Category Archives: Fishing Reports

Fishing Reports

Arkansas River – 07/14/2020

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Tunnels area north of Buena Vista

Arkansas River 07/14/2020 Photo Album

Tuesday was a day, where persistence and reliance upon recent experience converted a day that was trending toward subpar to a very successful outing. At 11AM I was convinced that Tuesday on the Arkansas River was going to be a bust, but when I returned to the campsite at 4PM, I was glowing with satisfaction. Read on to follow my fishing day and the transformation that ensued.

The temperature in the Buena Vista area peaked in the seventies on Tuesday, and the wind was an intermittently annoying factor. The flows in nearby Nathrop, CO were in the 700 CFS range, and they appeared to be comparable, where I was fishing a bit upstream. I drove four miles and parked on the south side of the tunnels and assembled my Sage four weight rod and pulled on my waders. I debated wet wading, but the sixty degree temperatures at 9:30AM dissuaded me from such thoughts.

Blue Skies and Boulder Field

I walked down the railroad tracks for .5 mile and then carefully slid down a steep bank to the edge of the river. The tumbling water looked perfect with relatively fast current in the middle but nice moderate pockets, riffles, and runs in the twenty yards next to the east bank. I concentrated all my attention on this band and ignored the majority of the large waterway. I knotted a tan pool toy to my leader and then added a prince nymph and hares ear nymph. From 9:30AM until 11:00AM I prospected the edge of the river and notched three landed trout; all brown trout in the seven to eleven inch range. The first fish of the day inhaled the hares ear, and then a somewhat larger brown trout slammed the pool toy.

Pool Toy Consumer

I fished through some very attractive areas with no interest from the resident fish population, and I sensed that perhaps I needed deeper drifts, so I exchanged the prince for a size 12 20 incher. At the same time I swapped the hares ear for a bright green go2 caddis pupa. Almost immediately a brown trout snatched the 20 incher, but then the response was lackluster. During the morning I executed an abundance of futile casts, but I also noticed occasional refusals to the hopper. After thirty minutes I gazed up the river and noted the arrival of another angler. Needless to say I was disappointed by this circumstance, but I made a mental note of his starting point, so I could exit rather than fish in his wake. Apparently my early arrival and distancing from the parking area were not enough to gain open space.

More Pocket Water

When I reached the landmark that marked the starting point of the other fisherman, I climbed the bank and strode along the railroad tracks, until I was fifty yards above him. I concentrated on the dry/dropper approach until 11:20AM, when I encountered a pair of spin fishermen, so I climbed the cinder bank once again and returned to the campground. My morning had not evolved in the manner in which I anticipated.

When I arrived at the campground, I sat in the car and wrote a note to Jane informing her of my whereabouts under the assumption that she was in the midst of a bicycle ride, but when I reached the campsite, I was surprised to find her reading in her camp chair. In order to enjoy her companionship I retrieved my backpack and lunch and ate at the picnic table overlooking the boat launch. After lunch I departed and relocated to another stretch of the Arkansas River in the tunnels area with the hope of distancing from competing anglers. This move, unlike the morning, was successful, as I never met other fishermen on my side of the river.

Nice Spot

The afternoon session developed in the manner that I expected of the morning. Since refusals to the hopper were prevalent, I decided to try a single dry and tied a size 12 olive stimulator to my 5X tippet. The change worked, when a brown sipped the stimi, but then the bushy attractor fly repeated the act of the pool toy and generated a batch of refusals. What was the key to unlocking this riddle? The only insects evident were small caddis on the streamside bushes, but a size 16 or 18 caddis would be very difficult to track. I pondered the situation and took a page out of my Cutthroat Angler guide’s book, and switched to a double dry. My front fly was a hippie stomper with a peacock body, and a size 16 light gray caddis was the trailer. Whenever I am unable to discern the body color of a caddis, I default to light gray.

Hippie Stomper in Mouth

More Width

Bingo. The strategy rewarded me, and the fish count mounted from four to twenty-seven, by the time I reached my end point at 4:00PM. I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon, as I prospected the double dries along the right (east) bank. Locations that previously looked promising but then disappointed began to deliver netted fish. Initially the trailing caddis was the popular target of feeding fish, but as the afternoon progressed, the hippie stomper came into its own. The double dry method produced twenty-three trout, and ten smashed the hippie stomper, while thirteen favored the caddis.

More Pools Created by Large Boulders

Tuesday afternoon on the Arkansas River was exactly the fast paced action that I crave. I found a new stretch of river to explore, and I hope to return during the 2020 season. I learned to be flexible, and abandoned my favored dry/dropper technique for a double dry, and the results were impressive. I also observed and learned from my recent guide trip, as fly fishing is a constant adaptive experience.

Fish Landed: 27

Cache la Poudre River – 07/10/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Poudre Canyon west of the Narrows

Cache la Poudre River 07/10/2020 Photo Album

Friday was all about chasing the green drake hatch. I am obsessed with the large western mayflies, and I knew from previous years, that the green drakes typically hatch throughout July on the Cache la Poudre. A 7/9/2020 fishing report from St. Peter’s Fly Shop in Fort Collins announced that the hatch was just around the corner, and that was the only impetus I needed to schedule a day trip to the scenic canyon west of Fort Collins. A disappointing day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek on Thursday added incentive to seek out another location for a day of July fishing. I remained undeterred in spite of a forecast high temperature in Denver of 100 degrees. It could not possibly be that warm in the canyon, could it?

I departed Denver by 7:50AM and this enabled me to arrive at a favorite pullout along CO 14 by 9:15AM. A slow moving RV was a temporary impediment to progress, but I slowed down and enjoyed the ride and remained in a positive mindset. As I pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight, the temperature was a pleasant seventy-five degrees, and I concocted a back up plan in case it was too hot. I would return to the car for lunch and transfer into wet wading attire.

A Good Place to Start

The condition of the river was spectacular. The flows were a bit high at 560 CFS, but I was actually pleased with the extra volume. The cold run off would push the trout to the river banks and help offset the high air temperature. I crossed the highway and entered the river and began fly fishing at 10:00AM. My starting lineup included a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, a green drake X leg nymph, and a salvation nymph. The green drake nymph was a new fly that I created during surgery recovery to imitate the western green drake nymph, and I utilized some dyed green Australian possum for the body. The salvation was intended to imitate the nymph stage of pale morning duns.

Off and Running

The Area Around the Large Rock Was Productive

In the first hour I landed four small brown trout. One trout consumed the X leg nymph, and the other three nabbed the salvation from the drift. Early on I discovered that the trout preferred fairly shallow runs and riffles next to the bank. Before this became apparent I wasted time casting to very attractive deeper runs and pockets that normally produced fish, but for some reason otherwise marginal lies were popular on this day early in the p0st-run off summer season. The catch rate was slower than expected in the first hour, and I knew from previous seasons that a prince nymph was an effective fly ahead of the western green drake hatch, In short, I was more confident in the prince’s fish catching ability, so I exchanged the X leg nymph for a size 12 prince.

Another Wild Brown Trout

Between 11AM and 2PM I methodically worked my way upstream along the right bank and steadily incremented the fish count from four to twenty. 75% of the brown trout grabbed the salvation nymph, and 25% snatched the prince. These results included an abundant quantity of long distance releases, and I would characterize the action as lukewarm. The key to success was finding pockets and runs along the bank with a water depth of two feet. A carefully placed soft cast to these locations yielded frequent takes. I stopped for lunch at 12:15PM, and the fish count was paused at ten by that juncture.

A Very Productive Side Channel

A Bit More Size

Just before 2PM I spotted three western green drakes, as they slowly glided upward from the river. In the absence of rises I continued with my high performance dry/dropper rig; however, I began to wonder if a size 14 green drake dry fly might inflict some damage on the local trout population. The third fluttering mayfly sealed the deal, and I snipped off the three fly dry/dropper configuration and replaced it with a size 14 parachute green drake. The changeover was magical, and a ten inch brown trout immediately gave me positive reinforcement, as it slashed the fresh dry fly aggressively. Between two o’clock and 2:30PM I tossed the green drake to likely spots and elevated the fish count to twenty-four, but then the trout wised up, and I began generating refusals or no response at all.

Green Drake Sipper

The water type shifted to deeper pockets and the green drake was very difficult to track, so I reverted to the same dry/dropper set up that gained me twenty fish earlier. Alas, the magic was gone, and the dry/dropper could not recapture the imagination of the Poudre fish. I suspect the heat was the main influence that caused mid-afternoon doldrums, as the dashboard registered 95 degrees, when I started the engine for my return drive. I hooked the salvation to the rod guide and hiked half a mile back to the car and made the two hour drive back to Denver.

Check the Dashboard Temperature

The largest fish to land in my net on Friday was a thirteen inch rainbow (the only rainbow of the day), and most of the brown trout were in the seven to eleven inch range, which is admittedly subpar, but the relatively fast action maintained my interest. I reveled in the challenge of reading the water to determine the preferred holding lies of the wild trout in the high water of the early season. Once I noted their preference, I targeted spots along the bank, and getting casts under branches and into small holding zones was a demanding endeavor. The western green drake “hatch” was icing on the cake, and I was pleased to determine that the Poudre trout were already tuned into the large olive mayflies. A return trip within the next two weeks seems like a likely scenario.

Fish Landed: 24

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 07/09/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Button Rock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 07/09/2020 Photo Album

Thursday’s fishing adventure was the polar opposite of Tuesday on the Colorado River. The results were also on the opposite end of the spectrum, but the one consistency was the continuing heat wave in Colorado. July and September are generally my most productive fly fishing months. so I felt a strong impulse to utilize the summer prime time to rack up fly fishing hours. As is my practice, I evaluated all the Front Range streams, but some of my favorites continue to crash through their drainages at very high rates. The two exceptions to this condition were the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek and the Cache la Poudre River. I decided to sample the closer North Fork of St. Vrain Creek on Thursday, and planned a longer trip to the Cache la Poudre River in the canyon west of Fort Collins on Friday.

My last trip to the St. Vrain took place on 06/24/2020 with Dan, and it was essentially a bust from a fishing perspective, so I was a bit apprehensive about another visit. The water gauge below the dam registered 68 CFS, and that elevated my optimism, although the flows dropped from 90 CFS to 68 CFS twenty-four hours earlier. I generally try to avoid fishing within the first couple days after significant flow changes, but a downturn is usually less disruptive than a large increase. I rolled the dice and made the one hour and fifteen minute drive to the Button Rock Preserve northwest of Lyons, CO.

Such Unique Flowers

As I mentioned at the outset of this piece, the heat wave that settled over Colorado continued on Thursday, and the warm temperatures prompted me to undertake my first wet wading effort of the year. It proved to be a solid decision, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ice cold flows, while the air temperature soared to the upper eighties. Unfortunately trout did not appear to adapt as readily to the high temperatures. I fished from 11:00AM until 2:00PM and landed five small trout including three browns, one rainbow, and one cutbow. The creek was clear and cold, and the flows were very conducive to successful fly fishing. Insect activity was largely absent, and this might explain the lack of action. After lunch I noticed a couple pale morning duns and a single yellow sally, but that was the extent of my observed food sources.

Slick on the Right Looks Promising

I broke for lunch at 11:45 and landed four of the five fish in the first forty-five minutes. This is an indicator of how slow my early afternoon was, when the temperature climbed into the eighties. I began my day with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph; and the salvation produced three of the morning catches. The other trout gobbled the hares ear. After lunch a lengthy period with no action transpired in spite of some very attractive structure, I began to cycle through a variety of flies. I swapped the salvation for a beadhead emerald caddis pupa, and then I exchanged the hares ear for an iron sally. These flies were totally ignored, however, a couple looks and refusals to the fat Albert caused me to reconsider my approach. If the fish were looking toward the surface, perhaps a single or double dry approach would release the lock on the fish counter? I experimented with a size 14 gray stimulator, size 14 yellow stimulator, a size 14 deer hair yellow sally, a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, and a size 16 light gray comparadun. The stimulators and gray deer hair caddis spurred refusals, but none of the imitations yielded a trout to my net.

A Little Jewel

In a last ditch effort to dupe the St. Vrain trout with dry flies I tied a peacock hippie stomper to my line, and then copying from my Tuesday guide on the Colorado, I trailed a gray caddis eight inches behind the stomper. Both the hippie stomper and caddis attracted refusals, but the persnickety trout were apparently looking for something else. I finally abandoned the dry fly approach and returned to dry/dropper with a size 12 prince nymph and size 16 fusion nymph trailing the hippie stomper. At the lip of a long deep run a cutbow snatched the fusion nymph, as I began to lift it to complete another cast.

Area to the Right Beckons

After releasing the cutbow I continued fishing for another fifteen minutes, but at 2PM the stream ahead look less appealing, and I decided that the slow catch rate and diminutive fish did not justify additional time on the St. Vrain. I hooked my fly to the bottom guide and hiked back to the car. Thursday was a rough day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. It was the second unproductive visit in a row, and I blame the heat and the lack of insect availability. The recent change in flows may have also played into the situation, with the stream residents requiring more time to adjust.

Five trout in three hours of fishing is not a ridiculously poor showing, but the size was very disappointing. The largest fish was perhaps nine inches, and most were in the six to seven inch range. The ice cold creek kept me very comfortable, and that was probably the highlight of the day. I will seek other options, before I make a return visit to Button Rock Preserve.

Fish Landed: 5

Colorado River – 07/07/2020

Time: 7:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Pumphouse to Rancho del Rio

Colorado River 07/07/2020 Photo Album

Tuesday’s float trip on the Colorado River was perfect in so many ways. After eleven weeks of recovery from mitral heart valve repair surgery, it was reassuring to learn that I could cast non-stop from 7:30AM until 3:00PM with minimal rest. The day on the large river was a rigorous test of my elbow, chest and shoulder. And then there was coronavirus. This was the first time since February, that I fished with another angler besides my son, and I was very pleased with the level of caution exercised by my fishing companion, Dave G., and our guide, Reed Ryan. It was fun to fish with a guide and friend after a long absence of social contact. And finally there was the fly fishing, but I’ll relate more about the core purpose of the trip in a bit.

My fishing friend, Dave G., contacted me in May to inquire about my interest in joining him for a guided float trip in early July on the Eagle River. I tentatively agreed, although I conditioned my participation to a recovered shoulder and chest after my surgery, as well as improvement in the always threatening covid conditions. Dave G. made a reservation with Cutthroat Anglers for July 2, and I put the whole idea in the back of my mind. Toward the middle of June I texted Dave G. to inform him that my casting arm was capable of handling a day of fishing from a boat, and he informed me that he re-injured his bicep three weeks after surgery on May 20. He asked if I would be OK with a delay of our trip until July 7, and I readily agreed. I anxiously observed the decline in the flows on the Eagle River during the late June time period, and I grew skeptical that we could float the river at 500 CFS. Sure enough Dave G. contacted me to determine, if I would be OK with a change in plans to the Colorado River. Once again I concurred with the change, and we were set for a day of fishing on Tuesday, July 7. I wade fished the Colorado River at Pumphouse several times in October of previous years, but I never made the trip in July, nor had I ever floated the popular section of the middle Colorado, so I was actually pleased with the agreed upon change in destination.

Dave G. and Reed Getting Prepared

On Monday Dave G. contacted me to say that the guide planned to launch at 7AM, so we could get ahead of the other guides and river traffic. In addition hot temperatures were predicted, so he planned to be on the water early and off, before the water temperatures grew dangerously high. Since Jane and I were driving to Pumphouse from Denver, we woke up at 4:15AM for a 4:30AM departure. This was probably the greatest negative to my fishing outing on July 7. The timing worked out nicely, and we arrived at the parking lot by 6:40AM, and this provided ample time to organize my essentials for the full day float. I slathered my face and hands with sun screen and assembled my Sage One five weight. I wore my tan wading pants, Chacos and fishing shirt, and I slid a buff over my head to serve as a face mask during our river trip. I even remembered to extract my fishing license from my fishing backpack, which was not needed for this outing, since the guide was expected to tie on all the flies and handle the fish.

Dave G. arrived five minutes after us, and then the guide wheeled into the parking lot by 6:55. By 7:30AM we launched, and Dave G. generously assigned me the position in the front of the boat, while he secured the rear. In spite of delaying the trip for five days, Dave G. was still rehabilitating his right arm. He adopted a left handed casting stroke while using his right hand to guide it for accuracy. It reminded me of a modified snap T spey cast. In spite of this innovation he knew that he was limited in what he could do, so he graciously allowed me to command the forward position.

My Mate, Dave G.

Our guide, Reed Ryan, started us out on double dry fly rigs. I had a size twelve bushy caddis that trailed a size 14 parachute mayfly imitation with a maroon body. Reed told us that rusty spinners were present on the river, and the parachute served as an effective imitation. Throughout the day he varied the dry flies, and the front fly included a madam X and hopper. During the afternoon he swapped the maroon parachute fly for a purple haze, and the fish were positively responsive.

Very Acceptable

Looked Promising, but No Luck

We drifted through two canyon sections, and during these brief forays into faster pocket water we switched to dry/dropper rods. Reed had a nine foot Winston rigged with a chubby Chernobyl, yellow stonefly nymph, and a variety of small nymphs that reminded me of pheasant tails. I landed a few fish in the Little Gore Canyon stretch, but the double dry fly rig accounted for most of my fish. During the seven hour float I landed twenty fish, and quite a few were substantial beauties in the fifteen to seventeen inch range. All my landed trout were brown trout; however, I tangled with one very respectable rainbow that managed to escape, just before I gained solid control.

Another Dave Catch Featuring a Purple Haze in the Lip

Very Fine

Around noon we glided below a very attractive wide riffle that was thirty yards wide and forty yards long. The ten feet next to the bank were relatively slow and shallow, and then the river grew faster and deeper as one moved from left to right. Reed announced that we would go to “nose up” mode, and I soon understood the meaning, as he positioned the driftboat facing upstream with the bow closest to the target riffle. I was in the bow, and this meant I had the entire juicy area to myself. Reed spotted a couple fish and guided my casts toward the shallow slower moving area along the left bank, and two spectacular brown trout rose to subtly sip the parachute mayfly. What a thrill to place an accurate cast over the feeding lane and then observe the confident sip of the artificial imitation!

The Inside of the Bends Were Prime

During the afternoon a pair of brown trout in excess of fifteen inches crushed the purple haze, as I cast near the bank and executed long downstream drifts. These experiences also added vivid memories to my mental scrapbook.

A Highlight

By two o’clock the wind kicked up to a ferocious level, and Reed had to row downstream against whitecaps, and Dave G. and I took an extended rest. I nearly lost my hat five times, and it was only saved by the strap and clip, that I had the foresight to attach. During our ten mile float we only saw a couple other inflatable rafts with fishermen, but the river was alive with all manner of water enthusiasts. Whitewater rafters were out in force along with kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders. A spring break party atmosphere pervaded the canyon for much of the day, but we focused on the banks, while the others commanded the center of the very large river.

The Red Rocks Caught My Attention

Tuesday was just what the doctor ordered. I enjoyed magnificent canyon scenery while landing twenty gorgeous fish. The quality of the fish was unsurpassed, as nearly all exceeded twelve inches. The wind and heat were small negatives, but our early start allowed us to record hours of great fishing before the gusts ruined the day. Frankly, I remain in a state of euphoria twenty-four hours after our Pumphouse to Rancho del Rio float trip experience. A repeat trip likely lies in my future.

Fish Landed: 20

Eagle River – 07/02/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Between Wolcott and Eagle.

Eagle River 07/02/2020 Photo Album

Jane reserved a condominium in Eagle-Vail for the Fourth of July weekend, and we arrived at our temporary lodging on Wednesday, July 1.  The original plan incorporated a full day guided float trip on Thursday, July 2, 2020; but my fishing partner suffered a setback in his recovery from shoulder surgery, so we delayed that highly anticipated outing. This circumstance produced a large hole in my calendar for Thursday, so I took advantage with a wading trip to the Eagle River. My most recent visit to the Eagle River was June 23, 2020, when the flows hovered between 1,100 and 1,000 CFS. I followed the DWR charts with keen interest, and I was pleased to see a trend line that depicted a steady descent to the 600 CFS range. I anticipated a river that remained high enough to push the fish to the edges, and from previous years I knew that dense hatches of caddis, pale morning duns and yellow sallies could be expected. In short, I was pumped for some outstanding fly fishing on the Eagle River.

Cannot Wait to Probe This Area

Number One on July 2

The high temperature spiked at a warm eighty degrees on Thursday, and the flows were indeed in the 600 CFS range. More cloud cover would have been welcome, but conditions were mostly conducive to a fun day of fishing. I arrived at one of my favorite roadside pullouts by 10:00AM, and after I assembled my Sage One five weight and jumped into my waders, I made the hike to the river. I began probing the probable fish holding spots with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph. These flies remained on my line for most of the day except for a period around lunch, when I replaced the salvation with an emerald caddis pupa and later with a hares ear nymph. The pupa and hares ear each produced one fish, however, when I spotted an increased quantity of pale morning duns in the afternoon, I reverted to the salvation nymph. Other than the caddis pupa and hares ear eaters, the iron sally accounted for sixty percent of my landed trout with the salvation responsible for the remainder.

A Broad Chunk

Between 10:30AM and 11:45AM, when I paused for lunch, I landed four robust trout. Two were fine brown trout in the thirteen inch range, and the other two were rainbows. The iron sally fooled the first three, and number four was the victim of the emerald caddis pupa.

Slack Edge Water

After lunch a blizzard hatch of yellow sallies commenced, but surprisingly I never observed surface rises. With the relatively high water and no rising activity I stuck with the iron sally, and it rewarded my confidence during the hatch, but it was not as effective as I anticipated given the abundance of stoneflies in the air. Caddis adults were prolific among the streamside bushes and willows, but the trout never expended the requisite energy to chase the erratic surface dippers.

Deep Olive Beast

Perfect Territory for Trout

By the end of the day at 3:30PM the fish count climbed to thirteen. The afternoon fish were the best of the day from a size perspective. In fact, other than the rainbow that was fish number two on the day, all the Thursday trout were twelve inches or greater. My net was visited by a sixteen inch rainbow and a fifteen incher as well. Three brown trout stretched the tape to fourteen inches. There was no magic formula to catching fish on Thursday. I moved upstream at a steady pace and fished areas with slower velocity and moderate depth. Current seams were popular spots as were swirly water at the top of long deep runs and riffles. The pale morning duns never developed into a significant factor, and this was a disappointment, and the yellow sally emergence was heavy but brief, and it also did not provoke surface feeding.

Beast

Chubby

In summary, it was a pleasant and enjoyable day on the Eagle River. As flows drop, and the air temperature remains elevated in the eighties, the Eagle River’s productive days may be limited, so I was pleased to extract one more excellent outing from the popular Colorado River tributary.

Fish Landed: 13

Produced Two Nice Trout

South Boulder Creek – 06/30/2020

Time: 3:00PM – 4:15PM

Location: South Boulder Road to Boulder Turnpike

South Boulder Creek 06/30/2020 Photo Album

I am always game for a new area to fish, so when a reader of this blog proposed a swath of South Boulder Creek, that I never fished before, my fishing radar went on high alert. Unfortunately this bit of intelligence coincided with a significant ramp up in stream flows, so I tabled the idea for four weeks. When I checked the flows on Monday, June 29, I was pleased to learn that South Boulder Creek below Eldorado Canyon subsided to 117 CFS. As I returned from Boulder, CO and my anticoagulation appointment, I detoured a bit and made a first hand inspection of South Boulder Creek. It was flowing high and clear, and I decided to make an exploratory visit.

Unfortunately Tuesday was a medical day, and I had a 9:20AM appointment in Boulder followed by a 11:20AM at another specialist in Denver. I arrived early for my second doctor visit and then waited an extraordinary amount of time, as the doctor was running thirty minutes behind schedule. The domination of my day by medical commitments threw my planned trip to South Boulder Creek into jeopardy, but I finally convinced myself, that it was simply exploratory, and the drive was only thirty minutes.

I ate my lunch at home and then departed Denver and arrived at the shoulder pull out along South Boulder Road by 2:45PM. By the time I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and hiked to the edge of the creek and configured my line with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, prince nymph and salvation nymph it was 3PM. Some large clouds in the western sky blocked the sun for much of my time on the creek, and the air temperature remained in the low eighties.

High but Clear

For the next forty-five minutes I covered the section between South Boulder Road and the Boulder Turnpike, and I questioned whether the stream contained a single fish. Well, I did manage to land a minuscule three inch brown, so there was at least one cold water inhabitant. I did not have a basis of comparison, but I assumed the creek was running higher than normal, but several inviting deep riffles and runs suggested that trout could be present. I questioned my fly choices and swapped the salvation for a bright green go2 caddis pupa.

Gorgeous Run Failed to Produce

Even though my informer told me that 1.5 miles of public access was available in this area, the powers that be erected annoying fences along the stream and perpendicular at several places. I managed to carefully straddle and climb over the one that paralleled the stream, but the ones that ran at a ninety degree angle and spanned the creek forced me to retreat to the bike path, circle around the fence and then cut back to the water. Had I had been netting copious quantities of fish, I would have accepted the inconvenience of the fencing, but that was not the case.

Some nice deep runs appeared below a concrete structure just before the Boulder Turnpike, and I probed these thoroughly but again to no avail. On the south side of the Boulder Turnpike I found that the west side fencing ended, and I was able to cross the creek and access the bike bath once again. I progressed upstream for another one hundred yards, and I managed to briefly hook a five inch brown trout, and the same deep run produced a swirl at the chubby Chernboyl. Both fish were quite diminutive. By 4:15 I grew weary of the lack of action, and another fisherman blocked my progress, so I hooked my fly in the rod guide and hiked back to the car.

As I was stowing my gear, and gentleman approached me and began talking and asking questions about my day. I was surprised to discover that the friendly person socially distanced from me was the very same reader who suggested South Boulder Creek as a nearby fishing destination. What a small world we live in! If I return to this section of South Boulder Creek, I will visit during late morning and early afternoon, since these are prime time and more likely to yield a hatch. I would also skip the section I covered and hike directly to the area south of the Boulder Turnpike. In spite of a tough 1.25 hours I have not given up.

Fish Landed: 0

Yampa River- 06/26/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Locaton: Town of Steamboat Springs

Yampa River 06/26/2020 Photo Album

Jane was interested in a camping trip to Steamboat Lake State Park during the week of June 22, 2020. Given my success on the Yampa River on June 16 and June 17, I was not averse to visiting the north central area of Colorado again; however, when I checked the flows, I noted a precipitous drop from 1,000 to 450 CFS. Fortunately I recalled decent success at the lower level, and I was anxious to determine whether the embryonic pale morning dun hatch witnessed on June 17 had evolved into a more significant fish attracting event.

My next step was to reserve a campsite at Steamboat Lake State Park on relatively short notice. Steamboat Lake is the crown jewel of the Colorado state park system and very popular with residents and out-of-staters as well. I began fumbling through the availability dates, and I was shocked to discover that site 167 of the Bridge island loop was available on Thursday and Friday night, June 25 and 26. Finding a space on a Friday night in the most desirable loop was a huge windfall, and we wasted no time in snatching it.

Jane and I stopped to complete a five mile hike at Mad Creek on Thursday, as we drove north to Steamboat Lake, so Friday was my designated fly fishing day. As we ate breakfast on Friday morning, Jane discovered that her iPhone battery was depleted to 7%, so she plugged it into the USB port in the Santa Fe to charge. In our minds we were certain that the huge car battery could withstand twenty minutes of energy drain from a puny iPhone battery. Well, our minds were clearly confused, because the only sound that issued from the car, when I hit the start button was the click of a drained battery. I was an angler anxious to fish with no means of transportation. As we pondered our predicament, Jane caught the attention of the young man who was camping across from us with his wife and young daughter, and miraculously he possessed jumper cables. He swung his Jeep around facing the Santa Fe, and in a matter of minutes the Santa Fe engine was rumbling and charging. I thanked him profusely, and while in Steamboat Springs I stopped at the West End liquor store and purchased a craft beer six pack, which I promptly bestowed upon our camping neighbor when I returned.

Once I was on the road, I made the forty minute drive to Steamboat Springs and arrived at my usual parking space at the base of Howelsen Hill. The rest rooms remained locked, so I added that to my planning for a day on the river. Friday was a warm sunny day with a high temperature around eighty degrees. Flows held around the 400 CFS mark, and this made wading along the edges much more manageable than the previous week, however, limited numbers of fish holding lies existed in the main river channel.

High But Lower Flows on the Yampa

I began above the hot springs, and in the first deep pocket next to the bank I landed a fourteen inch brown trout on the second cast. I began my quest for Yampa River trout with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, iron sally, and salvation nymph. Fish number one gulped the iron sally, as did the next three, and I was off to a fast start. For the remainder of the morning I worked upstream toward the Howelsen Bridge, and I landed thirteen trout. Three were a bit diminutive, but the other ten were respectable fish of twelve inches or greater, and my net felt the weight of a fifteen inch rainbow and several fourteen inch bows.

A Long One

By 11:30AM pale morning duns made an appearance, and their presence coincided with a hot streak for the salvation nymph, until I lost it in the process of fighting and releasing one of the fine rainbows. I noted that the majority of the pale morning duns were size 18, so I replaced the salvation nymph with a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail. Toward the tail of a run I spotted a fish, as it flashed in the vicinity of my trailing nymphs, so I whipped the rod sideways and connected with a gorgeous brown trout. I fought the wide body for a minute, before it turned broadside to the current and broke off the iron sally and pheasant tail. Disappointment reigned. Next I tested a fusion nymph and super nova, and the nova accounted for a small brook trout to boost the fish count to thirteen. Recall that one of the inducements of returning to the Yampa was the prospect of a more dense and longer lasting pale morning dun hatch, and that condition did in fact occur.

Pretty Fish

Settled Down

By now I was approaching the Howelsen Bridge and another angler occupied the large pool and eddy on the south side of the river. I remained fifty yards below him, and I observed a pair of rises in a narrow band of moderate depth riffles near the bank. In spite of a fairly dense hatch these were the first glimpses of surface feeding on the day. I decided to convert to a single dry fly and attached a size sixteen cinnamon comparadun to my line. On the very first cast to the spot where the lower fish rose a sip appeared, and I reacted with a swift hook set. A fourteen inch brown trout was not happy, and it went into the typical escape antics. I held tight and guided a beautiful chunk of butter into my net.

A Fisherman Claimed One of My Productive Spots

Cinnamon Comparadun Did the Trick

Pleased

I stayed with the comparadun for a bit, but the rises ceased, and I reverted to the dry/dropper set up. The hatch mostly fizzled by 1PM except for some stragglers. I circled around the upstream angler below the bridge and continued to my favorite spot across from Taco Cabo, but again I was thwarted by the presence of another fisherman. I bashed back out to the railroad tracks and checked out the attractive pool above Fifth Street, but anglers claimed both banks. The sun was bright, the air temperature was eighty degrees, and the fish were ignoring my nymphs. Posses of tubers blew up three of my favorite haunts, so I decided to call it a day at 2PM.

Friday was a very successful day on the Yampa River. Yes, I ended early compared to normal. The end of the hatch, proliferation of tubers, and sudden explosion of other fishermen raised my level of frustration; but fourteen fish including some quality fighters made June 26 on the Yampa a solid outing in 2020.

Fish Landed: 14

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 06/24/2020

Time: 6:30PM – 8:30PM

Location: Button Rock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 06/24/2020

My son, Dan, sensing that the long hours of daylight were sliding by rapidly in 2020, while simultaneously lamenting that he was not taking full advantage of living in Colorado, decided to remedy the situation and organized a longest week medley of outdoor activities. The outdoor ventures were scheduled to begin after work, and they were made possible by the abundance of daylight. Dan named his initiative his “longest week”, although technically the five days that were included did not represent the five longest days of the year. The series began with trail running on Monday, road biking on Tuesday, mountain biking on Thursday, and hiking on Friday. The astute reader will note that Wednesday is missing, and that is because Wednesday was earmarked for fly fishing. I agreed to join Dan for an evening of fly fishing on Wednesday, June 24.

While Dan was occupied with the task of earning a living, I took advantage of my retired state and researched fly fishing options. Continuing snow melt along the Front Range escalated the difficulty of my challenge, but I narrowed the options to the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins, the North Fork of the St. Vrain at Buttonrock Preserve, and South Boulder Creek below Eldorado Canyon State Park. I also suggested a few lakes, but neither Dan nor I are proponents of stillwater fishing, so that option never received serious consideration. South Boulder Creek below Eldorado was within six miles of Dan’s home, but the reported flows were 145 CFS, and we were both unfamiliar with the stretch under consideration. The North Fork of the St. Vrain registered flows of 107 CFS, and the Cache la Poudre in Fort Collins was tumbling along at 130 CFS. From a flow standpoint the Poudre was probably the best choice, but we elected the North Fork of the St. Vrain due to proximity and familiarity. I researched this blog and found four outings to Button Rock Preserve, when I enjoyed decent success at comparable flows.

I met Dan at his house at 3:30PM to pick him up, and after a stop at Snarf’s for delicious sandwiches we drove to Button Rock Preserve and arrived in the parking lot by 5:45PM. We quickly consumed our tasty meals and assembled our rods and hiked up the canyon for approximately a mile. I selected my Sage four weight for the evening and stuffed my regular glasses and headlamp in my backpack. By 6:30 we were positioned in the creek and ready to make our first casts. The flows of 107 CFS were, indeed, a bit high, but many possible holding spots behind structure provided hope to two eager evening fishermen.

Dan Lands a Cast

I began with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl trailing a beadhead hares ear and iron sally, and Dan and I were both frustrated by splashy refusals to the top fly in the early going. We both found it interesting that the trout were looking toward the surface despite higher than normal flows. After thirty minutes of fruitless casting I landed a six inch brown trout along the far bank on the chubby. In spite of some very focused fishing, that was the extent of our success on Wednesday evening. Dan endured a few more refusals.

A Fortuitous Find Before the Storm

By 7:30PM some dark clouds arrived, and we found shelter beneath a wide rock overhang on the opposite side of the dirt road. Some lightning and thunder concerned us, but the net result of the disruptive weather was a five minute drizzle. Once the precipitation slowed we headed back toward the car, but along the way we paused to try some nice plunge pools above a concrete diversion. Alas, this also proved futile, and we reeled in our lines and quit by 8:30PM.

Blackness Was Overrated

I must acknowledge that I was disappointed with our evening outing on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. My main goal was to see a few wild fish in Dan’s net, but we never solved the riddle of how to entice the creek inhabitants. I expected to see some caddis activity at dusk, but the stream was largely devoid of insect life. Perhaps the lower flows of the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins would have been a better choice. At any rate, I always enjoy the opportunity to spend time with my son given the demands of his job and his devotion to his wife and soon to arrive son. The highlight of the evening was sitting under the shelf rock and chatting, while we waited out the threatening storm.

Fish Landed: 1

Eagle River – 06/23/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Eagle Lease

Eagle River 06/23/2020 Photo Album

Flows were in the 1100 to 1000 CFS range on Tuesday and remained comparable to Monday. Tuesday also developed into a very nice day with abundant sunshine for much of my time on the water, and the high temperature surged into the middle eighties. For variety I decided to try a section of the Eagle River, that I had not fished in at least ten years. I quickly climbed into my waders and once again assembled my Sage One five weight and then ambled over the open grassy area, until I was on the bank of the rapidly flowing river.

Flows Still High on the Eagle River

During the morning I fished a nymph rig that featured a slumpbuster and a 20 incher. I decided to go big and deep. The versatility provided by the slumpbuster enabled me to fish it dead drift similar to a nymph, or to strip and wiggle it like a streamer. These innovative (for me) approaches sounded great in theory, but they failed to deliver a trout to my net. After a decent trial period with no action I began to substitute new subsurface patterns including an ultra zug bug, emerald caddis pupa, bright green go2 caddis pupa, and a brown X leg nymph. None of these combinations provoked so much as a look.

Many years ago I fished this stretch of the Eagle River, and I remembered an extensive section of pocket water, where I experienced an abundant amount of success. I set a goal to seek this area again with the hope that it would salvage my day. The highlight that stood out in my memory was fishing a size 12 stonefly nymph with a peacock dubbed body and a mylar wing case in deep pockets along the left bank, and larger than normal brown trout surprisingly ravaged the large offering. Could I duplicate this experience on Tuesday?

Best Spot on Tuesday

By noon I rounded a bend, and ahead of me was the sought after pocket water. At 1,000 CFS most of the pocket water was off limits except for the left edge, but this was the area that I targeted. The nymph set up was proven futile, so I removed the indicator and split shot, and knotted a size 8 Chernobyl ant to my line along with a brown X leg nymph and bright green go2 caddis pupa. I covered some nice riffles of moderate depth, and my slump continued, but then I arrived at a long slow moving shelf pool next to the fast current seam of the main channel of the river. I lobbed some casts, and as I followed my fly, I noted a pair of rises above me in the pool. I scanned the water for a food source, but I saw none.

Caddis in Lip

After a few more unproductive drifts I once again saw a rise in the lower third of the pool, and this time I spotted a fluttering caddis, as it disappeared in a swirl. While this scene transpired, I began observing some small size eighteen pale morning duns, but actually witnessing the demise of the caddis prompted me to tie a size sixteen gray caddis to my line followed by a size 16 juju emerger to cover my bases. The second cast to the area of the rise prompted a swirling take, and I netted a twelve inch brown for fish number one on the day.

I continued casting higher in the pool, and on one of the drifts a fish elevated but refused the caddis. I speculated that perhaps pale morning duns were also on the menu, so I converted to a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. I never duped the looker, but I fooled a decent rainbow to the left of an exposed rock at the top of the run. Unfortunately the stripe-sided fighter quickly escaped the grip of my hook.

Worthwhile

I progressed upstream, and in a marginal short run of moderate depth I netted a second twelve inch brown trout. It rose twice to naturals, before my imitation fooled the aggressive eater. After releasing number two, I continued along the left side of the pocket water, until I encountered a large green sign that proclaimed private property. I was unclear whether this was the end of the lease, but not willing to take any chances, I retreated.

Tail View

About to Glide Away

When I approached the shelf pool again, I circled wide to remain out of view and approached from the downstream side. Rising fish were no longer present, however, occasional pale morning duns made an appearance. I decided to go subsurface and configured my line with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, an iron sally, and a size 16 super nova. The super nova was intended to imitate the nymph stage of the pale morning duns. The tactic paid off, as I landed two rainbows in the fifteen inch range on the nova. It required quite a few fruitless drifts, before the trout responded, but persistence paid off in a big way. A third fine rainbow crushed the super nova, as soon as it hit the water at the top of the pool, but it leaped and tossed aside my fly within a few seconds.

A Chubby One

On my return hike to the car I stopped to prospect another quality shelf pool, and the return visit delivered a spunky thirteen inch rainbow. As I approached the car, I decided it was too early to quit, so I drove west to the last stile and hiked to the river above my ending point on Monday. I found a rock to eat my lunch, and then I spent thirty minutes prospecting two quality areas that delivered fish previously. Almost instantly a fish surprised me, as it crushed the chubby Chernobyl, but it escaped almost as quickly as it slammed the large foam attractor. The remainder of the time in this section was unproductive, and I called it quits at 2:40, so I could make the return trip in time for an anniversary dinner.

My catch rate on June 23 was subpar, but I rediscovered an area that impressed me in the past. I landed five quality trout and had a few opportunities for more. Two fifteen inch rainbows were a bonus, and I also parlayed a dry fly into two netted browns. Hopefully the river remains in decent shape for when the pale morning dun and yellow sally hatches intensify.

Fish Landed: 5

Eagle River – 06/22/2020

Time: 4:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: North of Minturn.

Eagle River 06/22/2020 Photo Album

As I drove from the Eagle River near Eagle, CO toward the Hornsilver Campground, I passed through Minturn, CO, and I decided to sample the clear but high flowing section between Interstate 70 and town. I parked by a concrete bridge and began working my way upstream above the bridge. I continued fishing the fat Albert and 20 incher and placed an emerald caddis pupa on the point. In the early going I landed an eleven inch brown trout that nabbed the emerald caddis pupa in a moderate riffle along the left bank. I always note the type of water that yields results, and then seek out similar water structure. Unfortunately on Monday afternoon this tactic produced little value, and the eleven inch brown would be my only landed trout.

Minturn Stretch

I prospected all the attractive deep runs and shelf pools thoroughly, but the trout seemed to have lockjaw. I swapped the caddis pupa for a salvation after thirty minutes, but is also proved fruitless. The Eagle River above the confluence with Gore Creek offered an hour of casting exercise and a heavy dose of frustration.

Fish Landed: 1

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