Category Archives: Fishing Reports

Fishing Reports

Bear Creek – 03/03/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 1:15PM

Location: Lair O’ the Bear Park

Bear Creek 03/03/2021 Photo Album

With mild temperatures forecast for Wednesday, March 3, I could not contain my urge to visit a local stream for my first fishing outing of 2021. My initial plan incorporated a trip to the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, but when I checked the stream flows, I was disappointed to discover a reading of .66 CFS. Apparently the work on Buttonrock Dam was still in progress. I quickly refocused my search and settled on Bear Creek and the South Platte River near Deckers. Ultimately I selected Bear Creek, because it was a shorter drive, and I was reluctant to travel the extra time to Deckers for an early season trip.

Typical Open Water on Bear Creek

I arrived at the Lair O’ the Bear Park lot by 10:45, and I was armed with my Sage four weight and ready to cast by 11:00AM. I was disappointed to learn that much of the creek was covered in ice and snow, but I gambled that I could entice a fish or two to my flies from the intermittent open sections. I began my quest for fish number one of 2021 with a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2. On the second cast one of the nymphs hung up on the stream bottom, so I gave the rod a quick upward flick. The flies immediately came free, but the catapulting action of the the lift and bent rod sent all the flies to a dead branch above and behind me. I attempted to unwrap the flies, but it was a futile effort at retrieval, and I broke off three flies after only two casts in the new season. It was an ominous start to 2021.

Nice Spot

I found a nice rock and sat down, while I reconfigured my line. For some reason I replaced the fat Albert with a size 10 Chernboyl ant, but I replaced the hares ear and RS2 with different versions of the same flies. I began moving along looking for openings in the ice and snow that enabled decent drifts, but I was unable to attract the attention of any resident trout. My mind began to wander to thoughts of moving to the South Platte River above Chatfield Reservoir, as I knew that section of the river would be ice free.

Scene of My One Landed Trout

After hopscotching through five holes I encountered another fisherman, so I circled around him and followed the trail to a spot above a foot bridge. I resumed the practice of fishing the open areas, until I encountered a nice deep run with an overhanging ice shelf along the left side. I executed ten casts, and then I spotted a couple decent trout as they darted from beneath the ice shelf. One seemed to stop three feet out from the shelf, but I was unable to spot it in the greenish brown bottom.

Orange Scud Was a Winner

The sight of several fish spiked my focus, and I decided to swap the RS2 for an orange scud. I surmised that perhaps the bright orange color would imitate eggs or at the very least stand out compared to the drab brown and olive background. On the third cast with the orange scud the Chernobyl ant displayed a subtle pause, and I lifted the rod to sense a connection with a thrashing twelve inch rainbow trout. I had already chalked Wednesday up to an exploratory skunking, so imagine my delight when I netted the prize rainbow! I recorded a video and snapped a few photos to document my first fish of 2021 and continued my progress upstream.

Vibrant Colors on Display

Shortly after my success story I approached another nice open deep spot where the current reflected off the left bank. I flicked a cast to the top of the run, and just as it drifted to the lip of the hole, a trout darted to the surface to inhale the Chernobyl ant. In spite of my state of shock over a dry fly rise early in the season, I managed to set the hook, and I was momentarily connected to a trout. Alas, the joy of hooking a second fish did not persist, as the trout quickly shed the hook and disappeared into the depths.

Momentary Hook Up Along the Ice Shelf on the Left

After my two connections I proceeded in a westerly direction, but it wasn’t long before the stream narrowed between steep banks, and this condition prevented the warming rays of the sun from melting the snow and ice covering. The open holes that provided periodic fishing opportunities were nonexistent. I called it quits on Bear Creek and hiked back to the car, where I ate my lunch and then departed for the South Platte River above Chatfield Reservoir.

Fish Landed: 1

2020 Top Ten – 12/31/2020

2020 was an eventful year. It began with a pandemic and progressed through racial tensions and political turmoil. Here in Colorado we endured drought and devastating wildfires. On a personal level I survived mitral heart valve repair surgery, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter and an ablation procedure. The uncertainties in the early months of the pandemic impacted my ability to fish, and my recovery from surgery further reduced my stream time. The wildfires limited my choice of fishing destinations and the subpar snowpack and drought resulted in very low flows in many of the drainages that I frequent in the latter part of the season. In spite of all these hurdles to the pursuit of my favorite outdoor activity, I managed to land 900 trout over the course of the year in spite of reduced fishing hours during the pre runoff time frame. 2020 was a year defined by green drake hatches, dry fly fishing, and the discovery of high mountain cutthroat trout strongholds. Although my fish count trailed previous years, I am convinced that 2020 was one of my best years in terms of optimizing stream time and overcoming adversity. Here are my top ten outings ranked in reverse order.

10. Taylor River – 07/21/2020 – My day on the Taylor represented my best outing on the central Colorado tailwater in quite a few years. I met a decent green drake hatch and used my arsenal of western green drake imitations along with a yellow stimulator to fool twenty-five robust wild trout. I love the setting of the Taylor River, and achieving success only added to my enjoyment.

Yowzer

9. Eagle River – 07/02/2020 – Although thirteen fish is not an eye-catching quantity of fish, the size and quality more than compensated. The flows declined to the 600 CFS range by 07/02/2020, and this enabled very manageable wading, and I took advantage to move up the river at a steady pace with my dry/dropper approach. Hatches of yellow sallies and pale morning duns were brief, but my iron sally and salvation nymph got the job done. Movement and persistence were the keys to success on this fine day in early July.

8. Clear Creek – 08/27/2020 – Clear Creek is not a destination that typically occupies space on this top ten list. I explored a section of Clear Creek that was new to me, and I was quite pleased to discover a pleasant tumbling creek with a surprising quantity of cutthroat trout and cutbow trout. I revere cutthroats, and I was able to land twenty-three vibrant beauties during my time on this small sliver of paradise. A secondary highlight was discovering success with a sunken ant used in a dry/dropper configuration. I will remember this as I visit streams in 2021.

I Need More

7. North Fork of the White River – 09/16/2020 – How could a forty-seven fish day only rank seventh on the 2020 top ten list? This is a testament to the quality of fishing that I experienced during the past year. Yes, forty-seven is a lot of fish, but this was achieved over 6.5 hours of fishing, and quite a few of the catch were small brook trout. But enough of removing the luster from this fine day in the middle of September. I was thrilled with the fast paced action, as I tossed primarily a hippie stomper to all the likely locations and enjoyed tremendous action which included many wild cutbows in the twelve to fourteen inch range.

6. North Fork of the Elk River – 08/04/2020 – The discovery of a new and productive high country destination counts for a lot in my book, and 08/04/2020 was one of those days. Making the introduction even more exciting was encountering an abundant quantity of wild cutthroat trout. I landed twenty-three trout during this spectacular day, and the dominant species was the light green colored cutthroats with vivid black speckles and crimson heads and slashes.

Maybe My Favorite Color Scheme

5. North Fork of the White River – 09/18/2020 – A large, buoyant and easily visible pool toy hopper attracted cutbows of above average size on this day in September. I caught fewer fish than 09/16/2020, but I fished for half the time in order to get an early start to return back to Denver, and the cutbows were brilliantly colored and fought valiantly in the small stream.

4. South Boulder Creek – 08/11/2020 – 08/11/2020 on South Boulder Creek was a dream come true for this avid fly fisherman. My blog posts document my love affair with the western green drake, and my array of green drake imitations served me well. I landed forty-one  trout, and all of them savored a dry fly. The peacock hippie stomper was popular in the morning, but I cycled through my stash of green drake imitations in the afternoon and notched fish at a torrid pace.

Harrop Hair-wing

3. North Fork of the White River – 09/29/2020 – I was admittedly influenced by the gorgeous autumn weather and the golden leaves of fall, as I ranked this day number three in my top ten list. Jane and I returned to the Flattops at the end of September, and I was allotted one day of fly fishing sandwiched between a couple days of hiking. This valuable stream time provided twenty-four trout, and most were spunky cutbows in the twelve to fourteen inch range. I had a blast, and late season returns to the Flattops may become a tradition.

Excellent Specimen

2. Yampa River – 06/17/2020 – This day on the Yampa River coincided with a heavy pale morning dun hatch, yet the trout seemed to ignore the adults on the surface. This circumstance did not stop me from having a stellar outing, as run off subsided in the middle of June. Early success was attributed to the 20 incher and super nova PMD, and the early afternoon featured a seldom used juju emerger pattern, that I tied several years ago. Of the seventeen fish landed at least six fell in the fourteen to sixteen inch range, and they were muscular bruisers. Edge fishing as run off subsides continues to be one of my favorite times of year.

Big Shoulders

1.Colorado River – 07/07/2020 – May I list a guided float trip as my number one outing of 2020? Even though I had the assistance of a guide, I still had to catch the fish. This was my first float trip through the middle section of the Colorado River between Pumphouse and State Bridge, and what a trip it was! The setting was spectacular, and the fishing matched the grandeur of the big river. I landed twenty trout, and quite a few stretched the tape to the eighteen inch mark. We launched early and notched the best day of the year before the afternoon winds forced us off the river.

A Highlight

There you have it, one through ten for 2020. Quite a few additional candidates failed to make the cut, but the exercise is quite subjective on my part. That is always the prerogative of the author and the angler who enjoyed the trips.

 

Big Thompson River – 12/08/2020

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Loveland, CO

Big Thompson River 12/08/2020 Photo Album

Elusive. If you follow my blog, you know that I am on the verge of completing a lifetime first; landing a trout in each month of the calendar year. In 2017 I netted a trout in every month except January. During January 2020 I landed two trout on a mild day near the end of the month and then notched another pair on the first day of February. I salvaged May after heart surgery recovery with a few trout at the end of the month. The final hurdle is December, and some unseasonably mild weather featuring a high temperature in the low sixties encouraged me to make another attempt on Tuesday, December 8.

Initially I selected the North Fork of St. Vrain creek as my destination because of its lower elevation, but the DWR web site displayed flows of 0 CFS. I was unsure whether this was a technical glitch in the gauge or evidence of a dry streambed, so I called the Laughing Grizzly fly shop in Longmont. The young man who answered the phone was very patient and helpful, and he informed me that work was being done on the turbines at Buttonrock Dam, and only a minimal amount of waters was trickling through the canyon to keep the fish population alive. The Laughing Grizzly was asking anglers to refrain from fishing the creek to avoid stressing the trout. I respected his request but then asked what site he would recommend as an alternative. He promptly responded with the Big Thompson River and suggested two sections. I knew the Big T was also registering minimal flows of 14 CFS, and he agreed that the fishing was challenging in the low and clear water, but customers provided reports of decent success. I decided to heed his advice and headed to the Big Thompson River west of Loveland, CO.

On Thin Ice

I arrived at 11:30 and quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod. By the time I was ready to fish, my watch displayed 11:45AM, so I sat in the car and munched my lunch. By noon I began to hike downstream on a narrow path. After .3 mile I arrived at a section with a slow moving current through an area of moderate depth along the northern bank. As I traveled along the river on my downstream hike, I noted many areas with very thin shelf ice.

I pondered my choices for a fly fishing method and settled on indicator nymphing that utilized poly yarn. I pulled out my New Zealand strike indicator tool and attached the poly yarn and then knotted an orange perdigon and classic RS2 to my line. The perdigon contained a tungsten bead, so I chose to forego a split shot. I began working my way upstream and disturbed a twelve inch trout in the first pool. My optimism surged with the sighting of a trout in a never before fished section of the Big Thompson River.

The Ice Shelf Created a Dam

I persisted for the next .2 mile, but landing a December trout remained an elusive goal. In all fairness the circumstances could not have been more challenging, as much of the river was wide, shallow, clear and very slow moving. The light indicator minimized the entry disturbance, but not completely. I sought out the places with faster currents and riffles at the head of pools in order to mask the splash down of my casts, but even that ploy failed to allow success. During this time period I swapped the RS2 for a zebra midge, but the change was not effective.

One of the More Attractive Runs

After .2 mile I arrived at a highway overpass and continued for another short distance. The character of this section was more conducive to trout, as the streambed narrowed and large boulders created nice deep runs and pockets. Unfortunately only three such segments appeared, before I encountered some yellow private property signs. I spotted one more small trout, that I disturbed from a deep hole, and I would have been happy to land it to reach my December trout goal. Since I ran out of public real estate by 2:15PM, I decided to drive back downstream for a couple miles to a stretch near my friend Lonnie’s house.

When I arrived on the south side of the river beyond a bridge, I parked and then hiked on a dirt trail that followed the river to a fence with a no trespassing sign. At this point I veered to the right for a short distance and intersected with the river. For the last half hour of the day on Tuesday I migrated upstream with the perdigon and zebra midge and prospected likely spots, but once again the fly fishing gods thwarted my efforts to land a December trout. After three hours of fishing my December trout remained elusive. Weather will dictate whether I enjoy additional opportunities to achieve my 2020 goal of a trout in each month of the year.

Fish Landed: 0

Boulder Creek – 12/06/2020

Time: 1:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 12/06/2020 Photo Album

I rested for nearly three weeks after my ablation procedure on November 17, but a forecast of high temperatures in the low sixties prompted me to end my fly fishing hiatus. I packed my fishing gear and made the short drive to Boulder Creek within the City of Boulder. A two hour stay while temperatures were at their peak did not merit a long trip. My goal was to land one trout to satisfy the accomplishment of netting at least one trout in every month of 2020.

Nice Pool, but No Luck

I arrived at the stream by 12:30, and by the time I pulled on my waders and rigged my Orvis Access four weight and ambled to the stream, my watch displayed 1:00PM. I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line and then suspended an ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear below the foam dry fly. Over the course of two hours on the low and placid creek I made two modifications. The first change involved lengthening the dropper from the hippie stomper to accommodate a deeper drift. The second modification featured replacing the ultra zug bug with a super nova baetis.

Moderate Riffle Did Not Produce

None of these adjustments yielded the result that I was seeking, and I ended my trip with a fish count of zero, and I was prevented from landing one trout in each month of the year. The best I could muster was a refusal to the hippie stomper next to a large bankside boulder. I flicked another cast above the point of refusal, and the surface fly paused which provoked a sudden hook set. Alas I was connected to a fish for a very brief moment, before it shed the super nova baetis. Some mild temperatures are projected for the upcoming days, so perhaps I will launch another effort for the elusive December trout.

Fish Landed: 0

Boulder Creek – 11/06/2020

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 11/06/2020 Photo Album

Mild fall temperatures continued into Friday during the first week of November, and I could not resist the allure of another day on a stream in Colorado. Colder temperatures next week along with 1.5 days in the hospital for another medical procedure on Tuesday added additional incentive to log another stream day in 2020. I spent my career in the field of accounting and finance, and this makes me an inveterate counter. Counting fish has become an ingrained habit, and I am unable to halt the practice. My cumulative fish count, as I drove to my fishing destination on Friday, was 897; so a third reason to fish was to reach the milestone of 900. During my many years of fly fishing I exceeded 1,000 landed trout four times, and that was my goal for 2020; however, heart surgery in April reduced my stream time during a time of the year, when I typically accumulate quite a few fish. Given the circumstances 900 trout was a reasonable compromise.

I chose to fish Boulder Creek in the City of Boulder, since I had a doctor’s appointment at 8:30AM, and I needed a close location. Temperatures within the City of Boulder tend to be similar to Denver and warmer than higher elevation locales such as South Boulder Creek and the Big Thompson. I arrived at a parking space by 11:30, and I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight and attached all my necessary fly fishing gear. By the time I was ready to fish, it was 11:45, so rather than lugging my lunch to the stream, I chomped it in the car. By noon I was positioned in Boulder Creek ready to coax at least three trout into my net.

The Current Seam with Bubbles Produced

The creek was very low and clear, and it readily became apparent that stealth was a key to success. Another factor elevating my challenge was the low gradient of the section that I chose to fish, and long, smooth slow-moving pools were the prevalent physical condition. I tied a peacock hippie stomper to my line and then added an ultra zug bug, and within fifteen minutes I landed an eight inch brown trout that snatched the ultra zug bug in the upper portion of a long pool. Perhaps my concerns over difficult fly fishing were misplaced?

Quick Start

As the afternoon evolved, I discovered that challenging fishing conditions were, in fact, a reality on Friday, November 6, I moved along at a fairly rapid pace and covered .7 mile of stream real estate. In the placid pools I searched for surface rises, and only when I saw evidence of fish, did I make casts to these areas. I preferentially searched for faster runs, where the creek entered the deeper pools. I cycled through an array of flies including a beadhead hares ear, Jake’s gulp beetle, CDC blue winged olive, hippie stomper with a silver body, and a black size 18 parachute ant.

Shallow Riffles Delivered

Little Rainbow

Several pools revealed multiple fish sipping something miniscule from the smooth surface, but in these situations I succeeded only in putting the fish down. I did have a couple swirls at a dry fly, and I felt a momentary connection. In addition I registered several refusals to both the peacock hippie stomper and Jakes gulp beetle, when I presented them as the lead fly in a double dry fly configuration. Does this mean I ended my day with only one landed trout?

No. 900

No. I managed two additional rainbow trout in the seven inch range. Both emerged from the seams along faster entry runs at the top of pools, and both fish grabbed the size 18 black parachute ant fished as a solitary dry fly. The third rainbow came within the last thirty minutes, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief, once it rested in my net, and I achieved my goal of attaining a fish count of 900. By the time I am recovered from my medical procedure and able to resume fishing, winter conditions will likely be in place. So far I have landed trout in each month of 2020, so catching at least one in December remains a goal. Will my health and the weather enable such an achievement? Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 3

South Platte River – 11/03/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 11/03/2020 Photo Album

Tuesday’s outing on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon breaks down into two very different experiences. Between 11:00AM and 2:00PM I endured three hours of frustration. All my action for Tuesday was packed into the final hour.

The temperature in Denver was forecast to stretch into the mid-seventies, and the high for Lake George near the South Platte River was predicted to reach 62 degrees. The weather prognosticators were quite accurate based on my assessment after spending the late morning and afternoon in the area. The gauge for the South Platte River below Eleven Mile Reservoir is out of service, but I suspect the flows registered in the 60 CFS range.

Looked Like Ideal Nymphing Water

I arrived at a pullout by 10:30 and decided to explore an area outside the special regulation section. I geared up with the Sage four weight and pulled on my North Face light down coat to ward off the chill, while I began my quest for trout in shadows on the eastern side of the river. The steep canyon walls along the left side of the road blocked the low sun for much of the day, and a significant amount of snow remained from last weekend’s storm. The temperature when I began at 11:00 AM was in the low fifties.

I used my New Zealand indicator tool to attach a tuft of chartreuse poly to my line and then crimped a split shot above the last knot on the tippet. Beneath these nymphing accessories I knotted an orange-yellow yarn egg and a RS2. I prospected the deeper water over the next forty-five minutes, but evidence of local trout was absent. I began in some shadowed areas and quickly moved into a nice area bathed in sunlight, but neither produced even a nibble to my flies. I grew frustrated and decided to move to the special regulation area, where presumably a more dense population of trout existed. I theorized that the presence of more fish translated to a higher probability of success.

This Pool Earned a Few Casts

I drove up the canyon toward the dam to the area that I frequently fish, but all the parking spaces were occupied, so I reversed direction and parked .3 mile downstream from my usual spot. The bank in this area is quite steep, so I walked upstream, until I found a relatively gradual path covered with packed snow, and I carefully edged my way down to the river and then followed some footsteps through the snow to the first nice pool. Before I could unhook my line to make a cast, I spotted another angler, so I circled around him and approached a second favorite pool. Once again another fisherman was present, so I resumed my hike in the snow. The next pool was much smaller than the first two, but it was unoccupied, so I covered it thoroughly with my egg and RS2 combination. This cycle of bumping into other fishermen and casting to less desirable spots in between continued until 2:15PM, when my frustration reached its peak, and I decided to call it quits. The cold water from the dam numbed my feet, the fish were uncooperative, and in spite of these negatives, fishermen were everywhere.

I Exited Via That Steep Path in the Snow Below the Orange Sign

I climbed a steep snow packed trail to the road and hiked .4 miles to the Santa Fe. Rather than accept a skunking I decided to walk an additional .2 mile to a wide pullout above a huge long slow moving pool. Upon my arrival I noted that the entire area was vacant, so I scrambled down a jumble of snow covered rocks to the edge of the river one-third of the way from the downstream end of the pool. I slowly waded upstream along the left side while methodically scanning the bottom of the river for shadows or moving forms. Alas, my attempt to sight fish proved futile, as I never spotted a trout. I reversed direction with the intent of finding the snowy path to climb back to the road, but for some reason I decided to inspect the bottom one-third of the pool. Much to my surprise I began to observe sporadic rises directly across from my position and downstream.

Nice Length

I watched for a few minutes, and the evidence of feeding fish convinced me to make a last ditch attempt to catch one. I patiently removed the strike indicator, split shot and two flies and knotted a size 24 CDC BWO to my line. I began delivering downstream casts to the feeding trout below my position, and nearly every drift was greeted with a small dimple, but my swift hook sets simply hurled the fly back in my direction. After ten minutes of frustration, I paused to evaluate and decided to switch to a size 22 soft hackle emerger with no bead. I applied floatant liberally to the body and began to cast. I fired a few casts to the small pod of fish directly across from me with no success, and then I turned my attention to the subtle feeders across and downstream. I began executing reach casts, so the fly line landed upstream of the fly, and on the fourth drift a fish bulged on the emerger. I responded with a lift and felt the underwhelming weight of a small brown trout. Since I was in skunk status, I quickly determined that it was six inches long and reluctantly added the small trout to my mental fish count log.

I turned my attention to several persistent risers downstream from the fish that I landed, and after quite a few fruitless casts, I connected with my best fish of the day, a fifteen inch rainbow. The slab ‘bow demonstrated some fine fighting techniques, but I eventually coaxed it into my net for a photo session. For the next forty-five minutes I persisted in my effort to fool pool risers, and I managed to add a fourteen inch rainbow to my fish count. The soft hackle emerger lost its allure, so I swapped it for a Klinkhammer BWO, and the small low riding baetis emerger imitation duped the third fish of the day. During this time period I also broke off a soft hackle emerger on a fish that felt heavier than any fish that occupied my net. I was not particularly happy about that turn of events. Also in the area across from me I connected with two fish that felt similar to the landed rainbows, but each managed to escape, before I could slide them into my net.

Satisfying

Downstream Drifts in the Bottom End of the Pool

My total time on the South Platte River was four hours, but approximately one hour was consumed by lunch, wading, walking and moving the car. Of the three hours of actual fly fishing, two were unproductive and frankly quite boring. I am not a big fan of fishing nymphs with an indicator, and doing so with low confidence translated to wandering thoughts and low expectations. The last hour of dry fly action salvaged my day and provided the opportunity to land six fish, although only three made it to my net. It was a nice day, and once I escaped the other fishermen, I focused on catching trout on dry flies in November. I cannot complain.

Fish Landed: 3

 

South Boulder Creek – 11/02/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/02/2020 Photo Album

A snowstorm swept into Colorado and brought single digit temperatures on October 25 and 26. This circumstance along with cold and wind during the days that followed put my fishing season on hold and caused me to initiate my winter fly tying efforts. The temperatures gradually warmed into highs in the sixties on Saturday and Sunday, and the long range forecast for Monday, November 2 through Friday was very encouraging with highs touching the seventies. This was enough to spur this fisherman to dust off the fly rod.

Looking Up the Canyon

On Sunday night I checked the flows on the local streams and noted that South Boulder Creek was maintaining an attractive level of 83 CFS. I was very anxious to pay a visit to the small tailwater northwest of Denver, but the water managers closed the taps to a trickle of 5 CFS for several weeks in October. A nice fall day and manageable flows were all I needed to make the drive to the kayak parking lot high above the creek and near the dam. I assembled my Sage four weight and made the steep descent to the creek which enabled me to begin casting by 10:30AM.

Making Sure of the Focus

I began with a peacock hippie stomper, but other than a brief refusal, surface feeding did not appear to be prevalent. I added a size 14 prince nymph and below it a size 16 beadhead hares ear nymph, and this combination yielded three brown trout. Each fly delivered a trout to my net during this early phase of my day. Before I paused for lunch, I recorded three additional brown trout to boost the fish count to six, and the prince attracted two of the three, while another greedy eater chomped the hippie stomper.

Early Brown Trout

A Second Shot for Good Measure

After lunch I replaced the hares ear with a pheasant tail and eventually a salvation nymph, and the salvation accounted for a single fish, while the prince and hippie stomper chipped in one each. At 1:30 I somehow lost the prince nymph in a tangle that resulted from a landed fish, and I used this pause in action to reconfigure. The shadows covered most of the stream, and the low sun created a glare on the portion of the creek that remained outside the shade. In an effort to improve my tracking capability, I swapped the hippie stomper for a size 8 fat Albert. For the subsurface lineup I introduced a size 16 ultra zug bug and trailed a salvation nymph. The ultra zug bug became a hot commodity, as it registered the final four fish of the afternoon to bring the count to thirteen.

Another Nice Brown Trout

This Deep Run Produced a Brown Trout

The fishing on Monday was by no means fast action. I covered a significant amount of stream and executed an abundant quantity of casts. Numerous long distance releases and refusals were part of the equation, and the landed fish were definitely on the small side with the largest possibly extending to eleven inches. Nevertheless I was pleased with a double digit day in November. My streak of catching a fish in each month of the calendar year remained alive; however, December will certainly be a challenge for this fair weather angler. I plan to take advantage of the nice fall weather to undertake a few more fishing outings over the remainder of this first week in November.

Fish Landed: 13

Clear Creek – 10/14/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 10/14/2020 Photo Album

I had my heart set on South Boulder Creek as a destination for Tuesday, but when I examined the DWR flows, I learned that the water managers decreased the releases from Gross Dam from 103 CFS to 7 CFS on October 9. I have experienced decent success at low flows on South Boulder Creek but always at 10 CFS or higher. I passed on South Boulder Creek and instead opted for a two hour drive to the Eagle River near Avon, and I encountered a mediocre day of only four trout in my net, although two were substantial rainbow trout.

Another day in October with a high around eighty in Denver prompted me to plan a second consecutive fishing trip. Since I completed a relatively long drive on Tuesday, I was averse to a similar long trip on Wednesday. I began my search for a suitable Front Range stream by rechecking South Boulder Creek, and I was shocked to discover that flows were actually reduced from 7 CFS to 5 CFS. I quickly scratched my home waterway from my list of possibilities. My second choice was the Big Thompson River with flows maintained at 77 CFS for two consecutive days, but a quick inspection of the weather forecast revealed thirty mile per hour winds in the afternoon. Strike two. My third choice was Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO. Flows in the thirty to forty CFS range were favorable, and wind speeds in the 8-10 MPH range up until 2PM, when they were predicted to burst into the 18 MPH range, made Clear Creek my choice.

A Place to Begin

I arrived at a pullout along US 6 west of Tunnel 6 by 10: 40AM, and this enabled me to begin casting slightly before eleven o’clock. I utilized my Orvis Access four weight and wore my Brooks long sleeved undershirt and my raincoat as a windbreaker. The air movement was less than predicted for Estes Park, but 10 MPH translated to more than a nuisance. For the first thirty-five minutes I worked a dry/dropper rig through all the promising deep and slow moving pockets along the left bank, and my net remained in an empty state. Early in the game I spotted a fish along the bank, and it ignored all three flies, as they passed over its field of vision.

Lunch View

Scene of My Single Landed Trout

I ate lunch at 11:45AM and then removed the three fly arrangement and migrated to a solo Jake’s gulp beetle. On Tuesday evening I perused my reports on Clear Creek during October from previous years, and a Jake’s gulp beetle was a stellar producer. I persisted with the foam beetle for two hours after lunch, and I managed to dupe one seven inch brown trout to eat the size 12 imitation. I tried beetles in size 10 and 12, and after a subtle refusal I substituted a size 18 black parachute ant. I was hopeful that the larger beetle would cause the trout to reveal their position, and then a smaller black ant would trigger an eat. The theory never grew into reality, and I returned to the beetle.

Beetle Eater

Closer to 2PM I noted a few more refusals, so I decided to experiment with a peacock hippie stomper. The white wing on the stomper was more difficult to track than the orange foam on the beetle, and the wind speed accelerated immensely. The quality of fishing did not justify the hassles of the wind and poor lighting, so I hooked the hippie stomper to my rod guide and returned to the car.

Wednesday was another bust in Clear Creek Canyon. The fishing season is winding down, and my results are ebbing as well. The weather forecast predicts a shift to colder temperatures but no precipitation. Fly tying may be imminent on my calendar.

Fish Landed: 1

Eagle River – 10/13/2020

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Avon

Eagle River 10/13/2020 Photo Album

I was eagerly anticipating an October trip to South Boulder Creek, but when I reviewed the flows at the DWR website, I was shocked to learn that the releases from Gross Dam were lowered from 103 CFS three days ago to 7 CFS. 7 CFS is comparable to fishing in puddles between exposed rocks, and it is not my idea of sporting fly fishing. I considered alternative options, and with temperatures peaking in the low 80’s in Denver I decided to take advantage and made the two hour drive to the Eagle River near Avon, CO. I knew from looking at the DWR site that the Eagle in this area was extremely low at 56 CFS, but past experience taught me that a fairly reliable blue winged olive hatch spurred surface feeding. I was banking on meeting this emergence on Tuesday, October 13 to offset the low and clear conditions.

Brilliant Background

I arrived at my chosen destination on the Eagle River near Avon, CO at 11:00AM, and by the time I put together my Sage four weight and gathered all my gear and hiked to the river, it was 11:30AM. I observed the main pool for a bit, but I saw no signs of blue winged olives or surface feeding, so I rigged with a tan pool toy hopper, beadhead pheasant tail nymph and classic RS2. I prospected the upper section of the gorgeous pool next to me, but evidence of the presence of trout was absent. I progressed above the pool, and I began to explore what appeared to be marginal glides and relatively shallow water between an array of exposed boulders. I sought the places with the most depth, and I was shocked to connect with the best fish of the day in one of the easily overlooked locations. The rainbow trout stopped the hopper in its tracks, and after a relatively short battle, I slid my net beneath a sixteen inch beauty. The RS2 was barely snagged in the thin membrane of the bony jaw of the deeply colored fish. In addition to the substantial rainbow trout I also landed a ten inch brown trout on the RS2.

Quite a Tail

When 1PM arrived, I climbed to the bike path and returned to the main pool in anticipation of some BWO hatching activity. I was disappointed to see only placid water riffled by the intermittent gusting wind. I dug my raincoat from my backpack and pulled it over my shirt to act as a windbreaker, and I was pleased to have the extra layer in my possession. I decided to cover the nice run and riffles below the main pool, but this area yielded only a refusal. After a thorough search I moved to the tail of the huge main pool, and I covered the bottom third of the deep slow moving section with the dry/dropper, but the effort was purely an arm exercise.

Low Eagle River on October 13

I was set up for fishing the shallow riffles in a manner similar to the earlier session, so I cut back to the south bank and hiked up the bike path to my exit point at 1PM. I re-entered the river and spent the next two hours prospecting the most promising glides that offered a bit of depth, but the results of this focused fly fishing were disappointing. I recorded temporary hook ups with two small fish and landed another small brown trout to bring the fish count to a meager three. I an effort to boost my confidence I reminded myself of the sixteen inch rainbow that filled my net earlier.

Much of My Day Was Spent on Inconspicuous Water Like This

At 3:30PM I grew weary of the fruitless wading and unproductive casting, so I decided to retreat back to my home base; the large pool where I began. I commenced fishing at the top of the pool, where I began my day, but my confidence was low, and I sensed that I was passing over fish that were holding deeper in the cold mountain water. I decided to commit to some deep nymphing, and I removed the dry/dropper flies and then crimped a split shot to my line and fastened a New Zealand strike indicator one foot below the end of the fly line. The NZ strike indicator attachment process went much smoother than the flawed experience suffered during the previous week on the Arkansas River.

I began working the center current, the seams and shelves next to my position; and after five minutes of unproductive casting the flies caught on something, as they began to swing at the end of the drift. I flexed the rod a few times, and It was clear that the snag was relatively severe. The depth and swift current precluded any attempt to save the flies, so I applied direct pressure and snapped off the beadhead pheasant tail and RS2. I patiently reconfigured my line with a salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2 and resumed casting, but at 3:30PM my wish was finally fulfilled. I began to notice dimpling rises along both sides of the current seam. Once again I turned my attention to knot tying, as I removed the deep nymphing paraphernalia and replaced it with a single size 22 CDC blue winged olive. The pace of feeding accelerated a bit, as four or five trout fed fairly sporadically in my vicinity.

Unfortunately the wind was gusting upstream and some shadows covered the area next to me, and these natural impediments created an extremely challenging situation. It was impossible to track the tiny CDC tuft, although I set the hook several times, when I spotted rises, where I estimated my fly to be. The ploy did not work, and I was frustrated with my inability to track my small fly. I waited all day for the emergence, and now the conditions were conspiring against my efforts to take advantage of the long overdue hatch.

Deep Colors on This Cutbow

I paused to consider my options and noticed that the north side of the center seam was bathed in sunlight. I decided to circle along the south shoreline of the large pool, cross at the tail and then work upstream along the north bank. In this way I could approach the trout directly across from me with upstream casts and the wind behind my back. It took some doing, but ten minutes later I was positioned at the bottom of the shelf pool on the north side of the river. I carefully observed the area, and I was pleased to discover that four or five fish continued to feed. I picked out two that were across from me, but after an abundant quantity of casts, I was forced to acknowledge that my fly was not to their liking. Meanwhile a pair of trout rose more steadily in the secondary feeder run directly above me. I began to execute some forty foot casts and checked my cast at eleven o’clock, so the fly fluttered down to the faster current. I was unable to track the fly in the swirling water, so I resorted to the “guess-set” technique. On the fifteenth drift I spotted a dimple along the left side of the secondary seam, and I raised the rod firmly. Instantly I felt the power of a fine rainbow trout, and it dazzled me with an extraordinary aerial display that included at least five leaps above the surface of the river.

I Love the Net Shadows on This Shot

This rainbow measured around fifteen inches, and it possessed a significant girth. I was very pleased that my circuitous route to the opposite side of the river was rewarded with a fourth trout. After I released the brute, I resumed casting, but the surface feeding waned. In a last gasp attempt to fool another trout I replaced the CDC olive with a size 20 soft hackle emerger. I applied floatant to the body of the wet fly to make it float, and I sprayed casts across the wide shelf pool area; but, alas, the late ploy did not produce.  I reeled up my line and called it a day and then crossed in the wide shallow area above the long pool.

Four fish in 4.5 hours of fishing is clearly a low catch rate, but two rainbows in the fifteen to sixteen inch range compensated for the lack of volume. The cool wind, lack of clouds, and low clear water presented very challenging conditions, so I was pleased with the success that I managed. Bright sun, lack of clouds, and low, clear water seems to be a recurring theme during the autumn of 2020. I will continue my pursuit of trout, until conditions become too extreme.

Fish Landed: 4

Clear Creek – 10/08/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Clear Creek County

Clear Creek 10/08/2020 Photo Album

Tuesday on the Middle Fork of the South Platte River was a deeply humbling experience. I stayed in a motel in Salida to be close to my fishing destination, and then I wasted one of the dwindling mild fall days on a stream that was extremely low and that contained very skittish fish. I needed a bounce back experience on Thursday, but what were my options? After completing the nearly three hour drive to Salida and back on Monday and Tuesday I was not in the mood for another long trip, so that ruled out Eleven Mile Canyon; a destination that I had been considering for some time. I checked the new DWR graphs for the front range streams. The Cache la Poudre was running extremely low as was the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, so I ruled them out. The Big Thompson retained flows in the 116 CFS range, and that is actually higher than I prefer. South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir displayed flows of 108 CFS. This is another example of a tail water with unseasonably high flows; however, it was within my desired range. It was a possibility. Next I checked Clear Creek, and flows were on the low side, but I decided to give it a try, as the cold narrow canyon would soon be out of play. South Boulder Creek involved a fairly strenuous hike, and after my back to back outings early in the week, I desired a more restful day.

Typical Productive Water

I arrived at my targeted pullout by 10:30AM, and after assembling my Orvis Access four weight I climbed into my waders and completed a .3 mile hike to the creek. The air temperature was 59 degrees, so I donned my light fleece hoodie, and I was mostly comfortable throughout my time on the stream. The creek was, indeed, running quite low; and I instantly had visions of a replay of Tuesday. I banked on the higher gradient and, thus, faster water creating more spots where fish could hide from predators, but I recognized the need for extreme stealth.

Jewel

I began with a peacock hippie stomper trailing a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail nymph, and I approached a gorgeous little tailrace below a natural log dam. I flicked an abundant quantity of casts to the white foam area created by the small waterfalls and allowed the hopper/dropper to drift five feet, and finally on the eighth cast a small cutthroat trout nipped the stomper. Unlike Tuesday I was on the scoreboard early. I was not ready to call Thursday a comeback, and I was correct in exercising caution.

I quickly moved upstream, but at least thirty minutes elapsed before another small cutty smacked the hippie stomper. I landed number two in spite of a relatively tentative strike, and throughout this time quite a few refusals to the hippie stomper were sprinkled into the mix. I covered quite a bit of stream, and very few prime spots presented themselves, so it was unclear, whether I presented the wrong flies or whether the creek was sparsely populated in this stretch.

Alternating Shadows and Sunlight Were Tricky

Small Speckles

I decided to change out the trailing nymph and swapped the pheasant tail for a size 20 classic RS2. The move paid off somewhat, as I landed a pair of cutthroats that chomped the small RS2, but this was in spite of prospecting some very attractive locales with no interest from the resident trout. It was around this time that I began to observe quite a few scattering fish either from my clumsy approach or the plop of the hippie stomper and nymph. I concluded that a lighter presentation would be more effective, and I switched to a pale olive stimulator. The heavily hackled size 14 was ignored, and in a location where I sighted several fish I cycled through a parachute ant, Jake’s gulp beetle, and bionic ant. None of these offerings generated any interest, so I returned to the hippie stomper, and I reprised the RS2.

Log Dam Pool

Where Is Waldo Trout?

As the sun rose higher in the early afternoon sky, it became easier to sight trout, and I used this to my advantage. I skipped shallow marginal pockets and only paused at obvious holes with greater depth. I scanned the water intently before casting, and in many cases I was able to spot a cutthroat to target. This process greatly elevated the probability of success and eliminated wasteful shotgun casts that were spooking the skittish fish. Perhaps this technique would have worked to my benefit on Tuesday on the Middle Fork of the South Platte River?

Spots Confined to Tail Area

At any rate I approached a nice deep, smooth pool, where I could see several fish hugging the bottom. These fish elevated to the hippie stomper, but I could not induce them to close their mouths on my offering. I noted a few very small mayflies in the air above the stream, and I decided to try a CDC blue winged olive. I fired a few casts to the run that fed the pool, and two stunning cutthroats sipped the small mayfly imitation. My ability to sight two fish and then select a fly that fooled the fussy eaters was very gratifying. I vacated the pool and moved up the narrow creek to an appealing deep run, and before I approached too closely, I paused to study the rocky streambed.

Dry Fly Eater

Head Shot

The caution paid off, when I spied what appeared to be a fine cutthroat trout in the eleven to twelve inch range. I stooped down low and stripped out some line and lobbed some casts above my target trout, and on three consecutive drifts, the cutty rose and then dropped back to its holding lie. In one instance the fish literally pressed its nose against my fly, and not lifting and pulling the fly away required the utmost restraint. I paused for a bit to sop moisture from the wing, and then I dipped the size 22 fly in dry shake. After some vigorous shaking action I removed the fly and flicked off any residual powder or crystals and then fluffed the wing, so that it portrayed a nice wide profile. While this fly preparation transpired, I rested the water, and now I was ready for another approach. I flicked the fly upstream and to the left, and when it drifted within six inches of the trout, it curled sideways and then in an exceedingly leisurely manner it sipped the tiny tuft of a mayfly. This scenario was easily the highlight of the day, and I may have shouted a few words of congratulations to myself.

Super Nova Baetis Was Productive

I continued for a bit more with the CDC olive, but the nature of the creek transformed into a narrow tumbling pocket water stretch, so I reverted to the hippie stomper and added a size 20 super nova baetis. I tied these Juan Ramirez patterns during my surgery recovery and noticed a pair in my fleece wallet. I continued for another forty-five minutes by prospecting the dry/dropper, and I boosted the fish counter to ten. The last three trout nabbed the super nova baetis, and it seemed that a lifting action encouraged the takes.

The Last Trout Came from This Prime Location

Number ten came from a nice deep hole just below a single log dam, and my watch displayed 3:30. The shadows were lengthening over the small stream, and the water ahead did not seem especially appealing, so I hooked the super nova to my rod guide and clambered up a steep bank and then picked my way through a sparse forest, until I reached the road. I was .7 mile above my parking space, and that translated to covering approximately a mile of Clear Creek.

Vivid Deep Colors

Thursday was a respectable day, and it taught me the importance of being observant and remaining flexible. Instead of continuing to flail the water with blind casts, I adjusted my approach to sight fish. The modification to my standard fishing style paid off with a double digit day on a clear and very shallow mountain creek. The quality of the cutthroats was outstanding, as each displayed some variation on the watermelon color scheme. The light olive body color was comparable to the skin and rind, and the speckles portrayed the seeds, and the subtle pink spots on the side matched the edible flesh.

Fish Landed: 10