North Fork of the Shoshone River – 08/15/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Rex Hale Campground until above the second bridge upstream

North Fork of the Shoshone River 08/15/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

Wednesday was my day to fish after spending most of Tuesday enjoying a hike in excess of two hours on the Elk Fork Trail. Warnings about grizzly bears at the national forest ranger station in Cody, WY and signs at every campground and trailhead kept Jane and I on high alert. After success that exceeded my expectations on Tuesday evening next to the campground, I decided to simply fish upstream, and this option enabled Jane to access the Santa Fe, while I was gone. Well deserved bear phobia restrained Jane from hiking alone, so I swapped the car for bear spray.

I elected to wear my waders despite forecast high temperatures in the low eighties, and I assembled my Sage four weight in the event that I was fortunate enough to tangle with another trout in the fifteen to twenty inch range. Two such cutbows found a home in my net on Tuesday evening, so I reasoned that additional trout of that size were possible on Wednesday.

I began fishing with a yellow stimulator in the area just above the campsite, where I enjoyed brief success on Tuesday evening. I managed one small seven inch rainbow, and then as I moved upstream casting to the long shelf pool, I switched to an olive stimulator and nabbed a small brook trout. I was rather surprised to encounter the char species in the Shoshone, since I read that it contained exclusively rainbows, cutbows and cutthroats.

Next I progressed to a huge bend pool just below the first bridge, and I paused for lunch. By this time I converted to a size 8 Chernobyl ant trailing a salvation. The change was implemented, after I spotted a single pale morning dun. Despite my keen observation, this tactic was unsuccessful, and after lunch I briefly experimented with a Jake’s gulp beetle. Terrestrials were not on the menu, so after I passed under the Yellowstone Avenue Bridge, I tied a size 14 parachute green drake to my line.

I approached a nice long shelf pool above the bridge that was twenty feet wide and shot some casts to the mid-section. On the third drift along the heavy current seam a fish rose and confidently slurped the drake. I could tell immediately that the feeder was a stronger fighter than the previous dinks, and the fish proved its mettle with five or six strong runs, before I guided it into my net. The length of the rainbow trout exceeded my net opening, and it displayed an ample girth. My confidence soared, but the paradrake generated only refusals after the big catch.

I pondered the situation and speculated that the drakes were in favor, but maybe the trout preferred a larger version or different style. I swapped the parachute for a comparadun that displayed a tall wing profile, and the ploy paid off when a plump twelve inch rainbow slammed the fraud.

The next interesting area featured a fifty foot long pocket of moderate depth, and two current tongues merged at the top after splitting around an exposed rock. I dropped a cast toward the top of the pocket in the merge area, and a large mouth engulfed the comparadun drake. Once again the game was on, and another muscular rainbow found a home in my net after a spirited battle. This silver brawler also extended beyond the net opening and measured seventeen inches.

In spite of the difficulty following the comparadun, I persisted, and an eight inch brown trout nabbed it in a small bank side pocket. A brown trout? Once again I was stunned to count a rogue species for the Shoshone among my catch.

I continued around the bend on the north side of the highway and passed under bridge number two. I was about to prospect a nice long narrow shelf pool, when another fisherman arrived. We exchanged greetings and information about our days up until that point, and then the other angler proceeded to wade into the river no more than fifteen yards above my position. I was dumbfounded. I reeled up my flies and shook my head in the direction of the interloper’s buddy, who remained on the bank, and then I circled around and re-entered the river at some pocket water above the long run.

I prospected the entire length of fast water and landed a small rainbow near the top section. Along the way I switched from the comparadun to a Harrop hair wing green drake. A nice large section of moderate riffles presented itself next, and I covered it with a moderate amount of thoroughness, but evidence of fish was lacking. The lull in action caused me to climb a worn path to the cinder road that paralleled the highway. Near the end of the gravel lane, I crossed some prairie grass and returned to the campsite via the highway.

The bright blue sky and warm temperatures made Wednesday a challenging day for fly fishing. I was actually very pleased to land seven fish, and especially thrilled that my catch included two strong muscular rainbow trout. I never spotted a single green drake, but the Shoshone residents were apparently aware of their infrequent presence.

Fish Landed: 7

North Fork of the Shoshone River – 08/14/2018

Time: 8:30PM – 9:00PM

Location: Upstream from the Rex Hale Campground

North Fork of the Shoshone River 08/14/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

After dinner and clean up on Tuesday evening I walked down to the river and spotted several rises. I rushed back to the campsite and asked if Jane would mind, if I fished for another thirty minutes before dark. She reluctantly acquiesced. I quickly strung my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my front pack and net.

When I returned to the river, many fish were rising. I tied a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line first, and this offering only generated refusals from the pod of active fish in front of me. As darkness quickly descended, I clicked on my headlamp and replaced the comparadun with a size 18 light gray deer hair caddis. This proved to be a fortuitous event.

Almost immediately I connected with a fish on a downstream drift, but my euphoria was quickly dampened, when I discovered a twelve inch whitefish in my net. I have nothing against whitefish, and it was rewarding to have a bit of dry fly success, but I anticipated a cutthroat or cutbow from the North Fork.

I returned my attention to the river in the waning daylight, and I noticed some spaced rises in a deeper spot higher up in the pool, so I angled a cast that way. It was impossible to track the dull earth toned fly in the dim light, but I saw a rise in the vicinity of where I estimated my fly to be. I lifted and connected with a heavy thrashing fish, but after a two second run, the spirited fighter escaped.

My pulse raced after this turn of events, so I persisted, and in the last ten minutes before nine o’clock I hooked and landed two cutbows in the sixteen to seventeen inch range. What a thrill! They fought valiantly and repeatedly streaked up and down the river in powerful bursts in near darkness. I allowed the fighters to take line from the reel often, but eventually I guided them into my net. Whew! What a satisfying ending to my brief time fishing on the North Fork of the Shoshone River on Tuesday. There is something extraordinarily exhilarating about battling larger than average fish in darkness.

Fish Landed: 2

North Fork of the Shoshone River – 08/14/2018

Time: 4:30PM – 6:00PM

Location: Upstream from the Rex Hale Campground

North Fork of the Shoshone River 08/14/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

Jane and I completed a fun hike on the Elk Fork Trail five miles east of the Rex Hale Campground on Tuesday, August 14, 2018. When we returned to our campsite, we waded into the North Fork of the Shoshone River in our Chacos in order to wash the trail dirt and grime from our ankles and legs. The Elk Fork Trail traversed a sagebrush covered hillside, and a lack of recent precipitation provided a very dusty hiking environment. When we returned to the campsite after our foot cleansing, I asked Jane if I could fish for a few hours in the river that swept by our campground. She agreed, and I promised to return no later than 6:30.

I cautiously approached the river and discovered a gorgeous long and wide pool a mere twenty yards upstream from our campsite. As I observed, a rise appeared one foot above a small exposed rock. What could the fish be eating? My Wyoming fly fishing guide book suggested that green drakes and gray drakes were present during the middle of August, so I began my quest for a North Fork trout with a parachute green drake size 14. I executed several casts to the wide shallow area at the tail of the pool without success, and then I lobbed a longer toss, so that the green drake landed four feet above the exposed rock. Thwack! a small rainbow bolted to the surface and gobbled my green drake at the exact location where a rise appeared earlier.

I was delighted with my early good fortune, and I continued to spray casts across the lower pool, but the green drake was ignored. I moved upstream to some very attractive deeper water, and my imitation failed to elicit interest. I decided to test a dry/dropper configuration and tied a yellow pool toy, iron sally and salvation nymph to my line. Once again I dispersed casts across the various feeding lanes, and this managed to stir some interest. Unfortunately the action manifested itself in the form of refusals, as three fish darted to the surface and shifted away at the last instant. The sound of one of these last minute misdirections suggested that it was a larger fish.

I systematically moved upstream and probed the remainder of the enticing pool, and then I progressed to a nice long shelf pool. Here I probed the current seam and the ribbon of slower moving water between the fast current and the shoreline, but I either presented the wrong flies, or the fish developed a case of lock jaw. The lengthy lapse in action caused me to pause, and I decided to swap the pool toy for a yellow fat Albert, and I retained the trailing nymphs. I noticed a couple golden stoneflies in the space above the river earlier.

The fat Albert elicited a few weak refusals, and after the second one in a swirly deep edge pocket, I switched to a single yellow Letort hopper. The change was validated, when the fish that rejected the stimulator fell for the Letort hopper. I continued to prospect with the hopper imitation a bit farther, and then I quit and returned to the campsite for dinner. Two small fish and a batch of refusals represented a decent introduction to the North Fork of the Shoshone River.

Fish Landed: 2

South Platte River – 08/12/2018

Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 08/12/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

I made plans to spend a day with my son, Dan, and his friend from Emerson Electric, Beth, on Sunday, August 12, 2018. Beth came to Colorado on a business trip and arranged to arrive on the weekend prior to her meetings, and this provided an opportunity for a day of outdoor activity. She expressed an interest in trying fly fishing, and that was the impetus for our planned trip to the South Platte River.

I met Dan at 6:50AM at the Arapahoe Park & Ride, and I transferred my gear to his car. Dan subsequently drove to Woodland Park, where we met Beth, and she made a similar transfer of her necessary outdoor accessories to Dan’s vehicle. We back tracked a short distance to the Peak Fly Shop, and Beth rented waders and wading boots for the day. We now proceeded to the river, and we were in a position to begin fishing at 11:30AM. Since this was Beth’s first fly fishing experience, I provided casting instructions for fifteen minutes, and then given the proximity to noon, we ate our lunches.

By the time we put on our waders and strung our rods and hiked downstream to our starting point, it was 12:30PM. I began with a yellow fat Albert and beadhead hares ear, and after I moved through four quality spots with no action, I connected with a pair of medium sized brown trout. Dan and Beth, meanwhile, began their fly fishing adventure forty yards upstream. My catch rate was lagging my expectations, so I added a salvation nymph below the hares ear, and the fish count climbed to five. At this juncture the salvation and hares ear somehow broke off, and I used this pause in action to substitute a bright green caddis pupa for the hares ear, as I observed a smattering of small down wing insects buzzing about.

The sun was bright and high overhead with nary a cloud in the sky, and I wilted in the eighty degree heat. The fish seemed to vanish, but I somehow managed to hook and land a small brown on the salvation. I was stuck on six fish for quite a while, and it seemed that the only productive spots were deep runs below oxygenated sections and next to large rocks providing desirable shade and cover.

In one of these places the fat Albert paused, and I set the hook and felt momentary weight, before my line went limp. As I gazed at the water, I could see the fat Albert six inches below the surface, and then it disappeared, as the fish that grabbed a trailing nymph swam away to safety. I lost a fish, a fat Albert, an iron sally, and a salvation nymph in this unfortunate exchange. I once again paused and undertook the laborious process of reconfiguring the three fly dry/dropper arrangement. This time I deployed a tan pool toy, salvation nymph and RS2. A very sparse emergence of blue winged olives prompted the RS2 selection.

Over the remainder of the afternoon I upped the fish count from six to twelve, as two small browns grabbed the salvation nymph, and four trout nailed the RS2. The observation of small mayflies paid off with the move to the RS2, which imitated the baetis nymph.

The last fish of the day was a thirteen inch rainbow that snatched the RS2 in a deep pocket at the top of a pool on our way back to our original arrival point. The best fish of the day attacked the RS2 and moved the pool toy six inches in a diagonal direction. Dan and Beth alternated casting as they progressed upstream along the left bank, and unfortunately Beth was unable to experience the satisfaction of hooking and landing a trout on a fly. Dan related several episodes, where a fish approached her fly, but it refused at the last minute, or Beth’s hook set was a bit tardy. Dan managed to hook and net one respectable brown trout.

All in all it was perhaps the most challenging day, that I ever experienced on this section of the South Platte River, and it unfortunately coincided with Beth’s maiden exposure to fly fishing. Despite the lack of success, I noted that her casting was very adequate for a first time fly angler. Her rod movement was efficient, and she quickly grasped the importance of a consistent casting rhythm. Hopefully she follows up with additional near term fly fishing outings to reinforce her newly acquired skill. Beth was effusive in her praise of the Colorado outdoors and the spectacular setting that surrounded our fly fishing adventure, and I am certain that her comments were genuine. Sunday was about being outdoors, learning a new skill, and the camaraderie of a backcountry endeavor.

Fish Landed: 12

 

 

South Boulder Creek – 08/09/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/09/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

I continually monitor the flows on South Boulder Creek, as it remains my favorite Front Range destination. A check last week revealed that the water managers dropped the flows to 127 CFS, and although this remains on the high side, it remained within a comfortable range for fly fishing. I generally prefer water levels in the 50-80 CFS range. I planned a trip, and Thursday morning I packed the car and made the slightly over one hour drive to the kayak parking lot below the dam but high above the small tailwater creek. When I arrived four or five cars occupied spaces, and while I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, three additional vehicles secured spaces to my left. Needless to say I was concerned about solitude and space.

To my pre-fishing ritual I added elbow glides and stretches, and on Thursday I secured my new cho pat strap just below my right elbow. I was anxious to determine if the device would reduce the pinching pain that plagued my casting elbow on Tuesday on the South Platte River. Even at the elevated flows I was able to ford the creek at the bottom of the steep path, and this enabled me to hike along the south side of the stream. This is a positive, as the north path involves quite a bit of rock climbing. Fortunately I passed four solitary anglers along the way on the upper water, and this accounted for most of the vehicles. I hiked a decent distance beyond the active fishermen, and I encountered two outliers who endured a longer hike.

When I sufficiently distanced myself from the other fishemen, I cut down to the creek and began my day with a size 8 Chernobyl ant, a size 12 beadhead prince nymph, and a salvation nymph. I chose the prince nymph with the hope that green drakes were active, and that the long slender prince might serve as a reasonable representation. I carefully approached a nice deep pool along the right bank and began flipping short casts to the likely fish holding locations. In the first pool a small trout spurned the Chernobyl, and I immediately feared that refusals might rule the day. Another rejection occurred in the next nice pool, and I began to formulate alternative approaches.

Fortunately a small brown nabbed the prince in the next decent location, and I delayed my plan to change tactics. Adhering to the Chernobyl/prince/salvation proved to be a solid strategy, as the fish counter climbed to sixteen by the time I paused for lunch at 12:15. One brown trout crushed the Chernobyl, and a couple nipped the salvation, but the coveted offering proved to be the prince. I will never know for sure whether my green drake nymph theory was the reason, but the results were outstanding regardless of the reason.

At some point during the morning the salvation and its attached dropper disappeared in the process of releasing a fish, so I replaced it with an ultra zug bug. My fly box contained only one size 12 2XL prince nymph, so I was hopeful that the smaller ultra zug bug might be equally effective, but unfortunately it was not. When I snapped off the zug bug on a dead tree limb, I decided to continue with a two fly arrangement, since the prince nymph was overwhelmingly the main attraction, and this choice proved to be sound.

After lunch on a large flat rock I continued prospecting with the two fly dry/dropper, and I incremented the fish count to twenty. At this point the jagged teeth of twenty trout reduced the prince nymph to a peacock body with no additional appendages. The tails were long gone, and the thread began to unravel, and this resulted in the loss of the two goose biot wings. I would have continued, but the long strand of dangling black thread portended a near term end to the life of the prince.

I removed the productive fly and experimented with an ultra zug bug and salvation nymph for ten minutes, but I sensed that the fish were not interested in these two substitutes. I looked in my fleece wallet and found a size 14 prince tied on a standard length hook, and I knotted it to my line and retained the salvation nymph. The performance of these flies outpaced the previous ones, and I managed to bolster the fish count from twenty to twenty-six, but the pace was much slower than that of the morning, and I covered considerably more stream including some appealing spots that should have produced more fish, than what I was able to attract.

In the midst of this early afternoon period I began to observe a decent quantity of yellow sallies and even larger golden stoneflies. I almost switched to a yellow stimulator, but before doing so I swapped the prince for an iron sally. Several of the seven fish that moved the count from twenty to twenty-six grabbed the salvation, while it was paired with the iron sally.

By three o’clock I was perched on twenty-six, and the catch rate slowed measurably. The sun was now high in the afternoon sky, and it beat down on the canyon and caused the temperature to elevate. The impact of the heat seemed to slow this fisherman and the fish. I contemplated quitting for the day, but again I noticed a wave of yellow sallies, so I decided to implement the single dry fly idea that crossed my mind earlier.

Initially the size 14 yellow stimulator prompted a couple refusals, but then I executed a cast across a main current to a long shelf pool along the opposite bank. I raised my rod high to avoid drag and managed a long drift, whereupon a brown trout surfaced and slashed the stimulator. Maybe there was something to the yellow sally dry fly after all?

I exited the creek at a place where huge boulders on both sides made additional progress impossible, and I hiked a fair distance until I reached two very nice pools. The most attractive water in the first pool was again on the far side, and I deployed a similar technique that fooled number twenty-seven, but in this instance I failed to generate a response.

The next pool was a crown jewel with a deep run down the center and pulse-raising shelf pools on either side. I fired ten casts to the area on the right side, and the yellow stimulator went unmolested. I was certain that fish inhabited this place, and I noticed several green drakes near the 3:30 time frame, so I switched to a size 14 parachute green drake. I tossed the newly attached fly to the top of the pool, and a bulge and swirl ensued. At least the green drake attracted attention, but how could I prompt a take?

I persisted with a few more casts, and the large low riding piece of meat became too much to resist. I had my first South Boulder Creek green drake victim in the form of a small brown trout. My switch to the green drake and the small dose of success led to another 1.5 hours of fly fishing, and eleven additional trout found my net, before I called it a day a few minutes before five o’clock. A few refusals marred the successful late afternoon action; however, I stayed in a zone of angler bliss most of the time. Green drakes continued to appear albeit in a very sparse hatch, and a few pale morning duns joined the party. During the hot afternoon days of August, the drake hatch apparently delayed, until the shadows lengthened from the steep canyon walls on the south side of the creek. I moved quickly and sprayed casts to moderate riffles and runs, and quite often a brown trout rewarded me with an aggressive bite. A few very colorful rainbows joined the mix as well to add a bit of diversity to my stay.

On Thursday I had a blast on South Boulder Creek. I learned that fly fishing at 127 CFS can be very worthwhile, and I also documented that green drakes appear in early August. I also learned that leaving early on hot days carries the risk of missing the best insect activity on the small tailwater. Prior history suggests that the best of the green drake hatch is in the future, and I anxiously anticipate those occasions.

Fish Landed: 38

South Platte River – 08/07/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 08/07/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

I felt a strong urge to visit a river that could potentially yield larger fish, yet I was apprehensive about placing additional strain on my gradually improving tennis elbow. Larger water and bigger fish generally dictate a heavier and longer rod, and ever since I began physical therapy, I relied exclusively on my Orvis Access four weight.

After physical therapy sessions on Friday and Monday and four straight days of no casting, I decided to put my elbow to the test and made the drive to the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. Tuesday was cool and cloudy in the morning; however, by the time I strung my Sage four weight and pulled on my waders, the temperature elevated into the upper seventies. I was actually chilled while standing in the shade of the canyon wall next to the Santa Fe, and I considered wearing my raincoat, but once I strolled down the dirt road and dropped down an angled path that descended a steep bank to the river, I was comfortable. Flows of the canyon tailwater were 107 CFS, and this level was actually higher than what I experienced during my spring trips earlier in the 2018 season. I was actually pleased that the water regulators were releasing water in excess of 100 CFS, as higher flows buffer the hot summer temperatures and allow fishing without the risk of stressing the coldwater residents.

I stopped next to a long deep pool that rolled along a vertical rock wall, and I paused to observe, before I addressed the choice of flies for my line. Within minutes I noticed two brown trout, as they hovered a couple feet below the surface, and they periodically swam upward and snatched some form of food. A pair of rises appeared in the current seam two-thirds of the way across the river, and a few tiny bugs fluttered about. I assumed that the minuscule insects were tricos, so I knotted a size 22 black body and poly wing version to my line. Ten casts later I acknowledged that my fly was probably too large, as each of the risers refused my downstream presentation, and the trout nearer to me totally ignored the surface offering.

I pondered the situation and realized that the trico spinner that I drifted through the pool was the smallest imitation in my box. Rather than continue to fuel my frustration, I decided to try another approach. Several times in the past I experimented with a sunken trico with some success, so I decided to follow that route on Tuesday. A size 10 Chernobyl ant assumed the top position in my lineup, and below it I tied a size 22 RS2 and a size 22 sunken trico. The trico contained tiny plastic wings, and they were wrapped around the body in a haphazard manner, just as one would see on a trico after it swirled through tumbling whitewater.

For the next 1.5 hour until I took my lunch break, I tossed the three fly dry/dropper alignment to likely trout holding locations, and I succeeded in landing five representative South Platte River trout. All except one were brown trout, and the feisty morning inhabitants of my net were in the twelve to thirteen inch size range. The other catch was a small rainbow trout. I discovered that the most productive places were deep slots next to large boulders. I suspect that the trout favored the hidden positions afforded by the large rocks, and the deep holes next to fast current provided perfect launch points to grab food items, as they drifted by.

After lunch I noticed fewer tricos, and instead occasional pale morning duns made an appearance. Simultaneously a decent hatch of small blue winged olives appeared, and I responded to the new insect dynamics with another fly change. I exchanged the sunken trico for a salvation nymph and reversed the positions of the nymphs, so that the salvation was the top fly, and the RS2 was on the bottom. The move was somewhat effective as I added two more trout to the fish counter in the after lunch time period.

One of these two netted fish was the highlight of the day. I backhanded a toss to a marginal narrow slot just upstream of an exposed angled boulder, and a fish confidently chomped on the Chernobyl ant. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a hook jawed brown trout with bright orange and yellow coloration on my line, after I executed a swift hook set. When the thrashing prize settled down, I estimated that it measured fifteen inches, and I was quite pleased with my good fortune.

In addition to the two fish landed in the one hour after lunch, I experienced quite a few temporary connections. The blue winged olive hatch was more dense than I expected on August 7, and the fish seemed to tune into the small trailing RS2. During this time frame the heads of  relatively shallow pockets provided fairly consistent grabs, but I failed to maintain contact in many cases.

As the afternoon progressed, the clouds disappeared, and the warm rays of the sun had their impact on the air and stream temperatures. Yellow sallies made an appearance and outnumbered the pale morning duns, so I swapped the salvation nymph for a size 16 iron sally. From 1PM until I quit at 3PM I covered a significant amount of water and added two additional trout to the fish count. A brown trout and small rainbow spent time in my net, and both nabbed the RS2, as it swept along exposed rocks.

Two anglers occupied one of my favorite pools on the river, below where the car was parked, so I circled around them and fished the two channels that split around a narrow island. The west channel presented a gorgeous deep shelf pool on the side of the main current away from me, and I could see two very nice trout facing into the eddy. They frequently moved a foot or two to nab underwater food items, and the larger of the two elevated infrequently to sip something from the surface. My dry/dropper rig was totally ignored, so I made the difficult decision to convert to a dry fly. I removed the three flies and placed a cinnamon comparadun on my line. Nothing happened, not even a look. I segued the comparadun with a size 22 blue winged olive, and I was quite optimistic that the tiny match for the prevalent naturals would seduce the pool dwellers. Once again they snubbed my artificial food offering. I remembered the presence of yellow sallies and knotted a size 14 yellow stimulator to my line. The yellow stimmy duped many trout in the early part of the season, but today it was not effective. In a last ditch effort to find a surface fly that would appeal to the eddy trophies, I snatched a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle from the fly box. Another rousing round of futile casting ensued, so I saluted the selective residents and moved upstream.

The beetle failed as a solution to the puzzle, so I reverted to the three fly dry/dropper approach. I switched from the Chernobyl ant to a tan pool toy hopper, and below the large buoyant top fly I presented the iron sally and RS2. As I mentioned previously, this set up enabled me to add two fish to the tally to reach nine on the day.

As three o’clock rapidly approached, I was mired in a mild slump. In truth my confidence was low, and I was very warm and weary, as the bright sun beat down on the canyon. I approached a nice wide run, and I spotted a location that fit the recipe for success, that I described earlier. A narrow deep run deflected off a large exposed boulder and created a V-shaped band of slow water. I lobbed the three flies above the boulder, and as it swept by the upstream side of the rock, I caught a glimpse of a fish, as it turned perpendicular to the current. The movement was several feet to the right of the pool toy, and I suspected it grabbed one of the nymphs, so I swept the rod sideways and upstream. The hook penetrated the mouth of the feeder, and a heavy fish shot upstream, and then I angled it ten feet toward me. The brown trout was not happy, and it streaked perpendicular to the current, until it reached the faster water just beyond the site of the hook set.

Boing! The line rebounded toward me and went limp, and I instantly went into grieving mode. I suspected that perhaps the fish was foul hooked, but when I reeled up the line, I discovered that it snapped off all three flies. A telltale curly end on my line suggested that I tied a faulty knot on the line to pool toy connection. Needless to say I beat myself up for a bit, and then in a fit of disgust I found a path and scrambled up the steep bank to the car. It was close to 3PM, and I was not about to endure the task of knotting three more flies to my line.

Fish Landed: 9

 

Boulder Creek – 08/02/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: High gradient section downstream from Boulder Falls

Boulder Creek 08/02/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

I completed three successive days of fly fishing, and I found myself reviewing the stream flows in search of a destination on Thursday. Three physical therapy appointments provided modest improvement to my inflamed elbow, as the pinching sensation subsided to intermittent burns. I began a regimen of daily icing, nerve glides, and stretches; and my new therapy toy, a yellow flex bar, arrived in the mail. How does one explain this madness? As a fellow angler once told my wife, “he has the disease”. I suppose my continuing passion for fly fishing is a testimony to the complexity and challenge of the sport. After thirty-five years I continue to learn and encounter new and unique experiences. Thursday was August 2, and the summer was flashing by, and I was not about to rest during the prime summer season. That is my explanation for the madness.

I was not interested in a long drive, so I confined my search to Front Range streams. I ruled out the Cache la Poudre after a lackluster day of guided fishing with my friend Dan on July 20. The North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek was flowing at a paltry 21 CFS, so another stream was crossed off my list. The Big Thompson River dropped to 93 CFS, and the lower volume intrigued me, but my recent visit was rather average, and the canyon is heavily pressured by guides with Rocky Mountain National Park visitors. Clear Creek remained an option with flows in the 80 CFS range, but I tested those waters on Monday and Wednesday, and I was seeking some variety. I was encouraged to note that South Boulder Creek dropped to the 134 CFS level, and I love the small tailwater west of Golden, but that option required a hike into the canyon. Boulder Creek was tumbling along in the canyon west of the city at 41 CFS. Based on prior experience I was certain that this level was adequate, and I liked the idea of fishing the high gradient section with numerous plunge pools and highly oxygenated white water. In order to confirm my hunch about Boulder Creek, I searched this blog and found an entry for July 29, 2016, when I enjoyed a twenty fish day in the steep canyon section that I was considering. This clinched it, and I made the short drive to Boulder Canyon.

The high temperature for Denver was forecast to reach ninety degrees, and I assumed this translated to the low to mid-80’s in the canyon, so I opted to wade wet. The decision proved to be prescient, as the starting temperature in the mid-70’s quickly warmed to the eighty degree mark. The cold flows of Boulder Creek were very refreshing, and I alternated between climbing the rocky bank and wading up to my knees in the icy current. The flows were as reported and high enough to provide deep pools and runs, yet moderate enough to enable comfortable wading and stream crossing. I rigged up my Orvis Access four weight, crossed the highway, and carefully negotiated a rocky bank to the edge of the creek. A small promising pool appeared just above my entry point.

My 2016 report informed me that I fished a gray stimulator successfully in the morning; and a three-fly dry/dropper configuration consisting of a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph produced results in the afternoon. Late in the day a size 16 gray caddis allowed me to add to my growing fish count. This historical knowledge guided me to tie a gray stimulator to my line to begin my day, and I sprayed casts across the pool with great optimism.The stimulator did indeed capture the attention of the stream residents, but the large attractor was apparently close to their desired snack, but not close enough. Splashy refusals ruled the first ten minutes, so I resorted to downsizing.

I withdrew a size 16 gray deer hair caddis from my fly box and knotted it to my line, and instantly the fish were fooled. I rolled the fish counter to six in the first hour, and the small caddis was the star performer. I repeatedly grasped the fly firmly to remove it from the lips of the netted fish, and despite my care, hair loss became a disease of the wing. The fish did not seem to mind, but it reached a point, where I was challenged to follow the small drifting nearly wingless caddis adult.

I retired the sparse gray caddis and replaced it with another with a full wing, but guess what happened? The persnickety trout once again snubbed my offering. What was going on here? Were these fish selective to a gray body caddis with a minimal wing? During this time I observed four or five small mayflies, as they became airborne and gained altitude over the water. From a distance they appeared to be pale morning duns. Did the fish that I landed in the morning mistake the gray-bodied caddis with a nearly missing downwing for an emerging pale morning dun?

I decided to test my theory. I plucked a size 16 light gray comparadun from my box and affixed it to my tippet. Several fish in the pool in front of me rejected the caddis previously, so I covered the same area a second time with the comparadun. Voila! One of the finicky residents rushed to the surface and inhaled the slender comparadun. I moved on and duped two additional brown trout during the remainder of the morning, and that equated to three trout that were bamboozled by the mayfly imitation.

At 11:45 I approached an area where two large trees arched over the creek from both sides. The obstruction dictated that I climb the bank to the shoulder of the highway to bypass the wading blockade, and since I was forty yards above the car, I returned and consumed my lunch.

At noon I resumed my western progression, and I cut down to the creek just above the aforementioned hindering tree branches. I continued to cast the small comparadun with high expectations, but the early afternoon developed into a lull in action. The small gray fly was very difficult to track, and evidence of emerging pale morning duns disappeared prior to my lunch break, so I elected to make a change. Although the air temperature increased to eighty, the sky alternated between high clouds and bright sun in a 50/50 ratio. A slight breeze ruffled the leaves of the trees in the canyon intermittently, and I decided to try a Jake’s glup beetle. The conditions seemed ripe for a plopping terrestrial.

The hunch was spot on, and two small brown trout charged the foam beetle in the first pool that accepted the telltale splash. The beetle was the smallest one in my box, and I suspect that it was a size 12, but tied with a narrower than usual section of foam. Between twelve o’clock and two o’clock I plunked the beetle in all the likely spots, and more times than not a trout rushed to the top and crushed the terrestrial impostor. Needless to say I had a blast. The fish count skied to twenty-four, before I called it quits fifty yards below the point, where the stream that forms Boulder Falls merged with Boulder Creek. All of the afternoon trout were browns except for a lone brook trout that gulped the beetle in the middle of a deep plunge pool.

Thursday was a fun day on Boulder Creek. True, the largest fish barely reached eleven inches, but I was challenged to uncover the correct fly, and ultimately it became a game of reading the water and executing short drag free drifts to likely holding spots away from the rapidly rushing current. The sun was high in the sky and the thermometer soared, but I was content to wade wet in the clear cold rushing waters among huge boulders, while I netted an abundant quantity of wild trout. I have the disease.

Fish Landed: 24

Clear Creek – 08/01/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Above first bridge after Tunnel One

Clear Creek 08/01/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

In a situation similar to Monday, an afternoon appointment precluded me from taking a long day trip to fly fish on Wednesday, August 1. I enjoyed a productive two hours on Clear Creek on Monday, so I decided to test the local stream once again. I departed my house in Denver at 9:15AM and arrived at the same parking space that served my needs on Monday at 9:50AM. I hustled to pull on my waders, assembled my Orvis Access four weight and zipped through my elbow exercises; and this hasty preparation enabled me to drop a fly on the creek a bit after ten o’clock.

The sky was overcast and the air temperature was refreshingly cool, as I began my quest for trout on Clear Creek. I began my day just above the first bridge after Tunnel 1 and directly below the parked Santa Fe. A hippy stomper was productive on Monday, so I knotted one with a red body to my line and dropped a cast in a nice deep hole along the bank and in front of a collection of dead tree branches. On the very first drift a small brown trout darted to the surface and unabashedly engulfed the hippy stomper. Needless to say my optimism soared with this instant dose of success.

I continued on my way westward; however, the early prosperity soon waned, and refusals took center stage. The section of the creek that I occupied was narrow and fast, but it featured numerous quality shelf pools on both sides of the stream, and I was certain that my offerings were ignored by hungry fish. I concluded that the red body was repelling the Clear Creek trout rather than attracting them, so I swapped the top fly for a hippy stomper with a peacock dubbed body. On Monday the combination of the peacock stomper and an ultra zug bug delivered my best action, so I followed suit and added an iridescent zug bug on a 2.5 foot dropper.

Over the next hour I covered a significant amount of stream real estate, and the rapid movement enabled me to boost the fish counter to five. Two of the first five trout crushed the hippy stomper, and three nipped the ultra zug bug. My watch registered noon, as I netted number five, and I was pleased to have moderate success, yet I felt that better results were attainable. I cycled through a series of fly changes in an effort to boost my catch rate, but my goal was never reached.

I removed the hippy stomper and ultra zug bug and plopped a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle  through four promising pools and pockets, but only a pair of refusals developed. I added the ultra zug bug to the beetle in an attempt to cover surface and subsurface feeders, but the beadhead addition had no effect. Again I removed the two flies and knotted a medium olive size 14 stimulator to my line, and this move provoked only a couple wary looks. I recalled previous Clear Creek expeditions, when a parachute hopper duped the residents, so I tied a size 10 version with a light gray poly body to my line and combined it with the ultra zug bug. The large hopper pattern looked great, as it bobbed through the deep runs and riffles, but the selective cold water inhabitants of Clear Creek simply refused it with some splashy misdirected rises.

Finally I considered a three fly dry/dropper approach. Many times I defaulted to this mainstay method, and it rescued my day. I plucked a yellow fat Albert from my fly box and added the ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear and spent the final forty-five minutes prospecting all the likely fish holding lies. I theorized that the weight of the two beadheads and the extra length of tippet associated with the second dropper would enable my offerings to get deeper and in front of more trout.

Alas the strategy did not pan out that way, although a brown trout surfaced and crushed the fat Albert. When I inspected it in my net, I was pleased to learn that it was the best fish of the day and measured at twelve inches. A seventh brown trout grabbed one of the trailing nymphs at 12:45, and I began a steep rocky ascent to the road at 1PM. When I ambled back to the car along the shoulder of US 6, I was amazed at the distance I covered in three hours.

It was fun to take advantage of some delightful summer weather on Wednesday, but I was somewhat disappointed by my results. The catch rate lagged Monday, and I never uncovered a fly combination that delivered consistent success. Seven fish landed in three hours is a fairly average catch rate for this fly fisherman. I suspect that I will rest Clear Creek for a bit and explore other Colorado streams over the next couple weeks.

Fish Landed: 7

Dream Lake/Lake Haiyaha – 07/31/2018

Time: 7:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Dream Lake and Lake Haiyaha

Dream Lake 07/31/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

Sometimes it is not all about the numbers. That is the lesson I learned today, July 31, 2018. I exchanged text messages last week with my friend, Trevor, and we arranged to make a summer foray into Rocky Mountain National Park in a quest for greenback cutthroat trout. Trevor is an avid fan of high mountain lakes within the popular Colorado national park, and I planned to tag along in an effort to improve my stillwater fly fishing knowledge.

During the last five years Trevor invested many hours on treks to high country lakes, and he suggested that we start very early on Tuesday. Rocky Mountain National Park is the third most visited national park in the United States, and Trevor knew that the only way to procure a parking space at the trailhead was to be there very early. Our preferred plan had us parking at the Glacier Gorge parking lot, and that positioned us for a three mile one way hike to The Loch. As a backup Trevor proposed parking at Bear Lake, and this alternative put us in line for a .75 mile hike to Dream Lake followed by another 1 mile trek to Lake Haiyaha.

We arrived at Glacier Gorge at 6:30AM, and I was shocked to learn that the small parking area was full. Who were these tourists that woke up before dark to snag parking spaces in Rocky Mountain National Park? Plan B immediately advanced from backup to our main destination. A short drive from Glacier Gorge delivered us to the Bear Lake parking lot, where we easily found an angled space, since only 25% of the capacity was used at our arrival time.

We quickly grabbed our gear and departed on the trail to Dream Lake. Again I was amazed to learn that we did not have the trail to ourselves, as avid hikers and backpackers joined us. By 7AM we arrived at Dream Lake, and Trevor led me to a spot on the eastern side of the lake that contained several very large rocks. Trevor was rigged and ready to cast, so he began his day, while I pulled my gear from my backpack and rigged my fly rod. After ten minutes I was outfitted and anxious to join Trevor in pursuit of wild greenback cutthroat trout.

Trevor advised that the strategy for hooking high country trout was to pause and observe. Spotting fish was essential to achieve any level of success. Once a fish was sighted, the next challenge was to anticipate the direction of fish. According to Trevor most of the cutthroats tended to cruise in a circle, but the size and direction of the circle varied from trout to trout.

I applied my lesson to the task at hand and spotted two fish, as they cruised along the edge of the rocky shelf fifty feet from my perch on top of the large boulder. I was about to launch a cast ahead of one of the traveling trout, when Trevor announced that he had one, so I made a quick detour and snapped a few photos of his first catch of the day. When I returned to my previous position, I carefully slid down the steep rocky contour and began casting to the vicinity of observed fish. Trevor informed me that he was using a size 22 comparadun with a tan body, but I elected to begin with a size 24 griffiths gnat.

It took me awhile to improve my ability to anticipate the direction of the moving fish, but eventually I placed some casts several feet in front of some cruisers, but they ignored my tiny midge imitation. During the course of our time on the lakes I learned that dwelling at one spot was counterproductive, as the cutthroats gradually became aware of our presence. This knowledge dictated our pattern for the remainder of the day, as we stayed at one place for no more than ten minutes and then moved on to another spotting location. We moved counterclockwise and crossed the small inlet stream at the north end of the lake and then circled along the less populated eastern edge. We had the side away from the trail to Emerald Lake to ourselves, but the offset to this advantage was the abundance of fallen logs and the close proximity of large evergreen trees that impeded our backcasts.

Trevor demonstrated his advanced experience at this game, as he landed seven or eight nice cutties. Before we crossed the inlet stream, I determined that the griffiths gnat was not in high demand, and following Trevor’s lead I knotted a size 22 CDC blue winged olive to my line. Finally as we neared the junction with the path that would lead us to Lake Haiyaha, we located several cruisers within reasonable casting distance, and under Trevor’s direction I placed a cast ahead of one of the targets. The scene that unfolded was surreal, as a greenback patiently elevated until its nose was against my CDC olive, and then it subtly sucked in the fake fly. I held my breath for a split second and then set and found myself attached to a brightly colored wild twelve inch greenback cutthroat. I scooped it in my net and snapped a few photos and then carefully removed the tiny mayfly imitation. I achieved my goal of landing a high country greenback from a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I was very excited.

We continued a short distance, and then we met the intersection with the trail to Lake Haiyaha. I stashed my frontpack and fishing backpack in my large backpack, and we engaged in the one mile climb to the next high country lake. Fewer hikers joined us on this extended hike, but I was once again surprised by the number of adventurous tourists that preceded us to Lake Haiyaha. Trevor made one prior trip to the larger and higher lake, and thus his familiarity with the conditions and approach was minimal.

The most obvious characteristic of Lake Haiyaha was the abundace of huge jagged boulders that bordered the shoreline in the first area that we encountered. Hikers were perched on many of the hard rocky retreats; and they sipped water, ate snacks and basked in the sun before undertaking their return hike. Trevor and I meanwhile went into scramble mode in order to reach the edge of the water away from the non-fishing spectators. This endeavor was quite a challenge, as many rocks were too high to climb, and in some cases the steep edges prevented an easy dismount. Furthermore some areas contained water of varying depths between the boulders, and we avoided wading deep in the uncharted waters.

Eventually we arrived at the edge of a deep inlet that circled a huge exposed rock, and Trevor spotted a couple cruising fish. According to his research Lake Haiyaha contained Yellowstone cutthroats, so we were very excited to observe a species that is quite rare in Colorado. He managed a couple casts to the sighted cruiser with no success, and then the moving trout migrated in my direction. My heart pounded, as it came into view, and I managed three decent casts that landed two feet ahead of the cruising fish, but in each case it swam underneath and paid my offering no attention. I judged from the speed of the trout, that it was not primarily in feeding mode.

We continued our mad scramble in a clockwise direction until we attained a high vantage point where we could scan the lake for cruisers or rises. Quite a few rings appeared on a regular basis, but of course they were in the center of the lake much beyond our casting skills. The water close to us was quite deep and murky. The cloudiness hindered our ability to sight fish, as we could only peer into the water for four feet at most.

Finally we reversed our direction and cut on a diagonal to an area near our arrival point, but the task of negotiating the large randomly spaced jagged rocks was even more daunting than our first bouldering experience. We managed to arrive at a point where a web of canals and moats enveloped a rock garden of boulders, and we observed a bit for rises, but seeing none we decided to cut our losses and return to Dream Lake. Landing a Yellowstone cutthroat from Lake Haiyaha remains a future goal for both of us.

We quickly tramped back down the trail, and when the path traversed a high steep hill above the area of Dream Lake just above the outlet, Trevor spotted several nice cutthroats. We carefully slid down the pine needle embankment, and Trevor expertly landed a pair of very nice greenbacks. I positioned myself twenty yards above him, but I never spotted trout within casting distance. If you cannot see them, you cannot catch them.

Once again we resumed our descent to the parking lot, but one more opportunity remained for me to add to my fish count. A large pool appeared next to the trail fifty yards below the outlet from the lake, and this small annex of Dream Lake contained an abundance of cutthroats. Four or five were hanging in the current, where the small stream entered the pool, and I generated several looks from these fish, but they refused to close the deal. Next I tossed my CDC tuft to a spot, where the current slowed and fanned out, and after the speck rested for thirty seconds, a cutty slowly finned under the fly and inhaled it. Much to my astonishment I landed my second jewel on the day. Another round of photos ensued, and then I released the gem back to its natural environment.

Playing the hooked cutthroat scattered the other nearby fish, so I shifted my focus to some visible fish in the center of the pool. These circling targets nosed my fly a few times, but they were too educated to entice. I turned my attention back to the area at the end of the current, and I noticed a nice trout that slowly moved next to some tall grass four feet away from my position. I paused and watched, as the feeding cruiser changed direction and swam to a small indentation just beyond the tall grass. My fly rod was longer than the distance to the trout, so I reached it out beyond the grass clump and slowly lowered the fly to the surface of the pond two feet beyond the grass. I held my breath, and the target trout very confidently drifted under my fly and sipped it in. I could not believe my eyes and good fortune. I executed a solid controlled hook set, and after a brief battle I had my third greenback cutthroat in my net.

Trevor landed a pair of beauties in the same area, and he announced we needed to be on our way. I hooked my fly in the rod guide and reeled up my line, and twenty minutes later we found ourselves in the congested Bear Lake parking lot. People were everywhere, and I was certain that I had been transported to Disney World.

Wow! What a day. I landed three greenback cutthroats from Dream Lake, but more importantly Trevor taught me the basics of stillwater fly fishing at high elevation. Catching trout at Dream Lake is a game of stalking, observing, anticipating and casting. We discussed future trips, and tentatively scheduled a return to The Loch in September, when the crowds thin and parking at Glacier Gorge becomes a possibility.

Fish Landed: 3

Clear Creek – 07/30/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Downstream from first bridge after Tunnel 1

Clear Creek 07/30/2018 Photo Album

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

With only a few hours to fish on Monday as a result of a physical therapy appointment at 2:45PM, I decided to make the short drive to Clear Creek in Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden, CO. I was apprehensive regarding my choice after a mixed bag of success and failure during my most recent trips to the narrow canyon along US 6.

Monday’s projected high in Denver was 77 degrees, and when I arrived next to the tumbling stream, the sky was overcast, and the air was cool, especially compared to the hot weather that settled over Colorado in early July. It was actually quite refreshing, and I appreciated the cool breeze, as I donned my waders and set up my Orvis Access four weight rod. The flows were also very reasonable at 81 CFS. This level enabled comfortable conditions for wading, yet was elevated enough to protect the trout from high summer temperatures.

I parked just west of the first bridge after passing through Tunnel 1, and I shared the pullout with three vehicles that transported rock climbers to the high vertical wall on the south side of the creek. I crossed the highway carefully and hiked along the south bank for three hundred yards, and at that point I carefully picked my way through some rocks and vines, until I was at the edge of the stream.

I rigged my rod with a Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear nymph and prince nymph and began to probe the likely fish holding locations with the dry/dropper method. After ten minutes of fruitless prospecting, I became disillusioned with the prince nymph and replaced it with an ultra zug bug. The change paid dividends, when I hooked and landed a small brown trout, and then in a deep pocket in the middle of the trough-like streambed, a very nice cutbow latched on to the ultra zug bug. The pretty fish displayed the stripe of a rainbow and the jaw slashes of a cutthroat. I was pleased to net a trout that deviated from the standard Clear Creek brown trout.

I continued onward and experienced a few refusals, and I decided to follow my normal response by downsizing. I replaced the Chernobyl ant with a peacock-body hippy stomper, and with this lineup on my line I upped the fish counter to five, as two browns slammed the hippy stomper and another snatched the ultra zug bug.

My success rate was satisfactory, but I became disenchanted with the tendency of the hippy stomper to sink. I concluded that the two size 16 beadheads were two heavy for the thin foam construction of the hippy stomper, so I reconfigured with only the ultra zug bug as a dropper on a two foot leader. This arrangement quickly evolved into my most successful offering, and I methodically covered the stream until I arrived thirty yards downstream of the bridge. I incremented the fish tally from five to eleven during this period, and the trout split their vote evenly between the hippy stomper and ultra zug bug.

With fifteen minutes remaining several decent fish refused the hippy stomper, so I decided to experiment with a different terrestrial. I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and finished my foray on Clear Creek by plunking the foam terrestrial in likely spots. The move was futile, and several trout expressed their disapproval of my fly choice by rising to inspect and then dropping back to the stream bottom. I glanced at my watch and noted that one o’clock arrived, so I returned to the car, and eventually made the drive back to Stapleton.

I was quite pleased to register an eleven fish day in two hours of fishing on Clear Creek. Once I settled on the hippy stomper/ultra zug bug combination, I enjoyed an extended hot streak. My success rate waned, however, as I approached the bridge; and I theorized that the area near the bridge and highway suffered from more intense pressure. The fish were small, but I cannot complain given the forty minute drive.

Fish Landed: 11