South Boulder Creek – 08/08/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/08/2017 Photo Album

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Good Place to Start

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

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

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A Pretty Rainbow

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

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Quality Pockets Ahead

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

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

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Escape Is Not an Option

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

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My Main Producer

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

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So Pretty

 

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Parachute Green Drake Snack

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

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My Storm Refuge

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

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A Closer Look

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

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

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Light Gray Comparadun Victim

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

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

Fish Landed: 39

South Boulder Creek – 05/31/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 05/31/2017 Photo Album

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

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Tissue Paper Wild Flowers

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

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Starting Point

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

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Odd Lichen Background

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

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On the Board

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

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

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Best Rainbow on the Day

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

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

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

Fish Landed: 23

 

South Boulder Creek – 05/26/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Canyon below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 05/26/2017 Photo Album

Although I enjoyed a seasonally adjusted stellar day of fishing on Friday, May 26, it seemed that the scenery and smells of spring made the more significant impression on my brain. After a decent day on the Big Thompson River on Thursday, I revisited the DWR web site, and I was surprised but not shocked to learn that the flows on South Boulder Creek dropped from 66 cfs to 16 cfs. Denver water seems to use South Boulder Creek as its balancing tool, as it attempts to offset natural fluctuations from other South Platte River tributaries. For this reason I was not stunned by the sharp reduction.

15.6 cfs is low, however, I decided to make the trip anyway, since the location and hike into the canyon are spectacular regardless of the state of the fishing. I arrived at the parking lot near the dam by 10:30, and only one other vehicle was present. I strung my Loomis two piece five weight, climbed into my waders, and stuffed my lunch in my backpack; and I decided I was ready to go. The air temperature was a chilly 46 degrees, so I wrapped my fleece around my waist under my waders, and I stuffed my raincoat in my pack along with the lunch items. This afforded me the option of adding layers after the strenuous hike, and the dark gray clouds in the western sky suggested that additional clothing might be required.

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Low and Murky in May 26

When I descended the steep path and approached the edge of the creek, I was surprised to note that the stream was off colored even though I was less than .5 below the dam. Heavy rain pounded our house in Denver on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, so I assumed that a similar event caused a flush of sediments from the nearby small feeders thus causing the murky conditions. Despite the unexpected coloration, I surmised that the clarity remained within a range that would support decent fishing. The milky olive color reminded me of the normal appearance of Pennsylvania limestone spring creeks.

After a decent walk to distance myself from the most pressured section above the first pedestrian bridge, I found an attractive stretch, and I cut down the bank toward the creek. Before embarking on my fishing adventure, however, I stopped by a large rock and consumed my small lunch while observing the water. The stream at this location continued to display the milky olive coloration, and the air appeared to be absent of any significant insect emergence. A stiff breeze blew down the canyon off and on, so after lunch I extracted my fleece and raincoat and pulled them on over my fishing shirt. I fished until 3:30 with these layers, and I was comfortable the entire time. The sun made sporadic brief appearances, but the duration of the solar generator was never long enough to create a warming effect.

My quest for trout began with a size 14 stimulator with a peacock body, and a small trout flashed to the attactor pattern twice within the first five minutes, but each time it turned away at the last minute. I refer to this snub as a refusal. I exchanged the peacock body version for a gray imitation of the same size, and it failed to attract even a look. Perhaps the clouded water dictated a larger dark fly? I converted to a Chernobyl ant trailing a bright green go2 sparkle pupa and a RS2. Finally after at least a half hour of fruitless casting, I induced a small brown trout to snatch the go2 pupa. I endured another lengthy lull of fruitless casting, and I spotted a few blue winged olives in the air. Finally the size 20 RS2 earned its keep when another small brown nabbed the RS2, but I was frustrated by the lack of action despite covering some attractive water. Compounding my waning confidence in the dry/dropper was the ongoing observation of refusals to the leading Chernobyl.

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Savoring the Beetle

 

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Seems a Beetle Adorns This Brown Trout's Upper Lip

The fish were looking toward the surface for their meal, and the Chernobyl attracted them, but something was amiss. I resorted to my usual ploy, when I encounter Chernobyl refusals, and I switched to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. This proved to be a magical tactical shift, as eight fish crushed the beetle between 1 and 3PM. The response was not overwhelming, and finding beetle loving fish required covering a significant amount of water, but darting sips occurred frequently enough to retain my interest. I attempted to diagnose the type of water that yielded fish, but a pattern was difficult to discern. Very deep slower moving pools and large pockets were definitely not fish producers, and I began to skip over those spots.

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A Rainbow Joins the Count

By 3 o’clock the fish counter climbed to ten, and since I reached double digits, I decided to experiment with a different approach. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line as the surface indicator fly, and beneath it I added the bright green go2 sparkle pupa and a size 14 chartreuse copper john. The move paid dividends, when I landed three brown trout from a deep seam, and the last fish of the day grabbed the sparkle pupa in some riffles at the head of a deep run. Three of the dry/dropper victims chose the go2 pupa, and one nipped the copper john. This success caused me to question whether I should have applied the fat Albert dry/dropper approach earlier, but the quick success ended, and I endured another twenty minutes of futile casting in some very attractive segments of water.

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By 3:30 I was suffering through the aforementioned slump, and I was quite weary from the long walk, so I began my strenuous return hike. During my 3.5 hours on South Boulder Creek I did not see another fisherman, and I was lost in my thoughts. Focusing on what techniques will fool wild trout in the midst of a spectacular wilderness while standing in an ice cold stream is what I will remember about Friday May 26. It was a great day to live in Colorado.

Fish Landed: 14

South Boulder Creek – 04/18/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 04/18/2017 Photo Album

Although I fished all day on Monday and made plans for another full day on Wednesday, I could not resist a short local trip in light of the gorgeous spring weather. I checked the flows on the front range streams, and South Boulder Creek stood out as a nearby option with flows at 43 CFS. This level represented an increase from 35 CFS, but I did not view that increment to be a negative. In fact the low early season flows made fishing somewhat challenging during my last visit to the small tailwater below Gross Reservoir.

The air temperature was sixty degrees, when I pulled into the kayak parking lot, and by the time I ascended the steep trail at 3:30PM, the mercury increased to the upper sixties. Since it was noon when I arrived, I chomped my lunch in the car before I prepared to fish. Two vehicles arrived before me, and another joined the parking lot while I assembled my Orvis Access four weight.  I slid into my waders and then descended the steep trail to the creek and then hiked for twenty-five minutes, until I was a half mile below the pedestrian bridge that is part of the Walker Loop. The stream in this section tumbles through high canyon walls comprised of large jumbles of boulders. Normally I hike past this area, but I decided to give it a try on Tuesday, since my late start was not suited for a long hike.

After I scrambled down a boulder field, I tied a size 14 gray stimulator to my line, and I began to prospect upstream through some inviting deep pools. After fifteen minutes of unproductive casting, I experienced a refusal at the lip of a gorgeous deep pool. I was pleased to note a response to my single dry fly, but the snub was not what I hoped for. I decided to downsize, and I added a size 16 gray deer hair caddis on a dropper twelve inches behind the stimulator. The smaller trailing fly also generated a refusal, and I eventually tipped my hat to the discerning trout and moved on.

A long lull commenced where I failed to generate even a look or refusal, so I eventually converted to a dry/dropper approach. I knotted a size 10 Chernobyl ant to my 5X tippet, and then I added a beadhead hares ear. Another lengthy period of inaction ensued, until I finally hooked and landed a small rainbow trout that barely extended beyond my six inch minimum requirement. I was not very proud of my catch, but at least it preventing a skunking.

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Just a Jewel

As the lack of action unfolded; I spotted some small midges, an occasional small mayfly, and some diminutive stoneflies. Given the presence of small insects I decided to react by adding a size 20 salad spinner below the beadhead hares ear. This change proved to be the salvation of my day on Tuesday, as the salad spinner accounted for three additional trout, before I retired at 3 o’clock. The second was a very pretty ten inch rainbow with perfect black speckles. The third was another tiny rainbow with an array of vivid colors, and the last netted fish was the prize of the day.

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I was twenty yards below the pedestrian bridge, and I tossed my flies to the top of a current seam adjoining a nice long run. Just as the Chernobyl approached a log at the downstream border of the pool, I raised the rod tip to avoid entanglement, and this action prompted a feisty rainbow to attack the salad spinner. I slid the thirteen inch jewel into my net and marveled at the wide scarlet stripe that adorned both sides of the fish. This fish vindicated my three hour visit to South Boulder creek, and I was elated by the late surprise.

I continued upstream beyond the bridge a bit, but I was tired and weary of climbing over rocks with minimal reward for my efforts. I reeled up my flies and hooked them to the bottom guide and made the long trek back to the parking lot. Four fish in three hours was a bit sub par, but I only invested a one hour drive, and I enjoyed a beautiful spring afternoon, so it was a positive experience. The brightly colored rainbow was icing on the cake.

Fish Landed: 4

South Boulder Creek – 04/06/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek – 04/06/2017 Photo Album

I previously discussed the importance keeping expectations low when embarking on a fishing trip, but on Thursday April 6 I was a victim of not adhering to my own advice. I enjoyed a spectacular day on South Boulder Creek on March 22 when flows were 21 CFS, so imagine my reaction, when I checked the DWR web site and noted that the current volume remained at a slightly below ideal 30 CFS. Of course the weather forecast suggested that the high temperature in the canyon would likely peak in the low fifties, but with the proper attire I knew that it would be tolerable. When I compiled all the factors; tolerable weather, flows slightly above my previous visit, and a fabulous day on March 22; how could I not anticipate another fine day on South Boulder Creek?

I arrived at the upper parking lot below Gross Reservoir by 9AM, and after completing the task of climbing into my waders I assembled my Loomis five weight and set out on the trail that descends the steep hill to the stream. My car was the sole occupant of the parking lot, and I was pleased to know that I owned the entire length of stream miles below Gross Reservoir. The temperature was forty-one degrees when I departed, but I knew I would quickly generate excessive body heat, so I wrapped my light down parka around my waist under my waders. In a concession to the cool temperatures I topped my head with my New Zealand hat displaying ear flaps.

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Lots of Snow on the Path Along South Boulder Creek

I was shocked to discover the amount of accumulated snow along the creek, which I estimated to be twelve inches, and this made hiking in the untracked snow extra challenging. Given the lack of competing fishermen and the difficulty of tromping through the deep heavy snow, I stopped after a forty minute hike and began my quest for trout in a gorgeous wide pool. I tied a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear and a size 18 salad spinner. I persisted with this configuration, until I stopped for lunch at 11:45, and I landed five small trout. The first two were brown trout, and the next three included two rainbows and one brown. Two of my early catches nipped the salad spinner, and the other three grabbed the beadhead hares ear.

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Just before lunch I snapped off the hares ear and an ultra zug bug that replaced the unraveling salad spinner. Unbeknownst to me a large arching evergreen branch moved into the line of my backcast and grabbed my flies, so I used this misfortune as an opportunity to pause for lunch and then to make a change. I switched to a gray stimulator and trailed a RS2 and then a soft hackle emerger. A very attractive pool was next to my lunch spot, and I spotted five or six decent fish cruising the deep run and slow moving shelf pool. The two fish in the slow water slowly cruised about the pool and generated subtle sipping rises from time to time.

I attempted to dupe several trout in the tail of the run with a gray size 14 stimulator that trailed a beadhead hares ear and beadhead RS2, but the visible fish showed no signs of interest. I made futile casts to the taunting fish for quite a while but observed no reaction, so I shifted my attention to the two brown trout in the shallow slow shelf pool. After a couple unproductive casts, I decided to adjust, and I clipped off the two nymphs and added a size 20 CDC BWO behind the stimulator. I made some long casts to the top of the pool and allowed the tandem dry fly offering to drift twenty-five feet, so that both flies passed over the target trout. Nothing. What could they be eating?

Finally in a fit of frustration I shot a cast to the very top of the pool, and as the flies slowly floated a few feet, a small brown tipped up and sucked in the CDC BWO. I quickly executed a lift and felt weight on my rod, but then the tension released, and I accepted the fate of a long distance release.

Between lunch and 2:30 I accelerated my pace and covered a huge amount of water. For the most part I prospected with  a size 12 olive stimulator with a beadhead hares ear dropper and a mercury black beauty. The black beauty accounted for one additional fish, and the hares ear was favored by two to bring my count for the day to eight.

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Best Fish

On Thursday I landed four brown trout and four rainbows, and the largest fish to find my net was a nine inch brown trout. In short it was a frustrating day. In three or four extremely enticing deep runs and pools I observed an abundance of fish including many that surely surpassed the size of my nine inch brown. Unfortunately these fish shunned my offerings. I suspect I dwelled too long on pods of unresponsive fish, but other approaches were not providing action, so it was hard to abandon a concentration of visible fish.

30 CFS is relatively low, and the fish demonstrated an above average wariness. The melting snow along the creek probably kept the water temperature below the normal feeding range, and other than some midges, I did not observe any significant source of food. Eight fish in three hours is respectable, but the size was below average, and I covered a large amount of stream mileage to achieve mediocre results. Perhaps a warming trend will increase the metabolism of the South Boulder Creek trout, before I visit the nearby stream again.

Fish Landed: 8

South Boulder Creek – 03/22/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 03/22/2017 Photo Album

The summer-like weather was expected to continue through Thursday, March 23, and I was quite anxious to take advantage before winter and snow returned. The DWR website indicated that the water managers increased the flows from Gross Reservoir from 14 CFS to 21 CFS, so I selected South Boulder Creek as my destination on Wednesday, March 22. Wednesday proved to be a great choice for fishing, as another beautiful spring day unfolded with mostly sunny skies. The temperature when I began descending the trail at the parking lot was 48 degrees, and when I returned at 3PM, it peaked around 70 degrees. This is very ideal for March 22 in Colorado.

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Low Flows Expose Numerous Boulders

When I caught a glimpse of the stream it was obviously fairly low, but at least it displayed uninterrupted flows. At 14 CFS the stream looks like a rock garden separated by intermittent puddles. An advantage of the lower flows is the ability to move through narrow canyon areas unimpeded by vertical rock walls, and for this reason I chose to hike away from the parking lot a good distance.

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Juicy Deep Run

During my Wednesday fishing venture I landed twenty-seven trout, although the largest fish was only 12 inches. Despite the small size of my catch, I experienced great fun, as I moved frequently and plopped the dry/dropper in every enticing spot. Initially I focused on deep pockets and runs, but I was later surprised to learn that the fish were spread out in the riffles of moderate depth as well. All the landed fish were brown trout except for two small rainbows, and this ratio was unusual compared to my past experience in South Boulder Creek. I speculated that the rainbows were in a spawning mindset, and food was not a priority.

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Sparkling Hares Ear Was Irresistible

I began my search for trout with an olive stimulator trailing a beadhead hares ear, and I landed four small browns between 11AM and 11:45, at which point I took a lunch break. After lunch I learned that I mistakenly focused on the deep pools in the morning. I swapped the stimulator for a yellow fat Albert, retained the hares ear, and added a second dropper the the form of a salad spinner. In the next half hour I boosted the fish count from four to thirteen, as I fished the three fly combination in the riffles of moderate depth, while I was cautious to stay back so as not to startle the fish.

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Zoomed in on the Fat Albert

Amazingly fish materialized from nowhere to snatch the hares ear and the salad spinner. During this time the salad spinner accounted for three fish and several momentary hookups, but then it unraveled. I was forced to replace it, and I recently spied several small gray stoneflies fluttering about, so I chose a size 18 soft hackle emerger. The next period of fishing suggested that I over analyzed the situation, as the soft hackle emerger failed to produce. In retrospect I should have continued with the salad spinner, since it yielded three trout and several momentary hookups.

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Very Nice

Between 12:30 and 3:00 I covered a large amount of water and built the fish count from thirteen to 27. During the afternoon the fish began to look to the surface more as evidenced by three browns that crushed the fat Albert. Early in the afternoon I replaced the soft hackle emerger with a mercury flashback black beauty, and this diminutive fly yielded one brown trout. Later I replaced the black beauty with an ultra zug bug, and two fish embraced that move by snatching the peacock imitation from the drift.

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Quite a Pool

The final fish of the day was a small rainbow that rose to the surface and sipped a gray caddis. Just prior to this dry fly success, I broke off the three flies on a backcast, so I replaced the dry/dropper rig with the gray caddis. Fortunately I recovered the three flies that broke off, when I spotted the large foam attractor peeking up from a gap in two large boulders.

In summary I landed three fish on the salad spinner, one on a black beauty, two on the ultra zug bug, three on the fat Albert and one on a caddis adult. My workhorse fly, the beadhead hares ear delivered seventeen trout to my net, and it substantiated its position as my favorite all season fly. It was a fabulous early spring day. The temperature was in the sixties, the fish were hungry, and I did not encounter another soul while I fished. I am not about to quibble over the size of the fish.

Fish Landed: 27

 

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.

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Capturing Some Sky

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Decent Brown Took the Ultra Zug Bug

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.

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Best Fish of the Day Slurped the Beetle

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.

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More Sunshine on This Photo

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.

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Starting Pool

 

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.

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Beetle Lover

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.

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Another Fine Brown Trout from the Attractive Starting Pool

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?

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Gorgeous Colors

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.

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My Lunch View, and Several Nice Fish Were Visible

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.

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Nice Lighting

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Rainbow from Huge Pool

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.

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Comparadun in Corner of the Mouth

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.

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Speckled Brown Trout Also Ate the Cinnamon Comparadun

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.

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Downstream Drift to This Area Produced Fish Number One

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.

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Sideview of the Chunky Brown Trout

 

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Two More Fish Came from This Perfect Riffle

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.

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Rainbows Like Beetles Also

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.

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Lunch on the Rock

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.

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Best Look

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.

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Buttery Belly

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.

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Stonefly Landed on My Sunglove

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.

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Pretty

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.

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Leaves Turning Yellow Already

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.

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Ready to Leave

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.

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Crimson Gift

 

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Pockets Galore

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.

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Double Came from Left Side of Huge Rock

 

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Stacked

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.

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Fat Stripe

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.

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Best Fish of the Day

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