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.

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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.

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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.

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Beadhead Ultra Zug Bug Visible

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Plunge Pools