Category Archives: S. Boulder Creek

South Boulder Creek – 06/30/2020

Time: 3:00PM – 4:15PM

Location: South Boulder Road to Boulder Turnpike

South Boulder Creek 06/30/2020 Photo Album

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

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

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

High but Clear

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

Gorgeous Run Failed to Produce

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

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

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

Fish Landed: 0

South Boulder Creek – 04/06/2020

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 04/06/2020 Photo Album

I experienced my best day of 2020 on South Boulder Creek on Wednesday, April 1; and with the return of gorgeous spring weather to Colorado, I was itching for a return engagement. For the notoriously variable South Boulder Creek I first checked the flows, and they remained at a very desirable 19 CFS. The weather for nearby Pinecliffe, CO suggested high temperatures in the upper fifties, and with this encouraging information I made the drive to the kayak parking lot high above the creek but downstream from Gross Reservoir.

Loving the Pools Ahead

When I arrived, only one other car populated the lot, and a father and two young sons departed for the trail, as I prepared. I wrapped my North Face light down jacket around my waist under my waders, in case the forecast erred on the low side, and I assembled my Orvis Access four weight. On my previous visit on April 1, 2020 I spent nearly my entire day on one pool and fished to a lengthy hatch. Would Monday April 6 unfold in a similar manner?

Representative Brown Trout

I hiked down the trail for a decent distance to gain separation from the parking lot, and then I approached the stream. The flows were indeed up slightly from April 1, but the clear low conditions continued to dictate a slow cautious approach. The low clear conditions suggested, that I should avoid large and heavy flies that disturbed the water excessively, so I opted for a size 12 hippie stomper with a peacock body. I began prospecting the small attractor to likely trout lies, and after ten minutes with no action, a small brown trout crushed the foam attractor near the tail of a pocket. I continued, but a couple refusals convinced me that the hippie stomper was not the winner that I was searching for, so I added a beadhead hares ear and a super nova baetis as droppers. Another small brown reacted to the hares ear to bring the fish count to two, but once again I covered some very attractive sections with no response.

I found a nice rocky beach by noon and paused to eat my lunch and collect my thoughts. Other than the one small brown trout the nymphs were mainly ignored, but the hippie stomper continued to generate refusals. Refusals frustrate me, but they are a sign that the trout are looking toward the surface for their meals, so I decided to down size to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle, and I retained the hares ear and super nova as droppers. The beetle performed in a manner similar to the hippie stomper, as trout rose to inspect but then slowly settled back to their holding positions. One aggressive eater smacked the beetle to bring the fish count to three, and subsequently a brown trout grabbed the hares ear, as it swept along some bank side boulders.

I arrived at a fish count of four, but I was not pleased with the results in spite of the reasonable catch rate. I was convinced that I was bypassing decent fish in areas that historically produced multiple eaters. Sticking with the surface feeding assumption I began to cycle through some alternative dry flies. I tried one of the new desperate caddis, that I recently tied, but it was mostly ignored. How about an ant? I reattached the beetle and then extended some tippet from the bend and added a size 18 black parachute ant, and I fished the double dries through several very attractive pools with only a few splashy refusals to the beetle to show for my creativity. After an hour and a half of fishing through normally very productive water, I was locked on four trout, and I was beginning to dread a disappointing day in spite of the spectacular weather.

Not Sure How I Did This

Some faster pocket water was ahead, and I paused to collect my thoughts before continuing to fish the same way while expecting different results. I decided to revert to my dependable dry/dropper technique with a longer dropper and heavier nymph in the top position. For this application I selected a size 10 classic black Chernobyl ant, and then I added a size 12 prince nymph and a partridge and orange wet fly. I recently tied the partridge and orange, and I was curious to see what it looked like when wet, and whether it would attract the interest of the South Boulder Creek trout. The change proved to be a revelation, as I methodically worked my way upstream and dropped the three fly rig in all the likely locations. The Chernobyl coaxed two takes, but more importantly it did not distract the fish from the nymphs via refusals. The real star of the afternoon session, however, was the prince nymph. In the faster water at the heads of riffles or in deep runs, the prince became a highly desirable commodity. The fish count moved from four to nineteen, and all fifteen additional netted fish were attributable to the prince except for the two Chernobyl ant victims. I was in my element, as I moved quickly and soaked up the sun on a gorgeous spring day.

Chernobyl Ant Classic Worked on April 6

Productive Prince

By 3:15PM I arrived at my normal exit point, so I climbed the rocky bank and began my return trek. I was confident that I could stop at my favorite pool, the one that entertained me Apirl 1, and a brief session would yield at least one additional fish to reach twenty. When I arrived at the celebrated pool, I slowly approached from the bottom left, and I was pleased to see actively feeding trout throughout the deep hole with the center cut current. I began my effort to record number twenty with the three fly combination that served me well during the early afternoon, but the trout demonstrated a single-minded focus on something that did not resemble my offerings. I had changed out the partridge and orange earlier for a sparkle wing RS2, when I spotted a few small blue winged olives above the water.

On Display

For the next thirty minutes I cycled through an array of dry flies, as I attempted to mimic the microscopic source of food that held the attention of the trout in front of me; but, alas, I finally surrendered to the choosy eaters. The size 14 CDC BWO that duped fourteen trout on Wednesday was totally ignored, as I watched fish dimple within inches of my floating fraud. Next I tried a griffiths gnat and then a small black stonefly, but these were also not favored by the pool dwellers.

So Clear

I accepted nineteen as my cumulative total for Monday and slowly ambled back to the parking lot. Nineteen still represented my highest total for the year so far, and I was pleased to discover the effectiveness of the prince nymph. I deployed a prince during green drake time in 2019 with substantial success, but I never assigned it playing time at other times of the year. I now know that South Boulder Creek trout recognize it as a desirable food source in early April. The largest fish was perhaps twelve inches, and most ran in the seven to nine inch range. but I enjoyed the warmth of the sun and the surrounding beauty. Certainly Monday was a fine antidote to the corona virus, and hopefully I can sneak in another day of fishing before the weather inevitably returns to more wintry conditions.

Fish Landed: 19

The Only Rainbow

South Boulder Creek – 04/01/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 04/01/2020 Photo Album

After a productive day on Tuesday on the Arkansas River, I noted that the weather forecast for Denver for Wednesday projected highs in the upper 60’s. Could my body and arm endure back to back days of fishing early in the 2020 season? There was only one way to find out. I made a trip to the South Boulder Creek for a day of fly fishing below Gross Reservoir.

The DWR graph indicated that flows were around 16 CFS, and I knew from experience that 16 CFS is low but amenable to decent fishing. When I arrived at the kayak parking lot, six vehicles preceded me, and I concluded that other Colorado fishermen were taking advantage of a nice day while social distancing. The dashboard temperature was 51 degrees, as I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and wrapped my light down North Face coat around my waste under my waders. I was hopeful that the sun would dominate and warm the air temperature in the canyon, but my down coat was a safety net in case that scenario did not unfold.

I hiked a good distance from the trailhead and passed four anglers along the way. Assuming each car contained one angler, I accounted for four of six, but when I reached one of my favorite pools, I jumped in knowing that a huge amount of open water was above me. As expected, the flows were on the low side, but the large pool in front of me was very attractive (check the photo album link for a video of the pool). I assessed the situation and decided to begin with a single dry fly. Splashing a large foam attractor and beadhead nymph was probably not an effective strategy in the low clear flows on April 1.

Looking Ahead

Surprisingly as I scanned the surface of the pool from left to right, I spotted a pair of subtle rises along the center current line. In response to this observation I gazed at the surface of the creek and the air space above, but I was unable to determine an obvious food source. A periodic breeze rustled the trees, so I opted to tie a size 18 parachute black ant to my line. The choice was not totally off base, as two separate trout rose to inspect the terrestrial, but each turned away at the last instant. Clearly the fish were tuned into surface food, but my ant was not on their menu.

I pondered the situation and considered my next move, and concurrently the number of feeding fish increased. I was standing below the tail of the pool near the left bank, and I could observe several quite nice trout eagerly looking toward the surface for a morning snack. I suspected that the object of their desire was midges, but I was unable to spot any to evaluate the size or color, so I gambled on my tried and true size 24 CDC BWO. In similar situations in the past the minuscule dry fly served me well in a variety of tiny insect hatch scenarios.

CDC Olive in Lip

I searched in my box for the smallest version and quickly knotted it to my 5X tippet. I began tossing casts directly upstream and angled to the right and drifted the small morsel through the pool with quite a few actively feeding trout. Between 11AM and noon I managed to land four trout on the CDC olive, so my choice was somewhat verified. I say somewhat, because I probably made twenty casts for each landed fish, and the one hour period included several temporary connections and a significant quantity of refusals. I never determined what caused the random takes in the face of so many rejections.

At noon I paused once again to assess my path forward. I was pleased with four trout in one hour of fishing, but I sensed that I could be doing better. The frequency of rises escalated even more, yet my fly was being ignored by some very aggressive feeders along the center current seam. The visible trout, that were hunkered down at the tail, were totally ignoring the drifts. I decided to experiment with some alternative offerings. Before doing so, however, I stretched my mesh over the mouth of the net and seined the water for a minute. The only thing that appeared was an empty midge larva that was a bit over 1/4 inch long. I also noticed a solitary spent wing black adult midge in the surface film, so I began cycling through my supply of tiny midge adults. My first alternative fly was a size 24 griffith’s gnat, and it generated three close looks, but the fish did not close their mouths. Next I experimented with a trico spinner with poly wings and a trico with CDC wings. These flies never even attracted inspections from the greedily feeding pool residents. I found one of my FP emergers, a gray bodied midge emerger that I tied for the Frying Pan river, and it was likewise ignored. In my small fly canister I spotted a tiny parachute adams and knotted that to my line. It produced a pair of last minute refusals, but again no success was forthcoming.

Again I considered the situation. The CDC BWO, while not a sure thing, was clearly my most successful pattern in the current circumstance. I returned to the blue winged olive theme, but tried a Klinkhammer BWO. One small brown near the tail of the pool recklessly charged to the surface and inhaled the Klinkhammer, and my optimism surged. Alas my elation was short lived, as the emerger blue winged olive floated unmolested through the upper sections of the pool for the next ten minutes.

Bringing It Closer

The pool was now alive with aggressively feeding trout, and I could see many in the upper section moving several feet to grab unidentifiable morsels from the surface. If a blue winged olive hatch were in progress, I surely would have noticed adults gliding into the atmosphere above the creek or floating among the currents. Despite this lack of evidence I returned to the fly that delivered some level of success, and I knotted another CDC olive to my tippet.

Although I was building quite an appetite, the active feeding in front of me precluded a lunch break. I began sending casts of the CDC olive to the various sections of the pool, and surprisingly I enjoyed sporadic favorable results. The fish count climbed from five to thirteen, and enough trout showed interest to vindicate the CDC olive as the fly to utilize. I estimate that 60% of the landed fish were rainbows and 40% were brown trout. The size of the fish was generally in the nine to twelve inch range. The rainbows were colored in spectacular fashion with brilliant crimson stripes and vivid spots and speckles throughout the length of their bodies.

Another Perfect Rainbow

By 1PM the pace of feeding slowed, and I decided to rest on the bank, warm my feet and eat my lunch. The shrinking number of rises directed my thoughts to the rest of the creek, and after lunch and an additional fifteen minutes in the pool, I decided to alter my approach. I removed the olive and replaced it with a size 14 Jake’s gulp beetle and then extended a section of 5X tippet from the bend and attached a soft hackle emerger with no bead. The beetle with an orange indicator would be my lead fly, and a pause or dip would indicate that the soft hackle had been intercepted.

Looking Down on You

I ran the beetle dry/dropper through the mid-section and upper portion of the pool, and two fish streaked toward the small wet fly but turned away at the last instant. I suspect the ploy might have worked with a smaller emerger, but I only had size 20’s in my possession. I finally decided to abandon the gorgeous pool to sample other South Boulder Creek areas. A nice small triangular riffle area existed just above the top of the pool, and the right border of the triangle reflected off a large exposed rock. I flicked the beetle to the top right area of the triangle, and as it slowly drifted toward the V next to the rock, a large mouth appeared and engulfed the foam terrestrial. Imagine my joy, when I netted a wild thirteen inch rainbow after a spirited battle.

Speckles Right Into Tail

Perhaps prospecting with the dry/dropper would extend my streak of outstanding fly fishing on April 1, but that scenario never materialized. I began to migrate upstream, but I vowed to be very selective about my target casting areas. It was readily apparent that the trout were concentrated in the deep pools perhaps as a result of the low flows. Only recently had the flows been raised to 16 CFS after a long span of trickles in the 7 – 10 CFS range. The beetle prompted two refusals in relatively marginal runs, and then I encountered another very attractive long smooth pool, and once again evidence of surface feeding appeared in the form of several rises near the center current seams. I lobbed the dry/dropper throughout the pool, but these trout were not interested. I stripped the flies in and quickly converted to the CDC olive once again, but my earlier magic could not be resurrected. In a desperation move I replaced the CDC tuft with a parachute black ant with a pink wing post, and a cast to the shelf to the right of the center current yielded an eleven inch brown trout that confidently moved six inches and sipped.

My watch told me that it was now approaching 3PM, so I skipped a long swath of unattractive water and approached an area that provided favorable results in previous visits to South Boulder Creek. I was along the left bank, when I encountered a small but deep pocket beneath an overhanging branch. This was not the type of water that produced earlier on April Fools’ Day, but I gazed into the deepest point, and spotted a fish. Would this trout respond to my ant in this overlooked and out of the way location? It was worth a try, so I flicked the ant slightly under the overhanging branch, and after a six inch drift, the shadow darted to the surface and consumed the black ant. I raised the rod and connected, and before I could feel smug about outwitting this hidden gem, it streaked toward the bank and under the branch and managed to free itself. I was sorely disappointed over my inability to conclude the highlight presentation, but I celebrated my effort nonetheless.

Glistening

I continued upstream to some attractive deep pockets without success, and then I encountered a pair of young men with small buckets and a shovel. Were they panning for gold in South Boulder Creek? If so, this was a first. I took this as a sign that my day of fishing was complete, and I made the hike back to the parking lot and stowed my gear. When I began my return drive, I checked the temperature, and it was at a comfortable sixty degrees.

Wednesday April 1 evolved into my best day of 2020. I landed fifteen trout, and fourteen came from the pool that I began in. Anyone who follows this blog will recognize what a deviation this is for this avid angler. My fly fishing mantra is move, and I generally allocate three to five casts to likely places and then move on. To remain in one pool for 2.5 hours is a testament to the length of the hatch and the number of pool residents. I estimate that at least fifty trout were present in what may be the best pool on the stream. I never found the perfect fly, but the CDC BWO was close enough to produce thirteen trout, albeit with an enormous number of casts. Another anomaly for April 1 was the fact that all fifteen trout resulted from a dry fly; a rarity for this early in the season. Hopefully when the weather improves I will have an opportunity to return.

Fish Landed: 15

South Boulder Creek – 10/26/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/26/2019 Photo Album

Weather was the impetus for my rare weekend day of fly fishing on Saturday, October 26, 2019. My daughter, Amy, visited from October 17 through October 20, and I devoted my time to her and put a moratorium on my fly fishing efforts. Cold temperatures and a snowstorm prevented me from pursuing trout between Octoboer 21 and October 24. A glance at the seven day forecast revealed that back to back storms were about to slam Colorado on Sunday. October 27 and extending through Halloween. What recourse did an avid fly fisherman have?

One glimmer of hope filtered through my thoughts of despair. Saturday’s high in Denver was predicted to be seventy degrees, and this translated to the upper fifties in some of the nearby front range streams. The flows on South Boulder Creek were 82 CFS, and that was enough information to encourage a trip to the small tailwater west of Golden, CO.

The temperature registered 50 degrees, as a I pulled into the kayak parking lot, and quite a few vehicles occupied prime spots on the southern half, and as I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, several more anglers arrived. I experienced a brief taste of weekend fishing in the Colorado Rockies.

Deep Snow Next to Long Pool

As I trudged along the stream on the way to my chosen starting point, I was surprised to discover five to six inches of snow on the south side of the creek. The deeper than expected snow and the warming temperatures raised concerns over the water clarity as well as the chilling impact on the trout, but these misgivings would eventually prove to be unfounded.

At the Start

I arrived at my favorite starting location by 11AM, and I configured my line with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a size 12 20 incher, and a salvation nymph. I viewed the 20 incher as a substitute for weight, because I wanted to get my nymphs to the bottom in the cold 82 CFS flows. Between 11:15AM and 3:30PM I retained the fat Albert and 20 incher as the upper flies in my three fly dry/dropper system. I switched the end fly out after lunch and shifted to a soft hackle emerger, but eventually reverted to the salvation, when I spotted some pale morning dun mayflies in the air.

Fat Albert Duped One Trout

Mangled 20 Incher Was the Number One Fly

During the dry/dropper segment of my day I landed twenty-one trout including two rainbows and nineteen brown trout. One aggressive brown trout slurped the fat Albert, two brown trout nipped the soft hackle emerger, and two additional catches grabbed the salvation. The fourteen remaining netted fish savored the 20 incher, and I was very surprised, that a fly that was merely deployed to provide ballast proved to be the most popular. One rainbow was a respectable and chunky specimen, and a few of the brown trout extended to the twelve and thirteen inch mark. Other than these outliers, most of the fish fell within the nine to eleven inch range.

Marvelous Spots

The most productive spots for brown trout were slack water shelf pools next to faster runs. The creek inhabitants conserved energy in these areas and picked off tumbling subsurface food offerings, as they drifted away from the faster current. In addition to the landed rainbows, I also tangled temporarily with some pink striped residents that escaped, and these trout seemed to prefer faster water and deep slots between large boulders.

Pleased with This One

Change of Pace Rainbow

By 3:30PM I reached my usual end point, and I skipped around a narrow whitewater chute and then dropped back down to the creek. I cherry picked some above average spots in this section to no avail, and then I decided to begin my return hike. When I arrived at the pool, that I deemed to be the best on South Boulder Creek, I paused to observe and spotted three very subtle dimples along the main current seam. I could not resist the temptation to log some bonus time, so I clipped off the three flies and tied a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line. Why? It was just a hunch based on success at the same time of day and year on previous trips.

I made some quality drifts along the center seam, and induced a refusal, before I turned my attention to the section on the right, where two smaller runs angled from the bank back toward my position. I lobbed a cast to the right side, and a subtle swirl revealed itself below my fly. I quickly raised my rod tip and felt weight for a split second, and my optimism sank, as I realized that I probably put down a willing feeder.

Surprise Rainbow on a Dry Fly

I returned my attention to the left shelf pool and the center current seam, but a series of casts were ignored. The shadows extended across the entire creek, and the lack of sun created a chill, when the breeze whistled through the branches. I entertained thoughts of resuming my trek to the parking lot but decided to lob another cast to the angled run on the right. The choice proved to be fortuitous, when another sucking swirl materialized beneath my fly, and this time I paused a split second and then executed a solid hook set. When the hook pricked the greedy feeder, it performed an acrobatic roll on the surface, and this revealed the brilliant crimson strip of a rainbow trout. The fight was on, and the battler crossed the right shelf pool several times before it relented and slid into my net. Whoa! A husky fourteen inch rainbow nestled in the bottom of my net, and I let out a self congratulatory hoot.

Size 16 Light Gray Comparadun Worked

After releasing my prize catch of the day, I moved to the bottom of the left side of the pool, and I shot some relatively long casts to the slow section in the upper left area. Amazingly, despite the absence of rises, I enticed three trout to smack the light gray comparadun. Evidently I stumbled into a fly that matched a food form that was present in South Boulder Creek in late October. When my casts drifted through the pool without molestation, I stripped in the fly and proceeded on my outbound hike. I stopped at one more favorite pool and tempted a small rainbow to eat the comparadun, before I permanently called it a day.

What a surprise Saturday turned out to be! I landed twenty-six trout in total, and this included several in the 12 – 14 inch range. These results accrued despite the presence of snow and snowmelt. Five landed fish on a size 16 comparadun during the late afternoon shadows were icing on the cake. If this was my last outing of 2019, I would be satisfied with the memory.

Fish Landed: 26

South Boulder Creek – 10/15/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/15/2019 Photo Album

My day on South Boulder Creek was a rare justification for carrying a ridiculous number of flies on western streams, but more on that at the end of this post. I returned from my 50th high school reunion on Sunday, and a physical therapy appointment precluded fly fishing on Monday, so I was quite anxious to visit a local stream on October 15. The weather forecast projected cooler high temperatures of 66 degrees on Monday, and this translated to mid-fifties in the mountains. I scanned the DWR graphs for Front Range streams, and upon seeing flows of 88 CFS on South Boulder Creek, I designated the small tailwater as my destination.

I arrived at the upper parking lot by 9:40, and I was the first vehicle to claim a space. A car and truck arrived, while I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, but I departed before them. The air temperature was 39 degrees on the dashboard, when I parked, so I slipped on my UnderArmour long sleeve insulated undershirt and wrapped my North Face light down coat around my waist inside my waders. I exchanged my wide brimmed hat for a New Zealand billed cap with ear flaps, and I wore the flaps down throughout my tenure on the creek.

Home to the Crimson Rainbow

By 11AM I was positioned in the creek, and I began with a single peacock hippie stomper. The attractor dry fly failed to generate interest in the first three pockets, and I knew they contained trout, so I stripped in the foam fly and added a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. With the three fly dry/dropper combination I connected with an absolutely stunning thirteen inch rainbow in a deep run along the north bank. In a short amount of time I hooked and landed two additional brown trout to boost the fish count to three.

Scarlet Gill Plate Stands Out

These three flies served as my main offerings for the morning and early afternoon, and they produced trout at a fairly steady rate. I progressed upstream and prospected the likely pockets, deep runs and moderate riffles. By two o’clock I began to see sporadic rises, while I also observed small mayflies, as they hovered above the creek and slowly ascended like a rising hot air balloon. I lost two hares ear and salvation combinations to bad knots, and as I replaced the second pair, I moved the salvation to the top position and replaced the hares ear with a beadhead soft hackle emerger.

Looking Ahead

By 2:30 the shadows lengthened across much of the stream, and this challenged my ability to track the hippie stomper, so I swapped the top fly for a tan pool toy. This exchange was purely driven by my need for better visibility. As three o’clock approached, my fish tally rested at twenty-six, and I was quite pleased with my day on South Boulder Creek. I estimated that eight trout opted for the salvation, four nipped the soft hackle emerger and the remainder (14) crushed the hippie stomper. The trendy foam attractor was not perfect, as it also instigated quite a few refusals, but it was easily the most popular fly. I debated testing a Jake’s gulp beetle, but the catch rate was steady enough to ward off experimentation. The soft hackle emerger was popular on the lift and swing as expected with baetis activity in progress.

Overview

I exited the creek at 2:45PM and climbed to the path and began my return hike. When I reached my favorite large pool; however, I paused my Garmin walking activity tracker, and angled to the downstream tailout below the pool. I paused to observe for a few minutes, and I was encouraged to ready my fly for action, when I spotted a pair of sporadic rises. I scanned the water, but I was unable to notice any food on the surface, although mayflies of various sizes drifted above the stream. I took an educated guess and tied a size 16 light gray comparadun to my line, and it immediately became an item of interest, but not compelling enough to eat.

Ooh. Fish Haven.

I was frustrated by this turn of events, but I was confident that I could find the fly that matched the resident trouts’ appetite. Blue winged olives seemed to be a likely candidate for imitation, so I knotted a size 22 CDC olive to my line. Once again refusals and a couple split second connections ruled, so I made yet another switch. In previous years I encountered late season pale morning duns, so I tied a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line, but the same scenario unfolded. I considered surrendering to the picky pool inhabitants, but then I spotted a pair of relatively large mayflies with light yellowish bodies. They attempted to free themselves from the surface film, but bounced back and forth between the air and water, as they struggled to become airborne. Could these be the tasty snack that elicited sporadic rises from the trout in front of me?

My What Spots You Have

I flipped open my fly box and scanned my options. Tucked on the right hand side were five size fourteen sulfur comparaduns with light yellow bodies. I surmised that they might be the answer to the puzzle, and I knotted one to my tippet. I applied floatant to the body and preened the wing, so it stood in an erect position and then fluttered a cast across from my position. As the relatively large mayfly imitation floated toward the tail of the pool, a mouth appeared, and it was not tentative, as it slurped the comparadun. I quickly reacted with a hook set and encouraged a twelve inch brown trout into my net. Catching a nice wild trout on a dry fly after four fly changes was very gratifying.

Missile Shaped

But fish continued to rise, so I sopped up the moisture and dipped the comparadun in my dry shake canister. Two fish rose in the shelf pool on the right, and I turned my attention to these targets. A pair of nice runs angled into the shelf pool from the right side of a large boulder, and the trout hid in the riffles created by the entering run. I lobbed a cast to the deep run on the left, and a fish darted up and nipped the fly. I set quickly but only managed to nick the assailant.

Next I turned my attention to the right most run. This fish had not fed for five minutes, so I was not certain it maintained its feeding positoin, but I dropped a cast to the left seam nonetheless. Whack! A trout crushed the low floating mayfly imitation with confidence, and I was attached to a streaking bullet. The hungry and now angry trout, streaked repeatedly in multiple directions, but eventually I applied side pressure and slipped my net beneath a gorgeous rainbow trout. The glistening finned creature displayed a wide crimson stripe, and I estimated its length to be fifteen inches. This may have been my personal record landed trout from South Boulder Creek.

End of Day Surprise

I continued casting the size 14 comparadun in the pool for another ten minutes, and I experienced two more temporary connections, before I hooked the fly in a rod guide and resumed my return hike. I stopped at one more quality pool and fooled a small rainbow trout on the sulfur comparadun, before I quit for good and hiked back to the parking lot.

Twenty-nine trout on October 15 was a quality outing. The temperature never rose above the mid-fifties, but I was reasonably comfortable in my light down coat. Landing two very respectable trout on a seldom used sulfur comparadun imitation was icing on the cake on a cool autumn day. Perhaps I am justified in carrying classic Pennsylvania flies in my fly box, as I wander about western streams.

Fish Landed: 29

 

South Boulder Creek – 09/12/2019

Time: 12:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/12/2019 Photo Album

My previous two trips to South Boulder Creek could be characterized as relatively straightforward when referring to fly selection. During the early hours I relied on a dry/dropper with a foam surface fly and a prince nymph dropper, and various green drake patterns occupied my line during the afternoon. Although I experienced my share of refusals, for the most part these flies delivered steady action. Based on the favorable outings on 8/15/2019 and 8/24/2019 I decided to return to my home waters on 9/12/2019.

When I returned from my six day trip to Pennsylvania on Wednesday, I reviewed the stream flows of the Front Range creeks, and South Boulder Creek posted a reading of 123 CFS. This level is higher than my ideal range, but the lure of green drake action in September brought me back. On my two previous visits the green drake action did not commence until 2:30 – 3:00PM, so I completed my morning workout and delayed my arrival. By the time I pulled on my waders and rigged my Sage four weight and ambled down the trail to the creek, it was lunch time, so I downed my small snack, before I approached the water.

Near the Start

Better Focus

As I mentioned, I prefer lower flows, and I quickly discovered that the creek could only be crossed in areas where the rushing water spread out over a wide stream bed. This handicapped my efforts a bit, and many areas that offered prime sanctuaries for hungry trout at lower stream levels were off limits at 123 CFS. Another unanticipated adverse factor was the weather. A storm rolled through Colorado on Wednesday night, and it brought a high pressure system that featured cool temperatures and wind. The air temperature in the canyon never surpassed the mid-sixties, and I dealt with sporadic gusts of wind throughout the day. Historically I never seem to do well on the first day after a high pressure system arrives, and I surmise Thursday was one of those days.

Ant Eater

Unlike my last two South Boulder Creek visits, I never settled on a consistent approach or fly. I began my day after lunch with a size 18 black parachute ant with a pink wing post, and this choice paid quick dividends, as six fish confidently inhaled the small terrestrial. The gusts of wind suggested that terrestrials might be solid searching patterns. The downside to the ant was my inability to track it in swirling water and riffles. It performed admirably in smooth shelf pools and pockets, but it was difficult to follow in challenging light and through surface chop.

Zoomed on the Ant

It was likely a case of over analysis, when I swapped the ant for a size 14 Jake’s gulp beetle. I reasoned that the beetle was also a likely wind blown terrestrial food source, and tracking the bright orange indicator foam was much easier than following the low floating tuft of pink poly. The beetle did, in fact, yield two trout, but it was ineffective in several prime areas, so I made another change.

Beetle Victim

During previous trips I prospected with a parachute green drake in the hours before the hatch, so I revisited this strategy on Thursday. I knotted a size 14 2XL parachute green drake to my tippet and landed two more trout. Unfortunately for every taker I suffered three long distance releases. The trout were interested in the western green drake imitation, but they reluctantly nipped at the large low floating imitation, and when I responded with a timely hook set, they quickly dropped off. I was a baffled by this turn of events, since the parachute green drake was money in the bank in the pre-hatch time period on the last two visits.

By 2:30 I had not yet observed a natural green drake, so I reasoned that perhaps the fish were locked on subsurface nymphs. I took a long break and configured my line with a dry/dropper including a peacock hippie stomper, prince nymph, and salvation nymph. The trout gave this alignment a resounding thumbs down. The hippie stomper elicited several refusals, and I sensed that the large weighted prince was causing the nymphs to drift below the cone of vision of the feeding trout. I removed the prince and replaced it with the salvation in a single dropper arrangement, and this combination duped a brown trout in front of a submerged boulder, when I began to lift for another cast.

Colors

By 3PM I spotted some early natural green drakes, and I responded by reverting to a solo green drake dry fly. In this instance I tested a Harrop hair wing dun, and it fooled a nice fish along a current seam, but then it fell out of favor, and I once again pondered a change. I decided to stick with the green drake theme, and I replaced the Harrop version with a size 14 comparadun with no ribbing. The comparadun generated the most success, when it produced three netted fish, and the fish counter moved to fifteen.

At 3:30PM I reached a section of fast water that consisted of numerous deep runs and pockets. I decided to exit and hike back toward the trailhead and stop at one of my favorite pools along the way. When I arrived at the gorgeous wide pool with a deep run slicing through the center, I paused to observe, and several sporadic rises caught my attention. Prior to my exit downstream I knotted a cinnamon comparadun to my line, and now I fluttered a few casts to the right side of the spectacular pool in front of me. A pair of refusals dampened my optimism, so I exchanged the cinnamon size 16 for a light gray of the same size. The gray pale morning dun imitation reversed my fortunes, and I hooked and landed a spunky rainbow and two brown trout, before I called it quits for the day.

Pastel Pink

Eighteen fish in four hours of fishing is a respectable performance, but it lagged 8/15 and 8/24 in both quantity and size. I suspect that I over analyzed the situation, and I should have persisted with the ant or defaulted to my tried and true dry/dropper in the pre-hatch time period. I never fell into a nice rhythm and or developed confidence in one of my fly choices. I also suspect that the cool temperatures and wind played a role in my inability to attain a comfort zone on Thursday, September 12.

Fish Landed: 18

South Boulder Creek – 08/24/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/24/2019 Photo Album

My son, Dan, and I planned a rare fishing outing for Saturday morning, August 24. Dan is at the stage of his life, where he constantly juggles competing priorities, so a day on the stream with him is time to treasure. I offered Dan several options for fly fishing destinations, and he quickly chose South Boulder Creek. This was music to my ears, since I was itching to return after a fabulous visit on August 15. Green drakes were on the menu, and I was fairly confident that they would remain a significant food source for South Boulder Creek trout.

Dan and I met near the intersection of Coal Creek Canyon Road and CO 93, and we car pooled to the upper kayak lot below Gross Reservoir. We quickly put on our gear and assembled our rods and hit the trail. I chose my Orvis Access four weight to minimize arm and shoulder fatigue. Six other vehicles were parked in the kayak lot, so we knew that we would enjoy the company of other anglers.

Amazing Place

The flows were 117 CFS, and although higher than ideal, they were lower than at any time over the recent months. The sky was overcast, and this resulted in an air temperature in the low sixties, when we departed; however, by noon the sun burned through, and the air temperature soared into the eighty degree range.

Dan Begins His Day

By 10AM Dan and I were situated in the stream and ready to pursue hungry trout. Dan progressed along the north bank of the creek, while I cast to the left side. I suggested that Dan begin with a parachute green drake, and I provided him with three of my winter ties. I watched as he hooked and landed a pair of small browns, but the drake failed to generate interest in some very attractive runs, so I opted for a dry/dropper approach. I knotted a tan pool toy hopper to my line for excellent visibility, and beneath the large foam fly I added a prince nymph and a salvation nymph. These two flies were intended to imitate the nymphal stage of green drakes and pale morning duns.

Another Wild Brown Trout

Very Fine Rainbow Joins the Parade

By 11:45 I recorded eleven landed trout, and Dan was in the five range. The action was decent but not as intense, as that which I experienced during the morning on August 15. The prince nymph and salvation accounted for all my fish in roughly equal proportions. Unfortunately our lunch break occurred on a stretch of the stream, where it was narrow and high velocity, and this prevented us from crossing to eat together. Dan found a nice perch high above the creek, while I occupied a 5′ X 5′ flat rock along the south bank.

So Green

Green drakes had not made an appearance by the time I finished munching my lunch, but I decided to join Dan in prospecting the large mayflies with the hope that the trout possessed long memories. Ironically Dan observed my higher paced action before lunch, and he converted to a dry dropper with a fat Albert and prince nymph! I suppose this is an example of the “grass is always greener” adage. I landed a few trout on the parachute green drake in the early afternoon, but Dan went on a tear and jumped his fish count to nine.

Magazine Cover

Happy Fisherman

I was disappointed in the performance of the green drake, and naturals were absent, so I reverted to the dry/dropper technique. Unlike the morning, however, I switched the pool toy to a peacock hippie stomper, and I substituted a hares ear for the prince nymph. I hedged my bets a bit with the peacock hippie stomper, as it is a reasonable approximation of a green drake. Only the width of the body and the peacock color represent a slight deviation from the user friendly green drakes, that I tied over the winter.

Salivating for a Shot at This Pool

Between 12:30PM and 3:00PM Dan and I migrated upstream, and we each enjoyed steady success. Most of Dan’s landed fish snatched the prince nymph, so perhaps my relegation of that fly to my fleece wallet was premature. I, on the other hand, incremented my fish count to twenty-five, and the hippie stomper and salvation nymph were equally effective. I was particularly pleased with several chunky twelve and thirteen inch rainbows, that slashed the stomper; but some deep butter-colored brown trout were also appreciated.

Width and Spots

Speckles Galore

By three o’clock we approached an area where the creek narrowed between large boulders, and the character of the stream converted into deep pockets and large plunge pools. By now a few natural green drakes made an appearance, but we only noted a random rise or two. We decided to circle around the narrows, and we quickly moved upstream to a gorgeous pool. The main current divided the pool in half, and very attractive shelf pools beckoned our flies on each side. As I gazed upon the alluring pool in front of us, several lumbering olive mayflies elevated skyward, and this observation was accompanied by a burst of splashy rises along the main current seam as well as within the side pools. Needless to say our heart rates elevated, as this scene unfolded. Dan and I each began with parachute green drakes, but the fish continued to feed with no regard for our low riding slender imitations.

Scene of Green Drake Hatch

I decided to switch to a more robust green drake model and chose a size 14 comparadun with a maroon thread ribbing. This fly possesses a very full deer hair upright wing, and I speculated that it might be a key triggering characteristic. Once the comparadun was on my line and amply dabbed with floatant, I lobbed a cast to the shelf pool on the left. Thwack! A thirteen inch rainbow trout gulped it like candy. I was very pumped at this turn of events. I quickly sopped the moisture from the body of the comparadun, dipped it in dry shake and flicked off the white residue. My fly was back in floating condition, and I dropped a second cast to the left side of the main current seam. Wham! The second thirteen inch rainbow actually raised its head above the water and ate the fly on its way down. What a visual! I managed to guide another thrashing pink striped fighter into my net.

Dan was a keen observer of these developments, and he switched to a comparadun as quickly as he could. I ceded the left side of the stream to him and moved to the right. The right side contained a large exposed boulder, and a portion of the creek curled around the large rock and then flowed into a shallow pool, before it merged once again with the main channel. I focused on the trout in the shallow right pool section, but these fish were more educated or more than likely obtained a better look at my fly due to the slower and smoother water.

A Jewel

As I suffered through some ignominious refusals, Dan’s comparadun caught fire, and he landed a batch of eager feeders from the full length of the shelf pool on the left. I surrendered to the picky eaters in the shallow pool and turned my attention to the faster current to the right of the center run. This ploy paid off, and I landed two more trout to jump the fish count to twenty-nine. The rises ceased on my side of the stream, and Dan had more prime water to cover, so I waded to shore and circled around to two nice pockets above the main pool. In these locations I was able to net two additional trout, while Dan concluded his assault of the left shelf pool. By 4:15PM we encountered less attractive water, and we realized that time rushed by, so we resumed our return hike to the car.

Hook Removal

Wow, what a flurry of action at the main pool between 3:15PM and 4:15PM! This was exactly the scenario that I hoped for but never dared to expect. Dan experienced the excitement of casting large mayfly imitations to ravenously feeding fish, and he loved it. It is hard to adequately describe the intensity and adrenaline rush that accompanies a scene headlined by large hatching insects, eagerly feeding trout, and an angler with the correct imitation. In my mind it is the zenith of fly fishing, and the scenario that keeps bringing me back.

Fish Landed: 31

South Boulder Creek – 08/15/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/15/2019 Photo Album

Green drakes and South Boulder Creek were on my mind, as I planned another day trip for Thursday, August 15. I searched this blog using the key words, “south boulder creek green drakes August”, and I quickly found my post for August 9, 2018, and sure enough green drakes emerged with relative regularity between 3PM and 5PM on that date. During 2019 South Boulder Creek was steadily flowing in the 150 – 166 CFS range for most of July and August, and this level was higher than I prefer, but I reasoned that a green drake hatch would prompt the stream residents to move to the surface for their meal. I could not resist the urge to fish to the large western mayflies and decided to give South Boulder Creek a try at higher than preferred flows.

I got off to a reasonably early start, and after pulling on my waders and assembling my Sage four weight, I hit the trail at a steady pace, and I was able to arrive at the streamside by 10AM. Thursday was a warm summer day with clear blue skies throughout and very little cloud cover. I suspect the air temperature peaked in the low eighties, but I was immune to the heat, and in fact had to exit the stream several times to allow my frozen feet to thaw.

First Fish

I began my fly fishing exercise with a yellow fat Albert, size 12 prince nymph, and salvation nymph. I reasoned that the prince nymph was a close approximation of the green drake nymph, and the salvation imitated the nymph of pale morning duns. I was hopeful that these two mayfly species were active in the bottom release waters of South Boulder Creek.

Whether my theory was correct or not remains unknown, but I landed fifteen trout between ten o’clock and noon, and 75% grabbed the prince, while the remainder nabbed the salvation. I had an enjoyable two hours of solid action, as I popped the dry/dropper configuration to all the likely spots. Runs and pockets of moderate depth were the most productive; however, some very respectable brown trout emerged from some fairly shallow riffles. I am always amazed by the brown trouts’ ability to camouflage in these situations.

Melon Colored

I casually consumed my light lunch and pondered my next move. I spotted very little insect activity besides some tiny midges during the morning hours, and I wondered if the green drakes had made their seasonal appearance. I decided to experiment with one. I could always return to the dry/dropper should my test prove premature. I began with a size 14 2XL parachute green drake with a white turkey flat wing. I tied some of these over the winter and used the turkey instead of white poly to take advantage of the lighter weight.

Money in the Bank

My bold decision proved to be a winner. After a refusal on the first cast, the other stream residents inhaled the low floating drake with confidence. Between 12:15 and 4:00PM the fish counter soared from fifteen to forty. I frankly could not believe my good fortune. All twenty-five of the afternoon fish except for one gulped a green drake imitation, but the parachute version was not the only style used. It was the most popular, as fifteen were fooled by it, but six craved the user friendly version, and three mauled a comparadun. One aberrant trout slammed a size 14 yellow stimulator.

Convenient Rod Holder While I Release a Fish

By 2:30PM I began to observe quite a few golden stoneflies and yellow sallies, and I switched briefly to a size 14 yellow stimulator. One small brown trout crushed the heavily hackled dry fly to affirm my move, but then almost immediately I noted a flurry of rises. I placed casts of the stimulator in the vicinity of the rises, but it was totally ignored. In concert with the sudden surface feeding I noticed several large natural green drakes, as they fluttered up from the stream. A few pale morning duns also made an appearance to further confuse the situation. I concluded that the rises were attributable to the green drakes and returned to my dependable parachute style, but surprisingly the fish ignored it. How could this fly perform so well in the pre-hatch time period, and now prove ineffective?

Nice Width

I quickly swapped the parachute for a user friendly, and this fly duped one, but it also was then treated like inert debris. I carry four different styles of green drake in my fly box, so I dug in and plucked a size fourteen comparadun with no ribbing and knotted this variation to my leader. Voila! Three nice trout crushed the low riding comparadun with a prominent wing, and I was pleased to temporarily solve the riddle.

Zoomed on the User Friendly

Temporary was the key word, as the trout once again changed their preferences. I vacated the picky eaters and moved on. The comparadun body became waterlogged, and I reverted to the parachute style, and during my remaining time on the water, it served as my mainstay fly and enabled me to net a few additional trout to move the count to forty.

Double Pool Ahead

Thursday was a strong testament to the value of this blog, and more importantly to actually utilizing it to recall what was hatching and working at similar times of the season. I landed forty trout, and although many were in the six to nine inch size range, I also slid my net beneath a pair of thirteen inch rainbows and quite a few eleven to twelve inch brown trout. All the trout were extremely healthy, wild fish, and it was a pleasure to spray dry fly casts to the many prime spots and find willing takers. High stream flows are a secondary consideration, when strong hatches activate the appetites of the resident trout.

Fish Landed: 40

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