Urad Lake – 06/26/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Inlet end of the lake.

Urad Lake 06/26/2017 Photo Album

My calendar was clear for one day before a host of obligations prevented me from straying away from Denver on Tuesday. I felt a strong desire to fish, but all the local streams were essentially blown out from run off. Bear Creek was listed at 62 cfs, and I was tempted to gamble, but before doing so I reviewed stillwater options. I looked at Clear Lake, Pine Valley Ranch Lake, and Pinewood Reservoir. All three represented a reasonable drive; however, I never visited them, so they represented a bit of a risk. Last year at roughly this same time I discovered Urad Lake, but I was unsure that it was ice free by June 26 in 2017. I was reluctant to make a 1.5 hour drive only to realize that the body of water was covered in ice.

I checked the Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocking report, and I was pleased to discover that Urad Lake was stocked in 2017. I could rather safely conclude that the DOW would not stock a lake covered in ice. I designated the lake near Berthoud Pass as my destination, and I gathered my gear and departed by 10AM. Traffic was reasonable, and I negotiated the rough and steep dirt road that linked US 40 to the state wildlife area without incident. Seven vehicles were parked in the lot when I arrived, so I knew that I would have company. I assembled my Sage four weight and began a steep hike up a dirt road until I reached the dam. One fisherman staked out the water next to the dam, and I could have found enough space there, but I decided to continue on the road to the inlet end of the lake.

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Fishing Companions Guard the Inlets

Another ten minute hike delivered me to the upper end of the lake, where I joined ten fishermen already prospecting the stillwater. Two swollen creeks rushed into the lake, and four fishermen occupied these desirable locales. During my visit in 2016 I fished next to the first inlet with considerable success, so I was disappointed to eliminate these spots from my fishing options. I retreated to a path through the low bushes and crossed both feeder streams until I was on the bank on the west side of the lake. From my position I could reach the near side of the second inlet current with a long cast, but such a cast taxed my distance casting abilities.

I began with my sinking tip line, and I attached a slumpbuster streamer and then added a beadhead hares ear. I fished this combination for thirty minutes and covered the lake between the inlet and the point of land to my left, but my efforts were futile. I did not even experience a bump or follow, in spite of my confidence in the streamer approach. Since it was slightly past noon, I decided to take a break for lunch and change my approach to dry/dropper.

While I ate lunch I observed quite a few trout hovering within ten feet of the shoreline. Some were wasting energy chasing other fish, but a few were clearly searching for food. When the wind died back, and the surface of the lake was relatively smooth, I noticed very sporadic rises. After lunch I replaced my sinking tip line with a floating line, and I began fishing with a green floss body fat Albert. Beneath this foam attractor I added the beadhead hares ear and a salad spinner. I flicked the three fly combination to the area where several fish lurked. I closely observed these fish as they swam right past my droppers, but after six or seven casts I allowed the flies to dangle for what seemed like an eternity, and sure enough an eight inch rainbow grabbed the hares ear.

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A Bit Larger

Am I the only person who does not have the patience to allow my flies to remain in a stationary position for an interminable period of time waiting for a fish to cruise by in a large body of water? It takes every ounce of self control for me to resist twitching or stripping the flies. On Monday this actually proved to be a beneficial trait. I began to slowly crawl the flies with a hand twisting retrieve, and for some reason this worked. I began experiencing momentary hook ups and eventually landed three additional small rainbow trout, as they snatched one of the nymphs on the slow retrieve. One trout nabbed the salad spinner, another nipped the hares ear, and one gluttonous finned fool smashed the fat Albert.

Unfortunately the wind kicked up and created larger riffles and small waves, and this change in atmospheric conditions coincided with an extended lull in my trout action. Clearly the fish were willing to grab subsurface offerings, so why not return to the streamer method? I snipped off the fat Albert and salad spinner, and I replaced them with a slumpbuster and bright green caddis pupa. The mainstay hares ear remained in the lineup as the middle fly, and I began to cast and strip my streamer. Unlike the initial session I deployed a slower retrieve, as I made short erratic strips. I also paused to allow the flies to sink, before I began my retrieve in case the trout were hanging out lower in the water column. The third deviation from the morning period was the addition of a third fly.

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My Position Was on the Far Side of the Entering Creek

The three fly streamer approach evolved into my most productive fly fishing method over the remainder of the afternoon. I moved the fish count from four to thirteen, and all of the netted fish were rainbows, and all slammed a fly in a streamer lineup. Toward the end of the afternoon I briefly experimented with a size 14 gray caddis, but the wind kicked up and created waves, and I abandoned the single dry after only five or six casts. When I returned to the streamer and trailers, I opted for a natural pine squirrel leech, beadhead hares ear, and ultra zug bug.

The tally by fly for fish numbers four through thirteen is as follows: two consumed the bright green caddis pupa, two slammed the slumpbuster, one grabbed the pine squirrel leach, and four nipped the beadhead hares ear. I experienced at least double that many bumps and nips during the streamer time period, and I probably hooked between six and ten for only a second or two. I am uncertain what technique I should use to convert more hook ups and bumps to netted fish.

It was 61 degrees when I left the parking lot, so I wore a long sleeved undershirt, and I was comfortable until the wind accelerated at two o’clock. This forced me to unwrap the light down coat that was around my waist, and I was comfortable while wearing this extra layer for the last two hours. When I returned to my home in Denver it was 89 degrees!

The fish were small and likely stockers, but the alpine scenery was breathtaking, and I enjoyed the challenge of using different techniques to catch trout in a stillwater environment. Will I undertake more lake fishing in 2017? Stay tuned.

Landed Fish: 13

Yampa River – 06/23/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/23/2017 Photo Album

Friday by any measure other than the prior day was a solid day of fly fishing. Unfortunately Thursday was outstanding, and June 23 suffers by comparison.

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Stagecoach Lake on Friday Morning

I snagged a campsite on the McKindley Loop at Stagecoach State Park on Thursday night, and this positioned me to be on the stream by 9AM on Friday morning. On Thursday morning I experienced some decent action on nymphs just prior to the spectacular hatch that commenced by 11:30, so I surmised that I missed some great pale morning dun nymph action earlier. I planned to corroborate this assumption by taking advantage of my close proximity to be on the water early.

It was a great theory but in reality the day did not evolve that way. Once again I parked at Howelsen Hill, and I was fortunate to find a parking space. A Triple Crown baseball tournament was on the schedule, and the 8AM games were already in progress, thus attracting a large number of spectators. I managed to grab one of the few remaining spaces and quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage One five weight. I was an obvious outlier compared to the men and women carrying folding chairs and coolers from their vehicles to the ball fields.

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Nice Start

I was averse to covering the same water that entertained me on Thursday, so I crossed the pedestrian bridge and walked downstream along the bike path until I was just above the location where the river narrows and picks up considerable velocity just upstream from the hot spring. I once again tied the yellow fat Albert to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph and began my search for hot Yampa River trout. I worked my way upstream on the Steamboat Springs town side of the river, and I popped down the bank where gaps appeared in the streamside brush.

The river was flowing at roughly 800 CFS, and this rate was very comparable to Thursday. The main current surged toward the north bank, the side I was on, and for this reason fewer locations with slow holding water were present. I spent an hour casting the dry/dropper to likely spots, and I managed to land one trout, although I also registered two momentary hook ups. Needless to say this was not the fast paced nymphing action that I anticipated, when I decided to arrive at the river early.

When I approached the pedestrian bridge, I advanced thirty yards above it and prospected a couple places, but then I was directly behind the boat, kayak and tube rental shop; so I reversed direction and crossed the bridge. I skipped around the section between the pedestrian bridge and Fifth Street, since I knew from Thursday that access was difficult due to high flows up against the bushes and trees. When I reached Fifth Street I cut down to the river just above the bridge, and I began to fish the deep run in that area. Another fisherman was directly across from me, but with the main channel crashing between us at high velocity, I was not interfering with his success.

For the next hour I progressed upstream until I reached another bridge serving the bike trail, and at this point I exited and returned to the car for lunch among the baseball madness. The segment covered before lunch was nearly as difficult to fish as the portion I skipped, so I cherry picked a few marginal places, until I reached a relatively nice shelf pool below the bridge and also downstream from the confluence of two channels that flow around a large island. In this area I managed to hook a second trout of moderate size; however, it flopped off my line just as I lifted it from the water and toward my net. This prevented me from capturing a photo, but I added it to my fish count. During the last fifteen minutes I began to notice a fair number of blue winged olives, so I removed the hares ear and replaced it with a RS2. As I made this change, I elevated the salvation to the top position and knotted the RS2 to my line on the end. Despite the baetis activity the fish did not respond to my RS2.

As I munched my sandwich and crunched some carrots while perched on the tailgate of the Santa Fe, I pondered my path forward in the afternoon. I was running out of water to fish in town, and I concluded that the most comfortable section to fish at high flows was also the most attractive stretch for the fish. The strong current favored the north bank, and therefore the south bank provided more areas with moderate riffles that were popular with the trout. They could spread out and chow down on the abundant food source created by the blue winged olive and pale morning dun hatches. I also noticed the occasional caddis and golden stonefly in the mix. I decided to fish the same section on Friday afternoon that provided outstanding action on Thursday.

I hiked down the railroad tracks until I was just above the hot springs, and here I carefully maneuvered over some large boulders until I was standing at the bottom of a nice narrow slot where the current slowed down. There was a cable overhead that was littered with lures and flies and dangling monofilament, and I managed to avoid that small impediment to casting. I scanned the water and immediately noticed that a thick emergence of mayflies was in progress. As was the case on Thursday, a fairly dense population of blue winged olives and pale morning duns were gracefully floating up from the river. I recognized this as my sign to remove the dry/dropper, and I tied on a size 16 light gray comparadun.

I spent some time casting in the narrow spot in front of me, but no fish rose to take advantage of the windfall of food, as mayfly after mayfly popped off the surface of the river. Hatch time is precious, and I did not wish to waste it, so I climbed up to the railroad tracks and moved to the first substantial pool. The same pool on Thursday was where I spotted rising fish and made the conversion to fishing a single comparadun. Sure enough the same situation presented itself. The main current rushed around a man made barrier of large boulders, and then it curled back toward the south bank and swirled by a large submerged boulder. This created a beautiful eddy and shelf pool, and I positioned myself at the bottom next to the submerged boulder. I scanned the scene and immediately noticed several rises. One fish smacked the surface twice along the seam in front of the submerged boulder, so I focused on it first. On the third cast a shadow elevated and sipped in my comparadun, and I reacted with a swift hook set. The fish streaked downstream a bit and then paused, while I reeled the slack on to the reel and exerted some pressure. By now I could see that my combatant was a strong rainbow trout, and it accelerated once again and streaked toward the barrier at the top of the pool. Suddenly the throb on the rod ceased, and my heart sank, when I realized that the cagey rainbow had shed my fly on a submerged stick.

I paused and observed for a bit, but I was certain that the wild commotion disturbed the pool, so I moved on to the nice moderate riffle area just above the stream improvement barrier. Surprisingly no fish were showing in this wide area. I made some obligatory prospecting casts to no avail, and then I moved farther upstream to some marginal slots behind exposed rocks. Once again I did not see any rising fish, so after some desultory casts I returned to the bank. I was convinced that more fish resided in the pool where I hooked the angry rainbow, so I carefully waded along the edge until I was back at the man-made structure. I stood motionless for a few minutes, and I was surprised to see three fish smacking the surface in the shallow riffle below the submerged rock that deflected the current. I made some nice downstream casts over the trio, but the aggressive eaters simply showed their disdain toward me with splashy refusals.

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Cinnamon Color on These Spinners

I was standing along the edge of the pool near the reversing eddy, and for some reason I directed my attention to the surface of the water. What do you suppose I saw? Lying motionless with outstretched wings were a large quantity of size 16 spinners. No wonder the residents of the pool were eschewing my dun. The river was feeding them a steady supply of motionless easy to eat spinners. I checked my fly box, and I had a few rusty spinners, but I guessed that they were a bit large. Last summer on the Conejos I enjoyed success with a cinnamon comparadun with the wing mashed down during a spinner fall, so I reactivated the ploy. I knotted a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line and mashed down the wing. This ugly fly delivered four trout to my lonely net over the next thirty minutes. Three resulted from the downstream drift, and another sipped the fraud spinner in another nice eddy below a structure farther upstream.

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The spinner ruse worked for awhile, but then I reached some water that was a bit faster, and several fish showed their position with rises, but they paid no attention to the size 18 comparadun. I focused on these fish and cycled through a series of fly changes. First I experimented with a size 14 light gray comparadun, but the targets ignored it. Quite a few of the naturals in the air displayed light olive bodies, so I plucked a sulfur style fly from my front pack and gave it a spin. Amazingly this fly delivered two medium sized fish, but through wear and tear the wing was reduced to a nub, and the fish then snubbed the handicapped fly. Finally I settled on the classic, a size 16 light gray comparadun, and the Yampa trout gave it a vote of confidence.

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Not Bad

I persisted with the light gray comparadun for nearly the remainder of the afternoon, and I built the fish count to thirteen. At one point I was directly across from a family of four, and while they observed I landed an 18 inch rainbow and a 16 inch brown. The size of my fish on Friday paled in comparison to the previous day, but these two fish were exceptions. By three o’clock the hatch was essentially over except for the everpresent stragglers, so I converted back to a dry/dropper system. This time I used a size 8 Chernobyl ant as the indicator fly, and below that I added an iron sally and an emerald caddis pupa. This change enabled me to add two more small fish to the fish count with one falling for the iron sally, and the other craving the emerald caddis pupa.

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Pleased to Land This Beauty

By 3:45 I reached a huge wide eddy pool behind another stream improvement structure. This pool was four times the size of the one I described earlier. I made my obligatory casts of the dry/dropper along the current seam, but they were futile. I paused for a bit to evaluate the situation. A pair of kayakers were oppposite me, and they made periodic attempts to buck the whitewater chute just below the pedestrian bridge. Three thirteen year old girls dangled in hammocks beneath the bridge, and from a distance they reminded me of a colony of fruitbats. Suddenly I was aware of a huge swarm of miniscule mayflies. They could not have been larger than a size 24, and they hovered above the eddy, and as I watched, several gusts of wind scattered the delicate insects.

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Eddy That Yielded the Fine Rainbow

Shortly after this observation I noticed three very subtle dimpling rises in the center of the eddy where the current was barely perceptible. The fish at the farthest outside point of the eddy was the most persistent riser, so I decided to focus on that spot. I removed the dry/dropper offerings and tied a size 24 CDC olive to my line. I fluttered a short cast to a spot above the rise, and I allowed the eddy to feed the small morsel toward the target, and suddenly a small trout darted to the surface! I set the hook, but my action resulted in a brief connection. I rested the water a bit after this disturbance, and two fish closer to the center of the eddy resumed feeding.

I decided to try for the feeder closest to the large barrier rocks. I floated a cast farther upstream than the last one, and again the eddy slowly fed the fly back toward the nook. I was astonished by what followed. I assumed that I was fishing to small rainbows in the nine to eleven inch range based on the nature of the rise, which appeared to be an almost insignificant dimple. The CDC olive crept along, and I detected a subtle barely perceptible sip. I lifted the rod tip to set, and instantly a hulk of a rainbow thrashed to the surface and then leaped from the river and fell back in a thunderous crash. I stayed connected, and the football shaped opponent executed an array of escape maneuvers, before I lifted its head and slid it into my net. I gasped at this late day stroke of good fortune. Never underestimate the size of a fish based on the nature of the rise!

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Now it was nearly four o’clock, but my heart was racing, and my optimism was peaking. I circled around the wall of rocks and passed under the bridge and spotted a couple rises in a nice run along the bank. An occasional PMD appeared during the late afternoon, so I concluded that the rise was instigated by the straggling emergers. I once again knotted a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line, and I began shooting some searching casts near the scene of the rises. Several drifts bobbed right along some submerged willow tips, but no response was forthcoming. I was about to call it quits, but I decided to send one more long cast to the very top of the narrow run. The comparadun fluttered down and after a one foot drift, a large mouth appeared and engulfed my fly. I could not believe it. I set the hook, and the point penetrated causing an underwater freight train to streak upstream. The water was not more than two feet deep, but the fish dashed toward the bank, while I allowed line to spin from my reel. Suddenly it slowed down slightly, and then it hit the accelerator a second time, and I heard the gut wrenching sound of my line popping.

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Tubers and Girls Hanging in Hammocks from the Bridge

All I could do was tip my hat to the fish. It was just after 4PM, and I was not about to tie another fly to my line, so I slowly shuffled to shore and returned to the car. By the end of Friday I landed seventeen trout including three very nice fish in the fifteen to eighteen inch range. I had shots at two additional beauties that foiled my attempts to land them. The average size of the other landed fish was beneath the high standards of Thursday, but overall it was still a fine outing during the late run off time frame. Two fish consumed the salvation nymph, four favored the cinnamon comparadun, two slurped the size 14 sulfur comparadun, the iron sally and emerald caddis pupa accounted for two in the late afternoon, one fat glutton sipped a size 24 CDC olive, and six fish plucked the size 16 light gray comparadun. The fish on the Yampa River were not narrowly selective on June 23.

Fish Landed: 17

Yampa River – 06/22/2017

Time: 10:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Town of Steamboat Springs.

Yampa River 06/22/2017 Photo Album

Thursday represented another spectacular day of June fishing on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs. June 22 was an example of how great fly fishing can be when fishing during the high but receding flows of run off. The Yampa was flowing in the 850 cfs range and crystal clear, and I capitalized with some superb action.

I woke up at 4:30AM in order to drop Jane off at DIA for her flight to Philadelphia. I packed most of the necessaries for fishing and one night of camping on Wednesday, and I returned to the house to change, eat a light breakfast, and pack a few remaining items. I was on the road by 6:35, and this enabled me to pull into the Howelsen Hill parking lot by 9:45. Before I started, I walked out on the pedestrian bridge across from Howelsen Hill, and I was pleased to see that the flows remained high enough to push the fish against the banks, but low enough to facilitate reasonable wading. I repeat reasonable not easy. Obvious spots remained where a fair amount of bushwhacking was required to reach the railroad tracks, advance to another location, and then blast through the brush again to gain access to the river.

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Morning Sun Glistens Off Yampa River

I began my day by hiking downstream until I was just above the hot springs, and there was no mistaking the strong scent of sulfur. I was on the water shortly after 10AM, and I began fishing with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph. Almost instantly I experienced two momentary hook ups, and then I connected with four trout that inhaled the nymphs. One was a fat brown trout in excess of fifteen inches, and another was a long lean rainbow. Of the four netted fish one took the hares ear, and the other three snatched the salvation nymph. I hooked fish almost instantly, and I fully expected to have a day of hot dry/dropper fishing, as Yampa trout moved aggressively to active nymphs.

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Closer Look

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I departed the productive deep narrow pocket and moved upstream until I approached some attractive deep troughs next to the steep rocky bank. I tossed a backhand cast to the very top of a deep run that fed into a narrow pocket. As soon as the nymphs sank, the fat Albert darted upstream. I reacted with a decent and not overly aggressive hook set, and my heart sank as the line popped back toward me minus two nymphs. I was certain that this fish was a prize.

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Hatch Brought the Fish Up Here

I replaced the nymphs with new versions of the same type, and as I continued upstream, and I hooked and landed two more moderate sized trout. Another move brought me to a very attractive wide shelf pool, and I observed three or four rising fish. Initially small blue winged olives were fluttering up into the air, but then I noticed a smattering of larger mayflies, likely pale morning duns. It seemed the fish shifted from subsurface nymph gobbling to emergers and adults, so I made the switch to dun imitations. I removed the dry/dropper flies and tied a size 18 gray comparadun to my line. Previously after snapping off the two nymphs I reconfigured my leader with a 4X tippet. I debated adding a 5X extension for dry fly fishing, but in my haste to pursue the surface feeders, I gambled that the trout would not be leader shy in the high flows and swirling currents.

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Eating a Bit Too Much

The size 18 gray comparadun failed to seduce the feeders, so I swapped it for an 18 cinnamon comparadun. This duped one twelve inch brown, but then it generated a couple of refusals. Judging from the pale morning duns in the air, I surmised they were size 14 or 16. I grabbed a fairly large cinnamon version from my front pack foam, and this fly created only refusals as well. The flies I observed appeared to possess gray-light yellow bodies, so I changed again, this time to a size 16 light gray comparadun also known as the money fly. Of course this fly was on the money, and one might ask why it took so long to test a money fly?

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Long Bow

I extracted two more trout from the gorgeous hole, where I noticed the first rising fish, including a fifteen inch rainbow. I was now brimming with confidence, and the money fly did not disappoint. Between 11AM and 1:30PM I moved the fish count from six to fourteen, and the money fly accounted for all but one of these fish. The lone outlier was the twelve inch brown that sipped the size 18 cinnamon comparadun.

I recounted the numbers story, but the size saga was even more impressive. The eight dry fly eaters included a sixteen inch hook jawed brown that was feeding in extremely shallow riffles among submerged willow tops. Another beauty found my net in the form of an eighteen inch rainbow that streaked into fast current and then leaped out of the water. In a rare display of  fish fighting skill, I allowed the hot fish to run and then shifted the rod tip to allow slack to absorb the jump. What a blast! Several additional fish in the 13-14 inch range were among the dry fly eaters.

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By 1:30 the hatch subsided to occasional stragglers, and I approached the pedestrian bridge, so I fought through the brush, crossed the tracks, and returned to the gazebo next to the Santa Fe. I chowed down, made a couple phone calls, and added a hydration bladder and raincoat to my backpack. I was now ready to attack the river, and I was pretty optimistic.

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Bright Stripe and Cheek

I returned to the a spot below my exit and covered a portion of the river a second time with a dry/dropper setup. It featured the yellow fat Albert, iron sally and salvation nymph. These choices resulted from reading my blog covering historical trips to the Yampa River at this time of year. The hatch was essentially complete, although a brief wave of blue winged olives appeared and generated a few slashing rises. I guessed emergers and replaced the salvation with a soft hackle emerger, but the strategy failed to click, and eventually I replaced the soft hackle emerger with a hare nation nymph.

During the middle to late afternoon time period I managed to land four additional trout. The slow catch rate highlighted how much a hatch energized the trout’s eating habits earlier. Two of the four after lunch catches crushed the fat Albert including a thick rainbow that measured around seventeen inches. Another fourteen inch brown trout joined the afternoon mix. The iron sally duped one of the trout, and the hare nation accounted for the other.

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What a day! Eighteen fish were landed, including five in the fifteen to twenty inch range.. This count does not include the four or five long distance releases, and several of these felt substantial. The hatch period was insane. Mayfles were popping off the water surface everywhere, and the blizzard included blue winged olives and pale morning duns of varying body colors. The whole scene was electric with hungry trout assuming feeding stations to chow down on the abundance of food. The trout took the money fly with confidence once I settled on it, and I caught several nice fish by prospecting the comparadun in obvious trout holding water.

Tomorrow I hope to be on the water earlier in order to probe likely spots with nymphs before the hatch. What will tomorrow bring? Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 18

 

 

Bad Axe Creek – 06/10/2017

Time: 7:00PM – 8:30PM

Location: Duck Egg Park

Bad Axe Creek 06/10/2017 Photo Album

After dinner at the Viroqua Food Co-op I allowed Jane to drive, while I navigated using the Driftless map that was highlighted with our destination on Bad Axe Creek. Our path required numerous turns, as we twisted and curved up and down hills and rural valleys west of Viroqua. Eventually we reached small Duck Egg Park just beyond a bridge and next to the creek. Saturday developed into a hot evening, and the gnats continued their assault on my person. As I mentioned, Jane accompanied, but she immediately surrendered to the insect population and remained in the car during my 1.5 hour venture on Bad Axe Creek.

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Narrow and Dark Olive Spring Creek

Once again I chose my small light Orvis Access four weight rod, and when I approached the stream fifteen yards above the bridge, I could see that Bad Axe was larger than Camp Creek but smaller than Timber Coulee. As mentioned by the gentleman in the fly shop, the water was a deep olive color like many classic Pennsylvania limestoners, and the streambed was similar to a trough with steep banks and tall grass along the edge. I stuffed my headlamp and my regular glasses in my backpack to enable fishing in the low light of dusk should I last that long.

I began just above the bridge with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph. Jane briefly confronted the gnat attack and stood on the bridge to watch my initial efforts to land a Bad Axe Creek trout. Almost immediately I noticed a solitary rise in a small nook along the opposite bank behind an exposed rock, so I lobbed a short cast to the area. I was quite surprised when an eleven inch brown pounced on one of the trailing nymphs, but my glee was momentary as the fish battled and slipped away. A second temporary connection in the area within view of the bridge raised my frustration level; however, I persisted and landed a spunky ten inch brown on the salvation nymph to break into the scoring column.

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This Section Looks Quite Good

The low light and the dark olive color made it very difficult to read the depth of the water. At one point I snagged one of the nymphs on some aquatic vegetation, and I initially took a step toward the area where my fly was held captive, but I found myself immediately in water above my waist. This situation was quite surprising given the ten foot width of the stream.

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Another Bad Axe Creek Resident

I covered .5 mile during the course of my wandering along Bad Axe Creek on Saturday evening, and I built the fish count to four. In addition I registered a foul hooked fish and three long distance releases, so this was a decent amount of activity for a short amount of time. One of the escapees felt particularly hefty in comparison to the other landed fish. Two of the netted fish nabbed the salvation nymph, and the other two grabbed the hares ear. I quit at 8PM in spite of ample light, so that I could find my way back through the tall grass and weeds in the dark. On my return hike I was sorely disappointed when the cable on my right Korker wading boot snapped.

Jane and I departed the Duck Egg Park by 9:10 for Westby, and surprisingly the sky remained quite bright. Saturday evening was a blast, and I second guessed my decision to spend only an evening there. I was the only fisherman, and quite a bit of stream remained upstream to explore. If there is another trip to the Driftless Region, I plan to devote more hours to Bad Axe Creek.

Fish Landed: 4

Camp Creek – 06/10/2017

Time: 8:00AM – 12:30PM

Location: Viola Park area

Camp Creek 06/10/2017 Photo Album

Saturday was expected to be even hotter than Friday, so I departed nice and early from the Westby House Inn. I completed the thirty minute drive through Viroqua and then east through the tiny town of Viola, where I reached the Viola Park. The parking lot was devoid of any cars, and I was quite pleased with this development after my difficulties finding fishing space on Timber Coulee on Friday. I experienced a fine day on Camp Creek during 2014, and since it was a weekend day, I was concerned about fishing competition. At 8AM in the morning I concluded that I had the stream to myself, at least for some period of time.

As expected the air temperature was already at seventy degrees, as I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight in the early morning. Starting early was a smart decision as the thermometer peaked above the ninety degree line in the late afternoon, when I was no longer fishing. I fished nearly the same segment of the small limestone creek that appealed to me in 2014; however, I began farther downstream where a dirt road crossed Camp Creek. In 2014 I hiked downstream from the bridge on the paved road that leads from Viola to the park. Similar to Friday the stream appeared to be nearly ideal with average flows and perfect clarity.

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Above and Below the Fallen Tree Produced

I began my early morning search for Driftless trout with a size 10 Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear nymph, and on the third cast I shot a cast to a position just below an angled dead tree that spanned the narrow waterway. Wham, the Chernobyl dipped, and I set the hook and landed a chunky nine inch brown trout. It was an auspicious start to my day on Camp Creek.

While I was netting the first trout of the day, I spotted a single rise just above the angled tree, so I carefully circled around the root ball and dropped a cast above the scene of the rise. Again on the third drift the foam surface fly paused, and I lifted my rod tip and felt the weight of brown trout number two. My expectations were now sky high for the remainder of the day, but not surprisingly my catch rate slowed measurably.

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Wild Brown Trout

I resumed my upstream migration and covered the remainder of the segment between the bridges with no additional fish putting a sag in my net. I did manage a hook up with what felt like a larger fish, but it escaped prematurely. I also made a poor decision when I attempted a roll cast beneath a tree and hooked a live branch. After several attempts to dislodge the Chernobyl and hares ear, I surrendered and broke off the pair of flies. In place of the Chernobyl ant I tied a yellow fat Albert to my line, and then I added a new hares ear. I continued my quest for additional trout, and after I passed under the bridge I added a beadhead pheasant tail as a third fly. I was dissatisfied with the long dry spell and searched for a means to break the slump.

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Gorgeous Pool

Although the pace of action never matched my remembrance of 2014, it did accelerate. Before quitting at 12:15 I registered twelve landed trout, and all were of the brown trout variety. The beadhead pheasant tail did indeed prove to be popular with the Camp Creek residents, as numbers three through ten succumbed to the size 18 rust brown nymph imitation, and the intervals between catches shrank significantly.

Near the end of my morning I encountered a very attractive wide deep pool. A large submerged log divided the pool, and a five foot lane rushed between the bank and the log. I lofted the flies to the top of the run, and just as they approached the lip, a fish flashed to the left of the visible Chernobyl. I guessed that this signaled a take of the nymph, so I executed a swift hook set and felt decent weight and saw the side of a brown trout. Unfortunately that was the extent of my success, as another nice spring creek trout evaded the hook and escaped.

After this bit of excitement two more small browns grabbed the hares ear, and then I reeled in and hiked along the fence until I reached the park and my car at 12:15. The gnats at Camp Creek were were even more annoying than what I experienced at Timber Coulee. I attempted to thwart their attacks with a double application of DEET and a special concoction that Jane and I purchased at the Driftless Angler, but the effectiveness of these deterrents was questionable.

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As was the case on Friday the riffles and runs at the top of each pool produced the best action. I suspect that this resulted from the the faster water masking the plunk of the dry/dropper, and it also allowed me to execute a closer approach. The accelerated current velocity also forced the fish to react quickly to passing food possibilities. For some reason I never tested the five small terrestrial patterns that I purchased at the Driftless Angler, although I probably should have experimented with them on the smooth pools of the small limestone spring creek. On Saturday the wind was a significant factor, and it created numerous menacing tangles. Tall grass and strong wind are generally strong leading indicators of hot terrestrial fishing.

In summary I enjoyed another fine day on Camp Creek. I was the only fisherman on the stream, and this allowed me to move freely. I love prospecting with a dry/dropper without interference from other fishermen, and that describes my day on Saturday, June 10.

Fish Landed: 12

Timber Coulee – 06/09/2017

Time: 10:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Bridge on Olstad Road.

Timber Coulee 06/09/2017 Photo Album

The day finally arrived. Friday and Saturday were reserved for fly fishing adventures. On Thursday evening we arrived in Viroqua after the Driftless Angler closed for the day, so I forfeited the opportunity to obtain local intelligence. The Driftless Angler web site documented general weather and stream conditions for the entire area, and it was not specific regarding individual streams. Consequently I performed some Google searches and determined that Timber Coulee was highly regarded and within a short drive of our lodging at the Westby House Inn. The coulee was a spring creek that benefited from stream improvement projects, and access appeared to be quite good with leases obtained by the DNR from landowners. Timber Coulee represented new water for me, and I love to explore, so I decided to make it my destination on Friday.

On my way to the creek I traveled along county road P, which bordered the upper Timber Coulee. After I passed the Snowflake ski jump area, I was surprised by the number of fishermen on a Friday morning on a very small creek. After two or three miles I passed Rullands Coulee Creek, and this tributary nearly doubled the volume, but I began to worry about a stream access point. All the pullouts along the smaller upper section were occupied, and two below the confluence with Rullands Coulee also contained vehicles. I resolved to inspect the next bridge crossing, and I regretted not checking in with the Driftless Angler on Thursday.

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Path Through Tall Grass at Timber Coulee

Finally approximately 1.5 miles below the Rullands merger I turned left on Olstad Road and parked beyond a truck on the south side of the bridge. I could see a fisherman among the herd of cows above the bridge, so I hustled to pull on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod. My haste was vindicated when another car arrived with two additional fishermen, but I spotted a narrow path through tall weeds that led downstream of the bridge. I made this my gateway to Driftless fly fishing, and I hiked through the grass and weeds that reached to my shoulders for fifteen minutes until I reached a relatively wide open segment of the creek.

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Spooked Lots of Fish in This Stream

At this point I cut down a relatively gradual slope, and I found myself next to a short riffle between two long pools. The water of Timber Coulee was gorgeous. I had no basis of comparison, but the water was crystal clear and the flows appeared to be nearly perfect. The stream reminded me of numerous spring creeks in central Pennsylvania. All was not ideal; however, as the gnats were a major nuisance throughout my stay on Timber Coulee. They swarmed about my head in dense clouds, and they attacked my ears and invaded my glasses. They did not bite, so I avoided a DEET application and decided to ignore them as best as I could.

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Deep Yellow-Gold Brown from Timber Coulee

I initiated my quest for wild Wisconsin trout with a size 8 Chernobyl ant trailing a beadhead hares ear. This combination performed quite well for me during a Driftless Region visit in 2014, so I decided to give it another chance. During my day on the creek I added a bright green caddis pupa as a third fly for a period of time. I also removed the dry/dropper and experimented with a parachute ant, but this venture into terrestrial fishing did not yield any positive results. This surprised me given the abundance of tall grasses and weeds that lined the banks of the relatively narrow stream.

Eventually I returned to the dry/dropper with a smaller size 10 Chernobyl ant as the surface fly, and I persisted with the beadhead hares ear nymph. Given the preponderance of gnats I also knotted a mercury flashback black beauty to my line as a second dropper below the hares ear. Finally at the very end of the day I tested a Jake’s gulp beetle in the section of the stream above and below the Olstad Road bridge.

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Sporadic Risers in Water Such as This

During my four hours of fishing I landed seven brown trout. Two were buttery colored twelve inch beauties, and the remainder were smaller in size but just as pretty. All but one of the brown trout that nestled in my net grabbed the hares ear, and the aberration nabbed the black beauty. The key to success was fishing the faster runs of moderate depth that flushed clear water into the deep pools. Early on I invested far too much time in large slow moving pools after observing a fair number of sporadic rises. I executed fairly long delicate casts, but even the size 18 ant was soundly ignored. In many cases I sadly watched fish scatter, when they sensed my presence. Surely my wading, or the movement of my rod, or the shadow from the overhead line put them on high alert. Unfortunately quite a few of the fleeing fish appeared to be quite nice and perhaps in the fifteen inch range.

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Eventually I learned that my best chance of success resulted from focusing on the faster runs and riffles. In these locations the faster water and surface turbulence masked my presence and the plop of the flies. In addition to the seven landed fish I experienced two momentary hookups with fish that felt heavier than even my largest catches. One grabbed the hares ear nymph in a nice riffle that spanned the entire creek, and it created a significant bend in my rod, but I never caught a glimpse. The second long distance release snatched the hares ear in a current seam, and I played it long enough to recognize it as a thirteen inch brown trout.

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Ignoring Me

By one o’clock I reached the bridge where my car was parked, so I crossed the road and climbed over the fence by using one of the designated ladders. I continued upstream until I was among the herd of dairy cows, and I added a couple small trout to my count during this time. Before I called it quits for Friday, I worked the head of a deep pool above the bridge, and this late effort produced a small brown trout that nabbed the black beauty. Several refusals to the Chernboyl ant prompted me to knot a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line, but it also generated only a pair of refusals.

I spooked more fish than I landed, but despite this frustration I enjoyed exploring new water in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. Catching trout in a clear spring creek on my first visit challenged my mind and provoked keen observation. Timber Coulee was a fine alternative to fishing in high turbid streams in the Rocky Mountains.

Fish Landed: 7

 

Sprague Lake – 06/05/2017

Time: 10:00AM – 12:30PM

Location: Various places around the entire lake

Sprague Lake 06/05/2017 Photo Album

The long anticipated conversion from fly fishing in streams to casting in lakes is now in progress in Colorado. The stream possibilities dwindled considerably today. After reviewing the streamflow data on Sunday, I made plans to meet @rockymtnangler ( AKA Trevor) at the Big Thompson River tailwater below Lake Estes. I knew from past experience that 128 cfs is a very manageable velocity on the popular small river near Rocky Mountain National Park.

I arrived at the pullout on Mall Road at 9AM, and I discovered Trevor sitting on the tailgate of his Subaru. A white SUV with flashing lights was parked behind him, so I continued over the bridge and pulled into a small space on the north side. I walked back across the bridge and met Trevor part way, and he first informed me that the flashing light vehicle was supporting some workers doing a bridge inspection. Next he pointed to the river and suggested that we make alternative plans. I glanced down, and I was instantly shocked to see large waves and thrashing whitewater. Clearly the flows were recently adjusted upward, and the brown opaque color of the water made fishing in the Big Thompson a foolish option.

Trevor suggested that we continue on to Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I quickly supported his idea. We drove to a parking lot near Kirk’s Fly Shop on the main street of Estes Park, and I transferred my gear to Trevor’s Forester. While Trevor drove to Sprague Lake, I checked the flows, and sure enough the DWR graph looked like a flat line that ran into a vertical wall. On Monday morning the water managers opened the valves, and the Big Thompson flows skyrocketed from 128 cfs to 325 cfs. It was a stark example of the vagaries of fly fishing in streams during the spring run off in the Rocky Mountains.

After a short drive that included viewing several elk and deer, Trevor pulled into a parking space at Sprague Lake. Trevor was already dressed in his waders, so he simply pulled two rods from his rod vault and began his assault on the Sprague Lake trout population. I meanwhile found partial privacy in front of his car and pulled on my waders and then assembled my Sage four weight. I quickly crossed the narrow footbridge that spans the feeder creek to Sprague Lake and joined Trevor along the paved path that leads to the main lake. Several fish rose in the small but deep pool that was located upstream from the inlet to the lake, and Trevor announced that he had already landed two small brook trout and experienced several momentary connections with other residents of the pool.

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Blue Sheen

I quickly tied a size 16 light gray caddis adult to my line and flicked it to the vicinity of a recent rise, and within minutes two small trout rocketed from the depths only to veer away from my fly at the last instant. Clearly I needed to make an adjustment. I asked Trevor what was working for him, and he informed me that he had a large surface attractor with a red and peacock midge larva on a dropper, and the fish were assaulting the midge larva. I adopted his dry/dropper approach and added a mercury flashback black beauty to my line on a 2.5 foot dropper, but my flies continued to drift unmolested in the pool.

I stripped in my flies and swapped the black beauty for a black zebra midge with a small silver bead to attain a faster sink, but this fly was also ignored. While this was unfolding, a steady stream of tourists paraded along the path, and this caused Trevor and I to pause frequently in order to avoid impaling the RMNP patrons with hook points. Non-fishing tourists were a nuisance, but the squadron of fly fishermen that arrived next were another matter. There must have been thirty wader clad individuals carrying fly rods along with a few spinning rods, and we asked each other whether there would be any remaining space along the shoreline of Sprague Lake.

Eventually we gave up on the pool above the inlet, and we wandered in a counterclockwise direction on the path that circles the lake. As the entire lake came into focus, we noted three circles of fishermen situated across the lake. One group of eight was waded into the west end, one commandeered the center of the lake, and a third was situated along the east bank. A guide or teacher for each group began to instruct his or her students in the steps of casting.

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Trevor and I circled around a cove and stopped at a point where the shallow muddy bottom transitioned to a deeper rocky structure. We covered this area for twenty minutes, and during this time frame I decided that I needed more flash and color on my midge larva imitation, so I replaced the zebra midge with a rainbow warrior size 18. This was a fly that I recovered from a tree branch on one of my previous fishing ventures, and it was the only one in my possession. Trevor moved to a location next to a small outlet stream, and he managed to land another brook trout when he cast his dry/dropper parallel to the shoreline.

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Snow Covered Mountains Southwest of Sprague Lake

Once again my flies were undisturbed, so we made another move to a space in front of a second outlet. I waded into the lake for eight feet to create more backcasting space, and Trevor continued around the east side to the inlet. I sprayed some long casts to various spots above the outlet, but it was merely another period of arm exercise with no response from fish.

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Quite a Backdrop

Again I reeled in my line and marched around the eastern side of the lake to complete the circle, and I found Trevor back at the slow moving pool where our Sprague Lake fly fishing adventure began. Trevor was positioned farther upstream than earlier, as he executed nice casts to the deepest hole ten feet below the footbridge. As he fished, several fishermen sporting large spinning reels and bobbers sized for bass ponds arrived, and they began splashing their floating grenades just above his flies. Trevor decided to rest the water, and I took a position toward the downstream end of the pool.

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So Colorful

I lofted a cast halfway across the pool, and after it drifted a few feet, I was distracted by one of the tourists, who asked me how I was doing. In the moment when I glanced at my questioner, Trevor shouted set, and I reacted and hooked a small seven inch brook trout. I thanked Trevor and vowed to ignore the passers-by. I shot a longer cast to within four feet of the far bank, and once again the fly began to slowly crawl downstream. This time a balding gentleman inquired as to whether I was fishing for stocked fish. Again I made the mistake of turning to look at him before answering, and again Trevor shouted to set the hook. I raised the rod tip and felt the throb of a slightly heavier fish, and in a short amount of time I held a ten inch brook trout in my hand.

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During the last half hour some dark clouds materialized in the western sky, and as I released my second catch, we heard a loud clap of thunder. This was our warning signal, and we reeled up our lines and returned to the car. I quickly removed my waders and stashed my gear and rod in order to avoid the possibility of executing this routine under sheets of rain back at my car.

As we returned to Estes Park, we decided to stop for beers at the Estes Park Brewery. We sampled some free tasters, and then we moved upstairs where Trevor ordered and devoured a burger, waffle fries and IPA; while I sipped a Redrum Ale. When we finished, Trevor returned me to the Santa Fe, where I once again transferred my gear. Trevor departed, and since the rain had passed, I grabbed my lunch and ate it at a convenient picnic table next to the raging Big Thompson River. It was still quite early in the day, and I pondered the idea of traveling south through Boulder and then heading west to scout out two ponds in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. I read about Slough Pond and Kiley Pond on the DOW stocking report, and I was curious to check them out and perhaps catch a few fish to finish out the day.

I made the trip, and used US 36 to reach the north edge of Boulder until I turned on to Broadway. Broadway conveniently traversed the university town and transitioned into CO 93. I followed 93 until I was near Golden, CO, and then I turned right and negotiated numerous curves and climbs until I reached Golden Gate Canyon State Park. A mere mile beyond the visitor center I spotted Slough Pond on the left, and it was quite small and deserved the title of pond. A short distance beyond Slough, a parking lot appeared on the right, and a Colorado State Parks sign announced that I arrived at Kiley Pond. This body of water was roughly 1/3 of the size of Sprague Lake, and at least six other vehicles occupied the small parking lot. Quite a few fishermen were scattered along the banks, and this suggested that the DOW stocking report is popular with other Colorado residents.

A dark gray cloud was visible to the west, so I decided to save time and skip the process of putting on my waders. Shore fishing was the name of the game here, so why bother? I quickly pulled on my backpack and front pack and removed my Loomis two piece from the rod case. I wore my fleece as well as my raincoat to combat the biting wind, but as I turned to stride toward the pond, strong blasts of air accompanied by sheets of rain confronted my being. In an instant the parking lot was filled with scrambling anglers, many dressed in T-shirts and shorts, as they sought the shelter of their cars. Without giving it a second thought, I returned to my car and hit the tailgate button and reversed my recent actions. The lack of waders lowered my standing on the comfort index below the X axis, as the windblown raindrops drenched my jeans.

Monday turned out to be an eventful day, but most of the events had nothing to do with landing fish. The Big Thompson is likely off my destination list for at least four weeks, and Trevor and I stumbled into casting classes on Sprague Lake. We also discovered that Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular tourist destination in early June. I weathered several thunderstorms and scouted out a possible stillwater destination to satisfy my fly fishing addiction until the rivers and streams subside. The highlight of the day was spending time with Trevor and sampling some craft beers at the Estes Park Brewery.

Fish Landed: 2

South Platte River – 06/01/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/01/2017 Photo Album

After a successful day on South Boulder Creek I chose to visit the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on Thursday June 1. I invited my fishing friend John to join me, and we arrived next to the river to begin our day of fly fishing a bit before 11AM. The air temperature was in the middle sixties, and the sunshine made it feel more comfortable. A fishing shirt over a quick dry T-shirt served as my only upper body layers. The single most important factor that influenced my decision to fish the South Platte River was the favorable stream flows of 65 cfs, and as I waded into the river, I confirmed that conditions were in fact as documented.

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Attractive Section of the South Platte River

Between 11AM and 2PM I covered a significant amount of water and landed nine trout. None of the netted fish stood out, and all were in the eight to thirteen inch range. Three trout revealed themselves to be rainbows and cutbows, and the remainder were brown trout. Despite their lack of size, they all exhibited a feisty nature and battled heroically to evade the hook points of my flies.

Most of my success stemmed from the beadhead hares ear; however, the fat Albert, ultra zug bug and soft hackle emerger each accounted for a fish as well. During the first hour I utilized the dry/dropper method and featured the yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug. Midway through this period I swapped the ultra zug bug for a salvation nymph, but the fish demonstrated a distinct preference for the hares ear. Unlike previous trips to the Eleven Mile section of the South Platte River, the fish did not aggressively grab the hares ear, and success required a decent amount of movement and casting to likely pockets and runs.

Just before I broke for lunch at 12:30 I set the hook on some aquatic vegetation, and the force of my rod movement catapulted the flies into a pine branch twenty feet above me. I quickly determined that the flies were out of reach, so I grabbed the line with both hands with my rod tip pointed directly at the flies and applied slow steady pressure. Pop! The leader broke above the fat Albert, and all three flies dangled in a taunting position high above me.

I retooled with a size 10 Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear, and then I found a nice grassy spot on the bank to enjoy my midday repast. After lunch I continued with the Chernobyl and hares ear, but the smaller foam surface fly induced numerous refusals and momentary hookups. Clearly the relatively low flows had the South Platte River trout looking toward the surface, but what where they keying on?

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Cutbow Was the Best Fish on Thursday

Some dark clouds appeared in the southwest, so I pulled on my raincoat. The increased darkness provoked a very sparse blue winged olive hatch, but it also created a vexing glare. In an effort to counteract the visibility conundrum, I tied a medium olive bodied stimulator to my line, but this simply generated a couple refusals. I downsized to a size 14 gray caddis, but this also failed to generate interest. My friend John was experiencing some success with a parachute adams, so I scanned my fly box and settled on a size 18 CDC BWO. This fly lasted through a couple prime spots, but it was nearly impossible to follow in the dim light, glare and swirly water.

I was about to abandon the tiny CDC olive, when I spotted a solitary mayfly as it glided upward from the surface of the water. This natural was much larger than the minute olives, and I surmised it was an early pale morning dun. Could the fish be opportunistically feeding on these early season PMD’s? I knotted a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line and gave it a fair trial, but my theory collapsed with the resounding lack of interest from the resident trout.

In a last ditch effort to capitalize on the brief and sparse baetis hatch, I reverted to a yellow fat Albert along with the hares ear and a size 20 soft hackle emerger. Shortly after the change a rainbow trout snatched the soft hackle emerger from some riffles. Thoughts of hot action on BWO nymphs and emergers danced through my head, but the optimism was misplaced. I did manage to land a few more fish on the hares ear during this second dry/dropper application.

At 2 o’clock John and I decided to drive to a different section. We gave the river another decent opportunity to produce, and I exchanged the soft hackle emerger for an emerald caddis pupa. I hoped that the emerald color would capture the attention of the suddenly lockjawed trout. I did manage to land a small brown trout to increment the fish counter to nine, but that would be my last bit of action. As I was moving upstream at a rapid pace, a size 12 cream colored stonefly floated by, and this prompted me to try a yellow size 12 stimulator, but the fish were oblivious to my fluffy imitation. In the past a size 12 yellow Letort hopper has produced when golden stoneflies are present, so I tied one to my line along with a beadhead hares ear and the emerald caddis. Despite my theories and persistent fly changes, I could not coax any more action from the South Platte River.

At 3:45 I strolled back to meet John, and we agreed to call it quits. Although 65 cfs is preferable to raging run off and poor clarity, it was a bit below the ideal range. The bottom of the river is covered with a bright green algae, and the dropper nymphs constantly picked up scum. This compromised my favorite dry/dropper method of fishing. In addition many spots that normally yield fish were too low, and this reduced the prime fish holding locations to deeper runs and pockets.

John switched to a dry fly before I did, and he experienced decent success. By the time I made the transition, the dim light and glare became a factor, and I quickly lost confidence in my small dry fly offerings. Thursday was a fair day of fishing particularly for the run off time frame, but it was beneath my expectations for the stretch of the South Platte River that normally produces banner action. As always the scenery was spectacular, and I remain thankful for the opportunity to fish in beautiful Colorado.

Fish Landed: 9

 

South Boulder Creek – 05/31/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 05/31/2017 Photo Album

When I checked the flows on South Boulder Creek, I noted that they increased from 15.6 on Friday, the last day I fished there, to 55 cfs on Wednesday. With a nice spring day in the forecast, and the Memorial Day holiday in the rear view mirror, I decided to make another trip. May 27 was a fine outing, and I enjoyed reasonable success, so I decided to take advantage of the moderate flows before Denver Water made additional adjustments, and they are notorious for that. In fact when I returned home after fishing, I checked the flows, and as I suspected, they ratcheted them up from 55 cfs to 74 cfs while I was fishing!

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Tissue Paper Wild Flowers

After an uneventful drive I arrived at the parking lot high above the creek and downstream from the dam by 10AM. One other vehicle was in the lot, and the air temperature was in the mid sixties. I chose not to wear my fleece, but stuffed my raincoat in my backpack in case it rained, or I needed an additional layer. I assembled my Sage four piece four weight and began my descent of the steep path to the stream. The water was quite clear near the dam and remained in that state until a small tributary near the Walker Loop Trail added a small amount of color.

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Starting Point

By 11:30 I was positioned in the creek, and I began casting a size 14 yellow stimulator that I attached to my line in the parking lot, so I could hook my line to the rod guide while I completed the hike. On the fifth cast a brown trout swirled toward my fly, but turned away at the last instant. I tallied an early refusal and turned my attention to a nice deep shelf pool on the opposite side of the stream. I cast directly across the main center current and executed some nifty mends, and my reward for this display of technical proficiency was another pair of snubs. One trout raced downstream for five feet and then turned away as the stimulator began to drag.

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Odd Lichen Background

I concluded that yellow was not the preferred body color, so I exchanged it for a medium olive stimulator of the same size. This version of the attractor failed to induce looks or refusals, so I once again executed a swap and tied a size 14 gray caddis to my line. This fly was quite difficult to follow, and it also was soundly disregarded by the stream residents. I said goodbye to the shelf pool and moved upstream, but before doing so I snipped off the caddis and replaced it with a size 12 Jakes gulp beetle with a dubbed peacock body. This exact fly produced eight nice trout for me on Friday on South Boulder Creek albeit under much lower stream flows.

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On the Board

The beetle also failed to generate interest, so I made a major tactical change and shifted my approach to dry dropper. For the top fly I chose a size 8 Chernobyl ant. The first fly I plucked from my plastic cylinder was a fine looking imitation, however upon closer inspection I noticed that the point of the hook was missing. I quickly stuffed it back in the canister to be disposed of later, and I substituted another size 8 with a hook point. Beneath the Chernobyl I added a flesh colored San Juan worm and a beadhead hares ear nymph. Finally I began to connect with some South Boulder Creek trout, and I incremented the fish counter to five, while the three fly offering described above remained in place. The San Juan worm accounted for two small browns, and the beadhead hares ear enticed the other three.

As I observed the drift of my flies on a fairly close deep run, I noted that the worm was fairly buoyant, and consequently my subsurface flies were tumbling along only a foot or so below the surface. This caused me to remove the worm, and I replaced it with a size 14 ultra zug bug. The Chernobyl ant, ultra zug bug and hares ear combination remained on my line for the remainder of the day, and I built the fish count from five to twenty-three. Readers of this blog can guess that I fell into a nice rhythm, as I moved at a fairly quick pace and popped short casts into all the likely pockets, deep runs and shelf pools.

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Best Rainbow on the Day

The method was effective, and the fish gave me a thumbs up. Three of the landed fish were rainbows, and two of them crushed the large Chernobyl on the surface. I also recorded six momentary hookups resulting from rises to the Chernobyl, but for some reason quite a few fish were able to shed the hook after a brief amount of thrashing. As mentioned earlier two of the brown trout nabbed the San Juan worm, and two additional netted brown trout snatched the ultra zug bug. A bit of arithmetic reveals that seventeen brown trout chomped the drifting hares ear, as my workhorse fly continued to be my most productive fly.

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During the early afternoon I heard some rumbling to the west, so I heeded the warning signal and paused to pull on my raincoat. This proved to be a wise move, as I fished through ten minutes of rain. The rain was more of a nuisance than anything, but it was enough to soak my shirt had I not resorted to the protective layer of a raincoat. At 3PM I grew weary, and I faced a long exit hike, so I called it quits and returned to the parking lot.

On Wednesday May 31 I enjoyed another fabulous day on South Boulder Creek. The stream flows were nearly ideal, the weather was delightful, and the surroundings were stunning. Double digit landed trout was merely icing on the cake.

Fish Landed: 23

 

South Boulder Creek – 05/26/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Canyon below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 05/26/2017 Photo Album

Although I enjoyed a seasonally adjusted stellar day of fishing on Friday, May 26, it seemed that the scenery and smells of spring made the more significant impression on my brain. After a decent day on the Big Thompson River on Thursday, I revisited the DWR web site, and I was surprised but not shocked to learn that the flows on South Boulder Creek dropped from 66 cfs to 16 cfs. Denver water seems to use South Boulder Creek as its balancing tool, as it attempts to offset natural fluctuations from other South Platte River tributaries. For this reason I was not stunned by the sharp reduction.

15.6 cfs is low, however, I decided to make the trip anyway, since the location and hike into the canyon are spectacular regardless of the state of the fishing. I arrived at the parking lot near the dam by 10:30, and only one other vehicle was present. I strung my Loomis two piece five weight, climbed into my waders, and stuffed my lunch in my backpack; and I decided I was ready to go. The air temperature was a chilly 46 degrees, so I wrapped my fleece around my waist under my waders, and I stuffed my raincoat in my pack along with the lunch items. This afforded me the option of adding layers after the strenuous hike, and the dark gray clouds in the western sky suggested that additional clothing might be required.

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Low and Murky in May 26

When I descended the steep path and approached the edge of the creek, I was surprised to note that the stream was off colored even though I was less than .5 below the dam. Heavy rain pounded our house in Denver on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, so I assumed that a similar event caused a flush of sediments from the nearby small feeders thus causing the murky conditions. Despite the unexpected coloration, I surmised that the clarity remained within a range that would support decent fishing. The milky olive color reminded me of the normal appearance of Pennsylvania limestone spring creeks.

After a decent walk to distance myself from the most pressured section above the first pedestrian bridge, I found an attractive stretch, and I cut down the bank toward the creek. Before embarking on my fishing adventure, however, I stopped by a large rock and consumed my small lunch while observing the water. The stream at this location continued to display the milky olive coloration, and the air appeared to be absent of any significant insect emergence. A stiff breeze blew down the canyon off and on, so after lunch I extracted my fleece and raincoat and pulled them on over my fishing shirt. I fished until 3:30 with these layers, and I was comfortable the entire time. The sun made sporadic brief appearances, but the duration of the solar generator was never long enough to create a warming effect.

My quest for trout began with a size 14 stimulator with a peacock body, and a small trout flashed to the attactor pattern twice within the first five minutes, but each time it turned away at the last minute. I refer to this snub as a refusal. I exchanged the peacock body version for a gray imitation of the same size, and it failed to attract even a look. Perhaps the clouded water dictated a larger dark fly? I converted to a Chernobyl ant trailing a bright green go2 sparkle pupa and a RS2. Finally after at least a half hour of fruitless casting, I induced a small brown trout to snatch the go2 pupa. I endured another lengthy lull of fruitless casting, and I spotted a few blue winged olives in the air. Finally the size 20 RS2 earned its keep when another small brown nabbed the RS2, but I was frustrated by the lack of action despite covering some attractive water. Compounding my waning confidence in the dry/dropper was the ongoing observation of refusals to the leading Chernobyl.

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Savoring the Beetle

 

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Seems a Beetle Adorns This Brown Trout's Upper Lip

The fish were looking toward the surface for their meal, and the Chernobyl attracted them, but something was amiss. I resorted to my usual ploy, when I encounter Chernobyl refusals, and I switched to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. This proved to be a magical tactical shift, as eight fish crushed the beetle between 1 and 3PM. The response was not overwhelming, and finding beetle loving fish required covering a significant amount of water, but darting sips occurred frequently enough to retain my interest. I attempted to diagnose the type of water that yielded fish, but a pattern was difficult to discern. Very deep slower moving pools and large pockets were definitely not fish producers, and I began to skip over those spots.

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A Rainbow Joins the Count

By 3 o’clock the fish counter climbed to ten, and since I reached double digits, I decided to experiment with a different approach. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line as the surface indicator fly, and beneath it I added the bright green go2 sparkle pupa and a size 14 chartreuse copper john. The move paid dividends, when I landed three brown trout from a deep seam, and the last fish of the day grabbed the sparkle pupa in some riffles at the head of a deep run. Three of the dry/dropper victims chose the go2 pupa, and one nipped the copper john. This success caused me to question whether I should have applied the fat Albert dry/dropper approach earlier, but the quick success ended, and I endured another twenty minutes of futile casting in some very attractive segments of water.

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By 3:30 I was suffering through the aforementioned slump, and I was quite weary from the long walk, so I began my strenuous return hike. During my 3.5 hours on South Boulder Creek I did not see another fisherman, and I was lost in my thoughts. Focusing on what techniques will fool wild trout in the midst of a spectacular wilderness while standing in an ice cold stream is what I will remember about Friday May 26. It was a great day to live in Colorado.

Fish Landed: 14