Cache la Poudre River – 11/15/2019

Time: 9:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Within the town of Fort Collins

Cache la Poudre River 11/15/2019 Photo Album

The forecast of a 63 degree day along the Front Range of Colorado on Friday, November 15 caused incessant brain messages that implored me to visit a trout stream. I contacted @rockymtnangler, also known as Trevor, and learned that he was off from work on Friday and planning a day of fishing. With that news in hand we planned a day on the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins, CO. Trevor logged sixty plus days on the city section of the Cache la Poudre, and he has become a bit of an expert on the nuances of the urban fishery. In fact, Trevor shared a sample of his impressive art work with me in the form of a pen and ink rendition of a map of the Cache la Poudre. I am convinced that Trev could have a future in art, if he tires of his current occupation.

We agreed to meet in Fort Collins at 9AM, and I arrived at our designated rendezvous point at that exact point in time. Trevor was already clad in waders, and since he owns a rod vault, his rod is in a constant state of readiness. He waited patiently, while I cycled through my preparation routine which included the assembly of my Orvis Access four weight.

Very Low Flows on the Cache la Poudre in Fort Collins

The air temperature remained quite chilly at this early juncture of the morning, so I slid into my North Face light down coat. By the time we quit at 12:30 the temperature rose to the low sixties, but I was never uncomfortable in my chosen attire. In a text message on Thursday Trevor warned me to temper my expectations due to the low water conditions, and evidence of his advice was apparent, as we approached the low narrow stream of flowing water to begin our day. I estimate that only 1/3 of the stream bed was covered by water with the remainder a jumble of bleached river rocks.

We hiked downstream for .5 mile and jumped in the river just below the water gauge bridge. Trevor grabbed a pool downstream, while I targeted a spot, where the river flowed against the north bank and created a nice deep run. Within minutes Trevor hooked and landed an eight inch rainbow trout, but I was unable to lure anything to my line. I began my day with a Jake’s gulp beetle and a size 16 salvation nymph, as I searched for a surface fly that was small yet visible and buoyant enough to support a beadhead dropper.

Trevor Focused on a Run

Trevor and I continued fishing upstream through the remainder of the morning and played hopscotch among the intermittent attractive pools. The most productive locales featured a bit of current that fed large smooth pools, and the trout seemed to gravitate to the top to intercept food, before it spread out in the slower sections. Within the first thirty minutes Trevor added a second rainbow, and both landed fish attacked his small parachute Adams. We both were convinced that my nymph should be generating more interest, so I swapped the salvation for a beadhead sparkle wing RS2. Surely the Poudre trout could not resist the small baetis imitation in the prevalent low conditions. Since the beetle was difficult to track in the shadowed areas, I opted for a peacock body hippie stomper with a white wing, and this move proved effective, as the large wing contrasted nicely with low light conditions.

My strategy seemed viable, but in a twist of trout contrariness, the hippie stomper became the desired food object and not the RS2. During the remainder of my time on the water, two rainbow trout smashed the attractor dry fly, but the small nymph went unmolested. In fact, I swapped the RS2 for a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail nymph for an extended period, and it also was ignored.

A Pod of Rainbows Next to Trevor

By 11:30 the infrequent rises in the pools ceased to appear, and we persisted in our upstream mission, but the fish were no longer willing to accept our offerings. At a spot that contained a large quantity of man-made stream improvement boulders, we agreed that the best fishing of Friday, November 15 was behind us, so we climbed the bank and ambled back to our cars. Once we removed our gear, Trevor led the way to the Odell Brewing tasting patio, and we quaffed craft brews and enjoyed the unseasonably warm afternoon.

The fishing was slow, but my expectations were appropriately lowered. The highlights of Friday were the companionship of a fishing friend, pleasant weather, and a tasty brew at Odell Brewing. Any nice day with a few fish is a bonus in mid-November.

Fish Landed: 2

Boulder Creek – 11/10/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 11/10/2019 Photo Album

With a high of 65 degrees forecast for Denver on Sunday, November 10, 2019 I could not resist the siren call of Boulder Creek. Boulder Creek within the City of Denver is one of my favorite destinations in late November, as it remains milder than the streams in the foothills and those at high elevation.

I departed my house in Denver at 10:40AM on Sunday morning, and this enabled me to arrive in Boulder across from the stream by 11:15AM. My normal parking space at Scott Carpenter Park was off limits, as the parking lot was fenced off for some sort of construction project. This forced me to reverse my direction on 30th Street, and after I crossed the bridge over Boulder Creek, I made a left and parked in a CU parking lot next to some greenhouses. The lot was empty, and signs warned against parking without a permit on Monday through Friday. An advantage of my rare weekend fishing excursion was the availability of parking.

Near the Start

I assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod and quickly ambled to Boulder Creek just below the 30th Street Bridge. I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. These flies remained on my line during my entire stay on Boulder Creek. The stream was seasonally low, but no snow remained from the back to back storms of the previous week. The temperature was in the low sixties and the sun was bright, so I elected to forego additional layers beyond my fishing shirt over a long sleeved Columbia undershirt.

A Rare Rainbow from Boulder Creek in Boulder, CO

I covered .6 mile of water in my 3.0 hours on Boulder Creek, and I landed eight trout in the process. All except one of the temporary net residents were brown trout, with the outlier being a colorful rainbow. The largest trout was barely eight inches, and most fell within the six to seven inch range. The hippie stomper served as an indicator, although two or three fish flashed to the surface only to veer away at the last instant thus registering only teasing refusals.

Love the Leaf Wrap

The shallow condition of the stream caused me to skip significant sections, as I sought slower moving areas with greater than normal depth. The most effective technique was an up and across cast followed by a long drift to a point three quarters below my position. Most of the trout nabbed one of the nymphs, as the flies began to accelerate away from the bank, or as I executed a lift to initiate a new cast. I tried to remain on the north bank as much as possible, as this position avoided the strong glare that made tracking the hippie stomper difficult from the south bank.

The Slack Water by the Roots Produced

Sunday was a short outing and the fish were small, but I took advantage of one of a dwindling number of warm days in November. The Boulder Creek bike path was swarming with skateboarders, dog walkers, runners, walkers, and cyclists; however, I only saw one other fisherman, and I was pleased with that circumstance on a rare weekend outing. I checked the weather forecast, and a high of 65 is predicted for Wednesday. Perhaps another visit to Boulder Creek is in my future for 2019.

Fish Landed: 8

One of the Best Fish of the Day

 

 

 

Beaver Creek – 11/08/2019

Time: 1:30PM – 3:00PM

Location: Backcountry

Beaver Creek 10/08/2019 Photo Album

I parked at the trailhead and grabbed my already strung fly rod and packs and completed a .6 mile hike, until I found a suitable spot to enter the stream. I knew from a previous trip, that Beaver Creek supported a decent population of rainbow trout, and rainbows spawn in the spring, so I was confident that the residents of this stream would not be preoccupied with reproduction. I knew that the cold temperatures and melting snow slowed the metabolism of the trout, but I felt confident, that I could entice a few trout to grab my offerings.

Snow and Sunshine

The temperature during the first hour remained in the low fifties, and the low sun in the western sky cast my long shadow ahead, as I moved in a northward direction. My first two interactions with trout were brief temporary hookups, so I paused and swapped the RS2 for a salvation nymph. I speculated that the larger hook translated to more netted fish.

Brilliant

My theory was proven to be accurate, as I landed six fish from the small backcountry stream during 1.5 hours of fishing on Friday afternoon. Five of the fish that rested in my net were rainbow trout and one was a brook trout. The catch rate was slower than my earlier visit during the summer, but I expected that given the cold temperatures of early November. One small rainbow casually nipped the fat Albert, and the other trout were split between the hares ear and salvation.

Those Markings Are Brilliant

During the last thirty minutes I entered a section that was totally covered by shadows from the canyon wall to the west. The last two trout arrived in my net during this time period, and my threatening shadows were no longer a concern. Fly fishing always offers trade offs, and in this case the lack of sun benefited my approach but also resulted in very cold fingers and hands. A dull burn and stinging sensation forced me to call it quits a bit after three o’clock, and the discomfort persisted for much of my return hike.

Barriers to Progress

My move to a stream with a significant rainbow population paid dividends, and I elevated the fish count to six and seven for the entire day. Fishing in the small stream amid ice, snow and tight overhanging branches created a difficult series of challenges, but I persisted, until my hands cried for relief. Several of the rainbows were plump trout in the twelve inch range, and a lift or swing seemed to be the catalyst that produced strikes.

Fish Landed: 6

Ice Chunk Remains

Elk Creek – 11/08/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Backcountry

Elk Creek 11/08/2019 Photo Album

Another break in the early winter-like weather of Colorado on Friday, November 8 motivated me to undertake a fishing excursion. I arrived at the trailhead of the small backcountry stream that is quickly becoming a favorite, and I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight and made a .6 mile hike along the snow and ice covered trail. The temperature was thirty-two degrees, when I arrived at the trailhead parking lot, and when I departed at 1PM, the thermometer rose to the mid-fifties. The weather was fairly tolerable during the two hours on Elk Creek, as the sun’s rays created solar warming.

Sumptuous Pool

The flows of the small creek were low and clear and ideal for my late season venture. I began my fly fishing effort with a yellow fat Albert, 20 incher, and salvation nymph; but when I broke for lunch at noon, the fish counter remained solidly locked on 0.

More Tantalizing Water

All the gorgeous pools that yielded one or two nice trout in the summer and early fall seemed devoid of fish. I momentarily hooked up with one decent trout at the tail of a small deep pool, but that was the extent of the action in the first hour. Normally I manage to spook fish, but on Friday I only spotted three fleeing fish, as I slowly progressed up the backcountry stream.

First and Only

After lunch I continued my upstream migration, and in an effort to change my luck I swapped the two nymphs for a beadhead hares ear and size 20 RS2. The move improved my fortunes slightly, as I hooked a nice brown trout and played it for a second or two before it escaped. Finally at approximately 12:45PM I felt some weight, as I lifted my flies from a deep eddy, and after a short battle I netted a nice thirteen inch brown trout that nabbed the RS2.

Foam Was Home

During my time on Elk Creek I struggled with long shadows, since I was fishing upstream to the north, and the low sun was shining from the south, and I suspect this had an impact on my lack of success. Another fifteen minutes with no action convinced me that the predominantly brown trout stream was in advanced spawning season, and the fish were more interested in procreation than eating. I never spotted spawning fish, but I have no other explanation for the absence of trout in an area that held abundant quantities during previous visits.

I decided to cut my losses, so I hiked back to the parking lot, stashed my gear in the Santa Fe and shifted my base of operations to another stream that contained predominantly rainbow trout.

Fish Landed: 1

Clear Creek – 11/05/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Tunnel 3 and Big Easy; Just West of Tunnel 6

Clear Creek 11/05/2019 Photo Album

After an extended spell of snowstorms and cold weather, a short break in the weather tempted me to make another 2019 fishing trip. The high temperature in Denver was predicted to peak at 61 degrees, and I speculated that this translated to fifty in the high country, so I hedged and chose Clear Creek Canyon as my destination. The high for Golden, CO was 61, and Idaho Springs was projected at 52, so I concluded that Clear Creek Canyon would top out in the mid to high fifties.

As I traveled along Clear Creek on U.S. 6 west of the intersection of CO 93, I noted a considerable amount of snow along the creek along with the presence of shelf ice. I should have realized that snow and ice would be a factor, since the low temperature on October 30 was -1 F. In spite of the ice and snow discovery, I resolved to persist in my late season attempt to land a few trout.

Lots of Ice and Snow

I traveled through Tunnel 3 and after a couple miles pulled into a wide pullout along the north side of the highway. The stretch between Tunnel 3 and the Big Easy Peak to Plains Access produced for me on previous trips, and I was convinced that it held promise on November 5.

Once I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I hiked east along U.S. 6 for .3 mile and then dropped down a snowy angled path to the creek. I wore my North Face light down coat and my New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps, and these outer clothing choices served me well, until I entered the ice cold flows of Clear Creek. I rigged my line with a yellow fat Albert, 20 incher and salvation nymph. The 20 incher was selected to provide weight, as I anticipated drifting my nymphs close to the bottom given the 38 CFS flows and melting snow and ice.

Nice Run Ahead

During the last hour of the morning I progressed upstream and prospected likely holding spots with the three fly dry/dropper set up. Originally I probed some short deep pockets and moderate riffles, but these failed to produce, until I encountered a nice long steadily moving trough, where a six inch brown trout latched on to the 20 incher. I was not convinced that another trout was in my future given the challenging conditions, so I snapped a photo of the small jewel. Just before I stopped for lunch, another trout grabbed one of the nymphs, but this connection ended within seconds, when the panicked trout rolled and shed the pointy irritant in its lip.

First Fish on 20 Incher

Shortly before noon my feet morphed into stumps, and a serious chill invaded my body, so I found some nice large ice free boulders along the north bank and consumed my lunch. The break restored feeling to my feet, and I resumed my upstream progression in a slightly improved state of warmth.

I decided to skip marginal pockets and faster water in order to target slower slots and shelf pools similar to the two places that yielded interaction with trout in the morning. The strategy seemed reasonable, but I must report, that I failed to generate any interest in my flies between noon and 1PM. I was successful, however, in acquiring another significant chill, as my feet once again attained a state of numbness, and the cold of the creek migrated upward to my ears and hands. A constant burn and sting emanated from my fingers, and the deep shadows of the canyon prevented the warming effect of the sun’s rays from mitigating my discomfort. I decided that relief from the cold was higher on my hierarchy of needs than catching more fish, and I returned to the car.

As I pondered my next move, I decided that I underestimated the beneficial impact of the sun, and I decided to drive west beyond Tunnel 6. I remembered that the creek shifted to the north side of the highway in the western section of the canyon, and this in turn meant that sunshine would prevail. I was surprised to discover that no cars were present in the wide pullout just beyond Tunnel 6, so I quickly grabbed a prime spot and pulled on my packs and grabbed my fly rod. I ambled east toward the tunnel and then dropped down a bare path between snow-covered rocks, until I perched next to the stream just above a zip line, that rock climbers utilized to cross the creek.

I prospected my way upstream for forty yards and experienced a refusal to the fat Albert and a tentative nip on one of the trailing nymphs. As I surmised, the sun bathed the creek in light, and this circumstance was a welcome development after the frigid shaded canyon section that abused me during the first two hours.

I Spent Some Time at This Pool

By two o’clock I approached a gorgeous deep pool, and I remembered it from several previous visits to Clear Creek. I paused to observe the aqua hued area which was in fact a large eddy. The main current swept along the north bank and then curled around and flowed back toward the western edge of the pool. Initially I spotted only a small trout near the south side of the curl, but as I continued to peer into the blueish clear pool, I noted at least eight fish.

I initiated my effort to fool the pool residents with the dry/dropper, but it was treated like inert flotsam, so I removed the three flies and considered alternatives. Would a size 18 parachute black ant fool these wary trout? I plucked one from my box and knotted it to my 5X, but after ten minutes of casting, I could only point to a couple nose to fly refusals. I stripped in the ant and replaced it with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. I plopped the foam terrestrial in the vicinity of all the visible finned creatures, but once again a pair of inspections with no take was my reward.

I decided that something small was probably the answer, and I once again inspected my MFC fly box. I spotted a vertical row of size 18 gray stoneflies that matched an October and November hatch on South Boulder Creek. I concluded that the tiny stonefly imitation could imitate several aquatic life forms, so I tied it to my leader and took it for a ride. Unlike the two terrestrials, the small stonefly failed to entice even a look from the hovering trout in front of me.

Happy

By now a decent fish was tipping up to sip something from the edge of the current, where it began to curl across the creek. It was late afternoon in early November, and I decided I would be remiss, if I did not try a CDC blue winged olive. I removed a tiny size 24 from my box and replaced the stonefly with the minuscule tuft of CDC with an olive body. The change proved effective, when two nine inch brown trout tipped up and sipped the small olive to increase my fish count to three. The third fish slowly elevate and then pressed its snout against the fly and then slowly inhaled it. I somehow mustered enough patience to allow the excruciatingly slow process to unfold.

Overview

After fish number three a shadow enveloped the north side of the pool, and this made tracking the tiny mayfly along the current seam impossible, so I abandoned the honey hole and moved upstream to another quality area. The creek spread out and created five nice channels of moderate depth. The flows in this area were faster, and prospecting with the size 24 olive seemed like an exercise in frustration, so I swapped it for the Jake’s gulp beetle. I sprayed casts upstream and across, until I covered the many wide troughs and channels, but the trout were either not interested in the beetle or not present.

I retreated to the south bank and worked my way toward the head of the attractive section. A series of narrow deep slots existed along the bank above me, and much to my amazement I spotted a subtle rise eight feet upstream along a large exposed boulder. I plopped the beetle four feet above the site of the rise, and a decent trout elevated and then drifted back to its holding position along the bottom. A second plop, however, evoked another upward movement, but this time the fish sipped the beetle, and I quickly lifted the rod tip and felt a brief throb of weight. Unfortunately the take was very tentative, and the fish quickly flipped free of the beetle. I was certain that I botched my last chance at a fish on November 5, but I flicked another cast six feet above the previous one, and a brown trout rushed from the depths to devour the foam impostor. Fish number four rested in my net.

I continued upstream for another ten minutes and generated another look, but that was the extent of my additional action, before I reached a long wide shallow riffle area. The sun was very low in the sky, and this created an impossible glare, so I hooked the beetle to the rod guide, climbed the bank, and strolled back to the Santa Fe.

Four small trout in four hours of fishing was not a memorable experience, but the move to the sun bathed area west of Tunnel 6 salvaged a chilly November day. The dry/dropper technique was not producing, so I was happy to linger at the large pool and cast to sighted fish. I cycled through four standalone dry flies, but I eventually found one that fooled two fish. Catching three of four trout on dry flies is probably the most surprising aspect of my day of fly fishing on November 5.

Fish Landed: 4

South Boulder Creek – 10/26/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/26/2019 Photo Album

Weather was the impetus for my rare weekend day of fly fishing on Saturday, October 26, 2019. My daughter, Amy, visited from October 17 through October 20, and I devoted my time to her and put a moratorium on my fly fishing efforts. Cold temperatures and a snowstorm prevented me from pursuing trout between Octoboer 21 and October 24. A glance at the seven day forecast revealed that back to back storms were about to slam Colorado on Sunday. October 27 and extending through Halloween. What recourse did an avid fly fisherman have?

One glimmer of hope filtered through my thoughts of despair. Saturday’s high in Denver was predicted to be seventy degrees, and this translated to the upper fifties in some of the nearby front range streams. The flows on South Boulder Creek were 82 CFS, and that was enough information to encourage a trip to the small tailwater west of Golden, CO.

The temperature registered 50 degrees, as a I pulled into the kayak parking lot, and quite a few vehicles occupied prime spots on the southern half, and as I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, several more anglers arrived. I experienced a brief taste of weekend fishing in the Colorado Rockies.

Deep Snow Next to Long Pool

As I trudged along the stream on the way to my chosen starting point, I was surprised to discover five to six inches of snow on the south side of the creek. The deeper than expected snow and the warming temperatures raised concerns over the water clarity as well as the chilling impact on the trout, but these misgivings would eventually prove to be unfounded.

At the Start

I arrived at my favorite starting location by 11AM, and I configured my line with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a size 12 20 incher, and a salvation nymph. I viewed the 20 incher as a substitute for weight, because I wanted to get my nymphs to the bottom in the cold 82 CFS flows. Between 11:15AM and 3:30PM I retained the fat Albert and 20 incher as the upper flies in my three fly dry/dropper system. I switched the end fly out after lunch and shifted to a soft hackle emerger, but eventually reverted to the salvation, when I spotted some pale morning dun mayflies in the air.

Fat Albert Duped One Trout

Mangled 20 Incher Was the Number One Fly

During the dry/dropper segment of my day I landed twenty-one trout including two rainbows and nineteen brown trout. One aggressive brown trout slurped the fat Albert, two brown trout nipped the soft hackle emerger, and two additional catches grabbed the salvation. The fourteen remaining netted fish savored the 20 incher, and I was very surprised, that a fly that was merely deployed to provide ballast proved to be the most popular. One rainbow was a respectable and chunky specimen, and a few of the brown trout extended to the twelve and thirteen inch mark. Other than these outliers, most of the fish fell within the nine to eleven inch range.

Marvelous Spots

The most productive spots for brown trout were slack water shelf pools next to faster runs. The creek inhabitants conserved energy in these areas and picked off tumbling subsurface food offerings, as they drifted away from the faster current. In addition to the landed rainbows, I also tangled temporarily with some pink striped residents that escaped, and these trout seemed to prefer faster water and deep slots between large boulders.

Pleased with This One

Change of Pace Rainbow

By 3:30PM I reached my usual end point, and I skipped around a narrow whitewater chute and then dropped back down to the creek. I cherry picked some above average spots in this section to no avail, and then I decided to begin my return hike. When I arrived at the pool, that I deemed to be the best on South Boulder Creek, I paused to observe and spotted three very subtle dimples along the main current seam. I could not resist the temptation to log some bonus time, so I clipped off the three flies and tied a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line. Why? It was just a hunch based on success at the same time of day and year on previous trips.

I made some quality drifts along the center seam, and induced a refusal, before I turned my attention to the section on the right, where two smaller runs angled from the bank back toward my position. I lobbed a cast to the right side, and a subtle swirl revealed itself below my fly. I quickly raised my rod tip and felt weight for a split second, and my optimism sank, as I realized that I probably put down a willing feeder.

Surprise Rainbow on a Dry Fly

I returned my attention to the left shelf pool and the center current seam, but a series of casts were ignored. The shadows extended across the entire creek, and the lack of sun created a chill, when the breeze whistled through the branches. I entertained thoughts of resuming my trek to the parking lot but decided to lob another cast to the angled run on the right. The choice proved to be fortuitous, when another sucking swirl materialized beneath my fly, and this time I paused a split second and then executed a solid hook set. When the hook pricked the greedy feeder, it performed an acrobatic roll on the surface, and this revealed the brilliant crimson strip of a rainbow trout. The fight was on, and the battler crossed the right shelf pool several times before it relented and slid into my net. Whoa! A husky fourteen inch rainbow nestled in the bottom of my net, and I let out a self congratulatory hoot.

Size 16 Light Gray Comparadun Worked

After releasing my prize catch of the day, I moved to the bottom of the left side of the pool, and I shot some relatively long casts to the slow section in the upper left area. Amazingly, despite the absence of rises, I enticed three trout to smack the light gray comparadun. Evidently I stumbled into a fly that matched a food form that was present in South Boulder Creek in late October. When my casts drifted through the pool without molestation, I stripped in the fly and proceeded on my outbound hike. I stopped at one more favorite pool and tempted a small rainbow to eat the comparadun, before I permanently called it a day.

What a surprise Saturday turned out to be! I landed twenty-six trout in total, and this included several in the 12 – 14 inch range. These results accrued despite the presence of snow and snowmelt. Five landed fish on a size 16 comparadun during the late afternoon shadows were icing on the cake. If this was my last outing of 2019, I would be satisfied with the memory.

Fish Landed: 26

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 10/22/2019

Time: 1:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: Button Rock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 10/22/2019 Photo Album

My daughter, Amy, visited from Portland, OR, over the long weekend, and I deferred all fishing ventures until her departure. I did, however, review the stream flows and weather forecasts, while she remained in Denver, and the predicted high temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday suggested a couple days of fall fishing. Initially I hoped for a trip to one of the backcountry streams, that I discovered in 2019 or perhaps to South Boulder Creek, but as the day approached, the weather forecast worsened, and this forced me to re-evaluate my planned destination.

Predicted highs on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Colorado mountains sank to the mid-forties accompanied by wind, and I was not anxious to endure that level of adversity. Highs in Boulder, Lyons and Denver; however, were expected to be a more comfortable sixty degrees, so I opted for a relatively short trip to the Button Rock Preserve area of the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. Nine mile per hour wind speeds were a bit concerning, but I confronted similar conditions on many occasions and managed success. Jane decided to accompany me, and we stopped in Louisville, CO to add our grand puppy, Zuni, to our road trip group.

When we arrived at the Button Rock Preserve parking area at 11:50AM, the dashboard thermometer registered 55 degrees, and a fairly steady breeze ruffled the remaining leaves of the nearby trees. I probably overreacted to the weather, when I pulled on my North Face light down coat, and then I assembled my Orvis Access four weight. Jane and Zuni sped off upon our arrival, but I eventually caught them, and we continued our inbound hike for a mile, until I angled down a manageable slope to the creek. Jane and Zuni watched, as I scrambled over some dead branches, and before they attempted a similar descent, we spied a small herd of deer. A doe and three young ones browsed along the dirt road twenty yards above us, and Zuni immediately demonstrated a strong willingness to give chase. Jane resisted these efforts and somehow managed to control Zuni while negotiating the tricky rock and log strewn bank to arrive at the creek. Eventually the deer disappeared behind a large boulder on the opposite side of the road, but Zuni would not relax, until they were gone.

Since it was 12:40PM when I arrived streamside, I extracted my sandwich and carrots and made quick work of my lunch, before I began my quest for St. Vrain trout. The stream was 21 CFS, and this was fairly average for October. I avoided a large foam hopper as the top fly due to low clear flows and instead opted for a size 10 Chernobyl ant. I was skeptical that fish would rise for surface offerings, so I added a chartreuse copper john as the top fly and a salvation nymph on the end. The copper John displayed a nice shade of light green similar to a caddis larva, and it also provided additional weight to enable deep drifts in the cold autumn water.

At the Start

Within the first half hour I landed three small trout in the first four pools, that I prospected. The first fish was a barely six inch rainbow trout that grabbed the salvation. Next a six inch brown nabbed the salvation as well, and then an eight inch rainbow nipped the Chernobyl ant. The aggressive ‘bow refused the foam dry twice and then circled back and smacked the attractor, just before it accelerated at the tail of the pool.

Amazingly this early action was the highlight of my day. For the next hour I continued upstream at a steady pace and covered the attractive deep runs and pockets with the dry/dropper combination, but four or five tiny trout under six inches were my only reward for persistence. The weather, meanwhile, deteriorated; as some large clouds blocked the warming rays of the sun. The absence of solar energy prompted the wind to gust, and I pulled on my raincoat as a windbreaker to block the chilling impact.

At 2:15PM I approached a nice long smooth pool, and coincidentally Zuni and Jane appeared on the opposite bank. Zuni’s excitement level elevated as indicated by her rapidly wagging tail, when she spotted me, but she was reluctant to wade into the icy flows of the North Fork. I surveyed the long pool and noticed a pair of random rises, and since the dry/dropper was not generating results, I removed the three flies and replaced them with a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. For the next ten minutes I sliced some upstream casts into the wind, and drifted the tiny tuft through the areas that revealed rising fish earlier. The fish ignored my dependable BWO imitaion, but additional sporadic downstream rises shifted my attention.

I initiated a series of across and downstream drifts, but again my fly was not in favor, until I allowed it to dangle in the current, while I gathered up excess line, and I was surprised to feel the weight of a fish. The small eater remained connected for only a second, but it was clear that movement was a necessary part of the deception. I fired some casts across and down and executed some poor mends that caused the fly to hop, and on three occasions a fish swirled at the tumbling fluff, but in each case the result was a refusal.

Zuni and Jane were clearly getting antsy to leave, so I surrendered to the small selective eaters, and I hooked my fly to the rod guide, as I prepared to wade across the pool to the bank next to the road. Somehow in the process of doing this I exerted excessive pressure on the line, and the CDC olive broke from the leader and dropped in the pool and began floating downstream. I took a couple steps in an effort to retrieve the fly but then realized that it was not worth the risk of a stumble and fall. I paused to watch the tiny tuft of CDC, as it floated toward the tail, and then in a split second flash a small trout darted to the surface and ate the detached fly! I spent ten minutes attempting to fool the choosy eaters in the pool, and the first drift of my unattached fly was consumed. I concluded that my leader was too short or perhaps not fine enough, but that was a change in strategy for another day.

I joined Jane and Zuni on the road, and we ambled back to the parking lot together. Tuesday was more about being outside with Jane and Zuni, and the fishing was secondary. The air temperature was acceptable, but the cutting wind converted fun into a chore. The North Fork of the St. Vrain is largely a brown trout fishery, and I suspect that the larger fish were occupied with the reproductive cycle. Three trout in 1.5 hours is an acceptable catch rate, but the puny size did not justify the difficult conditions. The seven day weather forecast is not encouraging for additional fishing in 2019.

Fish Landed: 3

Clear Creek – 10/17/2019

Time: 12:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: Peak to Plains Trail Area

Clear Creek 10/17/2019 Photo Album

The weather was outstanding, and I benefited from a short drive. Those were the two positives from my fishing trip on Thursday, October 17, 2019. Otherwise, my 2.5 hours on the water were forgettable. I experienced numerous fishless days in my fly fishing life, and today I landed three small brown trout barely over six inches, but the combination of slow fishing and stream mishaps placed my Clear Creek outing among the worst.

The flows were 45 CFS, and the water clarity was excellent. The air temperature reached the low seventies, and all three of these factors augured a pleasant day on the nearby front range stream. I chose to drive to the western end of the canyon beyond Golden, since I encountered more rainbow trout in that area in the past, and I attempted to hedge against brown trout spawning activity.

Typically Productive Water

I ate my lunch, when I arrived at the parking lot along the stream, since it was already noon. Once I finished my black cherry yogurt cup, I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and gathered my gear for a few hours on the creek. I found an opening in the fence and cut directly to the stream and then waded along the edge for a decent distance to gain separation from the popular water near the parking lot.

I quickly knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and began to plop it in likely locations, but after thirty minutes with nary a look, I modified my approach. I removed the beetle and tied a peacock hippie stomper to my line along with a beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. As I removed the hares ear from my fleece wallet, I momentarily last my grip and dropped the size 14 nymph in the water. This was the beginning of a series of adverse events that forced my early exit.

I moved upstream and featured the three fly lineup and eventually landed a brown trout that barely exceeded six inches. I carried doubts whether I would land additional fish, so I removed my sunglove to grip the small trout for a photo and placed the glove on a large boulder along the shoreline. With fish number one under my belt, I continued my progression and landed two additional browns of similar size to the first. One of the midget trout hammered the salvation nymph, and the other slurped the hippie stomper. The size of the trout was lacking, but at least the action was improving.

Fish Number One

As these events transpired, I noticed that long pockets and riffles of moderate depth yielded the most evidence of fish, and I spotted an area along the far bank that fit the criteria of productive. I carefully waded to the center of the creek to position myself to make some across and downstream casts, and suddenly both my feet slipped on an angled underwater rock. I clutched my wading staff in my right hand, but it was useless, as I fell sideways and broke my fall with my left hand, which held my fly rod. The splash down was for only a moment, but my left arm went underwater up to my armpit, and ice cold water trickled over the top of my waders and seeped down to my feet. I cursed my ill fortune, but I was encouraged to realize that my rod remained in one piece, and I was not injured in any way. I mumbled to myself, that three tiny brown trout did not justify the hassle of getting wet.

Hares Ear Visible

I attempted to resume fishing, but I quickly realized that the fly line was wrapped around both wading boots, and this forced me to shuffle to shore to unravel the snarl. Once the line was cleared, I sloshed upstream to resume casting. In a brief amount of time I saw the hippie stomper pause and executed a swift hook set, but the absence of a jaw caused the flies to catapult towards me. Before they could reach my body, they snagged the fly rod and created a monofilament nightmare. In a wet state I patiently unwound the entanglement, but when I was once again prepared to cast, I realized that I was only wearing a sunglove on my right hand. I remembered that I removed the left in order to grip the first fish for a photo.

I was not willing to write off a relatively new pair of sungloves, so I retreated to the scene of my first catch, and sure enough a left sunglove remained perched on a large boulder along the bank. I was closer to the upstream Peak to Plains bridge, than where I began, so I decided to fish to the bridge and call it a day. But my string of unfortunate events was not over. I found a promising long deep shelf pool, and as I raised my arm to cast, my reel released from the seat and plummeted into the creek. Apparently I had not tightened the lower clamp enough, and the reel worked itself loose during my time on the water. Fortunately this happened in shallow water, and I quickly recovered the newly washed reel and once again mounted it below the cork grip.

A couple momentary hook ups in the home stretch did not improve my outlook, so I waded below the footbridge to the bank next to the highway and then circled to the Peak to Plains Path and returned to the car. I retrieved my rarely used change of clothes from my fishing bag and removed a pile of wet apparel and made the short drive to my home.

Thursday was not one of my better outings. Wet wading was not on my agenda, and the three small brown trout did not compensate for the string of mishaps on October 17. Clear Creek continues to be my nemesis, and I need a break from the small stream west of Golden.

Fish Landed: 3

South Platte River – 10/16/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon; outside special regulation area

South Platte River 10/16/2019 Photo Album

After my near skunking on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on 10/01/2019, I desperately wanted another shot at redemption. I scheduled a return visit for 10/04/2019, but my fall on the Big Thompson River on 10/03/2019 scuttled that plan. Finally the weather and a day without commitments enabled me to visit the tailwater in South Park on 10/16/2019.

The temperature at the start of my fly fishing adventure was around fifty degrees, but sunshine and the lack of clouds allowed the air to warm up quickly, and it reached a high of around seventy degrees in the afternoon. In short, Wednesday developed into a glorious autumn day in Colorado.

Cutbow Before Lunch

I decided to fish outside the special regulation area, as historically I enjoyed excellent results there. I suspect that fly fishermen are drawn to the catch and release water and ignore the open stretches under the assumption that the bait fishermen harvest the best fish. As a devoted contrarian I suspect that the spin casters bypass very productive sections of harder to fish pocket water, and these stretches are tailored to my style of fishing.

Relatively Low Flows

Flows were 66 CFS on Wednesday, and the water was extremely clear. These conditions were more challenging than usual for the South Platte River, and the skittish behavior of the fish attested to the demanding circumstances.

Pool Toy Hopper Fan

I began with a tan pool toy hopper, and beneath it I tied a salvation nymph and beadhead soft hackle emerger. The salvation was intended to be an attractor nymph, and the soft hackle emerger anticipated a blue winged olive emergence. The hopper and salvation were consistent members of my lineup throughout the day; however, the soft hackle emerger was exchanged for a beadhead hares ear nymph in the early going. A slow period after lunch prompted me to swap the hares ear for a 20 incher. In both cases I sensed that my flies were not getting deep enough, and increasing the size and weight of one of the nymphs was a response to this concern. Over the course of the day the pool toy hopper duped five trout, and the salvation nymph accounted for the remainder. The hares ear nymph and 20 incher simply served the role of a split shot. Nevertheless I was certain that the addition of a heaver fly was key to my level of success.

Overhead View

By the end of the day I managed to land twenty trout, but achieving this total was a test of my persistence and ability to make adjustments. I spooked untold numbers of trout in the slower moving pools, and I debated moving to a small single dry at times but never pulled the trigger. Instead I elevated my stealth and skipped around most of the smooth areas, where the river residents were on high alert and were extremely particular about their choice of a meal.

The Type of Water That Produced

I also monitored the type of water that yielded the most success and devoted my energies to places with matching structure. Medium velocity riffles of moderate depth were the ticket, and several spots that matched this description produced multiple trout. The hopper paused or stopped on occasion after an upstream cast and dead drift, but more often a hungry trout attacked the salvation during a swing at the end of a drift, or when I lifted the flies to execute another cast.

Large Black Spots

Of the twenty fish that visited my net, two were rainbows, and the rest were brown trout. I spotted two sets of trout in the spawning act, and I suspect this activity curtailed feeding by the larger, mature browns. The largest brown trout landed were likely in the eleven to twelve inch range, and this size range was small compared to my usual experience on this stretch of the river.

In summary I managed to land twenty fish on a gorgeous fall day in October. I demonstrated flexibility and adjusted to the tougher than normal conditions. I modified the weight of my offerings, exercised caution, analyzed the water type and applied that knowledge to my prospecting strategy. Hopefully periods of mild weather will enable me to extend the season for another month.

Fish Landed: 20

 

South Boulder Creek – 10/15/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/15/2019 Photo Album

My day on South Boulder Creek was a rare justification for carrying a ridiculous number of flies on western streams, but more on that at the end of this post. I returned from my 50th high school reunion on Sunday, and a physical therapy appointment precluded fly fishing on Monday, so I was quite anxious to visit a local stream on October 15. The weather forecast projected cooler high temperatures of 66 degrees on Monday, and this translated to mid-fifties in the mountains. I scanned the DWR graphs for Front Range streams, and upon seeing flows of 88 CFS on South Boulder Creek, I designated the small tailwater as my destination.

I arrived at the upper parking lot by 9:40, and I was the first vehicle to claim a space. A car and truck arrived, while I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, but I departed before them. The air temperature was 39 degrees on the dashboard, when I parked, so I slipped on my UnderArmour long sleeve insulated undershirt and wrapped my North Face light down coat around my waist inside my waders. I exchanged my wide brimmed hat for a New Zealand billed cap with ear flaps, and I wore the flaps down throughout my tenure on the creek.

Home to the Crimson Rainbow

By 11AM I was positioned in the creek, and I began with a single peacock hippie stomper. The attractor dry fly failed to generate interest in the first three pockets, and I knew they contained trout, so I stripped in the foam fly and added a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. With the three fly dry/dropper combination I connected with an absolutely stunning thirteen inch rainbow in a deep run along the north bank. In a short amount of time I hooked and landed two additional brown trout to boost the fish count to three.

Scarlet Gill Plate Stands Out

These three flies served as my main offerings for the morning and early afternoon, and they produced trout at a fairly steady rate. I progressed upstream and prospected the likely pockets, deep runs and moderate riffles. By two o’clock I began to see sporadic rises, while I also observed small mayflies, as they hovered above the creek and slowly ascended like a rising hot air balloon. I lost two hares ear and salvation combinations to bad knots, and as I replaced the second pair, I moved the salvation to the top position and replaced the hares ear with a beadhead soft hackle emerger.

Looking Ahead

By 2:30 the shadows lengthened across much of the stream, and this challenged my ability to track the hippie stomper, so I swapped the top fly for a tan pool toy. This exchange was purely driven by my need for better visibility. As three o’clock approached, my fish tally rested at twenty-six, and I was quite pleased with my day on South Boulder Creek. I estimated that eight trout opted for the salvation, four nipped the soft hackle emerger and the remainder (14) crushed the hippie stomper. The trendy foam attractor was not perfect, as it also instigated quite a few refusals, but it was easily the most popular fly. I debated testing a Jake’s gulp beetle, but the catch rate was steady enough to ward off experimentation. The soft hackle emerger was popular on the lift and swing as expected with baetis activity in progress.

Overview

I exited the creek at 2:45PM and climbed to the path and began my return hike. When I reached my favorite large pool; however, I paused my Garmin walking activity tracker, and angled to the downstream tailout below the pool. I paused to observe for a few minutes, and I was encouraged to ready my fly for action, when I spotted a pair of sporadic rises. I scanned the water, but I was unable to notice any food on the surface, although mayflies of various sizes drifted above the stream. I took an educated guess and tied a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line, and it immediately became an item of interest, but not compelling enough to eat.

Ooh. Fish Haven.

I was frustrated by this turn of events, but I was confident that I could find the fly that matched the resident trouts’ appetite. Blue winged olives seemed to be a likely candidate for imitation, so I knotted a size 22 CDC olive to my line. Once again refusals and a couple split second connections ruled, so I made yet another switch. In previous years I encountered late season pale morning duns, so I tied a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line, but the same scenario unfolded. I considered surrendering to the picky pool inhabitants, but then I spotted a pair of relatively large mayflies with light yellowish bodies. They attempted to free themselves from the surface film, but bounced back and forth between the air and water, as they struggled to become airborne. Could these be the tasty snack that elicited sporadic rises from the trout in front of me?

My What Spots You Have

I flipped open my fly box and scanned my options. Tucked on the right hand side were five size fourteen sulfur comparaduns with light yellow bodies. I surmised that they might be the answer to the puzzle, and I knotted one to my tippet. I applied floatant to the body and preened the wing, so it stood in an erect position and then fluttered a cast across from my position. As the relatively large mayfly imitation floated toward the tail of the pool, a mouth appeared, and it was not tentative, as it slurped the comparadun. I quickly reacted with a hook set and encouraged a twelve inch brown trout into my net. Catching a nice wild trout on a dry fly after four fly changes was very gratifying.

Missile Shaped

But fish continued to rise, so I sopped up the moisture and dipped the comparadun in my dry shake canister. Two fish rose in the shelf pool on the right, and I turned my attention to these targets. A pair of nice runs angled into the shelf pool from the right side of a large boulder, and the trout hid in the riffles created by the entering run. I lobbed a cast to the deep run on the left, and a fish darted up and nipped the fly. I set quickly but only managed to nick the assailant.

Next I turned my attention to the right most run. This fish had not fed for five minutes, so I was not certain it maintained its feeding positoin, but I dropped a cast to the left seam nonetheless. Whack! A trout crushed the low floating mayfly imitation with confidence, and I was attached to a streaking bullet. The hungry and now angry trout, streaked repeatedly in multiple directions, but eventually I applied side pressure and slipped my net beneath a gorgeous rainbow trout. The glistening finned creature displayed a wide crimson stripe, and I estimated its length to be fifteen inches. This may have been my personal record landed trout from South Boulder Creek.

End of Day Surprise

I continued casting the size 14 comparadun in the pool for another ten minutes, and I experienced two more temporary connections, before I hooked the fly in a rod guide and resumed my return hike. I stopped at one more quality pool and fooled a small rainbow trout on the sulfur comparadun, before I quit for good and hiked back to the parking lot.

Twenty-nine trout on October 15 was a quality outing. The temperature never rose above the mid-fifties, but I was reasonably comfortable in my light down coat. Landing two very respectable trout on a seldom used sulfur comparadun imitation was icing on the cake on a cool autumn day. Perhaps I am justified in carrying classic Pennsylvania flies in my fly box, as I wander about western streams.

Fish Landed: 29