Boulder Creek – 12/01/2017

Time: 12:45PM – 3:00PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 12/01/2017 Photo Album

Boulder Creek within the City of Boulder has established itself as my new nearby favorite winter destination. Air temperatures remain fairly consistent with those of Denver unlike other close by Front Range destinations such as South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek and the canyon section of Boulder Creek. Mild winter temperatures are an attraction; however, November 2017 weather has been so conducive to fly fishing, that I rarely needed to resort to the lower altitude alternative. Friday December 1 was an unbelievably balmy day, and I decided to make the short drive up the Boulder Turnpike for yet another day of fly fishing. Yes, you read that correctly. I planed a day of fly fishing in December. I cannot recall fishing in December within the last ten years, although I suspect that I did it sometime in my past.

I left Denver Stapleton at 11:15 and arrived in Boulder by 11:45; however, I attempted to find a different parking location nearer to a heretofore unexplored section of the stream. Unfortunately I was unable to accomplish this goal and ended up at the familiar lot used in prior visits to Boulder Creek. Circling through the back streets of Boulder added thirty minutes to my trip, and by the time I ate my lunch, pulled on my gear, assembled my Orvis Access four weight and ambled to the creek; it was 12:45PM. As forecast, the weather was spectacular with the temperature in the low sixties, and the sun blazed down on the outdoor enthusiasts of Boulder, CO all afternoon.

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Doing Its Job

A yellow fat Albert with an attached two foot length of 5X tippet remained in my frontpack from Monday, so I elected to give it another trial. Beneath the large foam attractor I added a salvation nymph and a beadhead hares ear nymph. These stalwart flies remained on my line for the entire two plus hours that I occupied Boulder Creek. The flows were on the low side and comparable to earlier November visits, but the section that I chose to explore offered numerous deep pools, where the stream residents enjoyed adequate cover. My approaches required stealth but not an excessive amount.

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Surprisingly This Type of Water Produced

I worked my way upstream for two hours and landed seven brown trout to elevate my record cumulative fish count to a nice round number. Check the fish counter tab if you are curious to discover this milestone. The first hour was quite slow, as I coaxed two small browns into my net. One nipped the hares ear and the other nabbed the salvation. In my mind I conceded that I would not reach the sought after cumulative total, but then I approached a promising section with a long wide riffle of moderate depth. This area and some quality water above it yielded five additional brown trout and enabled the attainment of my cumulative goal for the year. The largest fish on the day measured ten inches, and all the fish landed in the second hour grabbed the hares ear.

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Small but Feisty

Landing seven small fish is normally a minor accomplishment, but to do this in December was a welcome experience for this fair weather fisherman. Of course fair weather represented the reason I was on the stream, and I will continue to visit Colorado rivers and streams, as long as mild weather continues to encourage me. Is this the end of my fly fishing season and the start of serious fly tying? Who knows?

Fish Landed: 7

 

Boulder Creek – 11/20/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 11/20/2017 Photo Album

The mild fall weather continued in November 2017, and I could not resist the temptation to cast some flies. On Thursday November 16 I enjoyed three hours on Boulder Creek within the City of Boulder, so I decided to make another trip to the university town a mere thirty minutes from my home. The flows were decent, and the creek seemed more conducive to cold weather fishing, even though a high in the low sixties is hardly indicative of winter conditions.

I arrived at the parking lot near Boulder Creek by 11:45, and after I downed my small lunch, I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight and meandered across the park grass to Boulder Creek. I knotted a size 10 black Chernobyl ant to my line as the top indicator fly, and beneath it on a two foot dropper I added a beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. These were the same subsurface offerings that delivered six fish to my net on November 16.

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Salvation Nymph on the Point

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A Good Place to Begin

Over the next 2.5 hours I worked my way upstream with these three flies, and I enticed five brown trout to nab the nymphs during this venture. Two favored the hares ear and three snatched the salvation. Although my catch rate was comparable to my previous visit, I felt as though I never settled into a rhythm. One of the difficulties was the low position of the sun in the southern sky. This circumstance created a variety of lighting challenges including glare, shadows and an alternating combination of both. To combat the lighting complication, I shifted from one side of the creek to the other frequently, and perhaps the repeated movement disturbed the fish.

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As Good As It Gets

The temperature did indeed reach the mid-sixties, and I was quite comfortable as I wore my light fleece throughout my time on the stream. I covered the exact same section of the creek that entertained me on the previous Thursday, and by 2:30 I grew weary of the lighting conditions and decided to call it a day.

Although for me 2.5 hours is a relatively brief fishing experience, I was satisfied to land five small brown trout on November 20. I covered a significant amount of water, but the weather was unusually mild for late November, and any fishing success this late in the season is greatly appreciated. The weather for the remainder of the week is forecast to be favorable, so a few more trips and reports may be forthcoming.

Fish Landed: 5

 

Boulder Creek – 11/16/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 12:00PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 11/16/2017 Photo Album

After a frustrating and disappointing day on Tuesday on Clear Creek, I essentially closed the book on fly fishing in 2017. Surely a cold winter weather pattern was around the corner, and I eagerly welcomed some relaxed fly tying while listening to my favorite playlists. And then Thursday happened. The weather forecast predicted a warm sunny day on Thursday with a high temperature of 72 degrees in Denver. This windfall of mild November weather prodded me to text my Instagram friend, Trevor (@rockymtnangler), and he replied that he was off from work and available to fish on Thursday morning. After a few additional exchanges we agreed to meet in Boulder at 9AM on Thursday morning to sample some urban fishing.

I arrived a bit early, and the timing afforded me an opportunity to realize that I forgot to pack my sunscreen. I had an old backup supply in my fishing backpack, so I extracted it and used up the contents. While I waited for Trevor to arrive, I opened the tailgate, and I was surprised to discover a puddle of water under my fishing bag. Fortunately the bottom of the bag is waterproof, but the start to my fishing day was not very auspicious. I persisted with my preparation after tightening the hose on my hydration bladder, and then I assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod. As I was doing this, Trevor pulled into the space next to me, and since I knew he required some time to prepare, I decided to knot a fly to my line. I stretched out the tippet to find the end of the line, and I was disappointed to notice a wind knot tucked between two surgeons knots. How can this happen? The cause was irrelevant, and I snipped out the three knots and reattached the end of my leader. Three strikes and you are out. Fortunately I was fly fishing and not playing baseball.

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That's Shilling Patiently Waiting at Trevor's Side

Finally Trevor and I were ready to attack the stream, so we ambled across a patch of lawn to the creek, and we began fishing above a bridge. Trevor began with a buoyant humpy dry fly and a hares ear nymph dropper, and after five minutes of casting, he connected with and landed a nice eight inch brown trout. The creek was in fine condition, and the flows were low but not at a challenging level. I left Trevor in his nice run and moved below the bridge to a very nice deep hole. I cast the beetle upstream and prospected some quality locations for twenty minutes with nothing to show for my efforts. Trevor abandoned his starting point to join me, and I managed to generate a swirl to the beetle as he looked on.

The sight of a surface refusal caused me to reevaluate, and I replaced the beetle with a parachute black ant. This tactic proved successful on many occasions during 2017 particularly in the autumn season. On Thursday, however, the Boulder Creek trout were having none of it. Trevor’s success came from his hares ear dropper, so I borrowed a page from his book and added a RS2 on a two foot dropper. This addition simply increased the number of artificial flies that were ignored by the resident trout.

We decided to move upstream, and we migrated above the bridge and above Trevor’s starting point. Trevor allowed me to inspect his nymphs, and I noted that his size 16 represented a bigger mouthful than my small RS2, so I once again reconfigured. I knotted a hippy stomper with a silver body to my line as the surface fly, and then I added a beadhead hares ear, and a soft hackle emerger. This combination stayed in place for fifteen minutes and resulted in another resounding rejection of my offerings. In a last ditch effort to find a winning combination I replaced the soft hackle emerger with a salvation nymph. My lineup now included the most productive nymphs in my fly box, and I reminded myself that I was playing the percentages.

My luck began to turn in a wide relatively shallow riffle. I tossed the three fly dry/dropper upstream, and as the hippy stomper drifted slowly back through the middle of the riffles it paused, and I reacted with a hook set and stripped in a small brown trout barely over the six inch minimum. It was a small triumph, but after an hour of fruitless casting, I was pleased to land a fish.

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Best Fish on Thursday Grabbed a Hippy Stomper

Over the remainder of the morning we progressed upstream beyond several bridge crossings, and the fish counter swelled from one to six, before we called it quits at noon. The third fish to find my net was a ten inch brown trout that swirled and refused the hippy stomper on the first drift, but then savagely attacked the same offering on the next pass. Another fish in the ten inch range grabbed the salvation nymph in a deep depression along the left bank. In addition to the six landed fish, I experienced four or five temporary connections, so the action accelerated significantly during the last 1.5 hours of the morning. The juicy deep pools did not yield fish, and I enjoyed much greater success in riffles and runs of moderate depth.

Thursday was a fun day and restored my confidence after a dismal outing on Tuesday on Clear Creek. The high temperature reached 75 degrees in the afternoon, and the pleasant weather in and of itself made the day memorable. Spending a morning with Trevor and catching up on his life was the main purpose of the outing, and that goal was realized. Landing six brown trout in the middle of November was a welcome bonus. The day on Boulder Creek may have been my last of 2017, but the one week forecast remains relatively mild for late autumn. Who knows, I may report on some more urban fishing days. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 6

 

 

Boulder Creek – 09/29/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Canyon west of Boulder, CO.

Boulder Creek 09/29/2017 Photo Album

The sudden influx of cool wet weather in Colorado prevented me from fishing on Wednesday and Thursday, so I was quite anxious to return to a local stream. When I reviewed the Front Range drainages, I learned that Clear Creek, Bear Creek and Boulder Creek flows surged as a result of the steady rain earlier in the week. Of the three Boulder Creek looked the most encouraging, since the cubic feet per second settled out in the thirties. Although this was higher than the period prior to the rains, it remained in the low end of ideal flows. The South Boulder Creek tailwater graph meanwhile looked like a stairway, as the water managers ramped up the outflows from 13 CFS to 246 CFS over a four day period. I was extremely disappointed to see this after two recent banner days on the tailwater northwest of Golden.

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Looks Promising

I chose Boulder Creek and managed to arrive at a wide pullout along the highway by 10:15. As I traveled along the stream in the lower end of the canyon near Boulder, the clarity was questionable, but I pressed on. Persistence paid off, as the murkiness subsided considerably by the time of selected a section of the creek to fish, and the passage of time seemed to aid water translucency as well. The weather on the other hand did not change considerably during my time on the water. The air temperature remained in the low fifties, and the sky was shrouded in dense gray clouds during my stay. I wore a fleece layer along with my raincoat, and my New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps topped my head all afternoon. Despite dressing for winter conditions I remained on the edge of chilliness.

I began the day with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and an ultra zug bug; but after thirty minutes of casting, I failed to land a fish. Two small river inhabitants nipped the fat Albert, but I was unable to sustain contact. Near the end of this period I managed to land a slender six inch brown trout that snatched the hares ear, but it was clear that the dry/dropper was not setting the world on fire. I removed the three flies and opted for a Jake’s gulp beetle. The large beetle is generally popular in the fall months on front range streams, and two fish showed interest in the fat Albert grasshopper imitation. The terrestrial theory unfortunately proved to be faulty, so I shifted to a size fourteen gray stimulator.

The attractor garnered some attention in the form of refusals, but the fish consistently turned away at the last second. I downsized to a size 16 olive deer hair caddis, and I was quite shocked to discover that the small selective trout of Boulder Creek rejected this offering as well. What could induce these small picky eaters to consume my flies on Friday? I found a nice jumble of flat rocks and paused to eat lunch, while I pondered my next move.

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A Close Up of the Parachute Ant

Terrestrials clearly attracted the most attention, so why not downsize again to a parachute black ant? The size 18 ant worked quite well on South Boulder Creek, so perhaps the inhabitants of its sister branch savored it as well. I knotted the small ant with an orange poly wing post to my line, and I began to cast it to the attractive pockets and pools, as I worked my way up the steep gradient section of the creek. Finally I stumbled onto a winning tactic, and four brown trout sipped the ant. All four trout suddenly appeared in slow moving areas tight to the protective cover of large boulders.

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An Early Catch

I boulder hopped my way upstream while popping the ant in likely brown trout lairs, but after an hour and four netted fish, the period of time between catches lengthened, and I grew weary of struggling to follow the tiny fly in the dim light created by the overcast conditions. The fish count plateaued at five, and I yearned for a more visible approach, so I converted back to the dry/dropper method. During this return engagement, however, I utilized a size 10 Chernboyl ant as the top fly, and I replaced the ultra zug bug with a salvation nymph. The beadhead hares ear carried over from the first go round in the middle position.

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Fishy Area

Over the remaining 1.5 hours I landed an additional five small brown trout, and I was pleased that the dry/dropper approach finally proved effective. Four of the trout consumed the salvation nymph, and one gullible stream resident crushed the Chernobyl ant. By 3:30 I approached a convenient stopping point, and I was very fatigued from climbing over large rocks. The cold temperatures conspired with wet hands to create stiff fingers, so I carefully climbed up the steep bank and ambled back along the shoulder to the car and called it a day.

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Boulder Creek Monster

I managed to barely reach double digits, and Friday September 29 was a very challenging day on Boulder Creek. The fish were small and the weather was adverse, but I suppose I was fortunate to register a decent day in the aftermath of cool wet weather. Hopefully additional mild Indian summer days are in my future in 2017.

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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80CFS

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sweet Spot Held Four Trout

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Magnificent

 

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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