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

South Boulder Creek – 04/04/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 04/04/2019 Photo Album

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

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

Colorful

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

CDC BWO Eater

Likely Spot

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

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

Bright Yellow Belly

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

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

The Brown Emerged from This Area

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

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

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

Fish Landed: 5

 

South Boulder Creek – 10/29/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/29/2018 Photo Album

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

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

Very Productive Run at the Start

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

A Beauty

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

Nice Shelf Pool

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

The Run Below the Log Was Prime

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

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

Lovely Rainbow

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

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

Nice Curl

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

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

Fish Landed: 36

South Boulder Creek – 10/19/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/19/2018 Photo Album\

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

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

The Narrow Pool Yielded Two Trout

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

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

Gorgeous Spots

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

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

Spectacular Pool

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

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

Vivid Colors

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

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

Promising

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

Fish Landed: 43

 

South Boulder Creek – 09/25/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: East of Pinecliffe, CO

South Boulder Creek 09/25/2018 Photo Album

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

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

Plunge Pools in Abundance

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

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

Stretched Out

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

This Place Must Hold Several Trout

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

Gorgeous Markings

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

Brown Trout Dry Fly Sipper

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

Those Colors!

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

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

Fish Landed: 12

South Boulder Creek – 08/22/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/22/2018 Photo Album

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

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

Began in This Area

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

Deep Black Spots

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

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

Attractive Section Ahead

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

Another Aggressive Rainbow Trout

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

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

Speckles and Stripes

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

Fish Landed: 25