South Boulder Creek – 05/15/2019

Time: 6:00PM – 8:00PM

Location: Below first footbridge below Gross Dam

South Boulder Creek 05/15/2019 Photo Album

A bit of adversity makes fly fishing the intriguing challenge that keeps me returning to the lakes and streams of this wonderful earth. If fooling fish with a fly were as easy, as dunking a basketball in a kid’s five foot high basketball hoop, would that be fun? I reminded myself of this fact after an evening on South Boulder Creek on Wednesday.

My son, Dan, mentioned that he could meet me at the South Boulder Creek parking lot on one evening during the week for an early spring outing. I quickly checked the stream flow graph, and I was delighted to discover that Denver Water reduced the flows from the 125 CFS range to 69 CFS, and this falls within my ideal range for the small front range tailwater. Dan chose Wednesday evening for our fly fishing rendezvous, and that was perfect given a weather forecast of highs in the eighties in Denver.

Promising Small Pool

When I arrived at the kayak parking lot ten minutes before five o’clock, Dan was already there along with eight additional vehicles. Apparently many front range anglers had similar thoughts regarding fishing on Wednesday evening. I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight, while Dan did the same with his fly rod, and we stuffed the Snarf’s sandwiches that Dan purchased in our backpack and vest. Despite the forecast for balmy temperatures, some large dark clouds formed in the western sky, so I stuffed my light rain shell in my backpack. Dan opted to forego the extra layer, and he later grew to lament this decision. Three separate sets of brief showers kept the temperature down, and the last thirty minutes before were quit were downright chilly.

Dan Focused

Flows were 69 CFS in the morning, when I reviewed the graph, but when we arrived next to the stream to begin our quest for trout, they seemed higher. My instincts on this matter were vindicated the next day, when I checked the DWR website and discovered that the flows were elevated to 89 CFS sometime during May 15, probably before our fishing trip.

I suggested we begin with single dry flies, hoping we could avoid the more risky tangle inducing dry/dropper approach. Dan began with a caddis, and I started with a gray size 14 stimulator. I suffered a few refusals, and then I approached a small pocket tucked against a midstream exposed boulder. A trout rose and rejected my dry fly three times, but on the seventh cast it slurped the high floating imitation. Getting a strike after three refusals is highly unusual. In any event I was thrilled to learn that my only trout of the evening was a very brightly colored rainbow trout.

Beauty Over Size

After releasing my catch I was unable to create additional interest in the dry fly, so I switched to a dry/dropper that included a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug and emerald caddis pupa. This arrangement failed to trigger action, but Dan followed my lead with a change to a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear. During the last thirty minutes Dan switched to a yellow fat Albert trailing a bright green go2 sparkle pupa, and this move generated two momentary hookups. We speculated that perhaps we should have tried the bright green caddis pupa earlier.

Avoiding a Snag in This Spot Was a Victory

We covered .2 miles in two hours, and Dan managed a couple temporary hook ups, while I landed one ten inch rainbow trout, and that was pretty much the extent of our success on South Boulder Creek. The cloud cover created difficult lighting conditions, and the structure of the section I chose to fish was high gradient; thus, offering few prime runs and riffles of moderate depth. I am now convinced that the elevated flows played a significant role in our slow fishing experience, as typically fish require a period of time to adjust to a nearly 30% change. Our results indicate that we were unable to overcome three negative factors on May 16, 2019.

Fish Landed: 1

South Boulder Creek – 05/06/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Canyon below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 05/06/2019 Photo Album

A day of frustration on Friday on the Arkansas River and a forecast of more adverse weather on Wednesday and Thursday fueled my desire to enjoy some fly fishing on Monday and Tuesday. I followed the flows on South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir since my trip to the Green River, and I was pleased to note that the water managers maintained the output at 122 CFS for six consecutive days. I love steady flows, and 122 CFS is higher than my ideal range, but very manageable.

I arrived at the upper parking lot with the kayak map on Monday morning and quickly pulled on my new Hodgman waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod. The temperature was fifty degrees, and I planned to walk a decent distance, so I wrapped my fleece around my waist under my waders and departed with only my fishing shirt over a long sleeved insulated undershirt. By the time I negotiated the trail and rigged my line, I was positioned in the creek at 11AM. I began fishing with a peacock hippy stomper, beadhead hares ear nymph, and ultra zug bug.

Bank Side Pool Delivered Five Trout to Start My Day

I did not have to wait for my first action, as a rainbow grabbed the ultra zug bug on my first cast. I was very pleased with this turn of events, and I continued to deliver drifts through the gut of the small deep pool, until I notched five landed trout! Needless to say my optimism spiked, and for the most part it was well founded. By the time I rested on a small beach to eat my lunch at noon, the fish count mounted to ten. I adopted a nice rhythm and flicked casts into all the likely fish holding spots, and the trout cooperated. The ultra zug bug was very popular in the morning hour, and a couple fish snatched the hares ear.

Great Start to My Day

My undershirt and fishing shirt were damp with perspiration from the hike into the canyon, so after lunch I unwrapped my fleece and pulled it over my upper body. This step helped, but a slight chill prompted me to add my rain shell to serve as a windbreaker. These moves reversed the cooling effect of evaporation, and I was reasonably comfortable for the remainder of the day. Between 12:15PM and 2:00PM I continued with the three fly dry/dropper system, although right after lunch I exchanged the hippy stomper for a size 10 Chernobyl ant. The hippy stomper was simply serving as an indicator, and I opted for a larger more buoyant and visible top fly to support the trailing nymphs. The fish count continued to climb at a steady rate during the early afternoon, and the trouts’ preference seemed to shift away from the ultra zug bug to the hares ear.

Wild and Beautiful

Ultra Zug Bug Was Hot Fly Early

At one o’clock I heard the sound of distant thunder, and it grew progressively closer as some dark gray clouds rolled in from the southwest. The dim light created a glare on the surface of the water, and I found it difficult to track the small yellow foam indicator spot on the Chernobyl ant. My confidence plummets, when I am unable to see the top fly under poor lighting conditions. A bolt of lightening spiked from the dark cloud in the southeastern sky, and I counted to one thousand and seven, until I heard the resultant thunder clap. I decided to seek shelter and found a small nook under a ledge rock, where I relaxed and waited out the storm. After fifteen minutes the thunder and lightening ceased, and the rain abated, and I resumed my fly fishing mission. As I waited for a break, I swapped the Chernobyl ant for a yellow fat Albert to counter the dim lighting and glare created by the cloudy conditions.

Love Those Orange Spots

I applied the same technique to the afternoon that generated success in the morning, and although the pace of action lagged slightly, I still guided a substantial quantity of trout into my net and boosted the count from ten to twenty-six. One fish crushed the Chernobyl ant before I removed it, and two slurped the fat Albert, while the remainder grabbed one of the trailing nymphs. The ultra zug bug seemed to fall out of favor, so I replaced it with a bright green sparkle caddis pupa for the last twenty minutes before I quit at 3PM.

Great Expectations

I began my hike back to the parking lot, but when I approached a favorite pool at the halfway point, I spotted a pod of rising fish. I could not resist the challenge of fishing to risers, so I clipped off the dry/dropper flies and knotted a size 24 CDC BWO to my line. I was unable to see the target food of the surface feeders, but I guessed that the cloudy conditions created a sparse baetis hatch. Initially I endured four refusals, but then I fluttered a longer cast to the upper third of the pool, and an eleven inch brown trout darted up and sipped the fake BWO. I photographed my late prize and then worked diligently to dry the small mayfly and fluff the CDC wing. After some careful preparation, I dropped another cast in the vicinity of the rising fish, and a ten inch rainbow darted up and confidently inhaled the speck of fluff. Once again I refreshed the fly, and I generated a temporary hook up. At this point the hatch dwindled, or I disturbed the pool excessively, so I hooked the fly to my rod guide and reeled up the line and continued to the car.

Striking

Monday was a fun day, as I worked the dry/dropper system extensively. The trout emerged, where I expected them to, and the standard hares ear and ultra zug bug performed the heavy lifting. I estimate that 70% of my catch were brown trout, and the remainder were rainbows. The rainbows and browns of South Boulder Creek are spectacular with distinct black spots and vivid colors. My largest fish was probably thirteen inches, and most of the landed fish were in the eight to eleven inch range, so size was not a positive for the day, but I had a great time nonetheless. Hopefully the flows will continue at the current level, so that I can make another trip to South Boulder Creek before the run off season kicks in for good.

Fish Landed: 28

South Boulder Creek – 04/04/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 04/04/2019 Photo Album

After a fair outing on Monday I was itching for another day of spring fishing. I had my eye on South Boulder Creek, and Thursday was the designated day for my first trip there in 2019. Flows were 99 CFS, and I generally consider 80 CFS to be ideal, so the current volume out of Gross Dam was well within the desirable range. With another longer trip on the calendar for Friday, I decided to limit my fishing to sections closer than normal to the parking lot.

I departed from my home in Denver by 8:45 and arrived at the kayak parking lot by 10AM. By the time I collected my gear and hiked down the path for twenty minutes, it was approaching 11AM; and after rigging my line with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and RS2; it  was eleven o’clock. The temperature was in the mid-forties when I began my hike, so I wore a heavy fleece and ear flaps with an Adidas pullover tied around my waste under my waders. The sky remained overcast for the entire time in the canyon, and after lunch I slid the Adidas layer over my fleece for added warmth. By the end of the day my feet felt like stumps with very little feeling in my toes.

Colorful

In the first hour before lunch I landed two trout; a small brown and rainbow. The brown trout latched on to an emerald caddis pupa, as it swept along the far bank in a narrow band of slower moving water. The next section of the stream contained a nice gentle pool, and I spotted several rising fish. This observation prompted me to remove the dry/dropper configuration, and I shifted to a single CDC blue winged olive. The small surface morsel fooled a colorful rainbow, and then it became an object of scorn, as the feeding stream residents repeatedly turned away at the last instant.

CDC BWO Eater

Likely Spot

With the fish count paused at two and a small amount of frustration building from the rejections, I found a nice rock and consumed my small lunch snack. After the fifteen minute pause, I added my Adidas layer and approached another nice slow moving pool along the right bank. I decided to temporarily rest the CDC BWO, and in its place I knotted a size 22 Klinkhammer BWO emerger. At first this fly was totally ignored, but then I flicked a backhand cast under some overhanging branches, and an eager brown trout appeared out of nowhere and slurped the emerger.

I was encouraged by this turn of events and stuck with the Klinkhammer through a couple more small pools, but once again the fish were either ignoring or refusing my offering. The next section of water contained faster runs and pockets, so I reverted to the dry/dropper, but the ploy proved fruitless once again. The cycle of shifting from single dry to dry/dropper repeated several times, but I never found a rhythm with the dry/dropper approach. I experimented with a Go2 caddis pupa and sparkle RS2 as components of the dry/dropper rig in addition to the flies previously cited, but only the emerald caddis pupa produced positive results.

Bright Yellow Belly

The blue winged olive hatch between 11:30 and 12:30, although sparse, represented the most intense insect activity of the day. Several brief flurries reoccurred in the early afternoon, but other than a few random rises, the hatch did not seem to attract much attention from the fish. In addition to the CDC blue winged olive and Klinkhammer emerger, I drifted a RS2, sparkle wing RS2 and soft hackle emerger as a component of the dry/dropper system, but the subsurface offerings never connected with the local fish.

During one brief period after I removed the dry/dropper flies, I tied a size 14 gray stimulator to my line, and then dropped a sparkle wing RS2 off the bend. The stimulator generated several refusals, and the RS2 was ignored. After this failed tactic, I revisited the dry/dropper once again with no success. By two o’clock I concluded that Thursday was not a day for nymph fishing. The current seams along fast runs and the pockets behind midstream boulders seemed devoid of fish, or the fish were simply not interested in eating. All my positive action seemed to result from slow moving pools along the bank.

The Brown Emerged from This Area

I decided to use this trend to my advantage, and I attached a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis to my line. I focused my casting to the slow water with some depth along the bank, and this approach netted me two additional brown trout. These results were not great, but at least they gave me some positive feedback for my efforts.

By three o’clock I was chilled, and my feet were numb, so I reeled up the fly, attached it to the rod guide, and climbed the bank to the path. A twenty minute hike deposited me back at the parking lot. Much to my amazement it was sunny and sixty degrees in the parking area, and I could not figure out why I was so cold in the canyon.

Thursday was a disappointing and frustrating day on South Boulder Creek. The small tailwater is usually one of my favorite destinations within a close drive from home, but that was not the case on April 4. I never found a consistent rhythm, and this resulted in considerable unproductive time spent changing flies. I managed a couple trout during the blue winged olive hatch, but my flies were an imperfect representation of the food source favored by the fish, so this added to the frustration. The caddis dry fly in the last hour produced a couple takers, but I covered a significant amount of stream real estate during this phase. Hopefully I will solve the riddle during my next visit to South Boulder Creek.

Fish Landed: 5

 

South Boulder Creek – 10/29/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/29/2018 Photo Album

The long range forecast projected rain turning to snow and cold temperatures beginning on Tuesday, October 30. Monday on the other had was expected to be gorgeous with highs in Denver peaking in the upper seventies. This could translate to only one thing; an opportunity to sneak in a day of autumn fly fishing before wintry weather predominated. Perhaps this would be my last day of fly fishing in 2018.

But where should I invest my scarce amount of remaining nice weather equity? I scanned the stream flows, and of course the first drainage that I checked was South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. The water managers were famous for making dramatic shifts in flows on the small tailwater west of Golden, and late October 2018 was not an exception to this tendency. My last visit to South Boulder Creek was on October 19, and I enjoyed an exceptional day, while the flows were a mere 14.4 CFS. The current DWR chart displayed a vertical rock wall for 10/24/2018, when the valve was opened to release 96 CFS. A dramatic change such as this caused me some concern, but it was five days ago, and I concluded that this allowed ample time for the stream residents to acclimate. I decided to give it a go.

Very Productive Run at the Start

I got off to a reasonably early start; and after I arrived at the trailhead, assembled my Orvis Access four weight and hiked down the path, I was in a position on the stream prepared to make my first cast by 10:30. The air temperature was in the mid-fifties, and the stream flow was indeed multiples higher than my previous trip. In fact the places were I was able to cross the creek were limited to wide shallow sections, and these were minimal within the predominantly narrow canyon environment.

A Beauty

Because of the higher flows akin to spring conditions, I opted to begin my day with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and ultra zug bug. The first two pockets did not produce, but then I positioned myself near the middle of the creek and initiated some drifts through a prime deep run along the north bank. On the third pass a respectable South Boulder Creek brown trout pounced on the ultra zug bug, and I was very pleased to score my first fish of the day. I continued to prospect the quality run with across and downstream drifts, and I was pleasantly surprised to land five additional brown trout in the nine to eleven inch range. What a start to my day! Perhaps the elevated flows were not so bad after all, and the preponderance of brown trout relieved my fears of encountering mostly lockjawed spawning fish.

Nice Shelf Pool

I wish I could report that this pace of success continued through my remaining time on the stream, but that was not the case. When I cast to the productive run three successive times with no resulting action, I departed and continued my upstream progression. Between 10:45 and noon I incremented the fish counter from six to ten, so clearly my catch rate declined; however, I remained quite pleased with the 1.5 hours of morning fly fishing. The yellow fat Albert began to distract the trout in the next several pools, and a string of refusals was ample testimony. I concluded that the fly was too large, and I converted to a size 12 peacock hippy stomper. The smaller foam attractor was an improvement, and it accounted for a few fish during the last hour before lunch.

The Run Below the Log Was Prime

After lunch I resumed my quest for South Boulder Creek trout, and I recorded quite a record of success. The fish count zoomed from ten to thirty-six, before I ended my day at 3PM. Although the three fly combination yielded fish at a steady rate after lunch, I sensed that I could improve my success rate, so I experimented with several fly exchanges. I removed the ultra zug bug and replaced it with a size 20 soft hackle emerger. This was an attempt to match a blue winged olive hatch or an emergence of small black stonefles. From past experience I knew that the small stoneflies were present on South Boulder Creek in the late October time frame. While the soft hackle emerger was on the line, it failed to yield a singe fish, but the hares ear became a favorite target.

Twenty minutes of no response to the soft hackle emerger caused me to once again make a change. This time I selected a size 14 iron sally from my fly wallet, and I positioned the heavier fly with the coiled wire body in the top position and moved the hares ear to the point. The hippy stomper, iron sally, and hares ear maintained their place on my line for the remainder of the afternoon, and they generated the most success.

Lovely Rainbow

Unlike my last outing at 14 CFS when upstream casts proved effective, the best approach on Monday was across and downstream drifts. The brown trout could not resist attacking one of the nymphs, as they began to swing at the end of the run, and many of my netted fish were victims of this tactic. Four rainbows joined the mix of catches, and they emerged from faster riffles of moderate depth, and the iron sally was their preferred food source. The hippy stomper was not purely a strike indicator, as it contributed quite a few respectable cold water fighters to the fish count.

By 3PM I reached a section characterized by fast chutes and whitewater, and the south canyon wall blocked the sun thus creating shadows over the entire stream. Tracking the hippy stomper became challenging and the catch rate plummeted, so I called it a day and made my exit hike. The air temperature remained quite comfortable, and climbing the steep path out of the canyon made me wish I had removed a layer or two of clothing.

Nice Curl

In summary I landed thirty-six trout on a gorgeous fall day on South Boulder Creek. Five of the netted fish were rainbow trout, and as usual the rainbows were larger on average than the brown trout. Eight of my catch crushed the hippy stomper, four were duped by the ultra zug bug, six nabbed the iron sally, and the remainder snatched the hares ear. The higher flows made it more difficult to determine fish holding locations, which was a relatively easy exercise at 14 CFS. Counter balancing this factor was the relative ease with which I could approach fish holding lies, and the reduced level of stealth required.

If this was my last outing of 2018, it was a solid final episode. I suspect, however, that I will tally a few more days before my enjoyment of fly fishing is more that offset by the discomfort of cold hands and feet.

Fish Landed: 36

South Boulder Creek – 10/19/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/19/2018 Photo Album\

A warming trend exemplified by highs in the mid to upper sixties in Denver, CO had me itching for another fly fishing outing on Friday, October 19. I performed a long overdue assessment of the local streamflows, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that South Boulder Creek flows were augmented from 8 CFS to 14.4 CFS. The increase occurred two days earlier, and this provided ample time for the resident trout to acclimate. I knew from visits in previous years that 14.4 CFS represented an adequate level for successful fly fishing. The high temperature in the nearby town of Pinecliffe, CO was projected to reach the mid fifties on Friday, and the alignment of improved volumes of water, tolerable temperatures, and my desire to fly fish resulted in a trip to South Boulder Creek.

On Friday morning I drove to the upper parking lot and quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. My physical therapist suggested that I should resume casting with my index finger on top of the rod grip, as I was complaining of increased discomfort on the ulna side of the elbow. I was a bit concerned about this change, while at the same time I was anxious to give it a test, since my accuracy is greater, when my index finger points at the target.

The Narrow Pool Yielded Two Trout

Once I gathered all the necessary gear, I descended the steep trail to the creek, and I stood in the water ready to cast by 11AM. I began my day with a peacock ice dub body hippy stomper, and within ten minutes I registered two small brown trout. I was rather pleased with my choice of fly, but I was suspicious that my good fortune would not continue. Quite a bit of the river bed was exposed as a result of the low autumn flows, but many deep pools and runs sluiced around the large visible boulders to provide plenty of fish holding locations.

During the hour before lunch I covered a fair amount of water and built the fish count to ten. After landing three brown trout on the hippy stomper, I concluded that I was passing over quality fish holding locations with no response, so I added a beadhead hares ear nymph, and this improved the catch rate somewhat, although I was not completely satisfied with the action. This statement is actually a testimony to the density of trout in South Boulder Creek, when ten fish an hour is not up to my expectations!

Gorgeous Spots

After lunch I resumed my upstream progression, and after another fifteen minutes I hooked an average sized fish, but it escaped before I could guide it into the net. I was surprised by this turn of events, until I realized that the struggling fish broke off the hippy stomper. A small curly end provided proof that my knot was faulty, or that it was nicked or abraded during the earlier action. Rather than replace the hippy stomper and hares ear, I used the lost flies as an excuse to experiment with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle.

I was quite confident that the small terrestrial would arouse the interest of the trout in the low clear flows of October, but fifteen minutes of futile casting suggested otherwise. I deployed the beetle in three quality pools, and it attracted quite a bit of attention, but something prevented the trout from transforming from observers to eaters.

Spectacular Pool

The ineffectiveness of the beetle forced me to dig into my fly box for another peacock hippy stomper, and I found my last one, and I tied it to my line along with a fresh beadhead hares ear. My hippy stomper inventory contained quite a few silver and red body versions, but the peacock stompers were depleted. With another month of fly fishing remaining in 2018, I may be forced to spend some time at the vise to spin more hippy stompers.

As the sun appeared above me, its warming rays elevated the appetites of the South Boulder Creek residents. I sensed that I was bypassing available feeders, so I added an ultra zug bug below the hares ear, and the three fly combination finally clicked. Between 12:30 and 2:00 the action on South Boulder Creek was insane. Every time I cast to a deep pocket or pool, I expected to connect with a fish, and a high percentage of the time my prediction was correct. In short I enjoyed hot action, and the fish count rapidly mounted through the twenties and thirties. Most of the netted prizes were brown trout in the eight to eleven inch range; however, six rainbows also appeared, and these fish were larger on average than the brown trout.

Vivid Colors

By 2:30 the action slowed measurably. It was as if someone locked the doors to the cafeteria, and the trailing nymphs were totally ignored. In the shadows along the south bank a couple aggressive feeders burst to the surface to inhale the hippy stomper, and this enabled me to attain a count of forty one on the day. In the process of landing the small fighters, the trout created messy snarls, and since the nymphs were being ignored, I snipped them off. Not wishing to risk the loss of additional peacock body hippy stompers, I replaced it with a silver ice dub body version, but the trout gave this move a solid thumbs down.

At three o’clock I reached a narrow section of the canyon with deep plunge pools, and it was totally ensconced in shadows. Historically this area demarcated my end point, and I saw no reason to vary from this practice on October 19. I stripped in my line and hooked the silver hippy stomper to the rod guide and scaled a steep bank covered in a jumble of large boulders, until I was on the trail. During my return hike I paused at two quality locations to execute a few casts, and the brief rest stops produced two small brown trout to boost the fish counter to forty-two. The first brown crushed the silver hippy stomper and the second sipped a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, when I presented it on a downstream drift. Three fish refused the same caddis earlier in the tail of the pool.

Promising

What a fantastic day on South Boulder Creek!. I was extremely excited to discover the flows were raised to 14.4 CFS, and my Friday adventure did not disappoint. I saw two other anglers on my hike to the creek, but the four hours on the stream felt as if I had my own private stretch of water. The sun raised the air temperature to a comfortable level, and the residents of South Boulder Creek were hungry and willing to grab my offerings. Admittedly I experienced a significant number of refusals, but more than enough willing eaters compensated for the the picky ones. Roughly one-third of the netted fish opted for the hippy stomper, while another third snatched the ultra zug bug, and the remainder nabbed the hares ear. The period between 12:30PM and 2:00PM was spectacular, as trout after trout aggressively pursued my offerings, and I could bank on a hit on nearly every cast. Hopefully the water managers maintain the flows in the current range, and additional warm autumn days allow me to revisit South Boulder Creek.

Fish Landed: 43

 

South Boulder Creek – 09/25/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: East of Pinecliffe, CO

South Boulder Creek 09/25/2018 Photo Album

Flows on South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir were 7 CFS; however, upstream of the dam they were 54 CFS. After driving for 2.5 hours to the Colorado River on Monday I  preferred a short local trip on Tuesday. Another factor impacting my decision was the forecast of high temperatures of 67 degrees in Denver, and I assumed that this translated to the fifties in the foothills and mountains. I opted to stay close to home with the unfavorable weather expected.

I arrived at the parking lot in the small town of Pinecliffe by 11AM, and after I strung my Orvis Access four weight, I pulled on my insulated UnderArmour long sleeved undershirt, and then I topped it with my light down coat. I debated wearing my New Zealand billed hat with earflaps, but I concluded that ear coverage was excessive for fifty degree temperatures.

Plunge Pools in Abundance

I hiked downstream along the railroad tracks and remained alert for train activity, but fortunately after fifteen minutes I found a somewhat manageable path down the steep bank to the creek. I slid slowly in the loose gravel, until I negotiated the upper one-third. Train traffic was not part of my late morning experience.

The creek where I began my day was characterized by a high gradient, large plunge pools, and huge boulders. Wading was extremely challenging, and I began with a yellow fat Albert, ultra zug bug, and a hares ear nymph. During the first hour I landed three relatively small rainbow trout, and I donated the ultra zug bug and hares ear to an evergreen branch. The trout came from the lip of pools, and imparting a lift to make another cast seemed to prompt takes, although many areas appeared to be particularly attractive yet failed to produce. Over the course of the day I never established consistency in terms of productive water type.

Stretched Out

After lunch I hooked a trout near the opposite bank, and inexplicably the ultra zug bug and salvation nymph broke away from the fat Albert. I used the need to re-rig as an excuse to try some solo dry fly offerings, and I cycled through a Jake’s gulp beetle, size 16 gray deer hair caddis, and a parachute black ant. None of these flies generated more than a perfunctory look, so I reverted to a dry/dropper featuring a red hippy stomper, an ultra zug bug, and a salvation nymph. These three flies remained on my line until three o’clock, and they lifted the fish count to ten. One trout crushed the hippy stomper, but the rest grabbed the nymphs. The salvation was the favorite, and lifts and swings seemed to enhance the interest level of the fish. This string of netted fish included two plump rainbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and these were easily the best fish of the day.

This Place Must Hold Several Trout

By 3PM I reached a long deep pool next to a large flat-topped rock, and I remembered it as a prime fish holding location from my one prior visit to the stream near Pinecliffe. I flicked some casts along the rock wall, and this generated a pair of refusals. I was concerned that the red body color of the hippy stomper caused the rejections, so I replaced it with a dubbed peacock body version. The change made no difference, so I moved to another large quality pool that was ten yards upstream.

Gorgeous Markings

This area offered the benefit of being in the sun. I lobbed some casts to the left side of the strong center current, and I spotted several trout, as they elevated to inspect the hippy stomper, but I was unable to provoke a strike. Clearly these fish were looking toward the surface for their meal, and they totally ignored the nymphs. I cycled through a series of single dry flies including Jake’s gulp beetle and a parachute black ant. The visible fish ignored both flies, so I tested a parachute green drake. This large mayfly actually generated a pair of refusals, but again I was unable to close the deal. Perhaps the South Boulder Creek residents were looking for a smaller mayfly? I swapped the green drake for a size 16 gray comparadun, and this pale morning dun copy fooled a small rainbow to bring my fish count to ten for the day.

Brown Trout Dry Fly Sipper

I was satisfied with my hard earned accomplishment, and I waded back to the lower pool with the intent of quitting. Before I stepped up the bank, I scanned the pool and noticed a pair of rises at the tail below the long rock. I unhooked the comparadun and flicked two downstream casts to the vicinity of the rises. On the second drift a mouth emerged, and it chomped down on the mayfly imitation, and I landed a feisty brown trout. I carefully released my late catch, and turned my attention back to the pool. Suddenly the area came alive with six rising fish, but I was unable to determine the food source that created the commotion.

Those Colors!

It was clearly something small, so I removed the size 16 fly and replaced it with a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. After fifteen casts to several feeders, I fooled a vividly colored rainbow and guided it into my net. The pace of rising fish slowed, and four o’clock appeared on my digital watch, and I was quite chilled while standing in the shade, so I called it a day and returned to the car.

Tuesday was a reasonably successful day, and I was relieved to overcome the difficult wading conditions while toughing out the first chilly outing of the fall season. Two of the twelve landed fish were respectable rainbows, and I fooled two trout with dry flies near the end of the day in the quality pool. These were worthwhile accomplishments. I was unable to discern a water type that produced consistent results, and consequently I never established a steady rhythm. I battled on and posted a reasonably successful day, and for that I am satisfied.

Fish Landed: 12

South Boulder Creek – 08/22/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/22/2018 Photo Album

Jane and I returned from Wyoming and Montana on Monday, and that was a bit earlier than planned. I caught up on some chores on Tuesday and cleared the calendar for a day of fishing on Wednesday. Since my outstanding visit on 08/09/2018 to South Boulder Creek, I was aching to return, in case the green drake activity intensified. Wednesday, August 22 would be that day.

I delayed my departure until 9:10AM in order to check on an issue at a store, when it opened at 9:00AM, and this enabled me to arrive at the kayak parking lot below Gross Reservoir by 10:30AM. Three other vehicles occupied the parking lot, and two fishermen were about to embark on the trail, as I threw on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. The air temperature was in the low 60’s, as I took my first step down the steep trail to the edge of South Boulder Creek. Flows were 117 CFS, and the water managers held the flows at this level for a week in a welcome and unusual display of cooperation with anglers.

Began in This Area

I hiked a decent distance below the dam, and I passed a cluster of three young fishermen in the first section above the pedestrian bridge. I never encountered the two gentlemen, who departed as I was preparing in the parking lot. By 11:30 I was positioned on the creek in a nice section characterized with an abundance of pockets and tumbling riffles. I pondered my choice of flies and decided to begin with a parachute green drake. If the large western mayflies were in attendance, I speculated that the trout might react to a large dry fly regardless of the time of day.

Deep Black Spots

It was a strong hunch, and it was on target. Between 11:30 and a lunch break at 12:15 I netted ten trout from South Boulder Creek. All of the beautiful wild fish chowed down on the size 14 parachute green drake, and I was in a state of euphoria. I sat on a large flat rock in the middle of the creek and consumed my sandwich, while I observed the water, and surprisingly I never saw a green drake in the surrounding air. The first seven trout were fooled by the green drake that duped two gorgeous rainbows on the North Fork of the Shoshone River in Wyoming, but then a feisty brown dragged my line over a sharp branch and snapped off the popular paradrake. The replacement was slightly larger, and it accounted for three additional creek dwellers, but refusals were part of the package with this fly.

After lunch rejections of the parachute green drake became more frequent, so I elected to switch to a size 14 comparadun with no ribbing. The smaller mayfly imitation was effective initially, but when I cast to a pool with smooth water, the trout once again inspected but did not eat my fly on a repetitive basis. I reverted to a parachute style; however, the new dry fly was smaller than the previous replacement for the lost fly.

Attractive Section Ahead

In the early afternoon time frame the catch rate slowed from the morning blitz; however, enough trout consumed the parachute green drake to maintain my interest. I cast the low riding parachute to appealing pockets and deep runs, and a steady supply of positive responses enabled the fish count to climb to twenty-two. During the 1-2PM period rainbows began to dominate my net, and I was pleased with this shift.

Another Aggressive Rainbow Trout

At three o’clock I began my return hike; however, along the way I paused at a productive section to spray a few casts. The trout in this area rejected the parachute green drake, so I decided to experiment during my lingering time on the creek. I clipped off the drake and replaced it with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle, and I began to plop it behind exposed rocks. The ploy paid off as two trout smacked the terrestrial within five minutes of making the conversion.

I spotted several fish in a nice pool along the bank, but they darted upward and snubbed the terrestrial, so I paused to make yet another change. Several rises commenced along the edge of a nice long run above my position, and a size eighteen mayfly floated upward. This observation persuaded me to knot a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line, and the low floating mayfly imitation prompted a slurp from a pretty ten inch rainbow. The comparadun did not appeal to other trout in the pool, so after ten minutes of futile casting, I called it a day and completed the hike back to the car.

Speckles and Stripes

Wednesday was a fun and productive day on South Boulder Creek. Twenty-five fish was a rewarding experience, and the ability to confidently cast a single green drake for three hours was highly appreciated. Hopefully the flows will remain in the current range for the foreseeable future, and this fly angler will certainly return for more green drake action. I already restocked my boat box with my remaining supply of size 14 parachute ties from the winter.

Fish Landed: 25

 

South Boulder Creek – 08/09/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/09/2018 Photo Album

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.

Good Start

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.

127 CFS

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.

Very Nice South Boulder Creek Brown Trout

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.

Shelf Pool on the Other Side Is Inviting

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.

Minus the Blur

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.

Big Meal

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?

Lunch View

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.

Moth or Butterfly?

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.

Lovely Rainbow Trout

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 Boulder Creek – 07/12/2018

Time: 6:30PM – 9:00PM

Location: Below Gross Dam in the area of the pedestrian bridge on the Walker Loop Trail.

South Boulder Creek 07/12/2018 Photo Album

Thursday was intended to be a day of rest after three straight outings on my recent camping and fishing trip. Imagine my surprise, when I checked my phone and noticed a text message from my son, Dan. He planned an after work visit to South Boulder Creek and asked, if I was interested in joining. Opportunities to fish with Dan are rare, as he is engaged to be married, in the early stages of a career, and the proud owner of a new puppy dog. Fatigue, aches and rest suddenly became secondary considerations, and I quickly agreed to join Dan at the kayak parking lot at 6PM. Of course I also took a peek at the stream flows on South Boulder Creek, and I was pleased to see that they were steady at 151 CFS for the last four days. 151 CFS is higher than I prefer, but I knew from past experience that it was manageable.

I arrived fifteen minutes early at the parking lot that already contained five other vehicles. I got a jump on preparation and donned my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, while I waited for Dan’s arrival. A bit past 6PM he appeared with two Snarf’s submarine sandwiches in his possession. We made quick work of the Italian sandwiches, and then we descended the steep trail to the creek below. At a wide area shortly after encountering the stream, we crossed to take advantage of the easier hiking trail along the opposite shoreline.

Dan Probes a Run

Since we only had a few hours of daylight, we decided to allocate more time to fishing and less to hiking, so we began our quest for trout twenty yards below the first pedestrian bridge. Dan initiated his fly fishing adventure with a size 16 stimulator with a dark brown or maroon body. I selected a size 14 gray stimulator from my fly box and tied it to my 5X tippet. I began the evening with some downstream casts to a deep eddy at a large bend in the creek, and Dan meanwhile cast to some very enticing slower moving runs along the bank.

The trout in the eddy below me showed no interest in my attractor fly, but a nice ten inch rainbow attacked Dan’s high floater, and we celebrated his initial success. We spent the first hour familiarizing ourselves with the higher flows, and where the trout were holding. We discovered that the faster runs did not produce, and the fish were concentrated in the slow moving pools along the bank. Within these locations they frequented the seams along faster water and sheltered lies next to large boulders.

After 7:30 we progressed above the pedestrian bridge and cherry picked the spots that conformed to our stream criteria. We were both frustrated by evening glare and our inability to follow our flies, so we independently switched to a Chernobyl ant and trailed a dropper nymph. I chose an emerald caddis pupa, since I observed adult caddis, as they danced along the surface of the water. Dan and I both foul hooked a rainbow trout, when we reacted to a refusal to the Chernboyl and embedded the hook of the trailing nymph in the reluctant feeders.

Brilliant Colors on This South Boulder Creek Rainbow

By 8PM I failed to land a fish, but I was content to give my son first shot at quality spots. I had my fill of fishing success during my recent road trip, and I was genuinely content to enjoy the cool evening, while Dan took advantage of some sorely needed mountain time. I was now above the bridge in an area with numerous huge boulders and below a nice smooth pool. Dan approached from below and executed some nice casts to the lower portion of the run, where the creek swirled around several large exposed boulders. I suspected that the fish in this area inhabited the narrow lanes, where the current passed between the three large boulders, so I lobbed the dry/dropper to the current seam above rock number two. I could barely see the chartreuse indicator on the foam ant, and then it disappeared in a bulge, and I raised my arm and felt a connection to a nice eleven inch rainbow. Although I was content to be an observer, I must admit I was surprised and pleased to notch a fish on the scoreboard.

As darkness slowly descended, Dan and I migrated to the tail of the long and popular pool a bit upstream. Other anglers vacated the popular spot, so I assumed a position near the tail. A jumble of long logs angled across the stream bed to create the lower pool, and just above them a huge area of foam suspended between the logs and the bank. I paused to observe, and I was pleasantly surprised to note three subtle rises just above the foam. One exposed boulder was positioned fifteen feet above the foam patch, and suddenly another rise appeared five feet below it. I followed the path of the feeding fish, and noticed a very respectable rainbow, as it settled back along the sandy bottom.

The Chernboyl and caddis pupa were still on my line, so I delivered five drifts over the upper fish below the rock, but the target displayed no evidence of interest in the Chernobyl or pupa. I elected to reconfigure to a dry fly, but before doing so, I caught Dan’s attention and invited him to join me. Upon his arrival, I pointed out the rising fish, and he began the task of converting to a single caddis as well. Just enough light remained to allow me to thread the leader through the eye of a small size 18 caddis adult, and I was finally in a position to cast, while Dan continued his conversion.

Surprise at Dusk

The scene that ensued was an example of why I love fly fishing. I made three downstream drifts toward the fringe of the foam patch, where I observed several rises earlier. I was having difficulty locating the small tuft of deer hair in the waning light, but on the third cast I picked it up quite clearly. I checked my fourth cast high and the deer hair caddis fluttered down in the subtle current seam above the foam, and a foot above the white blanket of bubbles a mouth appeared and gulped down my impostor. Dan saw the entire episode develop, and I quickly lifted my arm and connected with an eleven inch cutbow. The South Boulder Creek gem displayed a brilliant crimson cheek and a pink-red stripe, and it was truly a jewel in the wild.

I released my prize, and Dan was now prepared to prospect the area of rising fish with his caddis. He demonstrated some excellent casts and drifts and extracted two aggressive surface feeders from the area. The trout were quite diminutive, but he was nonetheless pleased to earn a level of success, as darkness rapidly descended. We expected to quit at 8:30, but 9PM found us returning on the path to cross at the wide section, and then we warmed ourselves with a steady ascent of the steep path to the parking lot.

Dan and I both enjoyed 2.5 hours of evening fishing on Thursday, and a couple wild trout were icing on the cake. A ninety degree day transformed into a pleasant cool evening, and we both gained insight on fishing South Boulder Creek at elevated flows. Best of all I spent a few precious hours with my son, and I always treasure such an occasion.

Fish Landed: 2

South Boulder Creek – 04/02/2018

Time: 12:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 04/02/2018 Photo Album

What does a forecast of high temperatures in the low seventies in Denver, a rescheduled doctor’s appointment, and nice steady flows of 20 cfs on South Boulder Creek yield? A fishing adventure for Dave of course. Originally I aspired to make a longer trip to the Eagle River or Arkansas River; however, projected high winds across Colorado discouraged me from those options. Weather prognosticators anticipated high wind velocities of 27 MPH at both locales. Pinecliffe just west of my desired destination on South Boulder Creek was marginally better, but I concluded that I was reducing my drive time investment in the event that the gusts were not tolerable.

Lunch View

I arrived at the kayak parking lot by 11AM, and after assembling my Sage four weight I completed my normal fishing preparation routine and hiked to the creek. Since it was approaching noon, when I arrived streamside, I paused and munched my snack and consequently began fishing at noon. I kicked off my day with a yellow fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph.

The air temperature was in the low fifties as I began to cast, and the wind was in fact a significant hurdle throughout much of the afternoon, although it seemed to relent a bit toward the end of my venture. The creek was extremely clear and flowed at 20 CFS. Past experience at these low levels or even less taught me to approach each target spot cautiously and with a low profile.

Number One

During the first twenty minutes even these measured precautions failed to yield a fish, although admittedly the quality of the water was lacking compared to that which I would encounter over the remainder of my day. I was beginning to consider a change in flies, when I approached a long smooth pool with a very deep trough near the far bank. I restrained myself from getting too close and lobbed a long cast to the top of the faster run that entered the deep section, and after a five foot drift the fat Albert suddenly plunged toward the depths. I raised my arm and connected instantly with a decent brown trout that seemed to materialize from the brown stream bottom. The fight was on, but I quickly gained the upper hand and guided the wild beauty into my net. What a start to my day! A thirteen inch brown rested in my net with a beadhead hares ear nymph firmly embedded in its lip, and I was quite pleased to extract such a noble fighter from the challenging clear pool.

Again

This episode symbolized the remainder of the afternoon, although the size of the remaining catches failed to measure up to number one. I continued my upstream migration at a steady pace and added eighteen trout to my count. All except two were brown trout, and the two exceptions were rainbows in the ten inch range, but they compensated for their lack of size with sheer beauty.

One of Two Rainbows Landed

After the first hour the fish count perched on four, and I endured a dry spell of fifteen minutes. During this time several small trout elevated and inspected the fat Albert, but they shunned the large offering and returned to their holding positions. I was having some success with the nymphs, but now the residents of South Boulder Creek seemed to be distracted by the large surface offering. I opted to downsize and removed the three fly dry/dropper lineup and replaced it with a peacock body hippy stomper. I fished the smaller foam attractor solo for a bit with no results, so I added a beadhead hares ear and beadhead sparkle wing RS2.

Careful Approach in Order

The shift in approach paid huge dividends, and these flies remained in place during the remainder of the afternoon. The trout overwhelmingly favored the hares ear, although two eager eaters chomped the hippy stomper. The sparkle wing RS2 failed to attract interest, and I removed it after a thirty minute trial period.

Decent South Boulder Creek Brown Trout

The wind was a constant nuisance, but it abated enough to make casting a reasonable endeavor. The warmth of the strong spring sun counterbalanced the wind, and I thoroughly enjoyed my continuous progression along South Boulder Creek. My initial foray into the South Boulder Creek canyon was a solid success, and I hope to return before the water managers initiate their inevitable fluctuation in flows.

Fish Landed: 19