South Boulder Creek – 11/13/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/13/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landed Fish: 21

 

South Boulder Creek – 11/02/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/02/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish Landed: 28

South Boulder Creek – 10/19/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/19/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish Landed: 16

 

South Boulder Creek – 10/17/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/17/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish Landed: 46

South Boulder Creek – 09/21/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/21/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish Landed: 42

South Boulder Creek – 09/19/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/19/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish Landed: 47

 

 

South Boulder Creek – 08/14/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Dam.

South Boulder Creek 08/14/2017 Photo Album

I am experiencing technical difficulties with my blog that prevent me from inserting photos in the body of the text. The link above continues to work should you wish to view my photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve this issue soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landed Fish: 14

South Boulder Creek – 08/11/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/11/2017 Photo Album

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

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

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

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

P8110004.JPG

High Flows Made Me Search for This Type of Water

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

P8110002.JPG

My Starting Fly After Being Rescued from a Bush

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

P8110006.JPG

Light Gray Caddis in Corner of the Mouth

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

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

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

P8110011.JPG

Proud of This One

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

P8110015.JPG

Helicopter View

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

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Scarlet Is Best Description

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

Fish Landed: 20

 

South Boulder Creek – 08/08/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/08/2017 Photo Album

Readers cannot see me, but I am still smiling from my day on South Boulder Creek. Today was a strong affirmation of the value of these blog posts, so let me explain.

I noticed last week that Denver Water finally lowered the releases from Gross Dam to 144 CFS, so I committed to making the trip in the near term. Today, Tuesday August 8 was that day. Knowing that South Boulder Creek was my destination prompted me to search my blog for all the log reports that detailed my fishing trips to the small tailwater northwest of Golden. The common thread on nearly all the August visits was green drakes. Green drakes hatch in the freestone rivers and streams in Colorado from the middle of July until the end of July, but their emergence seems to be delayed in tailwaters such as the Frying Pan River and South Boulder Creek. I suspect this circumstance is related to the cold bottom releases from the upstream dams.

Before I departed on Tuesday morning I checked my fly box and reviewed my selection of green drake imitations. I carry three styles, and I never know which one will fool the wild trout. I counted my comparaduns ribbed and not ribbed, parachute green drakes and Harrop hair wing green drakes; and I concluded that I possessed adequate quantities of each. With this inventory task completed I set out on the short drive to the parking lot above the stream near the outflow from the dam. I followed the directions on my map application on my iPhone, and this route reduced my driving time to 58 minutes. I generally allotted 75 minutes for my previous route that tracked on I70, CO 58, and CO 93.

Needless to say I anxiously anticipated my day on South Boulder Creek; however, my spirits sank a bit when I pulled into the parking lot and realized I would have significant company on Tuesday, a weekday no less. Eight vehicles were parked in the small lot, and I snagged a spot on the northern edge, a rarity for me on a weekday. As I pulled on my waders and strung my Loomis five weight rod, the fishermen on either side of me met with another angler who appeared to be the leader of the threesome. The head guy was alarmed by the number of cars in the lot, and he proposed that they move and “fish the inlet”. I could only assume that he was proposing a drive to the Gross Reservoir parking area accompanied by a one mile hike to the inlet where South Boulder Creek enters the reservoir. The two followers agreed, although it seemed to me they were reluctant to do so. That eliminated two cars, and now I had six remaining vehicles to be concerned about.

I proceeded with my preparation and decided that I would hike as far as the higher flows would allow in order to escape the unexpected crowd of fishermen. The air temperature was in the upper fifties, and the sky was mostly clear, as I began my descent of the steep trail to the creek. A large yellow sign at the top of the trailhead notified of bridge construction and warned to expect delays. I thought this was odd, as the only bridges were two pedestrian spans over South Boulder Creek.

When I reached the edge of the creek, I was pleased to learn that 144 cfs (I later learned when I returned home that the flows were actually reduced to 90 cfs on Tuesday morning) was very manageable for wading, and my expectations surged a bit. I crossed the stream below the small island near the beginning, and as I forded the wide relatively shallow area, I spotted a truck on the lane on the other side. I generally climb on to the bank in the area posted as private, but because of the activity, I waded along the edge until I reached the gate that signifies public access. I glanced back at the truck, and it was backing down the lane, and I assumed that it was transporting materials to be used in the bridge repair. This raised my concern that I should not have crossed, since I now needed to cross the pedestrian bridge to reach the downstream areas that I targeted for my day of fishing.

Fortunately when I approached the bridge, it was apparent that the work had not yet begun, and I breathed a sigh of relief, as I was on my way to farther penetration of the Walker Loop. I passed three solo fishermen on the upper water, so that accounted for three of the cars in the parking lot. Another fisherman waded into the creek in the boulder section downstream from the bridge, and eventually I ran into a man and woman together not far below the place where the fisherman path diverges from the Walker Loop trail. As near as I could tell, these were the last anglers that originated from the parking lot.

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A Good Place to Start

When I created a decent distance from the last anglers encountered, I cut down to the water and began my day with a tan pool toy, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. The water before me was exceptional with an abundance of pockets and runs of moderate depth. I managed to land a couple small brown trout on the salvation nymph, but I was not satisfied with the start of my fishing day. Aside from the landed fish, the pool toy hopper attracted significant attention in the form of refusals, and this distracted from the subsurface offerings.

I decided to rectify the situation, and I moved to a size 14 medium olive stimulator. Initially this enticed a couple of small brown trout as well, but then it became an object to be inspected but not eaten. The fish count stood at four, albeit small fish, when I spotted two green drakes, as they fluttered skyward from the stream. The combination of this observation and my review of the blog posts, which documented green drake success in August, convinced me to attach a Harrop hair wing to my line.

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A Pretty Rainbow

Once again the change initiated some initial success, as two trout slashed the bushy mayfly imitation, but then the refusal cycle reappeared. In hindsight I believe that the fish that chose to eat, were in faster riffles; whereas, those that rejected the fly occupied slow moving pools. I was convinced that the green drakes were favored by the South Boulder Creek trout, but the Harrop version did not meet their specifications. I scanned the green drake section of my fly box and plucked a size 14 comparadun with no rib. This fly was effective on the Cache la Poudre River in July, so I tied it to my line and took a deep breath. The comparadun presented a more slender profile, and several fish liked the lean look allowing me to build the fish count to ten. However, fish that ate the large mayfly imitation were fewer than those that refused or elevated to look with no follow through. In addition to the irregular performance of the the fly, it became saturated with water, and even my best efforts to dry it were increasingly futile.

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Quality Pockets Ahead

I decided to sit on a log to eat my lunch. I pondered my next move, while I observed the quality deep pool and run next to my dining area. I landed ten fish in my first hour, and yet I was dissatisfied with the production of my fly choices. How could this be? An experienced fly fisherman would know the feeling of fishing through high quality water that assuredly contains decent fish, yet somehow coming up empty, or the takes are accompanied by an overabundance of refusals and brief hook ups. That sentence accurately described my state of mind.

I remembered the blog entries, that I read the night before, and I recalled the documented success of the parachute green drake imitations that eventually unraveled. After lunch I followed through on my recollection and replaced the comparadun style with a size 14 parachute green drake. This version contained a white wing post that enhanced visibility and a maroon thread rib on the abdomen. I tested the fresh dry fly in the deep pool, and after a small fish rejected it in the fast center section, I lobbed it to the shelf pool on the far side. Success! A decent brown trout streaked to the surface and crushed the fake. Similar success greeted my fly changes earlier in the day, so I resisted a celebration.

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Escape Is Not an Option

The celebratory restraint was unnecessary. I moved upstream, and over the next 2.5 hours I experienced some exceptional dry fly fishing. The fish counter clicked frequently and moved from ten to thirty-six, and all the fish were fooled by the parachute green drake. In fact two flies produced all the fish, and the first one accounted for 75%. During this time I noticed additional naturals, but the hatch was not obvious, and I spotted very few rising trout. Western green drake hatches are notoriously sparse, but the size of the meal makes up for the reduced quantity of insects. The trout were definitely tuned into green drakes.

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My Main Producer

It did not seem to matter what type of water I cast to. Riffles were absolute producers, and the seams of deep runs were also worth exploring. I was stunned to see several fish flash downstream for several feet to intercept the large dry fly before it tumbled over the lip of the pocket. In one case a brown trout bumped the fly twice and then finally grabbed it before it escaped. At the point where it inhaled the drake, it was five feet downstream from its initial inspection. That is due diligence although not very effective, if the goal is to avoid getting hooked in the mouth. Four or five times I lost sight of the fly, as it got tugged under by the currents, so I lifted and felt the weight of a fish. These subsurface takes resulted in some of the larger trout on the day, and it seemed like the rainbows were more likely to nab drowned green drakes than brown trout.

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So Pretty

 

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Parachute Green Drake Snack

By 2:30 some dark clouds appeared overhead accompanied by the sound of distant thunder. I pulled on my raincoat during lunch for added warmth, so I was prepared for precipitation, and I continued fishing as light rain commenced. Suddenly a flash of light brightened the sky, and a clap of thunder followed shortly thereafter. This meant the lightning was close by, so I quickly climbed some rocks and found a refuge next to a tall rock wall that leaned toward the north and provided a slice of protection from the rain. I waited impatiently for fifteen minutes until three o’clock, and then the sky brightened in the west, and the sounds of thunder faded.

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My Storm Refuge

I returned to the creek and resumed casting the parachute green drake, but my second imitation also became waterlogged, and the fish were not responsive. The rain eventually stopped, and the sun emerged briefly, and this stimulated a wave of insect activity. I observed a couple green drakes, but an abundance of smaller mayflies now took center stage. I continued prospecting with the waterlogged parachute green drake and added a few more fish, but I began to wonder if perhaps this was a time when trout might favor the active nymph stage of the pale morning dun. I quickly converted to a two fly dry/dropper with a yellow fat Albert on top and a salvation nymph as the dropper. The theory was not correct. The fish ignored this approach, so after twenty minutes of flailing the water with no reward for my efforts, I reverted to a green drake.

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A Closer Look

During my 2016 green drake interaction, I used the comparadun with success after the parachute versions unraveled, so I gave this ploy another try. It did not pan out, and my watch indicated that it was 4PM, so I decided to begin the long forty minute hike back to the parking lot. As I was trudging along on the trail, I stopped at several favorite pools to make some last ditch casts. At the first prime pool I encountered, I noticed a few rises along the right side. I floated the green drake comparadun in the vicinity, but this merely encouraged an inspection. I suspected that pale morning duns were prevalent, so I converted to a size 16 light gray comparadun. The third drift of the slender PMD imitation prompted a subtle take, and I hooked and landed a pretty ten inch rainbow.

I turned my attention to the shelf pool on the other side of the strong center current. A small fish showed itself with several splashy rises at the tail, but some downstream drifts failed to entice another rise to my fly. It was at this time that a swarm of mayfly spinners hovered over the pool and the area I was casting to. They did not appear to be touching the water, but several fish rose while this mating event developed. Maybe some strays touched down ahead of the main orgy? I replaced the light gray comparadun with a cinnamon version and mashed down the deer hair wing so that some deer hair spread to the side of the thorax. This was my attempt to match a pale morning dun spinner, but it did not succeed. While executing casts in this same pool, I spotted another pair of green drakes. Perhaps I abandoned the big boy too soon? I tied the green drake comparadun back on my line, but they shunned it as well, and I surrendered to the pool and moved on.

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Light Gray Comparadun Victim

My last stop was the long deep pool between the pedestrian bridge (which now displayed signs on both ends warning of delays) and the path that ascends to the parking lot. I was shocked to see this perpetually occupied location vacant, so I stopped to make a few exploratory casts. I once again knotted the size 16 light gray comparadun to my line, and it rewarded me with two rainbow trout in the ten and eleven inch size range. I ended my day with three rainbow trout that sipped the comparadun to reach thirty-nine fish.

What a wonderful day on South Boulder Creek! All but the first two fish ate dry flies, and the action on the parachute green drake was superb. Tuesday was a testament to my commitment to my blog and to tying my own flies. In all likelihood had I not read about my success with green drakes on August 4, 2016, I would not have converted to the parachute green drake. Tying my own flies allowed me to capitalize on my experience and many prior interactions with green drake hatches to produce three different styles, and the parachute version became the favorite on Tuesday. I foresee a return trip to South Boulder Creek in my near future. In fact after chronicling my day, I am ready to return right now.

Fish Landed: 39

South Boulder Creek – 05/31/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 05/31/2017 Photo Album

When I checked the flows on South Boulder Creek, I noted that they increased from 15.6 on Friday, the last day I fished there, to 55 cfs on Wednesday. With a nice spring day in the forecast, and the Memorial Day holiday in the rear view mirror, I decided to make another trip. May 27 was a fine outing, and I enjoyed reasonable success, so I decided to take advantage of the moderate flows before Denver Water made additional adjustments, and they are notorious for that. In fact when I returned home after fishing, I checked the flows, and as I suspected, they ratcheted them up from 55 cfs to 74 cfs while I was fishing!

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Tissue Paper Wild Flowers

After an uneventful drive I arrived at the parking lot high above the creek and downstream from the dam by 10AM. One other vehicle was in the lot, and the air temperature was in the mid sixties. I chose not to wear my fleece, but stuffed my raincoat in my backpack in case it rained, or I needed an additional layer. I assembled my Sage four piece four weight and began my descent of the steep path to the stream. The water was quite clear near the dam and remained in that state until a small tributary near the Walker Loop Trail added a small amount of color.

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Starting Point

By 11:30 I was positioned in the creek, and I began casting a size 14 yellow stimulator that I attached to my line in the parking lot, so I could hook my line to the rod guide while I completed the hike. On the fifth cast a brown trout swirled toward my fly, but turned away at the last instant. I tallied an early refusal and turned my attention to a nice deep shelf pool on the opposite side of the stream. I cast directly across the main center current and executed some nifty mends, and my reward for this display of technical proficiency was another pair of snubs. One trout raced downstream for five feet and then turned away as the stimulator began to drag.

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Odd Lichen Background

I concluded that yellow was not the preferred body color, so I exchanged it for a medium olive stimulator of the same size. This version of the attractor failed to induce looks or refusals, so I once again executed a swap and tied a size 14 gray caddis to my line. This fly was quite difficult to follow, and it also was soundly disregarded by the stream residents. I said goodbye to the shelf pool and moved upstream, but before doing so I snipped off the caddis and replaced it with a size 12 Jakes gulp beetle with a dubbed peacock body. This exact fly produced eight nice trout for me on Friday on South Boulder Creek albeit under much lower stream flows.

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On the Board

The beetle also failed to generate interest, so I made a major tactical change and shifted my approach to dry dropper. For the top fly I chose a size 8 Chernobyl ant. The first fly I plucked from my plastic cylinder was a fine looking imitation, however upon closer inspection I noticed that the point of the hook was missing. I quickly stuffed it back in the canister to be disposed of later, and I substituted another size 8 with a hook point. Beneath the Chernobyl I added a flesh colored San Juan worm and a beadhead hares ear nymph. Finally I began to connect with some South Boulder Creek trout, and I incremented the fish counter to five, while the three fly offering described above remained in place. The San Juan worm accounted for two small browns, and the beadhead hares ear enticed the other three.

As I observed the drift of my flies on a fairly close deep run, I noted that the worm was fairly buoyant, and consequently my subsurface flies were tumbling along only a foot or so below the surface. This caused me to remove the worm, and I replaced it with a size 14 ultra zug bug. The Chernobyl ant, ultra zug bug and hares ear combination remained on my line for the remainder of the day, and I built the fish count from five to twenty-three. Readers of this blog can guess that I fell into a nice rhythm, as I moved at a fairly quick pace and popped short casts into all the likely pockets, deep runs and shelf pools.

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Best Rainbow on the Day

The method was effective, and the fish gave me a thumbs up. Three of the landed fish were rainbows, and two of them crushed the large Chernobyl on the surface. I also recorded six momentary hookups resulting from rises to the Chernobyl, but for some reason quite a few fish were able to shed the hook after a brief amount of thrashing. As mentioned earlier two of the brown trout nabbed the San Juan worm, and two additional netted brown trout snatched the ultra zug bug. A bit of arithmetic reveals that seventeen brown trout chomped the drifting hares ear, as my workhorse fly continued to be my most productive fly.

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During the early afternoon I heard some rumbling to the west, so I heeded the warning signal and paused to pull on my raincoat. This proved to be a wise move, as I fished through ten minutes of rain. The rain was more of a nuisance than anything, but it was enough to soak my shirt had I not resorted to the protective layer of a raincoat. At 3PM I grew weary, and I faced a long exit hike, so I called it quits and returned to the parking lot.

On Wednesday May 31 I enjoyed another fabulous day on South Boulder Creek. The stream flows were nearly ideal, the weather was delightful, and the surroundings were stunning. Double digit landed trout was merely icing on the cake.

Fish Landed: 23