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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

South Boulder Creek – 11/22/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/22/2017 Photo Album

Yet another mild fall day in Colorado motivated me to load the car with my fishing gear in preparation for a local fishing trip. Wednesday November 22 was a day to cherish for  another reason unrelated to the weather. My son, Dan, claimed a rare vacation day from work and agreed to join me on a venture to South Boulder Creek. I regularly updated him with tales of my fishing success on the small front range tailwater, and he agreed to join me for a late season adventure.

We arrived at the kayak parking lot below Gross Reservoir, and by the time I assembled my rod and climbed into my waders and hiked a fair distance from the parking lot, we began casting at 11AM. Dan and I both began with a Jake’s gulp beetle on our line, and that was probably not smart given our opportunity to present two different food imitations. Within twenty minutes Dan connected with a nice eleven inch trout, when he flicked a fairly long cast to a narrow pocket along the right bank. After the beetle drifted six inches, the head of a brown trout appeared, and it confidently chomped on the fake terrestrial. I was thrilled to watch, as Dan reacted with a swift hook set and then expertly guided his catch to his net. It was a great start to a fun day on South Boulder Creek.

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A Happy Fisherman

We continued fishing for the first hour, and I endured quite a few refusals to my beetle, until I finally hooked and landed a small brown trout that stretched slightly beyond my six inch minimum requirement for counting. Dan, meanwhile, enjoyed a bit more success, as he built his fish count to two, before we paused for lunch in an area bathed in sunlight on the bank high above the creek.

After lunch I concluded that the beetle no longer possessed the fish attracting charm, that it exhibited earlier in the fall, so I swapped it for a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. The change was somewhat beneficial, and I enticed two additional small brown trout to my net. Dan added a third trout to his cumulative tally with the beetle, and then after witnessing my moderate success with the caddis, he followed suit.

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Shadows and Glare Were a Challenge

By two o’clock the stream was almost entirely covered in shadows, and this condition translated to difficulty tracking the small size 16 fly. Dan progressed upstream along the right bank which remained in sunshine. After several hours of fishing I concluded that most of our success originated in slow pools along the rocky bank. The faster runs and pockets in the middle of the creek were not productive unlike my earlier trips to the same section of the stream. With this observation described to Dan, he approached a very nice long narrow pool along the right bank that matched the description of attractive water.

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Dan Landed Two Trout from the Area Next to the Rock Shaped Like a Whale

He placed a nice cast to the top of the gently flowing trough, and after a five foot drift his caddis sank, and Dan alertly spotted a subsurface flash. He reacted with a quick hook set and quickly netted fish number four. I was quite impressed that Dan’s fly fishing skills advanced to the point, where he reacted to a subtle take below the surface. Once he released his recent catch and refreshed his caddis dry fly, he placed a similar cast upstream in the same area but closer to the large rock along the bank. An instant replay resulted, when another brown trout snatched the caddis just after it dipped beneath the surface near the streamside boulder.

We resumed our upstream migration and approached a spot where a nice deep run cut down the center of the creek and then split around a large rock that was mostly submerged, except for the small round top that poked above the water. Dan spotted a rise in the swirly current just above the rock, so I targeted that area with my casts. Unfortunately the caddis did not appeal to the riser, so I decided to experiment with a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. I quickly made the change and executed five nice drifts along the current seam, but again the cagey feeder refused to be fooled. What would cause this recalcitrant stream dweller to eat?

I decided to make a last ditch effort with a dry/dropper approach, and I knotted a hippy stomper with a red body to the end of my leader and then added a beadhead hares ear on an eighteen foot dropper to the bend of the foam top fly. As Dan looked on, I lobbed the two fly combination to the scene of the single rise, and after a two foot drift the hippy stomper dipped, and I connected with a ten inch brown trout. Dan was impressed with the instant success, and I was appropriately inspired by this late good fortune.

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Zoomed on a Nice S Boulder Creek Brown Trout

Dan stashed his backpack downstream at our lunch spot, so he decided to embark on a retrieval mission, while I continued to evaluate the effectiveness of the recent shift to a dry/dropper approach.  Over the final twenty minutes of my fishing day I landed two more brown trout in the ten to eleven inch range. Number five grabbed the hares ear in a deep slot between two large exposed boulders, and the last landed brown trout smacked the red hippy stomper in a small shelf pool along the left bank. I was pleased with my late burst of success, but three fish in thirty minutes left me pondering whether I should have converted to the dry/dropper system earlier in the day.

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Another Shot of the Hippy Stomper

Six fish on November 22 was a fine outing, and the setting was glorious. The weather enhanced our enjoyment, and spending 3.5 rare hours with my son on a remote trout stream was an occasion to treasure.

Fish Landed: 6

South Boulder Creek – 11/13/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/13/2017 Photo Album

Jane and I returned from four fabulous days in Moab on Saturday, November 11, and I noted that the weather forecast predicted a high of 69 in Denver on Monday, November 13. I thoroughly enjoyed four days of hiking and cycling in the Utah canyons, but I also missed my frequent weekly fly fishing adventures. An abnormally warm day in the middle of November in Colorado was too much to pass up.

The time changed on November 5, and consequently I planned an earlier start to my fishing day. Prior to the time change, the prime period for fly fishing was 11AM until 3PM, so with a one hour fall back, the ideal time shifted to 10AM until 2PM. I departed the house at 7:45AM, and this enabled me to arrive at the kayak parking lot below Gross Reservoir by 9AM. I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my waders. The temperature was around fifty degrees, so I tied my fleece cardigan around my waist and under my waders. I knew I would overheat on the hike to the stream, if I wore the fleece, but I desired the insurance of an extra layer in case I fished in the shadows of the canyon walls.

Two cars were already parked in the lot, but I never encountered another fisherman during my entry walk. After a decent hike from the parking lot I cut down to the stream and began my quest for South Boulder Creek trout. I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line for the trek to the creek, and it remained on my line for the first three hours of fishing. The section that served as my entry point was mostly in sunshine with only five feet along the left bank covered by shadows.

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Quite a Jumble of Rocks and Logs

The stream flows were 15.8 CFS, and this level is below ideal, but adequate for enjoyable fly fishing. My outing on 10/17/2017 was strong testimony that excellent fly fishing was available on South Boulder Creek at low flows. I prospected some very attractive water in the first fifteen minutes with no reward for my efforts, but then I lobbed a cast in the shadows in a deep run along the left bank. I was unable to follow the beetle, but a sudden swirl where I estimated my fly to be evoked a quick hook set, and after a short battle I guided a deep olive-colored eleven inch brown trout into my net. I was pleased to register my first fish of the day.

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Better Light

I moved on and landed a second brown, but the catch rate lagged my expectations, so I made an adjustment and added a size 20 RS2 on a two foot dropper. The addition was a solid move, and when I stopped for lunch, the fish count paused at eight including one rainbow and the remainder browns. Two of the netted fish favored the RS2, and six savored Jake’s gulp beetle.

While eating lunch on a large rock bathed in sunlight high above the creek, I observed quite a few small stoneflies, as they fluttered in the streaming beams of sun next to two large evergreen trees. After lunch I persisted with the foam beetle and RS2 combination for a bit, and the RS2 delivered a third trout to my net. My results were decent, but I approached a nice pool and observed several fish rising, so I decided to once again change my tactics. I swapped the RS2 for a size 20 soft hackle emerger with no bead. I applied a thick coat of Gink floatant to the body and fished the emerger in the surface film. I was hoping that the small emerger would cover two bases; blue winged olives and small gray stoneflies.

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Beauty with Fins

The foam beetle and bwo emerger tandem enabled the fish count to elevate to twelve by 1:30, and two landed trout devoured the emerger. It was gratifying to receive some positive feedback on my greased emerger ploy. At the twelve fish milestone I could attribute three to the RS2, two to the soft hackle emerger, and the remaining seven slurped the beetle. I was rather pleased with my twelve fish day in the middle of November, and I settled on a two o’clock quit time, as the shadows lengthened over the stream.

Just as thoughts of quitting crossed my mind, I noted a pair of fairly large mayflies, as they slowly floated up from the surface of the creek. On my last visit to South Boulder Creek I experienced decent success with a size 16 cinnamon comparadun, so I copied the move and knotted a pale morning dun imitation to my line. I was situated along the right bank above a gorgeous deep run that fanned into a nice deep pool. I began presenting the comparadun on downstream drifts by checking my cast high and fluttered the single dry to the seam at the top of the run. On four successive casts a very respectable rainbow emerged and hovered beneath the mayfly, but on each drift it resisted the temptation to sip the fraud.

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Love the Sheen

I opted to employ my usual tactic in response to refusals, and I knotted a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line. Unfortunately on this occasion, downsizing was not the answer, and the rainbow never budged from its hidden lie to inspect the smaller offering. Perhaps size was not the issue? I pondered the situation and decided to test a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. A tan body would have been preferable, since the cinnamon color of the comparadun seemed to attract attention, but light gray was the best I could do.

It was one of those situations where making do paid off. During the remainder of my time on the water I added nine trout to the fish count and ended the day at twenty-one. In many cases the first cast to a likely pocket or pool elicited a confident slurp. Several times I watched as a brown trout darted two or three feet to snatch the small drifting caddis adult. I am always amazed by how fast a trout can snatch a piece of food from the surface.

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Likely Productive Spot

A few minutes before 3PM I reached a convenient point to step out of the water. The path was within a few feet of the bank, so I began the return hike to the car. The sun was now positioned quite low in the western sky, and the entire stream was shrouded in shadows. The temperature dipped noticeably, but my quick strides warmed my body. When I started the car, I checked the dashboard thermometer, and I was surprised to see a reading of 51 degrees.

Monday was a very enjoyable day on South Boulder Creek. I landed twenty-one trout, and sixteen fell for a dry fly. I was quite pleased to experience a twenty fish day on November 13, and I plan to take advantage of any additional unseasonably mild weather breaks.

Landed Fish: 21

 

South Boulder Creek – 11/02/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/02/2017 Photo Album

Fishing with cold hands is not fun, but that is one of the conditions I endured on Thursday, November 2, 2017. I could not resist the temptation to fish for a second day in a row, when I noted a weather forecast with high temperatures peaking around seventy degrees in Denver, CO. I reviewed the usual assortment of front range destinations, and I was pleased to learn that Denver Water boosted the outflows from Gross Reservoir from a trickle of 9.3 CFS to 16.7 CFS. During September I enjoyed some robust action at 15 and 13 CFS, so I decided to make the short drive to the parking area below Gross Dam. The high temperature at Pinecliffe just west of my chosen fishing spot was projected to reach 54 degrees.

Unfortunately my path to fly fishing incorporated the stretch of highway named Interstate 270. Inevitably the section between Interstate 70 and Colorado Boulevard requires stuttering along in bumper to bumper traffic, and Thursday was not an exception. I maneuvered into the left lane and progressed slowly in fits and starts, and during one of the stalled periods I was surprised by a thwacking sound, as my car lurched forward for an instant after the impact. I quickly steered the Santa Fe on to the left shoulder and opened the car door to determine the cause of this sudden interruption of my progress toward fly fishing. A woman exited the car behind me, and she quickly announced that it was not her fault. Another car was parked along the shoulder behind her, and the driver was surveying the situation. Apparently the young driver of the rear automobile failed to stop in time and smacked the woman next in line, and her car smacked into the bumper of my vehicle.

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The Most Damage on the Middle Car

I quickly examined the rear of my car, opened the hatch and pushed on the trailer hitch. Everything seemed to be in working order, and all I could find was a small deep scratch on top of the bumper. I was hesitant to leave in case some non readily visible damage lurked, so I began collecting contact information from the other two drivers. Vanessa was the driver of the sandwiched vehicle, and she immediately dialed 911 and asked for the police. This made sense, since the rear of her vehicle suffered the most damage. Gerardo, the driver of the rear most car, meanwhile paced about in a white T-shirt. I approached him and obtained his key information, while he shivered almost uncontrollably. It was not clear if his condition resulted from shock or being attired in a short sleeved shirt in 35 degree temperatures.

As this scene evolved I heard sirens, and an ambulance and fire truck rushed through traffic on the eastbound lane. Within minutes the emergency vehicles exited the eastbound lanes, crossed the highway and proceeded west until they reached our little impromptu gathering. The ambulance parked in the left lane in front of my car, and the fire truck angled and blocked the left lane behind the rear vehicle. The first responders approached each occupant of the three vehicles and asked our conditions. Vanessa accompanied the female medical professional to the ambulance, and the passenger in Gerardo’s vehicle joined her.

We waited impatiently for another twenty minutes, as a large traffic jam developed in the one remaining westbound lane. Finally a Commerce City patrol car pulled over ahead of the fire truck and an officer emerged. He collected driver’s licenses, registration and insurance cards from each of the drivers and returned to his patrol car. Vanessa and I began chatting, and she asserted that Gerardo reeked of marijuana. Finally the officer returned and spoke to Vanessa and I together. He gave us a card with the traffic report number and his contact information, and he informed us that the rear driver was at fault and would be fined. We could use the police trip report, if we filed an insurance claim, and we were free to go.

Forty-five minutes after being struck, I was once again on my way to South Boulder Creek. I arrived in the kayak parking lot at 11AM, and after I pulled on my waders and strung my Orvis Access four weight, I hit the trail by 11:20. I descended to the stream below the dam and hiked a good ways downstream. The flows were indeed higher than my last visit at 9.3 CFS, but the stream level remained on the low side compared to ideal conditions. The temperature in the parking lot was in the upper thirties, and consequently I wore my light down coat and hat with ear flaps.

Once I reached my designated entry point, I unzipped my backpack and pulled out my lunch and ate while observing some nice deep pools in front of me. No aquatic insects revealed themselves, so I decided to begin my day with a parachute black ant with a pink wing post. The ant has been a hot fly for me during the autumn season of 2017 on front range streams. I prospected the ant through two delightful sections with deep slow moving pools, and the terrestrial imitation failed to draw even a slight amount of interest.

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First and Best Fish on Thursday

I reeled up my line and decided to swap the ant for a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. The change proved fortuitous, and a fat thirteen inch rainbow surged to the surface and crushed it at the tail of a gorgeous deep pool. This was my first fish of the day and likely the longest to find my net. I continued on my upstream path and landed four more trout on the beetle, although I sensed that some quality areas contained fish but did not produce. In an effort to increase my chances, I added a three foot dropper and knotted a size 20 beadhead RS2 to the extension. These two flies occupied my line for the next 2.5 hours, and they were very effective. I nudged the fish counter to twenty, and most of the fish between four and twenty snatched the beetle. However, between two o’clock and three o’clock the RS2 caught fire, and six trout nipped the small baetis nymph on the lift or as it tumbled behind the beetle. I nearly removed the trailing nymph, as it created moderate tangles on several occasions, when fish smacked the surface beetle. I was rewarded for persistence, as the fans of the RS2 were some of the larger brown trout landed during the day.

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Very Inviting Section

By 3PM the shadows extended over nearly the entire creek, and my hands were stinging from the evaporation and intermittent breeze. I was about to call it quits in order to initiate the exit hike, but then I spied three large mayflies. It was refreshing to see a mayfly that dwarfed the tiny blue winged olives that dominated my recent dry fly fishing, and I guessed that the bugs that tumbled across the surface were extremely lagging pale morning duns. They seemed to have a pink hue to their bodies, although they bounced along the surface in a haphazard manner making color determination a difficult chore.

I delayed my departure and decided to experiment with a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. Could I catch trout on November 2 on a pale morning dun imitation? PMD’s typically hatch from mid-June until mid-July in freestone streams in Colorado, although they are prevalent in tailwaters during August and September. I followed through on my plan and began casting the comparadun to all the likely pools. Positioning was now critical, as the sun was low in the western sky, and this created severe glare depending on the angle of my view. I moved to the right bank and adopted the practice of making across and downstream drifts, and the fish responded. I landed eight additional trout between 3PM and 4PM, and the South Boulder Creek residents smacked the comparadun with absolute confidence. I recall one or two refusals, but in most cases a fish shot through the water and inhaled the low riding dun on the first cast to a pool or pocket. Pale morning dun dry fly fishing was an enjoyable way to spend the last hour of my day on South Boulder Creek.

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Another Member of the Brown Trout Parade

Finally at 4PM the temperature dropped, and I reeled up my line and tucked the PMD into my rod guide. A twenty-eight fish day on November 2 was a satisfying accomplishment. My hands grew stiff and began to resemble fleshy claws, so I climbed the rocky bank and ambled pack to the parking lot. I was fortunate to escape a fender bender without damage or bodily injury, and I managed to post a fine day of fly fishing in November. Not bad.

Fish Landed: 28

South Boulder Creek – 10/19/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/19/2017 Photo Album

The weather on Thursday, October 19 was similar to Tuesday on South Boulder Creek, but that is where the similarities end. After a spectacular October outing on Tuesday, I could barely contain my desire to return immediately. Unfortunately on Wednesday I scheduled a minor surgical procedure in the morning, and that event precluded a day of fishing despite a continuing string of pleasant weather. The doctor cautioned me about running or doing activities that raised my blood pressure, but when I asked about walking, he approved. According to my thought process fishing is less strenuous than walking, so I planned another visit to South Boulder Creek.

I arrived at the Kayak parking lot at 9:45 and departed for the stream by 10AM. My Santa Fe was the sole vehicle occupying the lot, so I was assured of having the entire stream to myself for some period of time. The air temperature was 55 degrees, as I rigged my Orvis Access four weight, and I was convinced that the sun would provide enough warmth to allow fishing without an outer layer. Given the lack of competing anglers and in deference to my surgery, I did not hike as far as I did on Tuesday, and this enabled me to wade in the creek with a red hippy stomper on my line by 10:30AM.

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Narrow Stretch at Low Flows

According to the DWR stream flows, South Boulder Creek was trickling from Gross Dam at 9.33 CFS. I find it interesting that Denver Water carries out the flows to two decimal places, when the reading drops to single digits. By comparison the flows on Tuesday were 10.8 CFS. When I decided to make the trip to South Boulder Creek, I discounted the 1.5 CFS change, but now that I stood in the creek, it was apparent that the difference was significant. Fewer deep pools and runs existed for the trout to seek safety from overhead predators. On Tuesday I made long casts to relatively shallow slow moving pools, and as long as I was stealthy and delivered a soft presentation, I experienced some success. On Thursday shallow pools did not produce fish, and I rarely spooked trout, when I  waded through an area that I recently cast to. Most of the alarmed fish bolted from tight cover next to boulders.

The hippy stomper with a bright red body produced two refusals, so I defaulted to a size 10 Jake’s gulp beetle. The large visible beetle induced a couple looks, but the fish decided not to bite, so I switched to a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. Two small brown trout finally rested in my net, after they sipped the caddis along the edge of exposed boulders. I managed to land a small rainbow on the caddis, but then the sparse dry fly lost its allure. The sun rose higher in the southern sky, and this reduced the shadows to the left side of the stream. I decided that the conditions were now conducive to floating and tracking a black parachute ant. I restocked my fly box with five fresh parachute ant imitations before I left the house, so I extracted a size 18 with an orange poly wing post.

I began to shoot long casts to the top of a long wide smooth pool, but initially I was frustrated by two refusals. Finally I fluttered a cast to some slack water along some exposed boulders and a brown trout aggressively crushed the ant. Perhaps the ant would take center stage again similar to Tuesday. As much as I hoped this would be the case, I was forced to realize that ants and beetle were not on the menu on Thursday.

I found a cluster of large flat rocks next to a very attractive pool and paused to consume my small lunch. I was at a standstill at four small trout, and it was quite apparent that Thursday was a much different scenario compared to Tuesday. The lower water made the fish very skittish, and they favored more protected out of the way lies along exposed boulders and under deep frothy water. On Tuesday I simply tossed a black ant to all the obvious holding spots, and in most cases a fish responded. This approach was not productive on Thursday, and I was now mulling alternative tactics.

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Pretty Brown Trout Gets Me on the Scoreboard

After lunch I began to observe an increased number of small charcoal colored stoneflies. Initially I thought perhaps I could fool the fish with a soft hackle emerger, since it was the same color and comparable size. In order to support the small beadhead wet fly, I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and extended a two foot dropper with a soft hackle emerger from the bend. It was a nice theory, but the fish totally ignored both offerings. After thirty minutes of fruitless casting, I began to observe sporadic rises in a small deep pool. I could see two of the feeding trout, and they paid no attention to my flies, so I removed and replaced them with a size 18 olive-brown stonefly. I tied quite a few of these several years ago, when I encountered a similar small black stonefly hatch on South Boulder Creek.

The tiny earth toned fly was very difficult to follow in the riffles and glare, and the fish seemed to ignore it. The stoneflies were clearly the most prevalent aquatic insect, but I also spotted a few blue winged olives. Perhaps the stoneflies remained airborne and unavailable to the trout, while the blue winged olives were more accessible, as they made their emergence? I had nothing to lose, so I swapped the stonefly for a size 24 CDC BWO. On the second cast one of the visible brown trout darted a foot from its holding location to grab the CDC BWO. I was both shocked and pleased by this sudden turn of events. I moved on to another pool and duped a second brown trout with the CDC blue winged olive, but then the small mayfly lost its magic, and I grew weary of trying to track the minuscule tuft of CDC in difficult lighting conditions.

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Quality Pool

What next? I refused to eliminate the possibility that the trout were feeding on the small stoneflies. I decided to try a size sixteen olive-brown deer hair caddis again. These imitations were a bit large for the stoneflies, but they possessed the same profile and color scheme. The ploy kind of worked. As I approached attractive pools, I tossed the caddis upstream, and in many cases the hackled pattern provoked a refusal. This enabled me to pinpoint the location of the target trout, and I quickly switched the caddis for one of the size 18 stoneflies with a charcoal sculpin wool wing and and olive-brown body. In three instances this bait and switch pattern yielded a brown trout. Clearly this was not the mindless exercise of Tuesday, but I found a way to elevate the fish count toward double digits.

I was now perched on nine fish, and the refusal generating adult caddis was on the end of my line. It was after three o’clock, and nearly the entire creek was covered with shadows. The trout of South Boulder Creek tossed me another curve, but this time it was fortuitous. Apparently the waning light provoked adult caddis activity, because the heretofore refused caddis suddenly became a popular food source. Over the last hour I ratcheted the fish count from nine to sixteen as brown trout suddenly relished the hair wing caddis. I covered a lot of stream and fired the caddis to all the likely trout havens, and the catch rate accelerated appreciably. Hot spots were deep runs that bordered large boulders.

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One of the Better Fish of the Day

As I mentioned at the outset, Thursday was a very different day from Tuesday in spite of the similar weather. The flows were 1.5 CFS lower, and initially I discounted this as insignificant, but it was not. I fished a different section of the stream, and I suspect this was also a factor that caused more challenging fishing conditions. Despite the demanding conditions I managed to land sixteen fish. Trying to solve the riddle was all absorbing and in many ways more therapeutic than the easy ant tossing that I enjoyed earlier in the week. I developed numerous theories on what might fool the wary inhabitants of the small tailwater, and eventually I experienced some level of success. In all likelihood I will not return to South Boulder Creek until the water managers elevate the flows.

Fish Landed: 16

 

South Boulder Creek – 10/17/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/17/2017 Photo Album

How many superlatives can I heap on South Boulder Creek? Quite a few apparently. Tuesday developed into another perfect fall day in the Colorado Rockies, and I took advantage of the mild autumn weather with another fishing trip to South Boulder Creek. In retrospect it was a no-brainer, but when I scanned the streamflows and noted that the tailwater below Gross Reservoir was running at 10.8 CFS, I had second thoughts. I fished the small stream northwest of Golden on September 19 at 15 CFS and again on September 21 at 13 CFS with positive results, but for some reason 10.8 CFS struck me as chancy. I finally decided to give it a try. In a worst case it would be an enjoyable hike on a pleasant fall day, and that was not a bad outcome.

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Near the Start

I arrived at the Kayak parking lot at 10AM on Tuesday morning, and I joined two vehicles that preceded me. While I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight another fisherman arrived and parked next to the trailhead. The occupants of one car were absent, and I concluded they were already on the stream. The gentlemen next to me were in the process of getting ready, and they descended the path five minutes ahead of me. I began my hike at 10:15, and I encountered a man and woman in the first section, after I reached the stream, and they completed my accounting for all the occupants of the cars in the Kayak lot.

I hiked for a decent distance, and by the time I tied a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and made my first cast, it was close to 11AM. In a brief amount of time I landed three small brown trout on the beetle, but the number of refusals exceeded takes, and as I approached a gorgeous smooth pool, I paused to ponder my options. The wide smooth area was mostly in sunlight, and a second slow moving section was visible just upstream. I concluded that this stream sequence was perfect for an ant, and visibility would not be an issue, so I removed the beetle and attached a size 18 black parachute ant. It was a fortunate choice.

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South Boulder Creek Beauty

Before I paused for lunch, I landed five additional trout, and their size exceeded the three small brown trout that slurped the beetle earlier. These trout surged to the surface and sipped the ant confidently despite the challenging slow clear conditions. I adopted the appropriate amount of caution and launched long casts to the pool, and I checked the rod tip high, thus enabling the ant to flutter down to the light current for a soft landing. The setting, the unseasonable warmth, and the unexpected success elevated my state of mind to euphoria, as I sat on an unblemished sand beach and munched my sandwich, carrots and yogurt.

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Back to Jake's Gulp Beelte

After my last sip of water I returned to the tumbling creek next to me. I continued with the ant for a bit, but then the character of the stream shifted to shorter pockets and deep runs. The ant was difficult to follow, and I decided to give Jake’s gulp beetle a second chance. The foam beetle was a mainstay in my arsenal over September and October, and I was reluctant to abandon it. With the size 12 beetle on my 5X tippet I shifted into prospecting mode, and I plopped the beetle in all the likely locales, and I was rewarded with five additional trout. My depth of experience with prospecting pocket water, however, told me that the beetle was not the best option on October 17. In addition to frequent refusals, I endured quite a few split second hook ups, and this suggested that the trout were very tentative about the fake terrestrial.

The parachute ant on the other hand generated bold strikes, and many takes yielded large bulges, as the trout lunged at an apparently preferred food source. It was early afternoon, and the sun was at its peak thus reducing the shadows to the extreme left portion of the stream. I concluded that I could track the size 18 ant in the sunlight, and I once again tied the black parachute ant with an orange poly wing post to my line. Between one o’clock and three o’clock my line featured several ants, and the fish count surged to thirty-five. I used the plural of ant because the hackle on the first one unraveled due to frequent attacks, and the second one with a bright green wing post was hard to follow, so I replaced it with a pink winged version. The latter remained intact although the rear hump began to loosen and slide down around the bend of the hook. Needless to say the two hours between 1PM and 3PM were extremely enjoyable with non-stop intense action throughout.

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So Colorful

Throughout my time on South Boulder Creek I observed an occasional little black stonefly, as they fluttered over the river and dipped sporadically to the surface. Several years ago in late October, I encountered a denser hatch of little black stoneflies, and this prompted me to tie a small supply of size 18 imitations. They displayed an olive-brown body, a small clump of sculpin wool for a wing, and a couple wraps of dark dun hackle for legs. I decided to give these a test given the presence of small stoneflies in the environment. The choice was a winner, as an eleven inch brown trout and a twelve inch rainbow smacked the little stonefly to boost the fish count to thirty-seven. I was quite pleased to identify a natural insect and then successfully offer one of my own creations to fool wild trout.

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I Cannot Contain My Glee Upon Seeing This Run

The shadows were lengthening as the sun began to sink behind the ridge to the south, and the small earth toned stonefly was very difficult to track in the dim light. I approached a nice deep pool, and suddenly a flurry of larger mayflies made an appearance. Flurry is probably a stretch, as I spotted only two or three, but my observation coincided with a couple rises. I was certain that the stream residents had a residual appetite for size sixteen pale morning duns, so I plucked a size 16 cinnamon comparadun from my fly box and knotted it to my line. Bingo! A size 10 brown trout attacked the slender mayfly imitation from a shelf pool below a large exposed boulder, and then I backhanded a cast into a narrow but deep gap between two large rectangular shaped rocks. My cast was more of an effort to tuck the fly in a holding position while I moved, but before I could plant my wading staff, an aggressive brown trout slashed the comparadun. What a surprise and thrill! The deeply colored brown measured in excess of thirteen inches and represented the largest brown of the day. I pinched myself to make sure that I was not dreaming.

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Best Brown of the Day Smacked a PMD

I was perched at thirty-nine trout, and for some ridiculous reason, I felt compelled to make it an even forty. I moved through a couple nice pools with no action, and I began to doubt the effectiveness of the comparadun. The air temperature dropped a bit, and the shadows lengthened, and a size 16 natural caddis perched on my shirt sleeve. I pinched it with my thumb and fingers and tilted it to look at the underside. My inspection revealed a dark gray and olive body, so I responded to this windfall knowledge by knotting a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis to my line. Voila!

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Zoomed a Bit Closer

An upstream flutter cast in the next pool duped a nine inch brown trout, and a forty fish day was in the books. It was four o’clock as I exhaled and allowed the small brown trout to slip into the pool, so I waded to the bank and climbed the jumble of large boulders to the quasi-path above the creek. I vowed to hike directly to the car, however, my best intentions were derailed, when I passed exceptionally attractive pools on my return journey. By the time I reached the pedestrian bridge, the fish count crept to forty-six, and each of the bonus trout over forty succumbed to the olive-brown deer hair caddis.

What else can I say? A forty plus fish day in the peak of the season is grounds for rejoicing, but to accomplish the feat in the middle of October when insect activity is diminished and trout metabolism is reduced due to colder temperatures or spawning desires, is cause for celebration. Lacking a companion to high five, I sipped a Red Bull and crunched a couple of servings of Utz’s Sourdough Specials on my return drive. Needless to say, I am already plotting a return to South Boulder Creek before the weather returns to normal for October. Concerns about 10.8 CFS were greatly exaggerated.

Fish Landed: 46

South Boulder Creek – 09/21/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/21/2017 Photo Album

I aborted my camping and fishing trip to the Bear River area on Wednesday after four frustrating hours resulted in eight small trout landed. I returned home on Wednesday evening and unpacked all my unused camping gear. I did not, however, unpack my fishing gear, since I now gained a day that could be utilized on a local stream. It did not take much thought to decide to return to South Boulder Creek, the scene of a fabulous day of fishing on Tuesday. The only hindrance to my return was the possibility of an unexpected change in flows from the dam, but when I displayed the DWR web site, 13 CFS appeared behind South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. This was 2 CFS lower than Tuesday, and I concluded that the stream fishing conditions would be comparable.

The high temperature in Denver for Thursday was projected to reach 87 degrees, and based on this projection I estimated that the air temperature would peak in the canyon in the upper seventies. This was also comparable to the weather during my visit on Tuesday. After I unloaded the camping gear from the car, I reorganized my fishing equipment, and I departed the house a bit after 8AM. After a stop to refuel I was on the road by 8:30, and despite some rush hour traffic snarls, I pulled into the upper parking lot by 9:45. I was the first car in the parking area, so I anxiously pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access rod and began my descent of the steep path to the stream by 10:06. The temperature was in the low sixties, and it was obvious that the first day of autumn was going to be gorgeous.

As usual I hiked a good distance downstream, before I cut to the water. I was so confident that Jake’s gulp beetle would be the preferred fly of the resident trout, that I knotted a size 12 to my line in the parking lot. I unhooked it from the rod guide and anxiously lobbed a couple casts to some small marginal pockets, and a pair of refusals signaled that Thursday might be more challenging than Tuesday. After ten minutes of optimistic casting with no results, I paused and evaluated my options. A spectacular wide smooth pool was located just above my position, and I was certain that it contained several trout. I decided to swap the beetle for another terrestrial, a size 18 black parachute ant. The tiny fly would be visible in the smooth water, and I could flutter it down with a delicate cast.

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This Parachute Ant Duped the First Four Trout

Before launching a cast to the upstream pool, however, I decided to make a few casts to a nice wide pool and run directly across from me. My third lob fluttered the ant down within a couple feet of the bank, and after it moved a short distance, the bulge of a gulp appeared. I lifted the rod tip and set the hook, and the recipient of the prick streaked upstream and then down. I allowed line to zing from my reel, as the energetic ant sipper registered a few more spurts, and then I gained the upper hand and lifted a spectacular thirteen inch rainbow trout into my net. What a start to my day on South Boulder Creek!

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First Trout on the Day Was This Beauty

After I snapped a few photos, I turned my attention to the beckoning pool above me. I surveyed the water and spotted a decent trout fining in the current twenty-five feet upstream. I stripped out a large amount of line and executed some false casts to the right, so I would not spook my target with overhead line movement. When I felt I had the correct distance, I shot a cast and checked my rod high, so that the ant fluttered to the surface softly five feet above the sighted fish. I held my breath as the ant slowly drifted three inches to the left of the fish, and then the trout turned and elevated and sipped the terrestrial. It was a text book case of sight fishing and casting accuracy, and I was rewarded with a feisty wild eleven inch brown trout.

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I Spotted a Fish in This Pool

I continued my upstream movement and landed two more brown trout on the ant, but then I approached some faster water and deep pockets, and the ant was increasingly difficult to track in the swirling currents. I decided to revert to Jake’s gulp beetle, and the change paid off in a big way. Over the remainder of the first hour I landed five additional trout on the size 12 beetle to move the count to nine, before I paused on a small gravel beach to eat my lunch. Lunch was actually a highlight of the day. The strong sunlight bathed the area in warmth, and I gazed upstream and marveled at the beauty around me. South Boulder Creek tumbled over large boulders, and the small lower level deciduous trees and bushes displayed yellow and faded green colors. Higher up sparse stands of evergreens adorned the arid and rocky canyon walls. I soaked up the sun and took some deep breaths and reveled in my good fortune to be alive in this beautiful place.

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Salivating Over This Upcoming Pool

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Better View of the Beetle

After lunch I continued prospecting with Jake’s gulp beetle and built the fish count to twenty-four. At one point during this run, I endured a spate of refusals to the beetle, so I once again knotted the parachute ant to my line, and the move resulted in a couple landed fish. As was the case earlier, however, the characteristics of the stream changed to faster pocket water, and I returned to the beetle. In summary during the morning and early afternoon I landed six trout on a parachute ant and eighteen on the beetle.

By 1:30 I was curious whether a green drake would interest the stream dwellers. It accounted for quite a few fish on Tuesday, so why not experiment with it again on Thursday? The beetle was exchanged for a size 14 ribbed green drake comparadun. Unlike Tuesday, however, the trout did not charge to the surface to inhale my green drake imitation. I did land three fish, but far more fish elevated and inspected the large western green drake and then returned to their holding position. Either I educated the trout on Tuesday, or the green drake hatch was finally fading from their memories.

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Resting in My Net

Once I determined that the green drake was not going to perform to the high standards set on my previous visit, I swapped it for a size 16 light gray comparadun. I observed some smaller mayflies in the air, and clearly the fish were looking up for their meals. Most of the naturals were tiny blue winged olives, but I also spotted some larger mayflies in the mix. My hunch was spot on, and twelve South Boulder Creek residents grabbed the comparadun to raise the fish count to thirty-nine. The comparadun was much more difficult to follow than the huge green drake and the beetle with a bright orange indicator strip, but the trout seemed to recognize it rather easily. I positioned myself for each target area to take advantage of the best light, and this aided my ability to track the fly. I actually cycled through several pale morning comparaduns during this period, as the wear and tear of catching and releasing fish destroyed several models.

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Nice Length

Between 3:30 and 4:00 I encountered a series of very deep pockets among very large exposed boulders. Suddenly a smorgasbord of insects appeared including blue winged olives, caddis, tiny yellow and gray stoneflies, and a solitary green drake. The green drake was the only cue I needed, and I knotted the same size 14 comparadun to my line, that I featured earlier. Once again the change was a winner, and I landed three additional trout from the edges of the small deep pockets to finish the day at forty-two.

It was another amazing day on South Boulder Creek. The weather was perfect, and the low flows concentrated the fish in the reduced volume of water. I fished dry flies all day, and achieved success with a variety of offerings. Of course most of the fish were in the typical 7-11 inch range, however, I also netted quite a few chunky twelve and thirteen inch beauties. Only four of the total were rainbows, but two of these were my best fish of the day, as they measured close to fourteen inches. I estimate that at least ten of my catch were husky twelve inch brown trout, and that represents a very nice size for South Boulder Creek.

Fish Landed: 42

South Boulder Creek – 09/19/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/19/2017 Photo Album

I view South Boulder Creek as my home stream, and after days like today, it is also becoming my favorite. A tough day on Clear Creek on Monday delivered a major blow to my confidence, and I departed for South Boulder Creek knowing that flows were recently reduced to 15 CFS. I was not sure what to expect. Low flows often translate to wary skittish fish, stealthy approaches and long casts.

I arrived at the upper “kayak” parking lot by 9:45, and by the time I climbed into my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod and began my descent, it was a bit after 10AM. The weather was spectacular, as the temperature hovered in the low sixties when I began my hike. Very few clouds interfered with the warm solar energy generated by the sun, and I suspect the high temperature climbed to the upper seventies during the afternoon. I was very comfortable during my day on the creek with a long sleeved fishing shirt.

Two other vehicles preceded me to the parking lot, so I hiked a good distance downstream, before I began my pursuit of cold water fish. As I strode along the path, I pondered what flies to try and quickly narrowed my options to a beetle, ant, small caddis, pale morning dun and green drake. I was skeptical that green drakes were still present, but my experience told me that trout have long memories, when it comes to western green drakes.

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Picturesque South Boulder Creek

When I finally waded into the river, I led with a Jake’s gulp beetle, however, the fish in the first hour were blind to the size 12 plopping terrestrial. I segued to a size 18 caddis, and it generated a couple looks, but the fish could not pull the trigger and eat it. I looked in one of my fly boxes and noticed an assortment of terrestrials that I purchased in Viroqua, WI; and I decided to try a hippy stomper. This oddly named fly had a silver body, and it was constructed from foam, but it was not as large as the Jake’s gulp beetle that I tested earlier. Voila! The hippy stomper lit up the fish catch scoreboard, as I landed four brown trout in the ten to twelve inch range in a short amount of time.

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This Hippy Stomper Surprised Me with Its Effectiveness Early

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Chunky Brown Trout

Just as I gained confidence in my new offering, it ceased to attract trout, so after a lull I exchanged it for a narrow beetle imitation with a hard shiny metallic body. I was skeptical that this fly would float, but I gave it a try anyway, and on the fifth drift as I lifted to make another cast, a small brown trout latched on to the disco ant. That is my name, since I do not know the official name of the fly. I made a few more casts after I released the brown, but I quickly lost confidence in a fly, that I could not see, so I went back to the Driftless terrestrial collection and knotted a small size sixteen foam beetle with a peacock body to my line.

The small beetle was also difficult to follow, but the fish seemed to see it just fine, and I landed three more brown trout to boost the fish counter to eight. At this point I reached an area with several nice flat rocks, and it was approaching noon, so I chose to make the spot my cafeteria. My attitude performed a one hundred and eighty degree reversal from Monday, when I pouted over a potential skunking, as I downed my sandwich.

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Wide Body

After lunch I continued my upstream migration, but again I lost confidence in the miniature beetle, since I was unable to track it in shadows and glare. I was certain that the fish were opportunistically feeding on random terrestrials, so I decided to give Jake’s gulp beetle another try. Perhaps the water temperature was not yet in the ideal range for eating when I began at eleven o’clock. I surveyed my fly box and plucked a size 12 beetle from its slot and attached it to my line. This beetle had a peacock dubbed body, and it was one size smaller than the earlier version.

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Places Like This Produced

My hunch was spot on, and Jake’s gulp beetle became a popular fake source of protein for the South Boulder Creek trout. I plopped it in every likely nook large or small, and I was amazed that fish materialized from small nondescript pockets on a frequent basis. The best places were wide riffles of moderate depth, but small pockets and deep runs between large rocks also produced. The fish count skied from eight to twenty-four on the back of Jake’s gulp beetle, and I was in a state of euphoria. How could two days of fishing be so different? The size 12 beetle lost one set of legs, but the fish did not seem to discriminate against a two legged beetle, and in fact seemed to prefer it. A natural beetle possesses six legs, so even the original version was not biologically accurate.

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Gentle Re-entry

When the fish count paused at twenty-four, I spotted a couple large mayflies, as they slowly fluttered up from the stream. Could they be green drakes? In addition to the large drakes, there was a flurry of blue winged olives and a smattering of pale morning duns. I decided to go big, and I tied a size 14 2XL green drake comparadun with a maroon ribbed body to my line. The reaction from the South Boulder Creek trout was gratifying. Fish moved several feet to savor my fake green drake, and they inhaled it with confidence. I observed one brown trout, as it looked at the fly, decided to pass it up, and then reversed its decision and raced downstream for four feet and snatched the fraud just before it skated over the lip of the pool. I love the feeling of confidence that arises from selecting a fly that fish crush repeatedly without hesitation.

Needless to say I was on to something, and the fish counter rocketed from twenty-four to forty, while the green drake comparaduns occupied a place on the end of my leader. I used the plural of comparadun, because I snapped two off in the mouths of fish during this exciting period. By 2:45 I encountered a gorgeous wide smooth pool, and I was certain that quite a few trout inhabited the neighborhood. Unfortunately they were not fans of the comparadun, yet several fish revealed their whereabouts with subtle rises. I observed smaller mayflies in the air, so I removed the drake and replaced it with a size sixteen light gray comparadun. This fly is my favorite pale morning dun imitation.

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A Rare Rainbow on Tuesday

The small comparadun required more focus to follow in the riffles, but I added three browns to the count that were fooled by the money fly. After this bit of success, however, a longer than normal lull developed, and I grew impatient with the pale morning dun imitation and switched back to a Jake’s gulp beetle. The beetle was not the hot commodity that enticed fish earlier in the afternoon, but it did account for two more brown trout to ratchet the count to forty-five. During the third beetle period, quite a few small blue winged olives made an appearance, so I added a RS2 on a dropper, but the trailing nymph never connected with a trout.

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These Brown Trout Match the Stream Bottom

As the sun angled toward the western horizon, the shadows extended over much of the stream, and I decided to end my quest for South Boulder Creek residents. On my return hike I approached a quality pool and noticed a rise, so I paused and attempted to dupe yet another fish. I removed the beetle and RS2 and knotted the light gray comparadun to my line, and on my third cast a spunky rainbow trout slurped the PMD imitation. Again I found the trail and continued, until I reached the pedestrian bridge.

Before crossing the bridge, I gazed at the downstream pool, and I was quickly captivated by a thirteen inch fish, as it held a foot below the surface in a small depression near the bottom of the pool. I scrambled down some rocks to make a few final casts to the target, but then I saw another fisherman directly under the bridge. I quickly apologized, but he invited me to make some casts, as he said he was about to leave. After exchanging information about our days on the stream, I backhanded a cast to the middle of the pool, and a small seven inch rainbow darted to the surface and consumed the PMD. I continued with some additional casts to other positions in the pool, but the sighted fish ignored my offering.

I learned that my new companion’s name was Channing, and after I showed him the beetle that produced earlier, he tied one to his line and drifted it through the gut of the pool, but the selective bridge pool dwellers were not interested. I spotted a small black stonefly and commented on it to Channing, and he replied that they were all over the place. I opened my fly box and pulled out a size 18 black stonefly, that I tied for October and November and offered it to him. He accepted, and as I looked on, he made some drifts with the small stonefly, but it was not popular on Tuesday, September 19. I said goodbye and completed the remainder of my hike to the parking lot.

Tuesday was probably my best ever day on South Boulder Creek. The fish were hungry and responded to my fly choices throughout the day. The lingering effectiveness of green drakes on the small local tailwater was a nice discovery.

Fish Landed: 47

 

 

South Boulder Creek – 08/14/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Dam.

South Boulder Creek 08/14/2017 Photo Album

Monday was the last day available for local fishing, before Jane and I depart on a trip to Canada. On Sunday we hiked the Peak to Plains Trail in Clear Creek Canyon, and I viewed this as a scouting mission. It was obvious that Clear Creek continued to run above the ideal range at 150 CFS, but I noted numerous nice pockets and slower moving pools along the edge that offered viable targets for my flies. As I drifted off to sleep on Sunday night, I was fairly certain that I would give Clear Creek a try on Monday.

The drive to Clear Creek from my house in Denver is a mere 45 minutes, so I completed my normal morning exercise routine. Part way through the morning I took a break and checked the DWR stream flow web site, and I noticed that Clear Creek was in the 140 CFS range and declining. I was curious to see how Denver Water was managing South Boulder Creek, so I scrolled up to that tailwater, and I was pleased to note that South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir was down to 144 CFS. This new information prodded me to reconsider my destination choice. I knew from Friday’s experience that green drakes were emerging on South Boulder Creek, and flows were now 20 CFS lower than the level that I endured on Friday. I surmised that green drakes would be absent by the time I returned from Alberta, so I modified my plan and targeted South Boulder Creek for Monday, August 14. Clear Creek could wait until late August.

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Lots of Options Here

I packed the Santa Fe and departed by 11AM, and this allowed me to arrive at the upper parking lot by noon. In order to avoid packing my lunch into the canyon, I devoured my sandwich, carrots and yogurt in the parking lot; and then I gathered my gear and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. Seven other vehicles were present in addition to mine, so I knew there would be some company on the stream. The air temperature was quite warm, as the dashboard thermometer registered in the low eighties.

Since I started late, I decided to shorten my hike, but I did cross the stream at the pedestrian bridge. Tools and supplies were present at the bridge, but workers were absent and probably on their lunch break. I continued along the Walker Loop trail for a decent distance, and then I found a relatively easy path down to the creek. I chose South Boulder Creek because of the possibility of fishing to a green drake hatch, so I tied a size 14 2XL parachute green drake to my line and began to spray searching casts to the likely trout holding habitat.

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Impressionistic Parachute Green Drake

The first four trout interactions were refusals, but these fish appeared to be tiny, so I persisted with the parachute. After the dose of rejection, I hooked and landed two decent brown trout, and this affirmed the parachute green drake selection. Over the next 1.5 hours I built the fish count to six, as the parachute style green drake attracted enough attention to retain its position on my line. I estimate that I observed three refusals or temporary connections for each fish that landed in my net, but I suspected that the fish that ate the fly were larger than those that rejected it. In many cases I could see the side of very small fish, as they flashed toward the surface and then turned away.

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Nice Start

At approximately 2:30 I reacted to one of the aforementioned flashes and executed an overzealous hook set. Unfortunately the trout never grabbed the fly, and it catapulted towad a tree branch behind me. I attempted to avoid the snag and quickly thrust my arm forward, but it was too late, and I snapped the parachute green drake off in the tree branch. In a futile effort to recover my fly, I bent down the small branches and inspected the leaves, and I found some flies lost by other fishermen, but I could not locate the coveted green drake. I declared it a write off and used the break off as an excuse to test a different green drake.

The parachute fly was very waterlogged and difficult to follow in the dim light that resulted from the heavy cloud cover and intermittent rain. I decided to try one of the ribbed size 14 comparaduns, as it possessed a large full upright deer hair wing. The choice was sound, and I increased the fish count to from six to fourteen with the comparadun on the end of my leader. During this late afternoon period rainbow trout became the predominant species. I am not sure if this was attributable to the different style of fly, the type of water, or the time of day. The afternoon section of South Boulder Creek was characterized by faster water, and rainbow trout generally tolerate more current than brown trout.

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Glistening Brown Trout

The first four landed fish after the fly change emerged from the stretch below the bridge, and the last four lived in the stream above the bridge. On my return hike I stopped at a nice series of pockets just above the pedestrian crossing, and I fooled a brown and rainbow in that area. Interestingly the final two fish came from some pockets in the wide relatively shallow area, that I normally use simply as a stream crossing point.

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A Very Defined Pink Stripe

I was pleased with my decision to revisit South Boulder Creek, as I landed fourteen fish in three hours. Although it was quite warm during my hike down to the stream, storm clouds quickly moved in, and the mostly cloudy skies kept the air temperature quite cool for most of my time on the water. I never saw a green drake, but it was obvious that the local stream residents recognized my imitations. I suspect that the cool overcast conditions did not create an environment conducive to  a green drake emergence, but the cause was irrelevant, because the trout ate my imitations. I endured a significant number of refusals and a few temporary hook ups, and the glare and low light made following the dark olive fly a challenge at times; but the action was steady, and the size of the fish was typical for South Boulder Creek.

Landed Fish: 14

South Boulder Creek – 08/11/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/11/2017 Photo Album

After a stellar day on Tuesday on South Boulder Creek, I was eager to visit the small tailwater again, and Friday, August 11 was that day. I was convinced that I fished South Boulder Creek on Tuesday amid flows of 144 CFS; however, when I reviewed the DWR website prior to making the trip on Friday, I checked the graph and discovered that the water managers reduced the output on Tuesday morning to 90 CFS. No wonder the conditions seemed so ideal! Unfortunately the graph also revealed that Denver Water was performing its usual yoyo stream management, as the level dropped to 50 CFS from 90 CFS, and then on Friday morning the valves were opened again to 164 CFS. The reading actually displayed 126 at 8AM on Friday morning, but the graph was spiking, and I suspected that it was on an upward trajectory. When I returned home after fishing, I determined the actual outflow.

Tuesday was a spectacular day, and I did not expect to replicate it. I landed nearly forty fish, and all except the first two devoured a dry fly, and large size 14 green drakes were the food of choice. That type of good fortune is rare, and given the increase in flows, I ratcheted down my expectations. Would I be able to wade and cross the creek, or would I be locked into one side? Did the frequent adjustments to flows impact the feeding routines of the resident trout? What impact did the change in flows have on the insect hatches, and most importantly would green drakes attract the attention of the South Boulder Creek trout? All these questions bounced through my brain, as I drove to the upper parking lot on Friday morning.

When I arrived at the parking area, I noted that five vehicles preceded me. Two anglers quickly appeared at the top of the trailhead, and they quickly stashed their gear in two separate cars, and their departure reduced the competitive population of fishermen to three cars. I quickly assembled my Loomis five weight, as I enjoy using it to cast large dry flies, and it also gave me an excuse to utilize my new disc drag reel. The air temperature was in the upper fifties, and the sky was partly cloudy with some large puffy gray clouds building in the southwest. I quickly descended the steep path to the stream, and I crossed below the small island just below my convergence with the creek. The water was indeed running high, but the wide riffle section was manageable for a stream crossing.

My next concern was the repair work on the pedestrian bridge, but apparently work was not scheduled for Friday, and I crossed without any delay. I passed one solo fisherman in the long deep pool that is perpetually occupied, and a second fisherman in wet wading attire appeared from below the bridge. This accounted for two of the three remaining cars in the parking lot. The gentleman by the bridge hiked ahead of me, and he disappeared after we turned right off the Walker Loop on to the fisherman path. A family was gathered by the single picnic table just before the fisherman path turn off, and I was fairly certain they were the occupants of the final car in the parking lot.

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High Flows Made Me Search for This Type of Water

I now had the remainder of the stream to myself, so I hiked a fair distance below the fellow who emerged from below the bridge, and then I cut down to the stream. The high flows dictated that I could only fish on the north side of the stream, and they forced me to focus on the protected pockets and shelf pools where the water velocity was favorable for the local trout. By the time I initiated my first cast it was approaching 11AM, so I decided to go directly to a green drake imitation. I tied a parachute green drake to my line and began to prospect the shelf pools and edges. Some downstream casts to a nice pocket next to a vertical rock wall failed to yield any action, so I pivoted and launched some casts to a gorgeous deep shelf pool just upstream from my starting point. Success. A small brown trout darted to the surface and chomped on the parachute green drake. This was an auspicious sign, but I was not convinced it would be easy.

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My Starting Fly After Being Rescued from a Bush

Within minutes I discovered that various obstacles would test my patience on Friday. In order to angle a cast to the current seam along the shelf pool, I initiated a high backcast, and I was shocked to discover that I hooked a scraggly bush growing from the huge vertical rock wall behind me. I only packed four size 14 parachute green drakes, so I was very reluctant to lose one this early in the game. I waded in both directions to ascertain whether I could do some amateur rock climbing, but I wisely concluded that a fly was not worth the undue risk associated with this plan. Only one option remained, and that was to tug directly on my line. I grabbed the tapered leader so that I would not put excessive stress on my rod tip, and I pulled directly toward the stream. Sometimes miracles do happen, and the line released and caught on branches twice, before it recoiled in my direction. I stripped up the line assuming that my valuable green drake was absent, but much to my surprise it was still attached! Unfortunately the force of tugging it free somehow stressed the parachute hackle, and it climbed up the wing post. I pressed it back against the base by pinching my fingers around it, but I could see that the thread wraps were unraveling, and it was just a matter of time until the fly joined my handicapped fly pile.

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Light Gray Caddis in Corner of the Mouth

I finally advanced upstream and quickly determined that the green drake was not a morning favorite, so I tested a medium olive size 12 stimulator. The heavily hackled dry fly enabled me to add another small brown trout to my tally, but then it attracted attention in the form of refusals. After the fourth snub, I swapped it for a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis, and the fish that rebuffed the stimulator fell for the caddis. I persisted with the diminutive deer hair dry for a decent amount of time, and it allowed me to move the fish count to five, before I encountered one of my favorite pools on the river. I knew from prior visits that quite a few trout called this location home, so when I gained no action with the caddis, I removed it and reverted to the parachute green drake. The change worked, and I landed a small brown, but as expected the hackle unraveled, and I replaced it with another size 14 parachute. This fly generated several refusals, so I cycled through a comparadun style with no rib and a Harrop hair wing version. All were rejected by the pool dwellers.

Several large boulders bordered the quality pool, so I elected to rest the water and make this my lunch spot. After lunch I spotted a couple natural green drakes, and this reinforced my commitment to green drake dry fly fishing. The naturals from a distance seemed larger than the parachute and comparadun imitations that got refused, so I examined my box and extracted a nice comparadun with maroon ribbing. The deer hair wing on this fly was quite large, and I speculated that the high wing might be a major triggering characteristic. It worked, sort of. I landed a few fish, but then several rejections dampened my spirits.

It was about this time that a fisherman who had been thirty yards above me walked by along the path. We exchanged greetings, and since I noticed he was casting downstream, I asked if he was fishing with wet flies. He replied negative and showed me a green drake cripple that he was drifting over fish. He said he hooked one, but invited me to fish the spot he just vacated, since he observed quite a few fish there. This gentleman also told me that the flows were increased to 166 CFS.

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Proud of This One

I moved upstream at a moderate pace and continued prospecting with the ribbed comparadun, and this fly allowed me to net a few more fish. Unfortunately I never found a fly that totally eliminated the refusals and temporary hook ups. At some point I switched from the ribbed comparadun to a different size 14 parachute. The first parachute seemed undersized to me, and the second one possessed a fatter body and a longer bundle of moose mane hair for a tail. The fly actually tilted forward a bit due to the large tail, but it was more productive than its predecessors. The fish count climbed to twelve on the performance of the second parachute, but then it grew waterlogged, and my frustration with frequent drying caused me to make yet another change. This time I dug out a different ribbed comparadun with a high full wing and a slender body.

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Helicopter View

The ribbed comparadun became my last fly choice, and it boosted the fish count to twenty. It was not perfect, as I witnessed a huge number of refusals and hook ups that lasted only a fraction of a second, but it performed better than any of the other flies that spent time on my line. The sun finally gained dominance, and the added warmth seemed to prompt more green drake hatching activity, although the emergence was very sporadic at best. My best success coincided with the time period when I spotted the most naturals. It also seemed that the rainbow trout were far less discriminating than brown trout, as brown trout exhibited a much more wary behavior with a preponderance of last minute twists and turns to avoid my tempting fly.

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Scarlet Is Best Description

Friday was not Tuesday by any means, but a twenty fish day at high flows was certainly satisfactory. I cycled through an array of flies, and I settled on a parachute and comparadun that delivered a level of success. Persistence was the name of the game, and again I was thankful for my fly tying capability, since this allowed me to stock a variety of green drake styles. I tested nearly every variation, and two produced most of my success.

Fish Landed: 20