South Boulder Creek – 11/09/2016

Time: 10:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/09/2016 Photo Album

Landing nine fish on November 9 is certainly a noteworthy achievement, although I must admit that I was spoiled by the twenty-six fish day, that I enjoyed on November 4. It was really the accompanying adversity that transformed Wednesday from a decent outing into a negative event.

I arrived at the parking lot at 8:45 and after assembling my Loomis five weight and gathering my fishing paraphernalia, I embarked on my journey down the path. I elected to fish a new section, and I was positioned in the stream with a Jake’s gulp beetle on my line by 10AM. The segment in front of me featured tight canyon walls on both sides, and the entire creek was cloaked in shade for the first hour. In addition the water was characterized by fast chutes and pockets, and the combination of the low lighting and swirling current caused me to abandon the beetle, and I converted to a dry/dropper arrangement. I elected to tie a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added the standard lineup of a beadhead hares ear nymph and an ultra zug bug.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Capturing Some Sky” type=”image” alt=”PB090109.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Decent Brown Took the Ultra Zug Bug” type=”image” alt=”PB090106.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Between 10:00 and 11:30 I moved at a relatively fast pace through the canyon and landed two small brown trout that snatched the ultra zug bug from positions tight to exposed midstream boulders. My casts in the first forty-five minutes were futile, so I was relieved to finally experience some action during the second half of the morning. By 11:30 I reached a segment where the north side of the creek basked in partial sunshine, and this improved lighting enabled me to revert to a size 12 peacock Jake’s beetle.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Best Fish of the Day Slurped the Beetle” type=”image” alt=”PB090107.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

In order to progress upstream I criss-crossed from north to south and back to avoid areas where vertical rock walls made wading a challenge. During one of these crossings, my rubber soled boot slipped on a slanted slimy rock, and I caught my fall by submerging my right arm above my elbow. Of course when I raised my arm to cast, water slowly ran down my sleeve and soaked my shirt and fleece layer. Needless to say I was not a happy wet fisherman at such an early point in my hiking adventure. Stay tuned, however, as the day had another surprise.

Finally by 12:15 I arrived in an area where more of the stream was bathed in full sunlight, so I paused to eat my light lunch. I removed my fleece and spread it out on a rock in direct sunlight, and I also rolled down the bib on my waders to expose my shirt to the sun. These moves were somewhat symbolic, and when I resumed fishing, the fleece remained wet, so I added my raincoat as an additional layer to retain some body heat and counter the cooling effect of evaporation. Fortunately Wednesday was a relatively warm day, but standing in the shade was somewhat uncomfortable.

After lunch I resumed my upstream progression, and the warming effect of the sunshine seemed to energize the stream residents, as I added three more fish to bring my count to five. The best fish of the day was a brown trout that slurped the beetle in a deep slow moving pocket above some large rocks, and it was among the first three fish landed after lunch.

I was beginning to develop a rhythm, although I never generated the fast paced action of November 4. I was standing on the north bank, and I flipped a nice backhand cast to a short pocket above me, and this prompted a solid rise from a nine inch brown. Since I was standing two or three feet above the creek, I decided to step into the water to net my catch. I placed my feet on what appeared to be an innocent slightly angled but light colored submerged rock, and in an instant both my rubber soled wading boots shot out toward the flowing water. Before I realized it, I landed on my right hip and broke my fall with my right hand. A decent amount of water trickled over the top of my waders, before I could right the ship, and then I cringed as the ice cold wetness slowly migrated down both my wader legs. It was a stroke of luck that my Loomis two piece remained just that, a two piece fly rod.

As I stood and absorbed this uncomfortable development, my attention turned to the rest of my body, and I sensed burning from both my hands. The dull ache gradually disappeared from my left hand, but when I inspected my right, I discovered a 3/4″ X 1/2″ scrape in the fleshy area on the outside beneath my palm. I quickly severed some detached skin and rinsed off the blood, but it continued to flood my hand. The scrape was not deep, so I was not worried about immediate medical attention, but I needed to stop the bleeding. I removed my frontpack and backpack and searched the pockets, but alas I apparently removed the bandages that I normally carry. I found a small roll of toilet paper deep in my backpack pocket and peeled off a small bit and dabbed it over the wound. The shaving cut treatment worked long enough to absorb the excess blood, and the bleeding eventually stopped, although the wound was in an awkward location for gripping a fly rod and casting.

Now that I temporarily attended to my first injury, I realized that the ache in my right hand continued, and I noticed that the impact of the fall created a large deep bruise on the fleshy area at the base of my right thumb. I rotated my thumb in all directions, and that functionality remained, so I concluded that my injury was a bruise or sprain. The last manifestation of my fall finally surfaced, as I began to take a step, and I felt an aching tightness in the right buttock area behind my hip. Again I exhibited full range of motion, but not without some annoying pain.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”More Sunshine on This Photo” type=”image” alt=”PB090111.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I concluded that I completed a full inventory of my new aches, and I resumed fishing. Over the remainder of my fishing time I landed three additional fish on the beetle, but I would be lying, if I said I was having fun. The bruise below my thumb came into play while casting and more significantly when I leaned on the wading staff when I crossed the stream. I was quite fearful that the reduced strength of my hand would lead to another unfortunate incident, and since I was in new territory I decided to reel up my fly and began the relatively lengthy return hike.

Additional mild weather remains in the five day forecast, but I suspect that I need several days to recuperate from my rough outing on South Boulder Creek on November 9. I already added rubber soles with cleats to my Christmas list. Perhaps this was the last fishing trip of 2016, but I learned to never jump to conclusions during this extended autumn.

Fish Landed: 9

South Boulder Creek – 11/04/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Tailwater below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 11/04/2016 Photo Album

The euphoria lingered  as I returned from a day of fishing and even continued as I composed this blog the next morning. Certainly Friday November 4 was my best day of fishing during the month of November. The streak of mild unseasonable weather continued into the first week of November, and I could not resist the temptation to take advantage.

The water managers finally reduced the outflows from Gross Reservoir to ideal levels, and this circumstance along with temperatures in the low sixties prompted me to toss my fishing gear in the Santa Fe. In early November the warmest part of the day is between 11AM and 3PM, so I targeted this time period. Three other vehicles occupied the South Boulder Creek parking lot when I arrived, and two men were present, as they assembled their rods. They departed five minutes before me, and I wondered what section of South Boulder Creek was in their plans.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Starting Pool” type=”image” alt=”PB040072.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]


Once my waders were on, and my Loomis five weight was assembled, I descended the steep path to the stream and crossed to the south bank. I passed two fishermen above the pedestrian bridge on the Walker Loop, and then I passed the two anglers that I greeted in the parking lot. Eventually I passed a third fishermen who was waded into the creek, so I knew I accounted for all the vehicles. I moved beyond the last fisherman a good distance and cut down the bank to a position below a gorgeous large pool. A strong heavy current cut the pool in half, and a nice moderate riffle was above me on the right side of the stream.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Beetle Lover” type=”image” alt=”PB040071.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

On my walk in to the creek I devised a strategy. I love plopping a Jake’s gulp beetle, so I planned to test that approach first. If successful, I would adhere to drifting the single foam dry fly, since that is the method I prefer. However, if after fifteen to twenty minutes, the beetle was not attracting interest, I would default to the dry/dropper configuration. The downside to fishing the solitary beetle is visibility. Fall fishing in narrow canyons yields shadows, glare and difficult lighting conditions; and the beetle with a narrow orange foam indicator strip can be difficult to follow. Fortunately the attractive pool where I began was bathed in sunlight.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Another Fine Brown Trout from the Attractive Starting Pool” type=”image” alt=”PB040075.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I tied a size 12 peacock body beetle to my line and lofted a cast to the lower section of the riffle above me. Thwack! A feisty wild brown trout darted to the surface and smashed it with confidence. What a start! After I photographed and released the first landed fish, I inspected the fly and noticed that the aggressive brown cut the black foam overwing, so it now pointed toward the sky. The legs and thin foam indicator were still intact, so I decided to give it another try. I cast a bit farther toward the top of the pool, and another twelve inch brown crushed the disabled offering. Could this really be happening?

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Gorgeous Colors” type=”image” alt=”PB040074.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

When I once again brought the fly up for a closer look, I noticed that the thread was unraveling, but the crippled beetle worked once, so why not try it again. Once again I made a couple casts upstream, but this time all I observed were a couple tentative refusals. I opened my fly box and found another size 12 peacock beetle and replaced the damaged terrestrial. I turned my attention to the current seam along the deep fast center current, and I placed a cast right on the inside edge above me. The tiny orange speck glided along the seam, and suddenly a mouth chomped down on the imitation. I raised my rod and set the hook, and a short time later I gazed at a brightly colored thirteen inch rainbow trout. Three gorgeous wild fish from the first pool in the first half hour certainly raised my expectations for the day, although I attempted to dampen them.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”My Lunch View, and Several Nice Fish Were Visible” type=”image” alt=”PB040078.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I finally experienced some unsuccessful drifts and moved on to the next stretch of South Boulder Creek. Needless to say the catch rate slowed a bit, but not significantly. I built the fish count to twenty-one by two o’clock, and every landed fish displayed Jake’s gulp beetle in its mouth. Unlike Clear Creek casts directly upstream were the most effective. I also discovered that the fish were extremely sensitive to drag, and most of my success occurred when I approached a pocket or run with stealth. This enabled me to drop a short cast and hold my rod high, so only the leader was on the surface, and thus minimized drag. The beetle was not universally accepted, as refusals were also part of the game, but by and large, if I eliminated drag, the fish were willing to slurp. Since South Boulder Creek contains a strong rainbow trout population, I expected the spring spawning species to dominate my landing net, but all the beetle feasting trout except for the third catch were brown trout. I have no explanation.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Nice Lighting” type=”image” alt=”PB040080.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Rainbow from Huge Pool” type=”image” alt=”PB040084.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

At two o’clock my fish count surged beyond my expectations, and I encountered a narrow fast section of the creek that was mainly covered by shadows. I decided to experiment with a dry/dropper rig mainly for improved visibility in the turbulent water and dim light. I tied a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added the standard fall lineup of a beadhead hares ear nymph and an ultra zug bug. In a deep trough below some large rocks the fat Albert paused for a split second, and I executed a quick hook set. Instantly a brightly colored thrashing rainbow trout appeared on my line, but just as quickly it slipped free of the hook. I persisted in the juicy deep slot and on the second subsequent drift, the same scenario played out, but this time I netted a small rainbow trout that snatched the ultra zug bug.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Comparadun in Corner of the Mouth” type=”image” alt=”PB040087.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

I thought perhaps I stumbled on to another winning technique, but I advanced through the remainder of the pocket strewn section with no additional success. I climbed to the bank and circled around a wide riffle area with marginal depth and eventually came to another beautiful pool similar to the one where I began the day. I lobbed the fat Albert to the nice riffle directly above me, but the three flies failed to attract interest, so I shifted my attention to the seam along the rapidly flowing center run. As I watched the foam top fly bob along the current, I spotted two rises in the shelf pool on the south side of the center current.

I paused to observe and wondered what may have generated this sudden display of surface feeding in the pool. Quite a few midges buzzed about, and I was about to try a griffiths gnat, when three pale morning duns slowly fluttered up from the surface of the water. Could these fish be tuned into pale morning duns in early November? I opened my MFC fly box and pulled a size 18 cinnamon comparadun from the foam and attached it to my line. Once I dabbed it with floatant and bent down the barb, I made a couple reach casts across with some quick mends to avoid immediate drag from the strong center flow.

On the third such maneuver a ten inch brown trout drifted to the surface and sipped my comparadun! I fooled a trout on a mayfly that normally appears in the June – August time frame. It gets even better. After I released the first comparadun sipper, I dried the fly and repeated the reach cast and mend higher up in the pool, and another slightly larger brown surfaced and engulfed the fly. This wild brown took the cinnamon dun with confidence, as its momentum carried its head entirely out of the water. For the next fifteen minutes I continued upstream along the right bank and added two more brown trout to my count. The third comparadun eater was a twelve inch brown that crushed the tiny mayfly imitation in a two foot wide narrow deep pocket along some large boulders that lined the bank.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Speckled Brown Trout Also Ate the Cinnamon Comparadun” type=”image” alt=”PB040089.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Twenty-six fish landed on November 4 is an outstanding day. But even more impressive is the fact that twenty-five were caught on a dry fly. Rarely do I experience this level of surface fishing success during the prime times of July and September. Will the mild weather continue and allow me to make more successful fishing trips during 2016?

Fish Landed: 26

South Boulder Creek – 10/27/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/27/2016 Photo Album

It was a marvelous day for fly fishing. The string of unseasonably warm days in late October continued, so I decided to take advantage, and I embarked on a trip to South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. This small tailwater is a candidate to be my home water; however, the Denver Water managers make it difficult to adopt. I experienced one fine day on September 7, when I was fortunate to catch flows at 84 CFS. That evening Denver Water tightened the valve to 8.4 CFS, and that is a trickle, so I chose other options. After a week or so of minimal flows, the managers increased the releases to 210 CFS. This volume of water is very high for the small stream bed, and I did not wish to fish in spring-like run off conditions.

When I checked the DWR stream flow data after returning from the Taylor River, I noted that the flows were reduced to 90 CFS a week prior, and after another adjustment they were at 64 CFS. The combination of nearly ideal flows and high temperatures of eighty degrees in Denver provided sufficient incentive for me to pack the Santa Fe with fishing gear in preparation for a visit to South Boulder Creek.

I departed Stapleton at 8:45 and arrived at the parking lot high above the creek near the outlet from the dam by 10AM. Three vehicles were already present, as I quickly pulled on my waders and rigged my Loomis five weight for a day on the stream. Since I usually hike quite a distance from the car, I packed my lunch in anticipation of a four or five hour sojourn in the canyon. I descended the steep path, crossed the stream and then hiked for thirty minutes, until I was positioned below a gorgeous deep pool. The main current divided the pool in half, and then the water tailed out into a nice smooth stretch of moderate depth.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Downstream Drift to This Area Produced Fish Number One” type=”image” alt=”PA270004.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Much of the canyon remained in shadows, but this area was bathed in sunshine. I surveyed the scene and decided to begin with Jake’s gulp beetle. I always prefer fishing on the surface, and it was clear that visibility would not be an issue. I knotted a size 12 beetle to my line and moved to the bottom of the pool. Before casting upstream to the delicious moderate riffles along the right bank, I decided to warm up with some across and down drifts to an inviting area that remained in the shadows. What a great choice! On the fourth drift, as I mended to eliminate drag, a nose and bulge appeared, and I set the hook and found myself attached to a thirteen inch brown trout. What a start to my day, and what a thrill to land a large fish by South Boulder Creek standards on the beetle in thin water.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Sideview of the Chunky Brown Trout” type=”image” alt=”PA270003.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

 [peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Two More Fish Came from This Perfect Riffle” type=”image” alt=”PA270005.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Next I probed the wide twenty foot wide riffle above me, and two more respectable brown trout gulped the floating terrestrial. I pinched myself to make sure I was not in the middle of a dream. Evidently I was not, so I proceeded upstream and landed two more fine South Boulder Creek residents, before I adjourned for lunch at 12:15. The last landed fish in the morning was a deeply colored rainbow trout that emerged from a short pocket along the left bank.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Rainbows Like Beetles Also” type=”image” alt=”PA270010.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

Before lunch I encountered a section of the creek that was totally immersed in shadows. The thin neon orange indicator strip on the beetle was very difficult to follow in the poor light and occasional glare, so I converted to a dry/dropper with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear and ultra zug bug. Between 11:45 and 12:15 I prospected some great water with these three flies, but my net remained empty.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Lunch on the Rock” type=”image” alt=”PA270013.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

After lunch I entered another area that was covered with sunshine, and the dry/dropper was not producing action, so I returned to the single Jake’s gulp beetle. This proved to be a smart shift in approach, and I added four additional trout by 2:30. The afternoon fish were average in size, but I continued to enjoy the ideal flows, comfortable temperatures and fishing a dry fly successfully in late October.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Best Look” type=”image” alt=”PA270017.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

2016 has been a record year for me, so I made a conscious effort to slow my pace and absorb the amazing Colorado environment around me. On Thursday I felt at ease with my surroundings and thoroughly enjoyed my new laid back approach. My fish count was resting on nine when I reached a nice isolated pool along the right bank. A large corrugated pipe sank in the water and angled across the pool, and I decided to flip a few casts in the top section where the current feeds the slow moving main area. On the second drift I noticed a decent fish, as it moved to inspect my fly, but it failed to eat. Given my new attitude toward fishing, I decided to focus on this fish. Normally after a refusal, I limit myself to a few more casts, but then I move on in an effort to maximize my fish count.

What would this fish eat? I cycled through a black ant (another refusal), a CDC BWO, and a size 16 gray caddis, but none of these offerings triggered a take. Finally I conceded to the educated pool dweller and moved on. It is difficult to accept being outsmarted by a fish, but that was my plight on Thursday afternoon.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Buttery Belly” type=”image” alt=”PA270009.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Although I was operating in a new relaxed mental state, I was still cognizant of the fact that I needed one more fish to achieve double digits. The next segment of the creek was forty yards long and contained numerous delightful pockets and deep runs, as the stream tumbled around the many exposed rocks below a rock moraine on the right side. I knew the beetle would be difficult to follow in the dim light and swirly water, so I once again converted to the dry/dropper style. This time I topped off the alignment with a gray pool toy, and next I affixed a salvation nymph and then an ultra zug bug.

The lower third of the turbulent area did not produce a fish, but then I cast to a nice deep slot along the left bank and observed a pause in the pool toy. I raised the rod, and I immediately felt the throb of a thrashing ten inch brown trout. I quickly landed number ten and then released it to continue its life among the swirling currents of South Boulder Creek.

I progressed to the end of the fast water section, and here I encountered another young fisherman. It was approaching 2:30, and I knew I had a fairly long hike to exit the canyon, so I tucked the last fly in the rod guide, crossed the stream, and climbed to the path for the return. After crossing the pedestrian bridge I paused at a couple shelf pools in a last ditch effort to increase my fish count, but these efforts proved unsuccessful. Just after three o’clock I completed the final steep ascent to the parking lot, and I realized that Thursday felt like August in late October.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Stonefly Landed on My Sunglove” type=”image” alt=”PA270019.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

South Boulder Creek remains a magical nearby destination. I landed ten quality trout on a gorgeous fall day. If ever there was a definition of Indian summer, October 27 was that day. How long can this perfect autumn weather continue?

Fish Landed: 10

South Boulder Creek – 09/07/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/07/2016 Photo Album

I was anxious to revisit South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir, but the Denver Water managers seemed intent on flushing the system, as they maintained flows in the plus 200 cfs range for most of August. I decided to review the flows of the Front Range streams after Labor Day, and I was surprised and pleased to note that South Boulder Creek dropped to 149 cfs, so I quickly decided to make a trip on Wednesday September 7. Imagine my amazement when I rechecked the flows on Tuesday evening and discovered that the managers tightened the valve and dropped releases to 85 cfs. I normally avoid visiting a tailwater after a dramatic change, but I decided to deviate from my rule because the adjustment was a decrease and not a large increment.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Pretty” type=”image” alt=”P9070031.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

In addition to nearly ideal flows on South Boulder Creek the weather was perfect. After I climbed into my waders and assembled my Loomis five weight to begin my descent to the canyon floor, the temperature was in the low sixties. However hiking at a brisk pace and the warmth of the sun kindled my body temperature quickly, and I suspect the high temperature peaked in the upper seventies. My fishing shirt was the appropriate attire for a day when the outside air temperature mirrored the thermostat setting in our house.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Leaves Turning Yellow Already” type=”image” alt=”P9070032.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Two vehicles were present in the upper lot, and one fisherman departed before I was ready. I hustled and advanced to the trailhead just before the other group of three, so in order to evade the competition, I hiked quite a ways downstream from the pedestrian bridge on the Walker Loop. Once I established my entry point, I tied a pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph to my line. The pool toy from Tuesday was handicapped, as it was missing legs on the right side, so I dug out a fresh version with a tan body. The dry/dropper approach was extremely effective on Tuesday on the South Platte River, so I decided to test its effectiveness on a different stream.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Ready to Leave” type=”image” alt=”P9070037.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

My strategy proved to be a winner, as I worked my way upstream over the course of the day for .5 mile and cast the dry/dropper in all the inviting spots. It was a textbook dry/dropper day, as fish emerged from nearly every location that I expected. I landed nine trout before I broke for lunch at noon, and several were quite nice and at the upper limit of the South Boulder Creek size profile.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Crimson Gift” type=”image” alt=”P9070040.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

 [peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Pockets Galore” type=”image” alt=”P9070039.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

After lunch I endured a brief lull, but then the trout really engaged in a feeding frenzy. I actually experienced a double in a narrow riffle lane on the left side of a huge rock. The hopper paused, and I reacted with an abrupt hookset only to discover that an eight inch rainbow grabbed the hares ear, and a small cousin snatched the salvation. This was perhaps the fourth or fifth time in my life that I landed two fish at once.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Double Came from Left Side of Huge Rock” type=”image” alt=”P9070041.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

 [peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Stacked” type=”image” alt=”P9070044.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Between 12:30 and 3:00 I spotted a sparse pale morning dun and blue winged olive emergence; however, I never attempted to fish a dry fly because the nymphs were performing in excellent fashion. I suspect that an abundance of subsurface nymph activity spurred the success of the hares ear and salvation. On the day I landed two or three fish on the pool toy, and the remainder of the count was split 50/50 between the hares ear and salvation.

The hopper, hares ear, and salvation were fixtures on my line for the entire day, and I had a blast. I moved slower than normal, because I wore my Korker rubber soles to hike into the canyon, and the traction is inferior to felt bottoms. I hoped to avoid wear on my felts, and my slow progression was a concession to age and careful foot placement.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Fat Stripe” type=”image” alt=”P9070048.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Between 12:30 and 3:00 I had supreme confidence in my flies, and it was rare that I did not extract a fish from a location that struck me as promising. Various water types produced including deep runs, pockets, riffles of moderate depth, and even shallow riffles over rocky bottoms. I settled into a nice rhythm, and I relish the times when I enjoy complete confidence in my flies and approach. I cast directly upstream on numerous occasions and allowed the dry/dropper to drift back toward me over relatively shallow riffles. It is difficult to surpass the rush generated when the top fly stops, and a swift lift of the rod reveals a thrashing wild fish. This scenario played out quite often on Wednesday on South Boulder Creek.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Best Fish of the Day” type=”image” alt=”P9070062.JPG” image_size=”1920×1440″ ]

The last hour between  3 and 4 slowed considerably, and this suggests that the fish were not opportunistically grabbing my nymphs, but instead the nymphs were a reasonable imitation of a food source present in the creek. On Wednesday evening upon my return home, I checked the flows on South Boulder Creek, and I was shocked to discover that they dropped again to 35 cfs. Judging from my on stream experience, I suspect that this change was engineered after my departure. Somehow I managed to arrive on the creek for the one day of ideal flows. September is off to a spectacular start.

Fish Landed: 35

South Boulder Creek – 08/04/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/04/2016 Photo Album

A slow day on Wednesday on the Big Thompson River concerned me, so I resolved to target high elevation headwater streams and tailwaters until the weather cooled off a bit. As I perused stream flows prior to the Big Thompson trip, I noticed that South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir was reduced to 41 cfs. During a trip in early spring with flows at 30 cfs, I enjoyed a wonderful day, so I decided to make the short trip. South Boulder Creek is a tailwater, so it suited my recent resolution.

I left the house by 8:15 and after over an hour drive, I climbed into my waders and assembled my Sage four weight and departed down the steep trail to the creek. Unlike Wednesday the temperature was in the upper fifties as I began my hike, and high clouds blocked the sun and created a cool summer day in the mountains. The cloudy sky and intermittent breeze caused me to wear my raincoat for added warmth for nearly my entire day on the water.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Pocket Stretch Near the Start” type=”image” alt=”P8040002.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Five other vehicles populated the upper parking lot, so I hiked for nearly an hour to position myself away from other fishermen. I was on the water and casting by 10:30, and I began with a yellow stimulator. The fish were either too cold to eat, or my fly was not recognized as food, so I exchanged the stimulator for a size 14 gray deer hair caddis. This fly was also ignored by the South Boulder Creek trout, so I once again opted for the dry/dropper technique. I knotted a tan pool toy to my line as the top fly, and below it I added a salvation nymph. As is normally the case, the nymph attracted attention and by the time I paused to eat my lunch along the side of the stream, I built the fish tally to six. Most of the morning landed fish were brown trout in the nine to ten inch range, and all except one impetuous pool toy eater snatched the salvation from the drift.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Vivid Spots on This Brown Trout” type=”image” alt=”P8040001.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I finished my lunch at noon and resumed fishing, but I was curious if a second nymph might attract more interest. I inserted a beadhead hares ear above the salvation, and it did seem to boost the catch rate. As I paused to photograph one of the fish landed after lunch, the salvation somehow broke off, and since three successive trout grabbed the hares ear, I decided to preserve my salvation stock. I copied the Wednesday legacy ploy, and inserted the size 12 gray wet fly with a copper wire rib. This fly delivered two decent fish, but then its effectiveness seemed to wane, so I revisited the archives and tied a dark cahill wet fly to my line.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Deep Honey Yellow” type=”image” alt=”P8040004.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Again the antique wet fly revival paid off, as the dark cahill yielded four nice brown trout, and the fish counter climbed to the mid-teens. I began to skip the marginal pockets, and focused all my attention on deep runs and slots as well as pools. The most effective approach seemed to be casting across and allowing the flies to drift along deep current seams with a lift at the end. Of course the beadhead hares ear was also connecting with fish during the wet fly renaissance.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Attractive Water Ahead” type=”image” alt=”P8040007.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

By 2PM I decided to return to the trusted combination of the beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph. I sensed that perhaps a pale morning dun hatch might be approaching, and I hoped that the salvation would imitate the active PMD nymphs. The move paid off, and I built the fish count to twenty-three by 3PM with many fish grabbing the salvation, as it plunked into the water at the top of deep pockets and runs. Twenty-three fish was a fine day, and I was feeling quite weary and faced a long hike back out of the canyon. so I contemplated quitting early.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Colorful” type=”image” alt=”P8040012.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

As this thought passed through my head, however, I approached a gorgeous deep and wide pool. The main current divided the pool nearly in half with shelf pools on both sides. I was moving upstream along the right bank, and the top of my side was a bit wider and contained some swirling currents. Before I could cast my dry/dropper to the inviting area above me, I observed three or four rises. I scanned the air in case some obvious insect was spurring the sudden surface activity, but nothing was evident. I waited a bit longer, and a small fish slashed at something five feet above me and to the right. It appeared that the fish rejected the natural insect, because I could see a natural riding low in the film. I took a couple steps to look at the live insect more closely, and as it got trapped in a slow spot in front of a log, I scooped it with my hand.

Upon close examination I discovered that the mayfly was a size twenty blue winged olive. This caused me to take the plunge. I clipped off the three fly dry/dropper arrangement and switched to a single CDC blue winged olive size 22. I was sure I matched the hatch, but the fish destroyed my confidence. As four or five fish continued to rise in front of me, they totally ignored my imitation. I stopped casting and watched more intently, and I realized that the rises were actually the dorsal fins of the trout breaking the surface, as it seemed the trout were snatching emergers subsurface.

Could there be a concurrent pale morning dun hatch, and I happened to spot the less prolific blue winged olive? I tested this theory and tied a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line, but this was not the solution to the riddle. I debated trying an RS2 or soft hackle emerger, but before I could make this change, I observed two green drakes, as they floated up from the surface of the stream. Would the trout respond to a huge green drake, even though they appeared to be tuned into tiny emergers? I did not have anything to lose, so I tied a size 14 green drake comparadun with no rib to my line and began to cast it to the area of visible rises above me.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Another Scarlet Striped Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”P8040013.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Initially it was refused, but then as it danced in some swirly deeper water behind an exposed rock and next to the main current, a fish slashed at it and sucked it in! I landed a spunky rainbow trout and my first South Boulder Creek green drake victim of the year. The next half hour was amazing. As I focused on the area above me on the right side of the center current, I spotted occasional rises near the tail on the other side of the main seam. I pivoted and delivered downstream casts to this area. The change in tactics proved to be a stroke of genius, and I landed seven more trout on the green drake comparadun. I was dumbfounded by the number of fish in the left shelf pool, and nearly all were rainbow trout in the 9 – 12 inch range. The other fascinating facet to this phase of my day was how aggressively the fish attacked the comparadun. Several fish darted from the depths and lunged at the fly with their momentum taking them above the water. In one case I began to lift to cast, and a fish apparently feared its meal was about to flee, so it launched and grabbed the fly.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Tasty Green Drake in Lip” type=”image” alt=”P8040014.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Finally after landing seven fish from the productive pool, I went five minutes without a take, so I moved to the next area which featured a nice riffle over moderate depth. The green drake yielded its eighth hungry victim here, but then it ceased to produce. I was curious if green drakes hatched in other segments of the stream, so I moved greater distances in search of obvious juicy pools, where I could more easily spot rises and follow my fly. Alas, the strategy was sound, but I was unable to net additional fish, so I called it quits by 4 o’clock and made the forty-five minute hike back to the car.

What a great day Thursday proved to be! Cool overcast weather allowed fairly consistent action through the day punctuated by the green drake frenzy over the last hour. When I returned home and checked the flows, I discovered that the water managers doubled the flows from 41 cfs to 85 cfs during the morning. I was skeptical that the velocity was 41 cfs when I tried to cross, and my skepticism was vindicated. Nevertheless I enjoyed a fantastic day on South Boulder Creek, and as the dog days of August continue, I plan to return.

Fish Landed: 31


South Boulder Creek – 05/25/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 05/25/2016 Photo Album

After enjoying a decent but not outstanding day on the South Platte River on Monday, I felt a bit burned out by that waterway. Dealing with the weekday crowds was a significant drawback, and I desired one more fishing trip before our scheduled trip to Pennsylvania and Vermont, but I was not interested in a long drive. As is my custom, I examined the DWR stream flows, and this review yielded three closer options. The South Platte River below Cheesman Lake was running in the low 300’s, and this level is higher than ideal but still within the range of comfortable fishing. The Big Thompson River was up to 125 CFS. This is at the top of the ideal range, but I experienced decent success at these levels in previous years. I was ignoring South Boulder Creek because of extremely low flows (15 CFS), but I now noted that releases bumped the volume below Gross Reservoir to 30 CFS. South Boulder Creek is within an hour drive of my home, so I decided to make this my destination on Wednesday May 25.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”After I Cleaned the Lens with My Buff” type=”image” alt=”P5250002.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

One hour of driving delivered me to the parking lot high above the creek. Two trucks and one SUV were already present, so after I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and stashed my lunch in my backpack, I descended the steep path and hiked along the trail until I was below the pedestrian bridge that leads to the Crescent Meadows parking lot. I passed four fishermen along the way, so I was hopeful that I had the lower part of the canyon to myself. In order to give myself space I hiked for a decent distance, and then I dropped down the bank to the stream.

The temperature was in the mid-fifties with sporadic strong gusting wind when I departed at the trailhead . Unfortunately the weather never changed until the wind died back between three and four o’clock. This coincided with fewer clouds and longer periods of sunshine. For the most part large clouds blocked the sun, and chilling wind blasted down the canyon. I was pleased to wear my fleece and raincoat, and occasionally rued my decision to leave my hat with earflaps in the car.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Look at All Those Deep Pockets” type=”image” alt=”P5250004.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Although 30 CFS is below what I consider ideal for this small Front Range stream, it was adequate to avoid highly technical fishing. By 11:30 I tied a gray stimulator to my tippet and began prospecting all the likely fish holding nooks. I was hesitant to begin plunking a large foam attractor, since the flows remained on the low side, but the stimulator failed to arouse much interest, so after fifteen minutes I took the plunge. I tied on a fat Albert with an orange floss body, and below that indicator fly I attached an ultra zug bug and a beadhead hares ear.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Yummy Fat Albert” type=”image” alt=”P5250003.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Same Fish from the Side” type=”image” alt=”P5250010.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I continued moving upstream, and I was shocked to land my first fish, a small nine inch brown trout, on the large foam attractor. Sometimes trout can be very unpredictable. The remainder of my day was fairly simple. Up until 2:30 I stayed with the same three flies, and I landed ten additional trout bringing the fish counter to eleven. A rainbow gobbled the fat Albert with total confidence, and the other eight landed fish snatched the trailing beadhead hares ear from the drift. The hares ear nymph has staged a comeback comparable to Michael Jordan’s return from minor league baseball. It has become my favorite fly in this late spring pre-runoff time period in Colorado.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Love the Look of This Fish” type=”image” alt=”P5250008.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

The late morning and early afternoon were a fly fishing festival, as I applied my favorite technique of popping short casts to appealing locations. My rapid fire short drifts did not always yield fish, but on a fairly regular basis, a feisty cold water jewel ended up on my line. But in addition to regular action, I was pleased to discover that quite a few of the trout in my net were gorgeous rainbows in the 12-14 inch range. These are very fine fish for the small South Boulder Creek drainage, and the vivid spots and bright colors made them gems in the truest sense of the word.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Partly Cloudy All Day” type=”image” alt=”P5250011.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

During some of the dark cloudy periods in the afternoon I noticed some small mayflies in the atmosphere, so I presumed they were blue winged olives. In fact in one large wide and deep pool with a strong center current, I spotted two fish as they aggressively rose to the surface to intercept a natural food morsel. I examined the water closely, but I could not discern any obvious food source on the surface. I was reluctant to make the switch to a single dry based on the hunch that they were taking BWO’s, so I compromised and swapped the hares ear for a soft hackle emerger. I drifted several casts in front of the place where the lower fish in the pool rose twice, but this selective eater was having none of my offerings.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”My Lunch Spot” type=”image” alt=”P5250012.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I turned my attention to the fish that rose once along the center current near the midsection of the pool. The first cast drifted two feet, and suddenly the fat Albert darted against the current. I made a swift hook set, and felt the weight of a decent fish for a few seconds, before it somehow shed the hook. I could not be 100% certain, but I guessed that the fish intercepted the soft hackle emerger, and the small size 20 hook was not up to the challenge of holding fast.

Since I made the switch of flies, I fished on with the ultra zug bug and soft hackle emerger for awhile, but eventually I removed the zug bug and continued with the beadhead hares ear and the soft hackle emerger. Between 2:30 and 4:00 the weather improved, but this was offset by less attractive water and the absence of fishing action. The stream was wider, and consequently with flows at 30 CFS offered fewer deep runs and pockets. I skipped much of this water and spent a fair amount of time wading rather than casting. The brighter sun and warmer temperatures were a death knell for the baetis hatch, and this translated to less active fish.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Another Gorgeous Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”P5250013.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

In spite of these negatives I persisted and landed three additional trout to take my fish count to fourteen, however, I must report that these fish were on the small side and did not compare to the beauties that rested in my net earlier. By 4 o’clock I cast to some extremely promising water and could not even generate a refusal. The path was within a foot or two of the creek, and it beckoned me to begin my homeward journey. I acquiesced and made the vigorous hike out of the canyon and ended my day on South Boulder Creek.

Once again I enjoyed a surprisingly productive day of fishing on a Colorado tailwater during the time when most rivers are subject to rising flows and turbid conditions. I was extremely thankful for another day of success, although I feel certain that lake fishing will be in my plans when I return from Vermont on June 8. Nevertheless it was fun while it lasted.

Fish Landed: 14


South Boulder Creek – 04/06/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Beyond the boulder field and then back upstream

Fish Landed: 4

South Boulder Creek 04/06/2016 Photo Album

Spring fishing in 2016 is proving to be unusually challenging. This story actually begins on Tuesday, April 5. Flows on South Boulder Creek were listed at 92 CFS, and this is nearly ideal and far more desirable than the low flows posted for the Big Thompson River and the South Platte River. At least that is what I thought. I got off to a late start, but this proved to be irrelevant. As I motored west on Interstate 70 the temperature on the dashboard was 66 degrees. By the time I turned right off of Coal Creek Canyon Road at Crescent Drive, the mercury plummeted to 38 degrees and snow was blowing sideways. I finally accepted that Tuesday was not going to be a fun day to fish, so I executed a U-turn and headed home.

As I drove south on route 93 toward Golden, I decided to scout Clear Creek Canyon since it was along my return route. The temperature returned to the upper fifties as I made a right turn onto route 6 and drove into the canyon, although a foreboding dark cloud was rapidly approaching from the west. I advanced into the canyon for a couple miles and slowly angled into a broad pullout. From my vantage point in the car, I could see that the water was stained, but there was some clarity along the edges, and I was certain that I could edge fish. The murkiness might actually be an advantage, as I would not be readily visible to the fish. Since it was lunch time, I planned to eat my lunch in the car, before climbing into my waders, but when I opened the car door, I was nearly swept off my feet by the powerful blast of wind rushing down the canyon. At this point I threw in the towel and returned to the comfort of my home in Stapleton. I left all my fishing gear in the car, however, as I remembered that the weather forecast for Wednesday was more favorable.

On Wednesday morning I packed a new lunch and repacked the few items that did not remain in the Santa Fe overnight. I departed from the house at 9:30 and arrived at the upper parking lot below Gross Dam at 10:30. By the time I suited up in my waders and hiked down the path along the stream and began fishing it was just after 11AM. The temperature was probably in the upper 40’s when I began, and the wind chill made if feel far worse. I wore my fleece plus my raincoat as a windbreaker layer, and in addition my head was fitted with my long billed hat with ear flaps.

There were no cars in the parking lot when I began my hike, but somehow I encountered three or four fishermen as I walked briskly along the stream on the fisherman path. I am mystified regarding where they parked, but they remained in the upper segment below the dam and did not impact my ability to cover a lot of stream.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Nice Deep Run” type=”image” alt=”P4060001.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

When I approached the stream after a thirty minute hike, I observed that the water was very clear and flowing at a higher than ideal level, yet low enough to allow crossing and relatively easy wading. I assessed my options, and decided that a dry/dropper approach could get my nymphs deep enough in the slack water locations where fish were likely to seek shelter from the faster current. I began with a Fat Albert supporting an ultra zug bug, and I began probing the likely fish holding spots. During the first hour I experienced several momentary hook ups, but then I hooked and landed two small rainbows on the ultra zug bug. I felt that I should be generating more interest, so I extended my dry/dropper configuration by adding a salad spinner.

Just before lunch at noon two trout snatched one of the nymphs but spit the flies before I could successfully set the hook. I never saw the top fly pause or dip, but I did notice the flash of the two fish, as they fled after realizing that their meal had a sharp pointy core. After lunch I continued my upstream progression. I approached a place where there was a deep midstream pocket and lofted the three fly offering to the center of the slow area. The Fat Albert drifted only a foot before it darted sideways, and this visual clue enabled me to set the hook and land a healthy twelve inch brown trout. This was one of the larger browns that I hooked on South Boulder Creek.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Best Fish of the Day” type=”image” alt=”P4060002.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I did not realize it at the time, but this proved to be the peak moment for my day on South Boulder Creek. I resumed my upstream movement and thoroughly covered the many attractive runs and pockets, but the only reward for my focused efforts was one additional fish landed in the form of a seven inch rainbow trout. At one point I spotted a decent sized fish that refused the Fat Albert, so I swapped it for a size eight Chernobyl ant. The fish never responded to this change in menu. Also in the early afternoon I observed several small gray stoneflies, as they slowly took flight over the water. This reminded me of my day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain in March, so I copied my tactic from that outing. I switched the salad spinner for a gray size 20 soft hackle emerger. Alas none of my strategies reversed my fortunes.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Nice Brown by South Boulder Creek Standards” type=”image” alt=”P4060003.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

By 3PM my feet felt like stumps and shadows were covering the left side of the stream. I endured a long interval with no action, so I decided to call it quits. I hiked for twenty minutes including the steep climb out of the canyon and prepared for the drive back to Denver. For some reason I was unable to fall into a rhythm today. The fishing pressure was non-existent and the water was clear and close to ideal flows. Perhaps I should have tested a deep nymphing approach with weight given the higher flows and cold water temperatures. The wind was also an annoying factor for the entire time and this added to my discomfort. Hopefully warmer temperatures and increased insect activity cause the fish to become more active, and this combination will yield greater success for this blogging fisherman.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”The View from the Path” type=”image” alt=”P4060004.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

South Boulder Creek – 12/08/2015

South Boulder Creek 12/08/2015 Photo Album

After a four day severe cold snap over Thanksgiving weekend, the Colorado weather pattern gradually warmed until high temperatures were forecast to climb to sixty degrees today, Tuesday, December 8, 2015. I could not resist the temptation to initiate a late season fishing outing, but I probably should have.

I packed a lunch and tossed all my gear in the Santa Fe and set out for Clear Creek at 10:15. I considered South Boulder Creek and the Big Thompson River, but both those streams registered very low flows. South Boulder Creek was trickling from Gross Reservoir at 8.5 cfs, and the Big Thompson was slightly higher at 25 cfs. The elevation on the Big Thompson below Lake Estes is much higher than South Boulder Creek and Clear Creek, so I eliminated that from consideration. Denver Water continues to run minimal water into South Boulder Creek, and I was concerned about fishing in such low conditions.

When I crossed Colorado 93 west of Golden and entered Clear Creek Canyon, I quickly glanced at the stream on my left and discovered that a large amount of snow remained in the canyon, and several feet of shelf ice extended over the stream on both banks. Clear Creek is a high gradient stream, and I make most of my casts to slack slow moving water along the banks, so I quickly concluded that the icy conditions were not conducive to catching fish on Clear Creek.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Tough Conditions in Clear Creek Canyon” type=”image” alt=”PC080042.JPG” ]

I carefully executed a U-turn on Route 6 and began driving east. Initially I decided to abandon my quest for fish, but as I reached Route 93, I reconsidered and made a left turn to travel north and west to South Boulder Creek. Because South Boulder Creek is a tailwater, I speculated that it would at least be free of shelf ice. I remained concerned about the low flows, but I knew from fishing at 17 cfs that quite a few deep slow moving pools remained where the fish could congregate. In a worst case scenario, I would enjoy a nice scenic drive in the front range foothills, and I could scout out South Boulder Creek. The other factor that I failed to note in the weather report was the high winds, and as I drove north on Colorado 93, I observed a high wind advisory sign. How crazy was it to attempt fly fishing when a high wind advisory was posted?

When I reached the bottom of the gravel road that descends from Coal Creek Canyon to South Boulder Creek, I paused and peered down at the stream. It was definitely low, but it appeared to be free of ice, so I continued around the bend below the dam and then pulled into the parking lot .2 miles up the hill. One other sedan was present as I prepared to fish. I slid into my Adidas pullover, and used it as a windbreaker over my hooded fleece. I chose my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps to warm my head, and extracted my fingerless wool gloves from my tote bag. The temperature on the dashboard was 42 degrees as I prepared to fish South Boulder Creek.

I hiked down the steep trail to the edge of the creek and then continued downstream. Relatively early on my entry hike I passed another fisherman who was likely the owner of the other car in the parking lot. This meant I had the entire tailwater below the upper stretch to myself. I hiked along the north side of the river until I approached the first place where some large rocks met the stream, and here I waded out a bit, and I tossed some casts to a nice small pool of moderate depth. I began with a pink pool toy and a beadhead ultra zug bug, but nothing responded to my initial drifts.

After five or six casts I crossed to the south side of the stream and followed the path downstream. Since I knew that the only other fisherman was upstream, I targeted the attractive long pool that was one hundred yards above the pedestrian bridge. This pool is favored by nearly every angler that visits South Boulder Creek, so I decided to claim it before anyone else arrived. As I expected, when the pool came into view, it was vacant. I positioned myself at the head of the pool and began drifting my pair of flies along the entering current and next to a protruding rock.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”The Long Deep Pool of South Boulder Creek” type=”image” alt=”PC080043.JPG” ]

This tactic did not yield results, so I waded upstream a bit until I was five feet below the rock. Here I could see into the water with my polarized lenses, and three medium sized rainbow trout were spaced along the near side of the run. I could now observe their reaction to my flies, and it was clear that they were ignoring my offerings. After many casts I added a salvation nymph and presented two subsurface flies, but this strategy was equally ineffective. Next I exchanged the salvation nymph for a zebra midge, and again no response. As this was going on, I noticed two or three random rises in the water next to the rock and also along the current seam. What were these fish eating?

Finally after an excessive amount of time in one area, I decided to move to the next juicy spot just above the exposed rock. This location was also inviting with a nice deep hole and a shelf pool on the opposite side of the creek. By now I concluded that the pink pool toy might be scaring fish in the very low clear winter flows, so I downsized to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle with dubbed peacock body. The random rises seemed to occur after a gust of wind, so perhaps some beetles and ants remained in the streamside trees and shrubs. I flicked the beetle to the run and then along the far current seam, but my casts failed to elicit any interest.

Perhaps ants were the prevailing terrestrial late season snack? I tied a length of tippet to the bend of the beetle and added a parachute ant, and then I lobbed a cast to the slow shelf water at the top of the pool across from me. On the third cast I spotted a brief swirl to the ant just as it began to drag. Finally a glimpse of action gave me faint hope that I could catch a fish in December. Unfortunately I could not tempt another attack, but when the wind died back and the surface became clear, I could see into the pool and noticed three or four decent fish in front of me. Two of these fish were nice sized rainbows that were tucked right in front of a large subsurface rock just across from my position.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”I Fished the Area at the Head of the Long Pool” type=”image” alt=”PC080044.JPG” ]

Now that I could see my targets, I fell into the trap of switching flies with the hope of finding a winner. Whenever I dwell in an area and focus on a fish or several fish that are hugging the bottom and not rising, it never seems to end well, and this would be no different. I tested the zebra midge, a sunken trico, and soft hackle emerger as droppers from the beetle, and none of these small offerings resulted in a netted fish. I may have had a momentary hook up on the sunken trico, although it may just as well have been a snag on bottom.

Clearly the beetle/nymph strategy was failing on these jaded trout, so I tried the double dry gambit. I clipped off the soft hackle emerger and replaced it with a size 16 brown olive deer hair caddis. The light tan wing of this fly was quite easy to follow behind the beetle, and finally on the sixth drift along the current seam, I was surprised when a trout darted to the surface and nipped at the caddis. I quickly executed a hook set, and once again I briefly felt some throbbing weight, but then just as abruptly the fish escaped. This would be the highlight of my two hours of fishing on South Boulder Creek.

I worked the beetle/caddis combination for another fifteen minutes but only managed to increase my futility. In a last gasp effort to prevent a skunking, I switched the caddis for a beadhead emerald caddis pupa. Perhaps I was not getting the subsurface fly deep enough and in front of the noses of the pair of nice fish in front of the rock. Alas, this tactic also failed, and my feet and hands were feeling quite chilled, so I backed out of the creek and hooked my flies to the rod guide. I glanced at my watch and realized it was 2PM, and I promised myself to quit fishing by early afternoon. I resumed my hike along the south trail, and then crossed and ascended the steep trail to the parking lot.

I was disappointed to register zero fish, but I still enjoyed my two hours on South Boulder Creek. I discovered that the fish continue to dwell in the minimal flows, and my mind was totally focused on fooling the visible fish before me. I was outsmarted by a finned creature with a pea sized brain, but as usual the scenery was gorgeous and the cold clean air was invigorating. It was a typical winter fishing outing.

South Boulder Creek – 10/16/2015

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: The stream above the inlet to Gross Reservoir

Fish Landed: 10

South Boulder Creek 10/16/2015 Photo Album

With increasing frequency I find myself envisioning this scenario while I’m fishing. I wake up and do my exercises and then enjoy an invigorating run followed by a relaxing hot shower. I then see myself sitting at the kitchen counter sipping a hot cup of chai and reading the Wall Street Journal. Each day I can feel the warmth draining from the earth in Colorado, and although 2015 has been an unseasonably warm October, the pace with which the season shifts to autumn and winter seems to be accelerating. As this takes place it seems my ability to catch fish fades, and my physical body also seems to be wearing down. It seems that each morning I feel new twinges in my shoulder, neck, back and legs.

I was frustrated by my lack of action on Thursday on the Colorado River, so I convinced myself to ignore all the nonsense described in the first paragraph and made plans to undertake yet another fishing adventure to new water. Earlier in the summer Jane and I completed a hike to the South Boulder Creek inlet to Gross Reservoir, and I was intrigued by the idea of exploring the stream farther into the western mountains. I suspected that this was more work than most fishermen were willing to commit to, and thus the fish were not heavily pressured.

In addition I guessed that South Boulder Creek above the reservoir was populated predominantly by rainbow trout as is the case in the tailwater, and this fact was relevant since I attributed some of my lack of success on the Arkansas and Colorado to the brown trout population entering spawning mode. Their focus shifted from eating to procreating, and this was bad news for fishermen offering imitations of tasty snacks.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Pretty Little Fish” type=”image” alt=”PA160011.JPG” ]

I got off to a reasonably early start and arrived at the parking area by Gross Reservoir that accesses the Inlet Trail. There was one other car ahead of me, but it did not strike me as a fishing vehicle, so I was fairly certain I had the area to myself. A brisk thirty-five minute hike over several ridges delivered me to the inlet. The level of the lake was much lower than when Jane and I visited earlier, and this caused the stream bed to be visible for an additional one hundred yards. I wondered if the lake contained brown trout, and if so had they begun their spawning migration up South Boulder Creek? I discounted this thought and continued with my original plan to fish up the stream.

The air temperature was fifty degrees when I began hiking, and I could now see that the shadows from the ridge to the southeast were nearly covering the stream. The flow was quite nice as it allowed me to cross at numerous places, yet it was not so low that the fish were ultra skittish. I tied a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line at the car, and I began plopping it in likely pools and pockets, but I was not seeing any response, and it was very difficult to follow in the shade and glare. I was frustrated by the lighting, so I removed the beetle and converted to a dry/dropper configuration. The three flies on my line included a tan pool toy, beadhead ultra zug bug, and a salvation nymph.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Very Nice Pool” type=”image” alt=”PA160012.JPG” ]

These flies remained on my line until noon when I paused for lunch, and I managed to land three or four small trout that nabbed the ultra zug bug. Most of the takes occurred as I lifted the flies to recast. The first fish was a very small brown trout that barely passed my six inch cut off for counting, and the others were gorgeous but small rainbow trout. These fish were between six and eight inches and possessed delicate markings on their sides. All the fish that I landed over the course of the day were small, and I experienced far more frustrating refusals than takes despite my efforts to downsize and try different dry flies. Unfortunately the poor lighting forced me to resort to large visible surface flies, and these were rejected by the small residents of South Boulder Creek.

In addition to shadows and poor lighting, I discovered an additional hindrance to my enjoyment of this new water. Wading was a significant challenge. The stream was in a high gradient area, and this created numerous rapids and cascades around huge boulders. All the rocks were covered in green moss, and I needed to be cautious with each footstep. In many cases I needed to climb over huge boulders and dead tree limbs, and the difficulty of these maneuvers was compounded by the presence of slippery rocks that served as a base for my footing.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Partial Sunshine on the Creek” type=”image” alt=”PA160017.JPG” ]

 [pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Shimmering Colors” type=”image” alt=”PA160013.JPG” ]

While eating my lunch I could see a segment of the stream that appeared to be covered by sunlight as the mountain ridge to the south tapered down. I returned to the gulp beetle for a short while, but even my fall of 2015 super fly was inadequate, and the small resident trout inspected and turned away from my foam fraud. I gave up on the beetle tactic and returned to the pool toy, but during the early afternoon I attached only the ultra zug bug in order to avoid tangles. I slowly slipped my way up the tumbling stream, and with persistence I was able to increase my fish count to seven by landing one fish on the ultra zug bug for every five refusals to the pool toy. Between the difficult wading, challenging light, and tiny fish refusals; I was unable to establish any sort of rhythm.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Parachute Hopper Worked” type=”image” alt=”PA160015.JPG” ]

Finally I reached the area of sunlight, and the number of refusals to the pool toy became overwhelming. I gave the situation further consideration and decided to test a more realistic grasshopper pattern. I pulled a parachute hares ear hopper from my cylindrical container and knotted it to my line. This fly generated a hefty quantity of rejections, but it also enabled me to connect with three fish. One of these takes was a perfect dry fly scene, where the seven inch rainbow appeared from the depths of a deep slow moving pool and calmly slurped the parahopper. Despite its small size, these are moments that I wish I could capture on video to view over and over.

By three o’clock the stream was nearly entirely covered in shadows, and I was feeling quite weary and chilled. I was now wearing my fleece plus raincoat for a windbreaker, and yet I was on the edge of being chilled. My thoughts turned to scenes of comfort such as described in the first paragraph, so I decided to call it quits. I found a decent path along the north side of the stream, and used this to hike back to the inlet where I found a wide shallow section to cross. If I return to this portion of South Boulder Creek, I plan to remember this trail and use it to push farther into the backcountry to water that is even less pressured than what I experienced on Friday.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Gorgeous Colors on This Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”PA160016.JPG” ]

Friday was an interesting day. I explored new water, and I discovered a beautiful natural setting not very distant from Denver. As with some of my other favorite haunts, it requires a bit of effort to reach, and this probably minimizes the number of fishermen willing to endure. The fish are quite small, wading is tough, and the tight canyon walls make lighting a challenge. The ten fish landed on Friday took my cumulative fish counter for 2015 to 837, and this represents the second highest tally of my fly fishing life. The season is waning, and I suspect that I will be enjoying the scenario described in the first paragraph much more frequently in the near future.


South Boulder Creek – 08/26/2015

Time: 11:00AM – 5:30PM

Location: A half hour hike from the parking lot downstream. Open area beyond where the trail forces one to wade the edge due to high vertical rock wall.

Fish Landed: 21

South Boulder Creek 08/26/2015 Photo Album

Other than one hour and fifteen minutes on Baker Creek, I did not fish from August 14 through August 25, and I was aching to get on a local stream to satisfy my addiction. I did not want to make a long drive, so I checked the flows on Clear Creek, the Big Thompson, Boulder Creek, and South Boulder Creek. The Big Thompson was relatively low at 50 cfs, and Boulder Creek was running at expected late August levels. I felt that both these options would offer fairly difficult conditions with high temperatures approaching ninety degrees in Denver. Clear Creek was nearly ideal at 80 cfs, but I get frustrated with catching fish in the 6-9 inch range. South Boulder Creek was rushing along at 152 cfs, and that is actually high for the small stream bed in a canyon setting. Denver Water actually dropped the flows to this level three days ago, and before that the stream was surging at 200 cfs. I fished South Boulder Creek in the past at 200 cfs, so I knew 150 was manageable, and I suspected that the fish would be less skittish at levels more typical of early July.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Flows Were Just Over 150 CFS” type=”image” alt=”P8260238.JPG” ]

I left the house at 8:50AM and made the short drive to the parking lot on a hill .3 mile past the outlet of Gross Dam. There were three other vehicles in the lot, and another solo fisherman arrived as I was putting on my waders and rigging my Loomis five weight. It was relatively warm as I began my descent to the canyon, so I decided to hike for thirty minutes and then begin fishing. I turned off the Walker Loop trail and followed the fisherman path beyond the talus slope until I reached an open area where I could easily access the water. I read my post from an outing last August 31 on South Boulder Creek, so I used the same flies that performed well a year ago; a Chernobyl ant, a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”First Landed Fish Was This Brown Trout” type=”image” alt=”P8260237.JPG” ]

Between 11AM and 1PM I covered quite a bit of attractive water on South Boulder Creek and landed four trout; one nice brown and three rainbows. Two of the fish smashed the Chernobyl and the others nabbed the salvation as it drifted through some nice runs near rocks. I stopped to eat lunch at 1PM, and then resumed fishing the dry/dropper trio for a half hour in the early afternoon. I added two fish to my total, but it seemed like I was covering some very fishy locations with no action, so I decided to make a change. I noticed one or two green drakes during my hour and a half on the water, so I removed three flies and replaced them with a solitary parachute green drake size 14. This proved to be a huge positive move, and I landed ten additional trout between 1:30 and 3:30.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”This Rainbow Could Not Resist the Chernobyl Ant” type=”image” alt=”P8260239.JPG” ]

 [pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Parachute Green Drake Duped This Beauty” type=”image” alt=”P8260240.JPG” ]

Some very nice rainbows literally leaped at the green drake, as their momentum carried them above the water when I set the hook. A couple decent browns were in the mix, and I knew that I had a convincing fly on my line, because I observed very few refusals. Unfortunately my most productive parachute drake unraveled after eight fish, so I was forced to replace it with another close copy that was in my front pack. This fly actually had an unraveling thread, but I clipped it back and hoped it would last for a few fish, and that is exactly what transpired. After landing two fish, the hackle unraveled on the second parachute, and the green thread formed a small burr behind the eye of the hook.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Saturated but Effective Green Drake” type=”image” alt=”P8260242.JPG” ]

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Several Fish Hammered the Green Drake from Beneath the Limbs” type=”image” alt=”P8260244.JPG” ]

I reviewed my front pack and realized that I had only one remaining parachute green drake, and it was a large size 12. Rather than risk refusals on the behemoth, I found a nice size 14 comparadun green drake and attached it to my tippet. This fly produced a fine rainbow on a downstream drift, and then I exited the creek and hiked back down to my starting point. I was searching for an item that I thought I dropped at the start of my day, but it did not appear, so I decided to call it quits.

As I hiked the return trail, I was forced to wade the edge of the creek at the spot where a large vertical wall blocked my land progress. I was about to wade back to the path, but as I gazed upstream at a very nice deep pool, I noticed several rises. Closer inspection revealed some size 18 mayflies fluttering up from the surface, and they reflected a gray hue. I found a gray comparadun in my front pack and knotted it to my line, and this fooled a couple fish in the prime water before me. Unfortunately it was not a perfect match, as I endured quite a few refusals in addition to the landed fish. I suspect that the natural pale morning duns were closer to a size 18, and my imitations were size 16.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Nice Brown by South Boulder Creek Standards” type=”image” alt=”P8260247.JPG” ]

Eventually I could not interest the rising fish in my fly, so I hiked back to the pedestrian bridge crossing and then walked up the left side of the creek to the huge long pool that typically attracts hordes of fishermen. There was a gentleman positioned at the tail, so I moved in next to several large boulders at the head of the run. I could see three or four fish in this area, so I began drifting my comparadun over the sighted trout. It took a lot of casting, but I managed to land three more trout from this area to bring my count to 21.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Deep Rich Colors on This PMD Eater” type=”image” alt=”P8260248.JPG” ]

In typical unpredictable South Boulder Creek fashion, I thought I was in for a below average day, but mayflies made a late appearance and converted a mediocre outing to an above average day. Yes, many of the fish were small, but I also managed to landed five or six fish in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and possibly my best fish managed to shed the hook before being introduced to my net. My deep thirst for fly fishing was momentarily quenched, but I’m already planning another adventure.