Boulder Creek – 08/07/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 08/07/2017 Photo Album

I was weary of driving long distances to fish as was the case in the previous week, so I decided to go local on Monday. Flows on Boulder Creek recently dropped to 74 CFS, and the small stream west of Boulder, CO was absent from my 2017 itinerary, so I planned to give it a try. Unfortunately when I woke up on Monday morning, I heard the constant trickle of rain, as it drained down the spouting. When I looked outside, the picture was even worse with low gray clouds shrouding the Denver area. I checked the weather report for Boulder, and it indicated rain and thunderstorms off and on for the remainder of the day. This was not encouraging, and I debated devoting Monday to some procrastinated indoor chores.

It was only misting, when I departed on my daily run, but halfway through the jog the mist transformed to drizzle, and by the time I returned to the house the precipitation was classified as steady rain. I took my time showering and then prepared my lunch, and when I looked to the west, I noticed the sky remained gray, but it was definitely brighter, so I took the plunge and made the drive to Boulder. My best case scenario was getting in some fly fishing. My worst case outcome was a picnic lunch in the car next to Boulder Creek.

I drove up the canyon a good ways, and parked at a wide pullout with a sign about a historical wildfire. It was noon when I arrived, so I sat in the car protected from the misting rain and devoured my light lunch. After lunch I grabbed my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my waders and fishing backpack and front pack, and I was prepared to fish. I wore my fleece and raincoat and pulled my hood up over my New Zealand billed cap, and I was as waterproof as I could be.

Just as I began walking down the highway, two fishermen returned from the creek and climbed into a Subaru Outback parked at the western end of the parking area. I was concerned that I would be fishing in the wake of these recent waders, but I concluded that I was headed downstream, and by the time I returned to the area they vacated, the fish would be back to their normal habits.

P8070001.JPG

Boulder Creek on a Rainy Day

After walking a short distance along the shoulder of the road, I angled down a steep bank and tied a Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph to my line. I began casting these flies to likely holding spots, and in the early going I accumulated temporary hook ups, refusals and looks but not landed fish. These fish were supposed to be gullible, so what was going on? Eventually I landed a couple fish on the hares ear, but this was after covering a significant number of promising holes. The fish seemed to be ignoring the nymphs, as they focused on the Chernobyl, but they were unwilling to close their mouths on the fake foam terrestrial.

I finally conceded that my initial fly choices were not desired table fare for the Boulder Creek trout, and I replaced the three flies with a medium olive body size 12 stimulator. This fly enabled me to land a couple more small brown trout, but then it also became a thing of interest but not something to eat. I considered going back to the Chernobyl ant, but then I recalled my success on Friday with Jake’s gulp beetle. Why not give it another trial? I tied on a size 12 beetle and added a beadhead hares ear dropper, and my optimism soared. Early on the beetle attracted two refusals, and then I suffered through another lull with no action.

Needless to say I was rather frustrated. It was raining lightly with heavy cloud cover, and these sort of cool overcast conditions generally portend excellent fishing. The flows remained above average, and generally the trout are not as skittish and remain opportunistic after enduring the high flows of run off. I must mention, however, that the water was quite clear, and I spooked numerous fish, when I approached a pool or pocket too quickly or clumsily.

My best run of near action consisted of some momentary hook ups on the Chernboyl at the outset, and two of these fish appeared to be a bit larger than the small fish that I landed. I returned to the dry/dropper approach with a size 10 Chernobyl ant, beadhead emerald caddis pupa, and beadhead pheasant tail. The caddis pupa and pheasant tail produced on St. Louis Creek, so why not test them on relatively small Boulder Creek?

P8070004.JPG

Crashing Water

I allotted a decent amount of time to these flies, but they failed me. Once again I noted a couple refusals to the Chernobyl, and the nymphs were totally shunned. Something had to change, but what should I try next? The clouds were growing darker and the wind kicked up a bit, and I was fairly certain that more rain was a near term reality. I decided to make my last stand with a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. Fish were looking to the surface, and caddis are generally always present, and the light gray deer hair caddis is a solid general pattern that covers a lot of bases.

P8070003.JPG

Little Guy

Well it worked. In the remaining half hour I landed three small brown trout on the caddis. A few refusals were in the mix, but the imitation was apparently close enough to convince three fish to eat. I considered replacing the caddis with a light gray size 16 comparadun, in case the trout were tuned into pale morning duns, even though I did not see any, but the density of the rain increased, and I decided to call it quits and seek the shelter of the Santa Fe. I seemed to recall a mention on the Front Range Anglers web site of pale morning duns emerging in the late afternoon. I suppose this theory will need to be tested on another day.

P8070005.JPG

Caddis Lover

Seven small brown trout in 2.5 hours of fishing is not a stellar outing. I was admittedly expecting better fishing in the rainy overcast conditions on a stream that historically produced relatively easy action. I suppose I should celebrate being able to fish in adverse weather conditions, and landing seven fish was actually icing on the cake. Hopefully the weather clears, and I can return to more typical summer conditions for the remainder of the week.

Fish Landed: 7

Boulder Creek – 05/04/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 05/04/2017 Photo Album

After a couple days of cool weather and appointments I was anxious to return to my beloved pastime of fly fishing. The weather forecast for Thursday was promising, so I prepared for a trip to Boulder Creek in the canyon west of Boulder, CO. Originally I hoped to visit the Big Thompson River, but a review of flows on the DWR web site indicated an increase and some erratic movement on the chart, so I decided to avoid for a few days until things settled down.

I arrived at a pullout along Boulder Creek at 10AM on Thursday morning, and the weather forecast proved to be accurate, as the temperature climbed into the sixties and the sky was deep blue during my entire stay. The flows were at 52 cfs as advertised on the web site, and clarity was superb. Favorable conditions awaited my entry into Boulder Creek on May 4.

P5040003.MOV

I began my day with a size 8 Chernobyl ant, emerald caddis pupa and beadhead hares ear, as this combination performed well for me on the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek on Monday. During the early going the nymphs were ignored, and the Chernobyl ant attracted mostly refusals with the exception of one small brown, that smashed the over sized foam ant imitation.

P5040007.JPG

A Great Start

After a half hour of refusals and one landed fish, I experimented with a gray stimulator in an effort to downsize, but the change failed to elicit any reaction from the Boulder Creek trout. I pondered my next move and considered the fact that the fish were rising to the large Chernobyl but not eating. I deduced that they were looking for a smaller terrestrial, so I switched to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle.

P5040009.JPG

A Fan of Nymphs

Voila! This produced, and I landed two additional small trout that gulped the beetle with confidence, before I stopped to eat lunch. After lunch another beetle chomper incremented the fish count by one, and then I spotted occasional blue winged olives hovering above the stream. This observation prodded me to switch back to a dry/dropper arrangement with  a smaller size 10 Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and RS2.

The fish counter moved from four to ten over the remainder of the afternoon, with one fish taking the RS2, and one nabbing the hares ear. Surprisingly the remainder of the afternoon catch crushed the Chernobyl. Several brown trout feeders in the early afternoon moved at least a foot downstream to catch up to the drifting foam terrestrial. I recognized this as a sure sign of an effective fly.

P5040013.JPG

The Beetle Fooled the Brook Trout

At 2:30 I was frustrated by the increasing rate of refusals to the foam ant, so I reverted to Jake’s gulp beetle and ended the day with an eight inch brook trout. I probably should have switched to the beetle earlier, but it is always easy to look back. On Thursday I landed eleven fish, and all were browns except for the final brook trout, The largest fish was only ten inches, but it was a gorgeous spring day with the leaves beginning to break out on the trees in Boulder Canyon.

Fish Landed: 11

Boulder Creek – 03/30/2017

Time: 2:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 03/30/2017 Photo Album

After three days in Wyoming, I anxiously looked forward to some rest and relaxation upon my return to Denver, CO. However, when I reviewed the weather forecast, I noticed that a winter storm was expected to enter the state on Friday and continue into Saturday with colder and seasonal temperatures following. I could not resist the temptation to take advantage of a beautiful spring day on Thursday with temperatures spiking in the low sixties, so I made a spur of the moment decision and packed the car for a quick trip to Boulder Creek in Boulder, CO.

Jane decided to accompany, so she could complete her walk on the nice trail along the creek, and we managed to depart by 1:30 after a brief lunch. After making the drive and assembling my Orvis four weight, I completed a short hike on the Boulder Creek trail until I was at least .5 mile below my parking space. The temperature was indeed 64 degrees, but a huge gray cloud moved over Boulder and blocked the sun for much of my time on the water. It created one of those illusions, where the gray sky and slight breeze made it seem colder than the actual air temperature. The creek meanwhile was extremely low and flowing at approximately 10 CFS. I correctly surmised that the shallow water and extreme clarity would translate to challenging fishing conditions.

P3300033.JPG

Where I Began

In deference to my accurate assessment I began my fishing venture with a size 12 olive stimulator and trailed a beadhead hares ear nymph. During the first hour I moved upstream cautiously, observed several rare riseforms in slow smooth pools, and scattered several fish. The day was evolving much differently than my previous visit on March 18. Deploying a light stimulator as my top fly was a departure from my standard operating procedure, which dictated a foam attractor, but even this light offering seemed to be spooking the fish in the clear pond-like pools. Actually the splashy entry of the trailing beadhead was most likely the offending culprit, so I made an adjustment and tied a small size 16 gray adult caddis to my line. I was certain that this unobtrusive earth toned fly would turn the tide, but it was ignored by the picky stream residents.

The caddis was difficult to follow in the glare created by the partial sun, and I reached a nice deep run that carved a path along some large bank side boulders, so I replaced the single fly with a size 10 Jake’s gulp beetle and once again trailed the beadhead hares ear. Nothing. I added the dropper because I was casting to a short section where the current velocity masked the splashy entry of the nymph, but when I moved to the next pool, I made the mistake of retaining the invasive hares ear.

Finally I arrived at a very sweet pool with a nice deep angled run at the top that flowed against the south bank of the stream. I paused to observe, and I was rewarded with a view of two or three rises on the left side of the deep center current. I was not certain what the object of affection was for these surface feeding fish, but I guessed that a sparse blue winged olive hatch was in progress. The significant clue was the overcast sky, as BWO’s seem to prefer low light to make their grand entrance into the adult stage of life. Sure enough as I gazed at the pool, I spotted two tiny mayflies, as they slowly fluttered up from the water surface.

I was reluctant to convert to a single CDC blue winged olive given the riffled surface and frustrating glare, so I compromised by knotting a size 14 gray stimulator to my line, and then I added a size 18 beadhead soft hackle emerger to imitate the active blue winged olive nymphs. The move partially worked. On two consecutive early casts I spotted rings near the vicinity of my stimulator, so I set the hook and momentarily connected with a pair of fish. But the Boulder Creek trout were simply teasing me, as the fish escaped after a brief tussle. I suspected that the trout were refusing my large top fly and ignoring the trailing emerger which was intended to match their food source, but I persisted with a few more casts, and finally a drift right down the heart of the main current rewarded me. I quickly fought the eleven inch brown trout and determined that it struck the stimulator, before it bounced free, just as I raised its head to the rim of my net.

Surely the two long distance releases and the thrashing of a hooked fish must have locked the jaws of any remaining inhabitants, but I noted another stray rise, so I lofted another cast to the top of the riffles. Again a rise occurred where I estimated my fly to be, so I reacted with a hook set. Needless to say I was quite disappointed, when I learned that the brown trout in my net was foul hooked by the soft hackle emerger. This was confirmation that the first two fish likely exhibited the same last minute rejection resulting in being foul hooked by the trailer.

The fifteen minute mayfly emergence ended, and I concluded that I disturbed the hot spot beyond repair, so I continued on my path upstream. During the remaining hour I covered quite a bit of water, but I mostly repeated the experience of the first hour. I limited my casting to deep faster water and skipped the smooth pools, but even this fishing selectivity failed to yield another fish. Toward the end a pair of ducks paddled ahead of me, and each time I drew close they flapped their wings and moved upstream to the next pool. This repeated disturbance was certainly not helping my cause given the challenging low water conditions.

P3300034.JPG

Nice Angled Pool

I reeled up my line at 4:30 and made a brief hike back to the car, where I found Jane huddled in the passenger seat. She agreed with my assessment that the gray sky made it seem colder than 64 degrees. After I pulled off my waders and tucked my rod in the case, we drove to the Celestial Seasonings tea room, where we stocked up on mountain chai, which has become extremely scarce in the Denver supermarkets. Next we searched the maps app for local brew pubs, and we settled on Upslope, as it was merely 2.7 miles away from Celestial Seasonings. I ordered an ozo coffee brown ale for Jane and a citra pale ale for myself, and we quaffed our brews inside in front of a huge wall diagram that depicted the evolution of various beer types.

One trout landed in two hours of fishing was certainly a slow catch rate, however, I enjoyed the experience and the challenge of overcoming the difficult conditions. The mountain chai and Upslope pale ale were a nice conclusion to a fun afternoon.

Fish Landed: 1

Boulder Creek – 03/18/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Within the City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 03/18/2017 Photo Album

After a fantastic day on Tuesday that featured five landed trout in three hours including four rainbows in the fifteen to sixteen inch range, I was quite anxious to return to a stream. Originally I planned to make a trip to a local creek on Thursday, but then I discovered that my Bucknell Bison were playing West Virginia University in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. I concluded that many additional days of fishing were ahead of me, but the opportunities to see Bucknell in the tournament were infrequent. I spent Thursday afternoon in front of the TV set in spite of spectacular weather. Unfortunately Bucknell lost by six points, but it was a great game, and I was proud of the effort put forth by my alma mater. Bucknell is much smaller than WVU, and it does not compromise its academic standards for sports, so hanging tough with the Mountaineers was quite an achievement.

My calendar displayed commitments for Friday, so the next viable weekday available for a fishing trip was Wednesday, March 22. Normally I spurn weekend fishing, but eight days was too long to wait for another chance to wet a line, and the summer weather in March was too spectacular to bypass. I considered my options for a Saturday trip. Clear Creek flows were spiking in the afternoon, and this reflected the impact of low level snow melt. My success fishing among ice chunks and run off was limited. I consider South Boulder Creek my home stream, but flows were trickling through the canyon at 14 CFS. The combination of low flows and potential crowds at the popular tailwater made visiting South Boulder Creek a risky proposition. The Big Thompson flows were reasonable, but this is another fishery that receives above average pressure on weekends. The North Fork of the St. Vrain remained an option, and I experienced decent success there on two earlier trips. The last option that I reviewed was Boulder Creek. The stream gauge at Orodell at the bottom of the canyon was not displaying a reading, but then I remembered that my new friend, Trevor, suggested Boulder Creek within the city.

I decided to explore new water once again. Trevor would not devote trips and hours to Boulder Creek, if it did not contain trout, and the trendy place to fish on a balmy late winter day in March was more than likely the mountains. I gambled that most fishermen would rush to the higher elevations and ignore the more mundane flows within the City of Boulder.

P3180001.JPG

Starting Point on Boulder Creek in City of Boulder, CO

I arrived at a parking space near Boulder Creek at 11AM on Saturday morning, and after rigging my Orvis Access four weight, I hiked .5 mile downstream from a bridge and paused to assess the water. Boulder Creek within the city limits is much more placid than the tumbling mountain torrent that passes through the canyon to the west. My starting point was just below a gorgeous deep pool that contained a deep center current and shelf pools on either side. I tied a size 14 medium olive body stimulator to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear on a two foot dropper, and I warmed my arm up by casting to some marginal runs, while I progressed toward the aforementioned pool.

P3180002.JPG

Nice Early Catch

On the third cast to the center of the pool, a small brown trout darted from its holding lie and snatched the hares ear near the lip. I was excited to break the ice early, and cautious optimism flushed my thoughts. I continued with some additional unproductive casts, and as I was doing this, I observed quite a few large midges hovering near the water. I judged them to be size 20, and for the midge species in flowing water they bordered on giants. One rise is not enough to suggest a switch to a dry fly, but it did prompt me to add another length of tippet to the hares ear, and I knotted a mercury flashback size 20 black beauty to the end of my line.

As I began casting to the left shelf pool, a cluster of midges appeared and shortly thereafter I witnessed a couple more rises. Surely these feeding fish could not ignore my three fly offering, could they?. I did not wait long for the answer. Within the next forty-five minutes my net felt the weight of five additional brown trout. The largest was eleven inches, and all except one nabbed the hares ear, but I enjoyed the fast action in the small stream on a warm weekend in March despite the small size of the fish. The black beauty produced the brown trout that ignored the hares ear.

P3180005.JPG

Another Nice Wild Fish

Before I paused for lunch at 12:30 I continued upstream and added two additional brown trout to the fish count. Another nipped the black beauty, and the other fell for the hares ear nymph. Each fish emerged from the tail of nice deep slow moving pools. Boulder Creek exhibited a nice mix of small deep pools next to undercut banks and logs, as well as deep runs that fed the pools and some narrow fast moving chutes.

After lunch I progressed upstream, as I prospected the likely spots, and I landed two more small browns on the hares ear. The slowing catch rate correlated with the rising temperature, but I was thrilled to reach the double digit milestone. Meanwhile the bike path was buzzing with all manner of traffic, as the summer weather brought out the walkers, skateboarders, inline skaters, dog walkers, joggers and cyclists in abundant quantities. For the most part the outdoor enthusiasts did not bother my fishing other than the occasional splashing dog.

P3180008.JPG

Hares Ear Victim

By 1:30 I approached a deep pool that represented the most attractive fishing structure of the day. As I paused to assess my approach, I spotted a decent fish resting along the inside edge of the shelf pool created by the main current. The fish appeared to be actively feeding, as it made occasional sudden moves to intercept items from the underwater drift. I made five or six passes with my dry/dropper configuration, and each was ignored by my sighted target. I decided to change tactics, and I swapped the stimulator for a yellow fat Albert to support two size 14 beadhead nymphs. I retained the beadhead hares ear and added a beadhead ultra zug bug to the end of my line, but this change in strategy had no impact on the trout eight feet in front of me.

After ten drifts along the current seam and through the short pool I moved on, and I managed to fool a small brown trout that snatched the ultra zug bug during the next thirty minutes. The sun was now high in the sky, and the air temperature climbed toward the eighty degree mark. The bare limbs of the numerous streamside trees afforded scant shade, although the narrow shadows from the branches and limbs caused my top fly to alternate between sunlight and darkness. On several drifts I reacted to the illusory disappearance of the top fly, when it transitioned from sun to shade.

P3180010.JPG

Pink Wing Post

Near the end of my day I encountered a long slow moving pool, and I was excited to notice a series of dimpling rises in the flats twenty-five feet above me. I quickly concluded that the splash down of the fat Albert would scatter the feeding fish, so I undertook the time consuming task of removing the three fly dry/dropper set up. I surmised that the fish were consuming tiny midges, but I was not ready to resort to a size 24 griffiths gnat, so I opted instead for a size 18 black parachute ant with a pink wing post. I stripped out sufficient line to shoot a longer than normal cast, and on the second attempt I checked my rod tip high and allowed the fly and leader to flutter down above the position of one of the risers. Sip. A quick reflex enabled me to lift my rod, and a spunky ten inch brown trout frolicked on the end of my four weight. I quickly brought it to my net and snapped a photo and released it back to its natural environment. I ended my day with a wild brown trout that sipped an ant in a smooth slow flowing pool. It was a fitting conclusion to a warm late winter day on Boulder Creek.

Fish Landed: 12

P3180011.JPG

Ant in Corner of Lip

Boulder Creek – 08/13/2016

Time: 10:00AM – 1:30PM

Location: Below Boulder Falls between zip line wires.

Boulder Creek 08/13/2016 Photo Album

Marcia and Greg, my sister and brother-in-law, departed to visit an old friend, and Jane scheduled a golf outing, so I decided to sneak in a fishing trip to a local stream. I was justifiably concerned about weekend crowds, but I concluded that Boulder Creek was the best nearby option. Flows remained at 80 CFS; the same level that I experienced on a successful trip at the end of July, and I wagered that the high gradient section that I prefer was not popular with Boulder anglers.

I skipped my run and workout and launched the Sante Fe from the garage at 8:35AM, and despite a construction backup on the Boulder Turnpike, I arrived at a large pullout by 9:45. Several cars were present in the dirt lot, but I attributed them to the profusion of fanatical rock climbers in the area. The air temperature was already in the seventies, but I elected to wear my waders rather than wet wade. I was probably haunted by the chilling experience on Chalk Creek, but Saturday would have been perfect for cooling off.

P8130064.JPG

80CFS

P8130069.JPG

Peacock Body Stimulator Was the Ticket

After I assembled my Loomis five weight, I walked downstream along the narrow shoulder of Canyon Boulevard to a location where the stream arched away from the road a bit, and here I executed a careful steep descent of the rocky bank. I pondered my fly choices and recalled having success with a stimulator on Boulder Creek on July 29, so I plucked a size 14 peacock stimulator from my fly box and knotted it to my tippet. I began casting the bushy attractor to the edges and center of the abundant plunge pools. The first two failed to produce, but as I moved upstream, the fish became more cooperative. Between 10AM and 11:45 I notched eight small brown trout utilizing the cast and move strategy.

P8130066.JPG

Early Success

The morning was not littered with complete success, as I also experienced a few temporary connections and twice as many refusals as takes. Also my theory that other anglers would avoid the steep section was refuted, as a man and three young boys appeared above me at 11, and this forced me to climb the steep bank in order to circle around them.

P8130068.JPG

Super Macro Rocks

After lunch I decided to mimic my July 29 strategy, so I converted to a dry/dropper proposition. I utilized a tan pool toy, hares ear nymph and salvation and began to probe the likely fish holding haunts of Boulder Creek. By now the sun was above me, and the thermometer was assuredly touching the eighties. I managed to connect with one small brown trout and felt the brief tug of several others. The gap between these fish encounters extended, and then I spotted numerous looks at the pool toy, but no take. The heat and bright sun were obviously having an impact on the willingness of trout to feed, and then a pair of pre-teen girls wandered toward me, as they splashed and played in the cold tumbling creek.

P8130065.JPG

Trying Out the New Selfie Mode

Instead of navigating around the splashing water enthusiasts, I decided to call it a day. The quality of the fishing was deteriorating, and I was certain that additional swimming parties existed ahead of me. My fear of weekend crowding was realized, but I was pleased to land nine fish in three hours, and I captured some nice photos with my new camera. I am now certain that the August doldrums are present, and I will search for high elevation and tailwater destinations until the weather cools after Labor Day.

Fish Landed: 9

Boulder Creek – 07/29/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Near 8% grade sign and zip line crossing for rock climbers

Boulder Creek 07/29/2016 Photo Album

We returned from Reudi Reservoir on Thursday, and Jane and I stopped to complete the Eagle Lake hike along the way. Glenwood Canyon was closed from 9:00AM until 3:30PM on Thursday for rock slide work, so Jane and I decided to negotiate the Eagle-Thomasville Road. I read several books that warned not to drive this rough dirt road after rain, since it is essentially impassable when wet. Fortunately we did not encounter any significant rainfall, and we completed the taxing drive. The section from Thomasville to the trailhead to Eagle Lake contained numerous deep ruts created by the heavy logging trucks during mud season. Successfully traveling this area depended on balancing the vehicle tires on the high ground in order to avoid sinking into the deep tire tracks.

The eight mile drive from Eagle Lake over Crooked Creek Pass and ending at Sylvan Lake was new terrain to us. The difficulty in this area was extremely rocky sections that forced us to travel at maximum speeds of 5MPH, as driving faster would have risked the loss of fillings from our teeth. Another hindrance to progress was a two mile section where the road surface consisted of an inch thick layer of red dust. It was obvious that rain could convert the roadbed into a slick red clay slip and slide in a small amount of time.

I relaxed on Thursday evening and decided to squeeze in another day of fishing on Friday. After reviewing the stream flow data for the nearby Front Range drainages, I selected Boulder Creek west of the city of Boulder as my destination. The DWR data displayed stream flows at 80 cfs, and I knew from trips in early spring that this level was close to ideal. I drove up Canyon Avenue for eight to ten miles, until I reached the area where the gradient is quite steep. I selected this segment with the assumption that most fishermen gravitate to the tame water closer to Boulder, and with flows in the ideal range, I did not mind undertaking some stream side bouldering. I expected to have a fun day catching 6-10 inch brown trout on dry flies. This expectation pretty much held true except for one significant deviation.

P7290002.JPG

Sweet Spot Held Four Trout

 

P7290001.JPG

A Large Boulder Creek Brown Trout

I departed Denver at 9:20, and by the time I rigged my Loomis five weight and climbed into my waders and approached the edge of the creek, it was 10:30. I considered wet wading, but the temperature was 70 degrees, and some big gray clouds in the western sky indicated that rain was a possibility. I decided to begin my day with a size 14 gray stimulator, and it was a good choice. In the first two attractive pools, the stimulator was ignored, but then it began to draw the attention of the small stream residents. I popped the heavily hackled attractor in all the likely spots where trout might lie in wait for food, and I was fortunate to land eight fish by the time I broke for lunch just below the Santa Fe at 11:40. This may sound like spectacular fishing, and it was quite good, but the number of refusals outnumbered the takes, so there was that element of frustration. I did not build the satisfying level of confidence that accompanies consistent takes without rejection.

P7290004.JPG

Pretty View from Lunch Spot

After lunch I decided to experiment with some changes in an attempt to lower the refusal count. First I tied a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and added a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail as a dropper. I was hoping that a pale morning dun hatch might materialize, thus the pheasant tail. The gambit was unsuccessful, but the beetle drew a few looks, so I concluded that the fish were looking toward the surface for their meals. In response to this supposition, I clipped off the dry/dropper and reverted to a single dry fly; however, this time I knotted a size 14 light yellow stimulator to my line. This fly served me well on the Conejos River and Elk Creek, so I guessed that it might be popular with Boulder Creek trout.

P7290007.JPG

Scenic Stretch

The supposition was partially correct as I landed two more fish to build the fish count to ten. I was satisfied that I reached my goal for the day, so I once again made a change. The dry/dropper method on the upper Frying Pan River on Wednesday was dynamite. Could the same be true on Boulder Creek, or would the fish refuse the large top fly and ignore the subsurface offerings? I tied a tan pool toy hopper to my line and then connected a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph. This was the very same lineup that produced prodigious quantities of trout on the upper Frying Pan.

It worked. I continued migrating up the narrow steep gradient stream while popping the dry/dropper combination in all the likely plunge pools and deep eddies, and this process incremented the fish counter by six. Number sixteen was the largest fish of the day at thirteen inches, but it squirmed free as I was in the process of posing it for a photograph. The home of this fish was a very deep hole behind a large bank side boulder. The current swirled around the point of the rock and then eddied back to the nexus of the pool where a large foam patch covered a large segment of the surface. The pool toy darted back toward the foam, and this clued me to set the hook in order to land the thirteen inch wild brown.

P7290008.JPG

Surprise Catch

I was frustrated by my inability to maintain a grip on the elusive brown for a photo, so I decided to continue probing the deep eddy. I backhanded a couple casts to the foam, and on the third effort, as the pool toy danced to the vortex, a large figure elevated and grabbed one of the trailing nymphs. I could not believe my eyes, but I had the presence of mind to lift my rod and made a solid hook set. Immediately the oversized brown recognized that the food in its mouth was a hook, and it began to dive, thrash, roll and spurt; but I maintained solid pressure and after a few minutes, I guided it to the edge of the bank below me. My net barely contained the huge flopping catch, and I could barely contain my glee. I have caught larger brown trout, but an eighteen inch fish from a small stream that rarely produces fish over a foot long was quite an achievement. Surprises like this are what make fly fishing my favored pastime.

P7290010.JPG

Magnificent

 

P7290013.JPG

The Lair of the Boulder Creek Lunker

After carefully releasing the behemoth to fight another day, I moved on. It was 2 o’clock, and I hoped to reach twenty fish and depart no later than 3PM, since Jane and I made plans to meet some friends for happy hour at Union Station at 5:30. I began casting at a nice pool a bit upstream from the productive eddy, when movement caught my attention. I glanced up and noticed a young man fidgeting with a clamp, and I realized that I was fishing directly below a short zip line that transported rock climbers over Boulder Creek. The young rock climber secured a large hook to his belt, and then he used a hand over hand technique to slide upside down above the creek and me, until he reached the side next to the road.

I resumed my quest for trout and landed three more by 2:20 when I approached a section characterized by whitewater chutes and waterfalls. This obstacle was enough to convince me to call it quits, so I climbed the steep bank and hiked along the shoulder until I reached the car. Several new arrivals parked behind me, and they were readying their gear to begin their day of rock climbing.

Friday was another wonderful day of fly fishing in July. The weather was perfect, the brown trout were hungry, and I managed to pull a small stream lunker into my net. July has been a spectacular month.

Fish Landed: 20

Boulder Creek – 05/19/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Rogers Park before lunch and then upstream from mile marker 36 in the afternoon.

Boulder Creek 05/19/2016 Photo Album

How long can I avoid the inevitable onset of snow melt? I made plans for another trip to the South Platte River on Friday, so I searched for a close-by option on Thursday. Clear Creek was fun on Wednesday, but I did not wish to return for a second consecutive day. Remaining options were the Big Thompson River, Boulder Creek and South Boulder Creek. I was leaning toward a trip to South Boulder Creek despite posted flows of 15 CFS until I read guide reports on the Front Range Anglers web site. The fly shop experts suggested that the low flows on South Boulder Creek made fishing very technical; whereas, Boulder Creek continued to fish reasonably well while run off was held in check by recent cool temperatures. This tipped my decision in favor of Boulder Creek.

Because I live on the north side of Denver near Interstate 270, Boulder is merely a thirty minute drive. I decided to explore the upper section of Boulder Canyon, so driving through Boulder and then traveling west added another thirty minutes to my trip. I pulled into a parking area next to the creek at Rogers Park, and I was ready to cast by 11AM. The creek in this upper section above Boulder Falls was actually quite low and very clear, and I questioned whether it might be more technical than South Boulder Creek. I knotted a size 10 Chernobyl ant to my line on my Orvis Access four weight and began tossing it to likely fish holding locations.

P5190002.JPG

Rogers Park Area Was Wide and Shallow

Spots where fish might hold were actually in short supply as the small stream was relatively wide and shallow in this area, where the gradient leveled out a bit. I managed to land a small brown and had another split second connection, but I covered a significant amount of stream before lunch with only one fish added to my fish count. After a half hour of mostly wading I encountered a large wide shallow beaver dam. Beaver dams tend to have mucky bottoms, so I waded to the bank along the road and skipped around the huge pool, but I did observe a few decent fish, as they scattered while I disturbed the pool ever so slightly. Above the beaver dam I continued to toss the Chernobyl ant and eventually landed a second small brown trout in a fairly fast shallow run.

I glanced at my watch after releasing fish number two and noticed that it was 11:45, so I climbed a short steep bank and hiked back to the car. This short walk confirmed that I covered approximately half a mile in forty-five minutes of fishing. As I drove west upon my arrival earlier in the morning, I made a mental note that the water upstream from mile marker 36 seemed interesting, so I turned right at the end of the short dirt lane that led to the parking area, and I proceeded directly to a small pullout between mile marker 37 and 36, but much closer to 36. I munched my lunch on a large flat rock overlooking the stream, and then I grabbed my gear and began working upstream.

P5190003.JPG

View from Where I Ate Lunch

During the afternoon I covered more than a mile of Boulder Creek. The section of water was similar to Clear Creek, as the creek rushed down a fairly narrow high gradient stream bed. Nearly all the action was limited to slow pockets and pools which served as refuge from the high velocity current in the center. Because the stream was fairly narrow, I was able to cast to a few pools along the opposite bank by holding my rod high to keep the fly line off the water. This technique yielded one or two of my twelve fish.

P5190005.JPG

Beadhead Ultra Zug Bug Visible

 

P5190006.JPG

Pocket Produced

I began by casting the same Chernobyl ant that I knotted to my line at the start of my day, but it was apparently not appetizing to Boulder Creek trout, so I defaulted to my new standard; a fat Albert trailing an ultra zug bug and a beadhead hares ear. These flies began to produce, and I incremented my fish total from two to eight in the early afternoon time period. Six fish over 2.5 hours is an average catch rate, and covering the edge on Boulder Creek proved to be hard work. Large rocks bordered the creek the entire time, and I was extremely careful to analyze each foot placement to avoid any unexpected slips or falls.

At 2:30 I spotted a few blue winged olives, and then at the downstream lip of a deep run I noticed a small brown as it darted to the surface to grab a wayward BWO. I exchanged my hares ear for a soft hackle emerger and then attempted to simulate an emerging baetis by giving my flies a lift in front of the location of the rises. It did not work, so I moved on. In one nice deep run I generated a short momentary hook up most likely on the small soft hackle emerger, but I was skeptical that the tiny fly would attract much attention in the tumbling flows of the mountain creek.

P5190008.JPG

Hot Corner

I was about to make another fly change when I approached the Boulder Creek version of the hot corner. The creek glided through a deep run and then eddied back along a large vertical rock wall. I paused to observe, and I was immediately excited to see a decent fish hovering just below the surface facing downstream. While I watched, it rose twice and sipped something from the film; most likely one of the sparse blue winged olives that I observed earlier. I was not doing well with my dry/dropper rig, so sight fishing to a decent fish with a dry fly was too much to resist.

P5190009.JPG

CDC BWO Sipper

I clipped off the three flies and converted to a single size 22 CDC olive. Once I was ready, I flicked a nice cast with quite a bit of slack to the downstream beginning of the eddy seam, and as the tiny lint-like morsel slowly drifted back toward the nexus of the eddy, the large fish slowly slid beneath the fly and rejected it! I was sorely disappointed, but I allowed the fly to continue on its journey toward the hub of the eddy, and much to my amazement, a different fish darted to the surface and sucked in my offering. I brought it to my net and determined it was a fairly typical ten inch brown trout. I dried my fly thoroughly and resumed casting, and I was pleased to extract two more browns from the hot corner. The last one was the best of the bunch and perhaps the largest brown that I ever caught in Boulder Creek, as it extended to twelve inches.

Eventually the rising fish ceased to show interest, and I moved on. I tried to prospect two decent pockets with the small CDC BWO, but following a tiny fly in fast water is a frustrating proposition, so I added a size 14 stimulator and attached the CDC BWO behind it. These flies looked great in tandem on the surface, but the fish did not seem to be interested.

Prospecting on the surface did not seem to be a winning strategy in the late afternoon, so I once again reconfigured, and this time I decided to go old school. I knotted a yellow Letort hopper to my line as the top fly, and beneath it I attached a beadhead hares ear. Ten years ago this was my number one option for dry/dropper prospecting. I managed to land one small brown trout on the hares ear, and then I approached a whitewater chute and a driveway bridge, so I decided to end my day.

The weather was delightful and the stream level and clarity were conducive to fishing on May 19. Boulder Creek was a fine choice, and I continued to make the most of the remaining days of stream fishing in Colorado before flowing water blows out for a couple months.

Fish Landed: 12

Boulder Creek – 04/20/2016

Time: 1:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Approximately two miles beyond the end of the bike path.

Fish Landed: 11

Boulder Creek 04/20/2016 Photo Album

The spring snowstorm forecast for the weekend of April 16 materialized and dumped accumulations ranging from twelve to thirty-six inches along the Front Range. The snow began on Friday night and continued through Sunday, and then the air temperatures dropped to wintry highs in the thirties and low forties. Although I was extremely anxious to return to a stream after my encouraging outing on Friday, I am not fond of fishing in temperatures below 45 degrees, so Jane and I spent a day skiing at Breckenridge. It was a smart choice as the recent snow in the mountains provided excellent skiing conditions for the middle of April.

By Wednesday I could no longer avoid my attraction to spring fly fishing. High temperatures were forecast to reach the upper fifties in Denver, so I searched for a destination that was warm enough to satisfy my desire for minimal comfort, but I also sought reasonable flows unaffected by low level snow melt from the recent storm. The place that combined these criteria was Boulder Creek west of Boulder, CO. Highs in Boulder were projected to reach the upper fifties, and the flows were listed at a very manageable 33 cfs. The chart on the DWR stream flow site did not show a recent spike, so I was encouraged that rapid snow melt was not impacting the creek.

P4200003.JPG

Snow Along the Stream

I took my time on Wednesday morning, as I knew the temperatures would not reach my comfort zone until the early afternoon. When I arrived in Boulder and turned left on Boulder Canyon Boulevard, I was encouraged by both the level of the water and the clarity. I hoped to fish west of the high gradient section that rewarded me with some success last summer, so I traveled west for eight or nine miles. Unfortunately as I ascended the steep grade next to the river, I realized that the amount of snow increased. The combination of snow and steep rocky banks forced me to reconsider my plan, and I executed a U-turn and progressed back toward Boulder. Approximately two miles west of Orodell I found a wide pullout and parked the Santa Fe. It was now close to 1PM, so I broke out my lunch and gulped it down before I prepared to fish.

P4200001.JPG

First Trout of the Day

Even at this location quite a bit of snow remained along the road and on the banks along the creek, but the gradient of the stream was less severe, and the banks were not as steep thus enabling a safer descent. I hiked downstream along the shoulder of the highway for .3 miles and then angled down a rocky embankment to the edge of the water. At this point I tied a size 14 olive bodied stimulator to the line on my Sage four weight, and beneath the stimulator I added a salad spinner on a three foot dropper. I cast to the likely trout holding locations, and after fifteen minutes a small brown trout zipped to the surface and gulped the stimulator. This occurred after a fish refused the surface fly twice, so I assumed that the landed fish was too hungry to ignore my offering a third time.

I continued on for another fifteen minutes, but the magic of the early brown trout was not repeated. The salad spinner was not attracting attention, and I desired to switch to a larger nymph, so I clipped off both flies. I knotted a fat Albert to my line as the indicator fly, and then I added an ultra zug bug on the three foot dropper along with a bright green caddis pupa as the last of three flies. I began casting this trio to likely spots, and it was not long before a ten inch brown attacked the caddis pupa as it began to swing away from a small deep nook along the left bank.

P4200005.JPG

Brown Chased the Caddis Pupa from the Slow Pool Along the Rock Wall

After releasing number two I covered quite a bit of water without any encouraging action, but eventually another decent brown trout nipped the ultra zug bug, and I elevated my fish count to three. I began to rationalize that a three fish day was decent particularly with run off reducing the stream temperatures to winter levels. Just as these thoughts filtered through my brain, I tossed the fat Albert to the middle of a foam patch, and I was shocked to see a fish smash the foam attractor. I landed four brown trout in the first ninety minutes of fishing, and each fish ate a different fly.

P4200010.JPG

Smashed the Fat Albert While It Floated in the Foam

My catch rate improved over the remaining two hours, as I landed seven additional brown trout. At one point I noticed some sporadic rises, so I swapped the bright green caddis pupa for a beadless size 18 soft hackle emerger. This was a nice tactic, but the emerger never produced a fish. Two of the late afternoon seven grabbed the ultra zug bug, and I was surprised to witness the others aggressively smash the fat Albert. Landing trout on a bright yellow foam attractor pattern in the middle of April was a blast, although I am still a bit stunned that the fish responded to my surface offering.

P4200008.JPG

Greedy Guy Went for Fat Albert

I also became more selective in where I cast, as I noticed that most of the fish came from slow deep eddies or small pools next to the bank. Moderate riffles and seams along faster runs are some of my favorite places to cast and catch fish in the summer, but during the cold spring conditions of Wednesday, these spots were not productive. I learned to recognize the water types that produced fish and focused my efforts in those places.

P4200011.JPG

Another Fat Albert Victim

An eleven fish day on Wednesday on Boulder Creek was truly a bonus, as I did not expect to fish until Friday after enduring the storm and examining the weather for the latter half of the week. I was reasonably comfortable in fifty degree temperatures, and I unlocked enough of the code to generate some reasonable action. The brown trout were small, but wild and spunky and gorgeous with bright orange spots sprinkled on buttery yellow bodies. Best of all it temporarily satisfied my fly fishing addiction. The key word is temporarily.

Boulder Creek – 07/27/2015

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Seven miles up Boulder Canyon from the end of the bike path. 1.5 miles above Boulder Falls.

Fish Landed: 17

Boulder Creek 07/27/2015 Photo Album

By Monday morning my arm and shoulder were recovered from four straight days of fishing in the previous week. I was anxious to hit the streams again before the summer doldrums set in, but since I had a haircut appointment at 9AM, the destination needed to be reasonably close to Denver. I considered Bear Creek, Clear Creek, and South Boulder Creek; but I eventually chose Boulder Creek since the flows seemed lower and closer to ideal than the others. In addition I had a first hand look at the creek as we traveled along it on Sunday on our way to and from Rainbow Lakes.

On Monday I departed Denver by 10AM and drove up Boulder Canyon seven miles beyond the end of the bike path, and this also happened to be 1.5 miles above Boulder Falls. The gradient was quite steep, but I saw quite a few nice plunge pools from the car window. Also after seeing the number of fishermen in the small stream on Sunday, I assumed that the high gradient water was not as pressured, as most fishermen do not like fast steep water. As if to question the sanity of my water choice, there was a 10% grade sign along the highway.

P7270058.JPG

This Sign Was Next to My Starting Point

I began with a medium olive stimulator and landed one small brown trout, but I was also frustrated by five or more refusals. While my impatience with being rejected built, I saw one yellow sally, so I tried a size 16 imitation, but that generated a couple refusals and then ceased to attract any interest at all. Perhaps I was over analyzing, so I tied on a solitary Chernobyl ant. This was a breakthrough, and I landed three small browns that craved the ant, but I probably had as many or more refusals to the large attractor terrestrial as I had hooked fish.

P7270060.JPG

Typical High Gradient Section Fished

Just before lunch at 12:30, I began to see occasional PMD’s in the air. No fish were rising, but I thought perhaps nymphs were active subsurface, so I added a salvation nymph dropper to the Chernobyl. Almost as soon as I did this, a small brown crushed the salvation as soon as it entered the water. I broke for lunch at 12:30 and resumed fishing by 12:45 and managed to land two more browns on the salvation nymph. The salvation seemed to work best in riffled runs where the fish were forced to make a quick opportunistic grab.

P7270061.JPG

A Very Pretty Native Brown Trout

In the slower moving deep pockets, the trout obtained a better look and refused the foam top fly.    After 30 minutes of mostly refusals, I spotted a small splashy rise along the far bank. This fish was having nothing to do with my flies, so I made a radical change and went to a size 16 light gray comparadun. I was leery of using this small hard to see fly in the fast swirly currents of the steep gradient creek, but it paid dividends. I concentrated on water with some depth where I could get a decent drag free drift, and the fish responded. I moved at a quick pace, or as fast as rock climbing would allow, and made only a few casts to likely spots.

P7270062.JPG

A Light Gray Comparadun Fooled This Fish

Between 1:30 and 3:00PM I registered ten more brown trout to end at seventeen on the day. The largest fish were in the nine inch range, so nothing to brag about, but I enjoyed the mental stimulation of trying to figure out what fly and what water type would produce fish. It is always challenging to solve this puzzle on brand new water.

P7270063.JPG

Plunge Pools