hooked and landed a small brown trout, and then in a deep pocket in the middle of the trough-like streambed, a very nice cutbow latched on to the ultra zug bug. The pretty fish displayed the stripe of a rainbow and the jaw slashes of a cutthroat. I was pleased to net a trout that deviated from the standard Clear Creek brown trout.

I continued onward and experienced a few refusals, and I decided to follow my normal response by downsizing. I replaced the Chernobyl ant with a peacock-body hippy stomper, and with this lineup on my line I upped the fish counter to five, as two browns slammed the hippy stomper and another snatched the ultra zug bug.

My success rate was satisfactory, but I became disenchanted with the tendency of the hippy stomper to sink. I concluded that the two size 16 beadheads were two heavy for the thin foam construction of the hippy stomper, so I reconfigured with only the ultra zug bug as a dropper on a two foot leader. This arrangement quickly evolved into my most successful offering, and I methodically covered the stream until I arrived thirty yards downstream of the bridge. I incremented the fish tally from five to eleven during this period, and the trout split their vote evenly between the hippy stomper and ultra zug bug.

With fifteen minutes remaining several decent fish refused the hippy stomper, so I decided to experiment with a different terrestrial. I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and finished my foray on Clear Creek by plunking the foam terrestrial in likely spots. The move was futile, and several trout expressed their disapproval of my fly choice by rising to inspect and then dropping back to the stream bottom. I glanced at my watch and noted that one o’clock arrived, so I returned to the car, and eventually made the drive back to Stapleton.

I was quite pleased to register an eleven fish day in two hours of fishing on Clear Creek. Once I settled on the hippy stomper/ultra zug bug combination, I enjoyed an extended hot streak. My success rate waned, however, as I approached the bridge; and I theorized that the area near the bridge and highway suffered from more intense pressure. The fish were small, but I cannot complain given the forty minute drive.

Fish Landed: 11

Big Thompson River – 07/26/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Big Thompson Canyon below Lake Estes

Big Thompson River 07/26/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

With an off day between physical therapy appointments I decided to take advantage with a day of fly fishing. I noted that the flows on the Big Thompson River below Lake Estes dropped to the 125 CFS range, and from past experience I recognized that this level translated to manageable albeit higher than ideal wading. I packed my gear and arrived along the river by 10:15AM, and after I jumped in my waders and strung my Orvis Access four weight, I was in the water ready to cast. I added four sets of stretches for my ailing elbow to my already lengthy preparatory routine.

The air temperature was in the sixties, when I began my quest for Big Thompson trout, and the high temperature peaked in the upper seventies. The stream was indeed clipping along at 125 CFS, and it carried a slight bit of turbidity, but I judged the clarity adequate for fly fishing. I also noticed rather large clumps of ice particles, and this provided evidence of a fairly intense hail storm, but I had no knowledge of the timing. I surmised that a storm generated the ice balls and clouded the water overnight.

I began my fly fishing adventure on Thursday with a size 14 parachute green drake. A bit of research on my blog and fishing reports revealed that I experienced a small amount of success with green drakes on the Big Thompson River in July, although the encounters were documented at earlier dates. I observed no other insect activity and assumed that the trout had long memories, when green drakes were involved.

The green drake hunch paid dividends, when a ten inch brown trout surfaced and nabbed the low floating dry fly on the fifth cast of the day. I was guardedly optimistic at this point, although I would discover that more effort was required for future success. I continued on with my upstream movement and landed a nine inch rainbow in a wide riffle close to the bridge below my parking space. Instead of passing under the bridge, I ascended the steep bank and walked along highway 34 and then dropped back down to the stream on the western side of the overpass.

The river at this point narrowed, and the targets of my casts were deeper and generally faster. I questioned whether the solitary green drake was the best approach in this type of water, so I converted to a tan pool toy, prince nymph and salvation nymph. I chose the prince and salvation in case green drake and pale morning dun nymphs commanded the attention of the local trout. The three fly dry/dropper set up enabled me to fish deeper, and my focus intensified with the change in approach, but I failed to attract interest during the forty-five minute period, before I paused for lunch.

Since I was directly below the Santa Fe, I climbed the bank and tailgated for lunch. I used the stop at the car to stock two additional longer prince nymphs in my fleece wallet, and one of them took a position on my line in the first fifteen minutes of the afternoon. I sought a longer nymph more in line with the size of a western green drake. The thought process was sound, but the trout failed to affirm my logic.

Green drakes typically hatch in the afternoon in Colorado, and the parachute version accounted for my only landed fish, so I reverted to the same size 14 green drake imitation, that served me well during the first hour of fishing. I flicked the large dry fly to likely fish holding lies and bumped the fish count to four, before I approached a long pool that contained a deep entry run, that sliced the slow moving section in half. The tail of the pool widened, and an assortment of relatively shallow pockets spanned across the river, before the current funneled through a large narrow whitewater chute.

I began spraying short downstream casts to the staggered pockets, and much to my surprise trout rose and chomped the green drake. Most of my casts were downstream, and I added two additional netted fish to the count, although I also experienced three momentary connections. This section and time period represented the fastest action on July 26.

Eventually I exhausted all the small pockets and turned my attention to the gorgeous shelf pools on either side of the deep center current, but surprisingly the trout did not react to my green drake in the attractive area. A short section of additional pocket water above the pool yielded two additional trout, and my confidence in the parachute fly surged once again.

I was about to prospect some deeper runs and pools, when a dark cloud drifted overhead, and the sky darkened considerably. In an effort to anticipate a rain shower, I undertook the process of putting on my raincoat. I was about to resume casting, when a relatively loud thunderclap caused me to reevaluate. Good sense prevailed, and I crossed the river and bashed through some brush and returned to the car. I opened the hatchback and sat on the rear mat just as some large raindrops splattered on the pavement. One minute after I perched on the rear of the car, the rain accelerated and descended in sheets for eight minutes before the sun reappeared.

Blue sky to the west was my sign to resume, so I ambled back along the shoulder of the road and assumed the position that I recently vacated. I peppered the area above me with fluttering casts of the drake, and in two instances I observed a trout, as it finned toward the fly and then dropped back to its resting place after a rude rejection of my offering. This shunning behavior caused me to experiment with three alternative flies in the form of a Jake’s gulp beetle, size 18 black parachute ant, and a size 16 gray deer hair caddis. The beetle prompted a refusal, and the other pair of trial flies failed to exact any form of reaction.

I checked my watch and noted that the time was after 3PM. The non-existent action convinced me to call it quits, and I strode back to the car and stashed my gear. Thursday was a slow day on the Big Thompson River. Eight fish landed in four hours represented an average catch rate, and the largest fish may have stretched to eleven inches. The flows were on the high side, and this circumstance reduced the number of possible fish holding locations. All the trout rose to the parachute green drake, and this occurred even though I never witnessed a single green drake natural. I did discover that many fish patrolled relatively shallow pockets, and these stream residents seemed the most willing surface feeders. In retrospect, I probably should have sought more stretches that presented a similar water type.

Fish Landed: 8

Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 07/24/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Camp Dick Campground

Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek 07/24/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

A mild case of tennis elbow persisted since after my guided float trip on the Bow River in August 2017, but the discomfort escalated after two fishing outings on July 16 and 17. A dull ache on the top of my elbow expanded to a pinching sensation coupled with an increased burn on the bone on the underside of my right elbow. After my last fishing outing on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek on July 17 I decided to rest my casting arm for a week.

On Wednesday July 18 Jane and I completed a hike along the Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek, and I was intrigued by the rushing mountain stream that paralled the hiking trail. I resolved to return with a fly rod in hand in a reasonable period of time. I began a program of icing my elbow on a daily basis, and I made an appointment with my primary care physician. The rest and icing calmed down the elbow discomfort, and my primary care physician wrote a referral to my favorite physical therapy clinic.

Tuesday July 24 represented the one week anniversary of my last fishing trip, so I decided to test the arm before my scheduled physical therapy appointment on Wednesday. I made the relatively short drive to Camp Dick Campground and parked in the western trailhead lot. I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight and tramped along the Middle St. Vrain Trail for twenty minutes, before I veered to the left and bashed through dead limbs and bushes, until I intersected with the tumbling Middle Fork.

The air temperature was 71 degrees when I began, and during my time on the water it never peaked higher than 75. A very brief rainstorm passed by in the early afternoon, and the intermittent cloud cover prevented the strong rays of the sun from overheating the Rocky Mountains in my chosen fishing location. I had no basis for comparison, but the stream seemed to be at near ideal flows.

As this stream was brand new to me, I decided to charge in without any knowledge to guide me. The stream was a relatively high gradient section of fast moving water, and I suspect this was true of the entire section from the Peak to Peak Highway and west. The combination of the tight streamside vegetation and the rushing whitewater and large boulders made negotiating my way westward quite a challenge.

During my time on the medium sized creek I landed thirteen small trout. Ten were brook trout in the 7 – 8 inch size range and the other three were brown trout. Two browns measured out at nine inches and one lunker by Middle Fork standards stretched the tape to twelve inches.

I began my fly fishing adventure with a gray stimulator, and this bushy attractor accounted for the first five fish, all brook trout. I sensed that perhaps larger fish were lurking beneath the surface, and perhaps they were more interested in nymphs and pupa, so I converted to a dry/dropper approach that consisted of a size 14 hippy stomper with a peacock dubbed body and a beadhead pheasant tail on a short two foot dropper. The hippy stomper attracted two trout to surface for a bite, and the beadhead pheasant tail delivered the best fish of the day to my net; a twelve inch brown trout. All three of these trout arrived at my net from a gorgeous pool; one of the few quality fish holding lies that I encountered.

The brook trout clobbered the hippy stomper near the tail of the pool, and I was beginning to doubt the efficacy of the pheasant tail. I flicked the two fly combination upstream five feet in front of an exposed boulder in the center of the pool, and suddenly the hippy stomper took an obvious dive. I immediately reacted with a solid hook set, and the bend in the four weight signaled, that the fish frantically attempting escape maneuvers was larger than the heretofore diminutive brook trout. I guided the thrashing trout away from a branch and scooped it into my net, and my enthusiasm for the Middle St. Vrain suddenly skied to new levels.

Unfortunately as I progressed upstream, the action waned. I covered quite a distance with no fish encounters, and I attributed the disappointing circumstance to the lack of quality fish holding locations. The creek was simply a cascade of whitewater, and the effort to move from one marginal target spot to the next was excessive. By noon I found a nice round wide rock in a clearing used by disbursed campers, and I rested my arm, while I munched my sandwich. I pondered the fast stream and my morning results and concluded that I would try a size 12 Chernobyl ant and a salvation nymph dropper. The larger foam top fly would not require frequent squeezing and drying, and it could support the larger beadhead nymph, which I surmised might be more visible to the trout in the tumbling oxygenated environment.

The move paid off somewhat, as I added three additional small brook trout to the fish tally. All of the early afternoon netted fish nabbed the Chernobly on the surface, and all were brook trout in the seven inch range. During this time period some dark clouds developed to the east, and I was certain that I dodged the storm, until a deafening thunderclap ricocheted off the surrounding mountains. I nearly jumped out of the water, as I reacted to the startling natural crash.

Another lull in action caused me to once again pause and reexamine my approach. In previous situations in high gradient mountain settings I utilized a three fly dry/dropper with success. Two droppers provided additional weight, and I theorized that reaching greater depth in the plunge pools might yield more fish. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line to support two beadheads, and then I added an ultra zug bug and a pheasant tail. Once again the change reversed my fortunes, and I registered three more catches including another brown trout that chomped the ultra zug bug, but then I once again endured a slump.

Another dark cloud hovered overhead and a few large raindrops spurred me to extract and pull on my raincoat slightly in advance of a brief heavy deluge. The rain only lasted for five minutes, and I continued my upstream migration with the dry/dropper method. Alas I plateaued at thirteen trout for the day, and the number of attractive fish holding lies shrank, as the gradient of the stream surged even beyond the section that I already covered. Fatigue dominated my thoughts, and the sun reappeared to create a steamy environment, and I faced a thirty minute hike back to the parking lot. I reeled up my flies and called it a day.

Thirteen trout was a reasonable total for four hours on a small mountain stream, yet I was undeniably disappointed. I was quite excited, when I discovered the clear tumbling branch of the St. Vrain on July 18, and I was certain that it received low pressure and would reward the diligent fisherman willing to hike away from the trailhead. I crashed through deadfalls and brush and scrambled over boulders and fallen trees, and I was convinced that the extra effort would be rewarded with a large quantity of unsophisticated albeit small trout. In reality the extra effort did not justify the results. As anticipated the fish were small, but fish density was low thus requiring abnormal effort to cover a significant amount of water in challenging wading conditions. I am unlikely to return in the near future.

Fish Landed: 13

Cache la Poudre River – 07/20/2018

Time: 9:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Pingree Park area

Cache la Poudre River 07/20/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

Several months ago I exchanged emails with a friend, who I worked with at Air Products and Chemicals. His name is Dan, and he retired from another company 1.5 years ago, and he and his wife Sandi planned a trip to Colorado and Wyoming for the third week of July. He expressed an interest in fly fishing, and I readily agreed to accompany him and serve as his guide for a day.

On Friday, July 20 that day arrived. I drove to the Elizabeth Hotel in Ft. Collins and picked Dan up by 8:15 on Friday morning. Dan purchased his fishing license on line, and he picked up his rental waders and boots at St. Peter’s Fly Shop upon his arrival on Thursday. We hit the road and drove west in the Cache la Poudre Canyon to the Pingree Park special regulation section. By 9:30 AM the air temperature in the canyon was 80 degrees, and the sun’s intensity never abated during our time on the water. The river level was decent but down considerably from what I experienced during my recent visit on Monday, July 16.

Dan logged only a few days of previous fly fishing, so we spent a few minutes in the parking lot, as he demonstrated his casting proficiency. Eventually I judged that his casts, although fairly rudimentary, would enable him to place a dry fly within reach of the Cache la Poudre trout. We found a rough and somewhat steep path to the river, and I positioned Dan downstream of some relatively attractive runs and pockets along the right bank. During the first hour we focused on casting and line management, and for this endeavor I tied an elk hair caddis and gray stimulator to his line. A small trout refused the caddis, and later another stream inhabitant demonstrated a splashy rejection of the stimulator.

After an hour of futile casting and movement, I decided to test a foam dry fly, and I plucked a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle from my box. I surmised that the foam surface fly would require minimal false casting, and it would float high and be easily visible. My assumption was correct, but the fish did not seem interested in the normally desirable beetle imitation. Despite our inability to hook and land a fish, Dan was improving his casting and line management skills.

By noon we approached a section of the river where the stream bed narrowed, and this created much deeper and faster stream conditions. Dan’s wading boots possessed vibram rubber soles with no cleats, and even with the crude wading stick that I loaned him, he was struggling to gain footing on the large slippery rocks of the Poudre. I decided to move to water more conducive to an untested wader, so we returned to the car and advanced west beyond the next bridge to a wide pullout next to a gap in the fence.

I pulled out the soft sided cooler bag and two stools, and we found a shady spot under some pine trees next to the highway to consume our lunches. We chatted for an hour and caught up on our lives and enjoyed the beauty of our surroundings. Fly fishing is fun, and catching fish is the goal, but renewing friendships in the grand theater of the Rocky Mountains was really the ultimate purpose of our day on Friday.

After lunch we crossed a meadow area and approached the stream. After a bit of walking, I surveyed the river and settled on a section at the head of a long wide riffle. The narrow stream bed created some nice deep pockets along the left bank, and I set Dan up with a tan pool toy and a beadhead pheasant tail dropper. He began prospecting the dry/dropper combination, and he used the friction of the downstream dangling flies to load the rod tip, before he executed sling shot casts upstream. In addition to the pheasant tail we cycled through a prince nymph, salvation nymph and ultra zug bug. While Dan did not hook or land a fish during the afternoon, I feel certain that he experienced temporary hook ups with two trout, but his hook set was a bit slow. Guiding Dan made me realize how much my eye is trained to follow a fly and react to slight and many times imperceptible changes in the drift of the indicator fly. Fly fishing requires commitment and many hours of practice to develop even basic proficiency.

By 3PM the sun was high above and sending its intense rays down upon the water and two weary fishermen. We had dinner reservations at a restaurant in Ft. Collins for 6:15, so we called it a day and made the spectacular drive through the canyon back to the hotel. For dinner we were joined by Dan’s wife Sandi and my wife Jane along with mutual friends, Debbie and Lonnie Maddox. The Maddox’s chose the Blue Agave as our dining establishment, and the choice was perfect, as we feasted on chips and salsa and modern Mexican fare.

 

South Boulder Creek – 07/12/2018

Time: 6:30PM – 9:00PM

Location: Below Gross Dam in the area of the pedestrian bridge on the Walker Loop Trail.

South Boulder Creek 07/12/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

Thursday was intended to be a day of rest after three straight outings on my recent camping and fishing trip. Imagine my surprise, when I checked my phone and noticed a text message from my son, Dan. He planned an after work visit to South Boulder Creek and asked, if I was interested in joining. Opportunities to fish with Dan are rare, as he is engaged to be married, in the early stages of a career, and the proud owner of a new puppy dog. Fatigue, aches and rest suddenly became secondary considerations, and I quickly agreed to join Dan at the kayak parking lot at 6PM. Of course I also took a peek at the stream flows on South Boulder Creek, and I was pleased to see that they were steady at 151 CFS for the last four days. 151 CFS is higher than I prefer, but I knew from past experience that it was manageable.

I arrived fifteen minutes early at the parking lot that already contained five other vehicles. I got a jump on preparation and donned my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, while I waited for Dan’s arrival. A bit past 6PM he appeared with two Snarf’s submarine sandwiches in his possession. We made quick work of the Italian sandwiches, and then we descended the steep trail to the creek below. At a wide area shortly after encountering the stream, we crossed to take advantage of the easier hiking trail along the opposite shoreline.

Since we only had a few hours of daylight, we decided to allocate more time to fishing and less to hiking, so we began our quest for trout twenty yards below the first pedestrian bridge. Dan initiated his fly fishing adventure with a size 16 stimulator with a dark brown or maroon body. I selected a size 14 gray stimulator from my fly box and tied it to my 5X tippet. I began the evening with some downstream casts to a deep eddy at a large bend in the creek, and Dan meanwhile cast to some very enticing slower moving runs along the bank.

The trout in the eddy below me showed no interest in my attractor fly, but a nice ten inch rainbow attacked Dan’s high floater, and we celebrated his initial success. We spent the first hour familiarizing ourselves with the higher flows, and where the trout were holding. We discovered that the faster runs did not produce, and the fish were concentrated in the slow moving pools along the bank. Within these locations they frequented the seams along faster water and sheltered lies next to large boulders.

After 7:30 we progressed above the pedestrian bridge and cherry picked the spots that conformed to our stream criteria. We were both frustrated by evening glare and our inability to follow our flies, so we independently switched to a Chernobyl ant and trailed a dropper nymph. I chose an emerald caddis pupa, since I observed adult caddis, as they danced along the surface of the water. Dan and I both foul hooked a rainbow trout, when we reacted to a refusal to the Chernboyl and embedded the hook of the trailing nymph in the reluctant feeders.

By 8PM I failed to land a fish, but I was content to give my son first shot at quality spots. I had my fill of fishing success during my recent road trip, and I was genuinely content to enjoy the cool evening, while Dan took advantage of some sorely needed mountain time. I was now above the bridge in an area with numerous huge boulders and below a nice smooth pool. Dan approached from below and executed some nice casts to the lower portion of the run, where the creek swirled around several large exposed boulders. I suspected that the fish in this area inhabited the narrow lanes, where the current passed between the three large boulders, so I lobbed the dry/dropper to the current seam above rock number two. I could barely see the chartreuse indicator on the foam ant, and then it disappeared in a bulge, and I raised my arm and felt a connection to a nice eleven inch rainbow. Although I was content to be an observer, I must admit I was surprised and pleased to notch a fish on the scoreboard.

As darkness slowly descended, Dan and I migrated to the tail of the long and popular pool a bit upstream. Other anglers vacated the popular spot, so I assumed a position near the tail. A jumble of long logs angled across the stream bed to create the lower pool, and just above them a huge area of foam suspended between the logs and the bank. I paused to observe, and I was pleasantly surprised to note three subtle rises just above the foam. One exposed boulder was positioned fifteen feet above the foam patch, and suddenly another rise appeared five feet below it. I followed the path of the feeding fish, and noticed a very respectable rainbow, as it settled back along the sandy bottom.

The Chernboyl and caddis pupa were still on my line, so I delivered five drifts over the upper fish below the rock, but the target displayed no evidence of interest in the Chernobyl or pupa. I elected to reconfigure to a dry fly, but before doing so, I caught Dan’s attention and invited him to join me. Upon his arrival, I pointed out the rising fish, and he began the task of converting to a single caddis as well. Just enough light remained to allow me to thread the leader through the eye of a small size 18 caddis adult, and I was finally in a position to cast, while Dan continued his conversion.

The scene that ensued was an example of why I love fly fishing. I made three downstream drifts toward the fringe of the foam patch, where I observed several rises earlier. I was having difficulty locating the small tuft of deer hair in the waning light, but on the third cast I picked it up quite clearly. I checked my fourth cast high and the deer hair caddis fluttered down in the subtle current seam above the foam, and a foot above the white blanket of bubbles a mouth appeared and gulped down my impostor. Dan saw the entire episode develop, and I quickly lifted my arm and connected with an eleven inch cutbow. The South Boulder Creek gem displayed a brilliant crimson cheek and a pink-red stripe, and it was truly a jewel in the wild.

I released my prize, and Dan was now prepared to prospect the area of rising fish with his caddis. He demonstrated some excellent casts and drifts and extracted two aggressive surface feeders from the area. The trout were quite diminutive, but he was nonetheless pleased to earn a level of success, as darkness rapidly descended. We expected to quit at 8:30, but 9PM found us returning on the path to cross at the wide section, and then we warmed ourselves with a steady ascent of the steep path to the parking lot.

Dan and I both enjoyed 2.5 hours of evening fishing on Thursday, and a couple wild trout were icing on the cake. A ninety degree day transformed into a pleasant cool evening, and we both gained insight on fishing South Boulder Creek at elevated flows. Best of all I spent a few precious hours with my son, and I always treasure such an occasion.

Fish Landed: 2