Category Archives: S. Boulder Creek

South Boulder Creek – 09/24/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Between Rollinsville and East Portal

South Boulder Creek 09/24/2020 Photo Album

Thursday was another adventure on heretofore never fished water in Colorado. In fact, fishing new water has become a theme for my 2020 season, and a few interesting destinations remain on my list for the autumn season. I noticed the public section of South Boulder Creek on our several trips to and from the East Portal to hike the popular trail.

Promising Slick

The dashboard registered sixty degrees, as I prepared to fish, so I wore my Under Armour long sleeve insulated shirt and a fleece hoodie, This created comfort during the morning and early afternoon, but eventually I concluded, that I was overdressed. I slid my four piece Sage four weight together and hiked downstream along the dirt road, until I found a more gradual path for my descent. I was unfamiliar with the section, but my instincts paid off, when I entered the creek just above a no trespassing sign. When I observed the stream from high above on the road, I feared that it was quite low, but this assessment proved deceiving, as the flows were decent for late September.

Surprise Start

Hippie Stomper on Fire Early

I selected a hippie stomper from my MFC fly box and tied it to my line. The next twenty minutes were the highlight of my day, as five brown trout aggressively smacked the size 12 attractor. A couple of the browns measured eleven inches and proved to be some of the best fish of the day. I was pleased with the confidence shown by the resident trout, and my optimism soared with the hope, that I discovered yet another mountain stream destination.

Leaves, They Are A’Changing

Unfortunately the easy dry fly fishing did not endure, and I suffered through an extended dry spell. This period of inaction convinced me to convert to a dry/dropper approach, and I aligned my lineup with a tan pool toy hopper, pheasant tail nymph and hares ear nymph. The pace of action improved, but I never regained the magic of the first twenty minutes. The fish count climbed from five to ten between 11:00AM and 1:00PM, and the hares ear was responsible for most of the landed trout.

Super Nova Worked

By 1:00PM the air temperature climbed into the low seventies, and the action slowed measurably. I decided to revert to a dry fly approach and attached the hippie stomper to my line. Eventually I adopted  a double dry presentation with an olive stimulator behind the stomper. This combination accounted for a fish; but the warm air, bright sun and fruitless casting caused my confidence to wane. I decided to go deep again and replaced the hippie stomper with a Chernobyl ant trailing a super nova. The dry spell was temporarily broken, when a twelve inch rainbow snapped up the super nova, but this proved to be an aberration, and eventually I returned to a dry fly approach with a moodah poodah and a pheasant tail on a short eighteen inch dropper.

Best Fish of the Day

In one of the larger pockets I plopped the beetle (moodah poodah), and a brown trout shot across the small pool to inhale the foam terrestrial and raised the fish count to thirteen. I surmised that perhaps beetles were the answer, but another drought developed, and I decided to call it quits at 2:30PM. My confidence was low, and I was frustrated by my inability to generate interest in spite of casting to quality water with careful presentations.

Thirteen fish was acceptable, but size was lacking, and the early afternoon  was challenging. I suspect that I will never make the drive to western South Boulder Creek again, but it was fun to experience a new stretch of the stream.

Fish Landed: 13

South Boulder Creek – 09/02/2020

Time: 10:45AM – 3:15PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/02/2020 Photo Album

After two very successful days on South Boulder Creek in early August, I yearned to return in order to take advantage of the late green drake hatch on the small front range tailwater. Unfortunately the Denver Water managers had other ideas, and they boosted the flow rate from 140 CFS to 230 CFS. As you might imagine, 230 CFS in the narrow tight South Boulder Creek canyon creates some challenging fishing conditions. I decided to bide my time and wait for the flows to drop to more favorable levels, while I sampled other high country options in Colorado. Finally I noted that the DWR graph depicted outflows from Gross Reservoir of 139 CFS, and I promptly made plans to pay the canyon tailwater a visit.

Yummy Water

Wednesday developed into a sunny day with the high temperature on South Boulder Creek approaching eighty degrees. Wet wading seemed like an attractive option, but I recalled that my feet grew numb even while wearing waders due to the cold bottom release from the dam. I slid into my waders and rigged my Orvis Access four weight and descended the steep trail from the kayak parking lot to the edge of the creek. Three cars preceded me to the parking area, and another arrived with a man and presumably a son and grandson, while I prepared to fish. Surely the small number of vehicles meant that I would have the creek mostly to myself.

Early Hippie Stomper Success

As I crossed the creek at the bottom of the steep trail, it seemed that the rushing flows were stronger than 139 CFS; however, when I checked again upon my return home, the DWR web site graph continued to depict a level line at the aforementioned velocity. As mentioned in the first paragraph, I anxiously anticipated prospecting with large green drake dry flies; and I did, in fact, do some of that, but the fish were not as cooperative, as they were on 8/11/2020 and 8/14/2020. According to plan when I arrived at my favorite starting point, I tied a parachute green drake to my line and began to prospect likely fish holding lies, but the stream residents showed no interest.

After I covered several very attractive pools with no response from the fish, I exchanged the green drake for a peacock hippie stomper. In the early going before lunch the stomper registered a pair of trout, but it also generated an abundant quantity of refusals, so I swapped it for a user friendly green drake. The user friendly fooled my only rainbow trout of the day, but then it also became a fly that the fish decided to inspect but not eat.

Worth a Few Casts

Held in the Sunshine

This description of my morning fly fishing pretty much characterized my entire day. I cycled through a lot of flies but never settled on a consistent producer, until the end of the day on my way back to the parking lot. I fished diligently and covered a significant amount of stream and managed to land fifteen trout. All were brown trout except for the rainbow that crushed the user friendly. Ten trout rested in my net between 10:45 and 2:45, and I added five in a thirty minute period, when I stopped to fish a favorite pool during my return hike. Obviously my catch rate in the first four hours was very lackluster.

Recovery

After lunch I tried a tan pool toy hopper trailing a beadhead prince and a salvation nymph, and I succeeded in attracting a batch of refusals to the hopper. The nymphs were totally ignored, so I returned to the dry fly approach and tossed a green drake comparadun for a reasonable length of time. The solitary green drake imitation duped one fish, but it was largely avoided. What could the trout be looking for? I pulled a beetle from my box, and it was one of the most popular flies of the day. After some initial success with the beetle, the action slowed down, and I spied several natural green drakes and a large pale morning dun. I switched to a size 14 light gray comparadun and induced one trout to gulp the large PMD imitation, and then I reverted to the beetle and added the green drake comparadun as the second dry fly. Of the first ten fish landed before I embarked on my return hike, three ate the hippie stomper, one chomped the light gray comparadun, one smacked the user friendly green drake, one sipped the green drake comparadun, and four nipped the Jake’s gulp beetle. The numerous fly changes were indicative of a slow catch rate and my inability to identify a consistently productive fly for the trout of South Boulder Creek.

Healthy Brown Trout

I wasted too much time casting to center runs and pockets, because most of my success was derived from the deep pockets and riffles along the bank. The higher than desired flows reduced the number of prime holding spots for trout, and this forced me to move often, and this in turn caused me to climb over numerous boulders and to battle strong currents to make headway.

End of Day Fun

At 2:45PM I reached an area where the canyon narrowed, and flows at 139 CFS hampered my ability to find decent holding water. I hooked my fly to the rod guide and began my return hike. After .75 mile I approached a nice wide pool and before wading through it to continue my return journey, I paused and observed several rises. I decided to extend my fly fishing day, and I lobbed some casts of the beetle to the vicinity of rises. The beetle attracted several looks, but the trout would not close their jaw on the foam imitation. What could the fish be eating? I swapped the beetle for a size 18 cinnamon comparadun. It was mostly ignored or refused, but through persistence I induced two trout to sip the low riding mayfly imitation.

End of Day Bonus

Four or five fish fed sporadically at the tail of the long pool area, and they became immune to my comparadun, so I exchanged it for a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. This was definitely not on the radar of the stream residents, so I removed it, and replaced it with a size 18 light gray comparadun. Voila! Three trout recognized the small comparadun as a desirable food item, and I built the fish count to fifteen. Four of the last five trout landed were browns in the twelve inch range, and I was quite pleased to end my day on a high note.

Fish Landed: 15

South Boulder Creek – 08/14/2020

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/14/2020 Photo Album

I experienced a spectacular day on Tuesday, August 11 on South Boulder Creek, so I decided to replicate it on Friday, August 14. Predictably I was a vicitim of high expectations.

Traffic was uncharacteristically light on Friday morning, and this enabled me to arrive at the kayak parking lot by 8:45AM. The air temperature was in the low sixties, and it was obvious that Friday would evolve into another hot day. Based on prior experience I knew that the bottom release flows from the dam were extremely cold, and flows of 168 CFS meant that I would be standing knee deep in water most of the day. I quickly made the decision to wear my waders, and I put together my Sage four weight rod.

Dainty Wildflowers

Two vehicles preceded me to the lot, and as I ran through my preparation routine, two additional gentlemen arrived. They were not familiar with the South Boulder Creek area and access points, so they immediately began questioning me about the matter. I explained that there are essentially three access points, and they were currently at the closest to the creek, although I warned them that the short trail to the creek below the dam necessitated a very steep climb out at the end of the day. One of the men appeared to be in his sixties or seventies, so I wanted to make them aware of the stressful climb. As I departed for the trail myself, it sounded like they were inclined to take the plunge.

At Least One Trout Must Call This Spot Home

I hiked a reasonable distance from the parking lot and found myself along the edge of the creek ready to cast by 9:30AM. 168 CFS is higher than I prefer; as it reduces the number of attractive fish holding lies, prevents crossing to the opposite bank and mostly confines casting to the area between the right bank and the middle of the creek. The combination of a peacock hippie stomper and parachute green drake performed quite well in the morning on Tuesday, so I copied the strategy on Friday. I began in a gorgeous wide pool that represents one of my favorites on the entire creek, and fifteen minutes of focused casting and prospecting failed to produce one iota of interest from the resident trout. At this point I sensed that Friday was going to be a completely different experience than Tuesday.

Only Trout Taken on a Nymph

I abandoned the double dry approach and adopted a dry/dropper configuration. In previous years I enjoyed some success with a prince nymph imitating a green drake nymph, so I tested this tactic on Friday morning. I deployed a tan pool toy hopper as the top fly for visibility and buoyancy and then knotted the prince in the top nymph position and then added a salvation nymph below it. The salvation choice was an attempt to imitate pale morning dun nymphs, in case they were present as well. The dry/dropper was allocated a fair share of stream time, and it allowed me to record my first landed fish; a small brown trout that gobbled the salvation, but otherwise I judged the method to be lacking. Fish were not responding to the hopper, and they generally ignored the nymphs as well.

May Require a Left Handed Cast

My earlier than normal start and extra stream time, before the heat materialized, was largely squandered with one trout in 1.5 hours of fishing. I decided to revert to what worked on Tuesday, but to focus on green drake dries, and consequently I retired the hippie stomper. I selected a parachute green drake from my drake fly box, and I began to prospect with the solo dry fly. In short order a feisty eleven inch rainbow snatched the parachute, and my fortunes made a U-turn in a positive direction. Over the next hour I learned that most of the trout willing to eat my dry fly were tucked in slower moving water with some depth near the bank, and I concentrated my energies on these types of stream structure.

Rescued from Net Hell

The remainder of my day on South Boulder Creek followed the script. I cast a single dry fly to likely fish holding lies along the right bank, and I steadily boosted the fish count from two to fourteen, before I called it quits. Unlike Tuesday this was not fast and furious action. Instead I worked upstream very methodically, and my persistence was periodically rewarded with a hungry eater. Although the quantity of fish landed lagged August 11, the size was on average superior, although thirteen inches represented the best fish of the day. Brown trout outnumbered rainbow trout by a two to one ratio. I cycled through four styles of green drake imitations including the parachute, comparadun, user friendly and May break cripple. The introductory test of the May break was disappointing, as no trout gave it a look. The user friendly delivered a fish or two, but then it created a streak of refusals and lost its prominent position on my line.

Decent

Quite Nice Brown for SBC

The parachute green drake and comparadun were the workhorse flies on Friday, and they accounted for the bulk of the landed fish. In one promising pool I observed some rises to smaller mayflies, which I presumed to be pale morning duns, so I added an eight inch section of tippet to the bend of the green drake and attached a size 16 light gray comparadun. The smaller mayfly proved its worth, as two rainbows nabbed it from the surface. At 2:30PM I observed two natural green drakes, as they fluttered on the surface in an attempt to escape the surface tension.

So Close I Nearly Dapped the Cast, but a Fish Materialized

By 3PM I became quite weary from scrambling around branches and over slippery rocks, and the mid-afternoon sun was scorching the creek and its surroundings including me. I reeled up my slack line, hooked my fly to the rod guide and began my hike back up the canyon to the car. Along the way I stopped at three separate shelf pools to test my skills, but a subtle refusal from a small fish was all I could muster, before I ascended the steep trail to the parking lot. I stopped five times during my climb to catch my breath and test for afib. By the time I arrived at the Santa Fe, my body was fatigued, and my layers were saturated with perspiration. The two gentlemen that I advised at the outset of my day were no longer present, and I was pleased to avoid their criticism, if they endured the rigorous climb.

SBC Rainbows Are Special

Rainbow Curl

In retrospect Friday was a decent day for mid-August. The air temperature was much hotter, and I encountered many more anglers compared to my visit earlier in the week. The additional fishermen certainly stirred up the water and spooked more fish thus impacting my fish count. But all things considered, fourteen fish was reasonable, and each was a brilliant gem, while the size of the trout was above average for the South Boulder Creek fishery. If I eliminated the forty-one fish day on Tuesday from my mind and re-calibrated my expectations to a normal level, I realized that Friday was another fun experience during the summer of 2020.

Fish Landed: 14

Where to Cast First?

South Boulder Creek – 08/11/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/11/2020 Photo Album

March Madness. April Insanity. Now I offer August Mayhem. I continued my 2020 pursuit of green drake hatches on Tuesday, August 11, and I was not disappointed.

A dentist appointment on Monday and doctor appointment Thursday precluded a long fishing/camping trip on the week that began on August 10, so I designated the week for Front Range stream exploration. Bear Creek, the Cache la Poudre, and the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek were the only Front Range systems, that I touched in the months following my surgery. When I reviewed the DWR stream data, I discovered that the Big Thompson continued to rush down the valley at 280 CFS. Boulder Creek flows were promising, but I was averse to dealing with the construction delays in the canyon. The Bear Creek and the Cache la Poudre graphs were depicting ridiculously low flows, and I was concerned about the safety of the fish. I guided my eleven year old friend, Lucas, on the North Fork of the St. Vrain on Friday, and the conditions were challenging. This left Clear Creek and South Boulder Creek. Fortunately Clear Creek numbers were down to 93 CFS, and my ideal range for the nearby creek west of Golden is 50 – 100 CFS. South Boulder Creek continued to rush through the canyon below Gross Reservoir at 168 CFS, which is a bit higher than I prefer. I reviewed posts on this blog for prior visits to South Boulder Creek In early August at relatively high flows, and I discovered that trout were willing risers to green drakes despite the increased volume of water. This clinched my decision, and I made the short drive to South Boulder Creek for a day of fly fishing.

The Will to Live

Two vehicles occupied the parking lot when I arrived, and I applauded that circumstance. The air temperature was around 70 degrees and the high for the day topped out just under 80 degrees. Clouds blocked the sun for much of my time in the canyon, and the cold bottom release water kept me comfortable during my five hours on the stream. I put together my Sage four weight and jumped in my waders and hiked down the steep trail to the creek and then continued for a decent distance, before I began fishing at 10:00AM.

A Starting Point

My research informed me that green drakes were present in early August, so I debated whether to start with a dry/dropper featuring a beadhead prince as a drake nymph imitation or alternatively to launch my day with a double dry incorporating a green drake dry fly. I opted for the latter and configured my line with a peacock body hippie stomper trailing a parachute green drake on an eight inch dropper. In the first fifteen minutes I landed three trout, and all confidently inhaled the parachute drake. I was off to a fast start, and I gave myself a mental pat on the back for electing the double dry approach.

Stretched Out Brown Trout

The positive beginning quickly morphed into frustration, as the next two trout that I hooked sought the safety of some underwater logs. I was unable to prevent their sudden dives, and I lost both fish along with three flies. In the first instance the hippie stomper and parachute green drake broke off, and in case number two the green drake separated, while I salvaged the hippie stomper. These irritating interruptions to my positive fishing vibe were the only such occurrences during the day, but I was frustrated nonetheless.

Yikes. A Pool.

With the early loss of two green drake flies, my concern grew over whether I stocked adequate quantities, so I replaced the comparadun with a Harrop hair-wing. The hair-wing version performed reasonably well, as the fish count mounted to twelve before lunch, but much of this success was attributable to the appeal of the hippie stomper. Most of the early trout were browns, and several feisty twelve inch beauties rested in my net.

Harrop Hair-wing

Comfortable

After lunch I continued with the same approach that provided me with enjoyment in the morning. The hippie stomper remained in place as the front fly until 2:30, however, I rotated the point fly among the Harrop hair-wing, user friendly, and comparadun. During this time frame the trout preference shifted, and the stomper became more of a visual indicator, while the trailing green drake imitations emerged as the item of desire for the local stream residents.

Hippie Stomper in Use

And Another

As the fish count attained twenty, the user friendly suddenly seemed to generate refusals, so I downsized the green drake option to a size 14 comparadun, and the trout gave this change a thumbs up. By now I recognized the types of stream structure that produced fish, and I moved more quickly and skipped marginal lies. The fish count climbed through the twenties to twenty-eight, and it was at this time, that I observed four natural green drakes, as they struggled to lift off the cold flowing currents of South Boulder Creek. I anticipated some hot action, but instead noticed four refusals to the hippie stomper. The trout in the canyon were seeing the stomper first, inspecting and rejecting, and never considered the green drake alternative. I decided to abandon the hippie stomper and double dry method and knotted a solo parachute green drake to my line.

User Friendly Green Drake

Promising Section

Unique Spot Pattern

The single dry parachute green drake proved its worth, and the fish count climbed to thirty-three. Although the low riding parachute was more difficult to track and required repeated sopping and dry shake dipping, it seemed to be a solid representation of the actual mayflies. My most effective tactic was to wade above the target area and then lob an across stream cast with an extra dose of slack. I allowed the parachute to drift downstream, and quite a few aggressive trout slammed the green drake fraud near the tail of the run. It seemed that they attacked it, before it escaped over the lip of the slower water.

Cannot Get Enough of These South Boulder Creek Rainbows

Number thirty-three was released, as I reached a section of steeper gradient and faster water. At low flows I normally continue to prospect this area, but at 168 CFS wading was a challenge, so I chose to exit and began my march back to the car. As is my custom, I stopped along the return route at two of my favorite pools. The first return hike break proved to be very productive, as I landed five additional trout to raise the count to thirty-eight. Four of the five were hard fighting rainbow trout, and they all responded to the downstream presentation described earlier.

A Bit Closer

Scarlet O’Hara

At my final fishing stop I sprayed casts with the parachute drake to all corners of the slower water, but the trout were unimpressed. Meanwhile several risers caught my attention along the right bank next to a few exposed rocks. I targeted them with some expert drifts, but for some reason the parachute drake fell out of favor. In an eleventh-hour attempt to dupe the fussy feeders, I swapped the parachute style for a comparadun. Success! Three more trout inhaled the comparadun including a fine thirteen inch brown that put an exclamation point on my day of fly fishing. I released the deep olive-gold bodied brown and hooked my fly to the rod guide and returned to the Santa Fe.

Buttery Gold at the End of the Day

Large Pool Ahead

What a day! Forty-one landed trout, and all were taken on dry flies. I never tested the dry/dropper with a prince nymph. although I considered it to start my day. I utilized and caught fish on every style of green drake in my box except for the May break cripple. The higher flows forced me to wade cautiously, however, the large dry flies lured the trout up from the depths. It was rare that promising water failed to deliver on my expectations, and I revel in such fast paced action. All my green drakes proved their worth, although the parachute and compardun styles seemed to outperform the others. If the flows remain favorable, another month of green drake action should be available on South Boulder Creek. I plan to take advantage.

Fish Landed: 41

South Boulder Creek – 06/30/2020

Time: 3:00PM – 4:15PM

Location: South Boulder Road to Boulder Turnpike

South Boulder Creek 06/30/2020 Photo Album

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

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

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

High but Clear

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

Gorgeous Run Failed to Produce

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

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

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

Fish Landed: 0

South Boulder Creek – 04/06/2020

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 04/06/2020 Photo Album

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

Loving the Pools Ahead

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

Representative Brown Trout

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

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

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

Not Sure How I Did This

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

Chernobyl Ant Classic Worked on April 6

Productive Prince

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

On Display

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

So Clear

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

Fish Landed: 19

The Only Rainbow

South Boulder Creek – 04/01/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 04/01/2020 Photo Album

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

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

CDC Olive in Lip

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

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

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

Bringing It Closer

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

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

Another Perfect Rainbow

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

Looking Down on You

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

Speckles Right Into Tail

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

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

Glistening

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

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

Fish Landed: 15

South Boulder Creek – 10/26/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/26/2019 Photo Album

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

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

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

Deep Snow Next to Long Pool

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

At the Start

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

Fat Albert Duped One Trout

Mangled 20 Incher Was the Number One Fly

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

Marvelous Spots

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

Pleased with This One

Change of Pace Rainbow

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

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

Surprise Rainbow on a Dry Fly

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

Size 16 Light Gray Comparadun Worked

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

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

Fish Landed: 26

South Boulder Creek – 10/15/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/15/2019 Photo Album

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

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

Home to the Crimson Rainbow

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

Scarlet Gill Plate Stands Out

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

Looking Ahead

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

Overview

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

Ooh. Fish Haven.

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

My What Spots You Have

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

Missile Shaped

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

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

End of Day Surprise

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

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

Fish Landed: 29

 

South Boulder Creek – 09/12/2019

Time: 12:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/12/2019 Photo Album

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

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

Near the Start

Better Focus

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

Ant Eater

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

Zoomed on the Ant

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

Beetle Victim

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

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

Colors

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

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

Pastel Pink

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

Fish Landed: 18