North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 05/15/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Button Rock Dam

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 05/15/2018 Photo Album

The euphoria from three fun days of fly fishing on the Frying Pan River abated, and I felt the itch to wet a line on a Colorado stream on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. When I researched stream flows and fly shop fishing reports, I quickly discovered that my options dwindled, while I cast my flies in the relatively low clear waters of the Frying Pan tailwater. The Big Thompson River, South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek and Cache la Poudre graphs reflected varying degrees of early stage run off, and I did not wish to undertake a one hour plus drive only to encounter difficult stream conditions.

Bear Creek displayed 42 CFS, and although high, this reading represented a manageable level. All sections of the South Platte River were in play, but I decided to reserve the longer drive for later in the week, when the weather stabilized. Tuesday’s forecast predicted a fairly high probability of afternoon thunderstorms. I settled on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek as my low risk alternative. The flow data displayed 111 CFS, and the drive was one hour and fifteen minutes. In addition I had first hand knowledge as a result of the Mothers’ Day hike that Jane, Dan, Ariel, Zuni and I completed on Sunday.

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Slow Water Along the Edge Was the Place to Be

I launched my adventure at 9:40, and after donning my waders I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked up the road in the Button Rock Preserve for a considerable distance. I started my effort to fool St. Vrain trout with a size 8 Chernboyl ant, beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph. The temperature when I began my hike was 61 degrees, and it climbed gradually to a high of 69 in the canyon. I estimated that clouds blocked the sun’s rays forty to fifty percent of the time during a pleasant day. The flows were in the 113 CFS range, and my casting was relegated to all the areas that presented slower velocity and protective depth for the resident trout.

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Nice Slick Below the Rocks

I covered a fair distance in the first fifteen minutes with no success, as I gained familiarity with the stream at higher flows and developed knowledge of the most productive locations. Finally a small brown trout snatched the salvation, and shortly thereafter another somewhat larger brown followed suit. By the time I perched on a large midstream rock to consume my lunch, the fish count registered five, and all the landed trout grabbed the salvation except for one maverick that snatched the hares ear.

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Same Fish, Better Lighting

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My Lunch Spot

After lunch I continued my upstream quest for St. Vrain trout, and I boosted the tally to nine, before I reeled up my line at 3PM. The only variation in my approach was my fly offerings. I somehow snapped off the two nymphs while executing across stream casts and downstream drifts. Normally I feel the snag or grab that causes such an outcome, but in this case I stripped in my line and discovered that I was fishing with only a Chernobyl ant and dangling empty tippet. I used this interruption to modify my lineup, and I replaced the hares ear with an emerald caddis pupa and swapped the salvation for a small size 16 prince nymph. The prince delivered a small trout to my net, and then I thoroughly covered some outstanding water with no response. I sensed that the fish were less attracted to the prince than the salvation, so I returned to the source of my early success with a salvation nymph as my bottom fly.

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Best Fish of the Day Took a Salvation Nymph

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Those Orange Spots

The Chernboyl, caddis pupa, and salvation remained on my line for most of the afternoon and accounted for the last five fish that rested in my net. The emerald caddis fly fooled one trout, and the salvation generated the other four takes. During Tuesday all the landed fish were brown trout except for one outlier rainbow.

On Tuesday it was a matter of moving quickly to cover a significant amount of water. The high flows concentrated fish in places, where the current slowed, and water depth provided cover from overhead predators. Once I determined the prime trout lies, I skipped marginal spots and focused my casting on the high probability pockets and pools.

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I Liked This Scene

Ten fish in three plus hours is a reasonable catch rate, although the largest fish may have extended to eleven inches. The quality of the fish and pleasant weather more than offset the lack of size, and I thoroughly enjoyed my day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. I was thankful for the opportunity to fish clear water within 1.5 hours of home, while other rivers raged with snow melt. Hopefully my good fortune will extend a bit longer.

Fish Landed: 10

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 04/18/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Dam.

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 04/18/2018 Photo Album

Wednesday was more of a walk the dog day than a serious fly fishing day. Our son, Dan, and his fiancee, Ariel, adopted a dog named Zuni. On days when Dan travels and Ariel works, Jane and I enjoy dog sitting duties for our grandpuppy. Yesterday we transported Zuni to Mt. Falcon Park, where we hiked the Meadows Trail.

Thursday we decided to introduce Zuni to fly fishing. We packed the car with fly fishing gear and dog tending items, and we departed for the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek below Buttonrock Reservoir. First we detoured to the Highlands in Denver, where we gathered Miss Zuni, and we ushered her into the car. An hour and fifteen minutes later we arrived at the parking lot below the gate that restricts vehicle access to the Button Rock Preserve. Jane tended to Zuni’s high energy levels and constant curiosity, while I climbed into my waders and rigged my Orvis Access four weight rod.

We hiked for a good distance, while Zuni criss-crossed the packed dirt road in an effort to explore the stream, the boulders, the sticks, and the tall grass along the way. Finally we arrived at the location I chose for my entry point. Jane and Zuni remained as spectators for a bit, but my lack of action resulted in their exit, as they advance up the dirt road.

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This Little Guy Was the First Fish of the Day

I began my quest for St. Vrain trout with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead salvation nymph; but this trio of flies was soundly ignored by the local stream dwelling residents. After thirty minutes of focused fishing I covered a fair distance including some quality pools, and the fish counter remained locked on zero. I decided to make a change, and I swapped the salvation nymph for a RS2. This move paid off, when I lifted the rod tip to make another cast in a medium sized pool, and a small brown trout latched on to the RS2. Shortly thereafter the same result occurred in another pool a bit farther upstream, and I was pleased to experience a small amount of success.

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Another RS2 Lover

More upstream progress delivered me to a qualtiy pool above a huge collection of branches and sticks, and as I fired the dry/dropper into the depths, several fish revealed their presence with sipping rises. I halted my casts to avoid disturbing the water and observed for a minute. I spotted at least five fish in close proximity, and several moved back and forth snatching food from the drift, while two elevated to the surface and displayed occasional subtle sips.

Clearly these fish were seeking food in the upper one-third of the water column, and my nymphs were drifting below their area of search. I removed the three flies and tied a tiny size 24 CDC BWO to my line. I was very optimistic that this offering would deceive the pool feeders, but it was ignored in a manner similar to inanimate debris. Could these fish be selective to emergers in a manner similar to Monday on the Eagle River?

I decided to test my theory. I replaced the CDC olive with a size 20 Craven soft hackle emerger, and I applied a liberal amount of floatant to the body. I flipped five casts to the center and far side of the pool with no results, but on the sixth drift a nine inch brown darted to the surface and consumed the wet fly. I quickly reacted and netted the feisty eater. Once I photographed and released the small jewel, I glanced at my watch and realized it was 12:30, and Jane and I agreed to meet at the large outflow pipe at that time.

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Soft Hackle Emerger Eater

I quickly clambered up the bank, and as I began walking at a brisk pace, I spotted Jane and Zuni coming toward me. We met, and Zuni showed excessive interest in my wading staff, and then we moved on to a nice spot next to a long pool. Jane spread out her outdoor blanket, and we enjoyed our lunches while Zuni rested.

After lunch I ambled a short distance to the head of the long pool and paused to observe. As I gazed at the far side of the pool, I spotted two dark figures, and then as I stared one fish elevated to sip a morsel from the surface. This of course confirmed that the items I sighted were fish, so I engaged in some long casts to the far side of the pool, while I was careful to avoid the large overhanging pine boughs. The closest fish seemed to look toward the fly several times, but that was the extent of its interest. Another fish several feet beyond the looker slowly moved to the surface to suck in a natural, so I shifted my attention to that target. I dropped a nice cast five feet above number two, and in a flash it darted upward and inhaled my offering. I responded with a short set, and then I guided the small brown to my net. As this transpired, Jane and Zuni looked on. I snapped a photo, while I held the fish next to the net, and then I extended it to Zuni. I was curious to see her reaction, and she responded with her first kiss. Well, it was her first kiss of a fish. I am not aware of the goings on during her frequent dog park visits.

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Zuni's First Kiss

After this fun episode I returned to the road, and I hiked back to the pool that contained five rising fish before lunch. I walked downstream beyond the intended pool in order to reach the shallow tail, where I could safely cross to the opposite side. As I progressed upstream along the far bank, I paused at the bottom of the long slow pool and launched a few casts to the smooth water above me. On the third drift I noted a bulge below the dry fly, and I set the hook and reeled in another small brown trout. I neglected to mention, that I switched the soft hackle emerger for a Klinkhammer BWO, and the recently added fly fooled the pool resident.

I continued to the pool inhabited by five trout, but the Klink emerger failed to entice any interest, and my watch indicated that it was time to depart. I once again scaled the steep rocky bank and hiked back to the parking lot at a brisk pace. I found Jane and Zuni cavorting about the parking area, and a dog water bowl was positioned directly behind the Santa Fe. I began to remove my waders, and a couple arrived with two dogs, and Zuni quickly introduced herself to a black female puppy. Apparently rough play is a necessary phase of dog introduction, as both pups frolicked and rolled in the parking lot for a bit.

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Licking the Net

I was pleased to land five small brown trout in two hours of fishing on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. Despite the clear blue skies a brief hatch of blue winged olives attracted some surface feeders, and I capitalized by fooling three on dry flies. Not a bad day for a dog walk.

Fish Landed: 5

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 04/11/2018

Time: 12:30PM – 2:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Dam

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 04/11/2018 Photo Album

Wind. This four letter word sums up my fishing experience on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. I knew from reviewing the weather forecasts, that wind speeds up to 28 MPH were expected to invade Colorado on Wednesday and Thursday. I vacillated between cancelling my fishing plans and forging ahead, but in the end I settled on making a trip. I hedged my commitment by driving 1.25 hour to the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek northwest of Lyons. If the conditions were not tolerable, I could at least minimize my drive time.

I arrived at the parking lot below the entrance to the dirt lane that provides access to the North Fork tailwater by 11:45AM. I could see the tree limbs waving and the frequent dust clouds caused by the blasts of warm air, so I decided to eat my lunch in the protected comfort of the car before enduring the gale that was sure to greet me. Finally after finishing my yogurt cup, I brace myself and opened the door. Sure enough a steady stream of forceful air greeted me, but I pressed on under the largely hopeful belief, that I could cast my flies during the intermittent gaps. The wind could not gust constantly, could it?

I rigged my Sage four weight since it is a stiff fast action rod, and I needed the rigid backbone to counteract the wind. The air temperature was surprisingly comfortable, as the dashboard displayed sixty-six degrees. I wore my gray fleece over my fishing shirt, but I discovered that I could have easily fished without the extra layer. I hiked up the road for fifteen minutes, and I was forced to turn my back to the gusts on a regular basis.

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Starting Pool Yielded a Small Fish

When I approached the inlet to Longmont Reservoir, I walked for another one hundred yards, and then I cut over to the stream. The water was on the low side at 25 CFS and very clear, and this dictated long casts and cautious approaches. Long casts into a ferocious headwind was a difficult challenge to say the least. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line along with a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph, and I launch a long cast to the tail of a small marginal run. Miraculously a small brown trout nipped the trailing salvation, but I was caught off guard by this instant action and set the hook a fraction of a second too late.

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Lovely Run and Pool

The next pool was larger and deeper, and two small brown trout latched on to the salvation, and I was in a state of shock. Of course the brown trout were barely seven inches, but the rapid fire response to my nymphs was quite encouraging. I proceeded with heightened optimism and moved upstream to a point just above an old concrete dam or diversion structure, and I added two additional browns to the fish counter. The last fish that found a home in my net stretched to nine inches, and I paused to snap a photo of the wind aided trophy.

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Home of Best of the Day

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Best of the Day

The section between the concrete structure and the ninety degree bend consisted of huge boulders and a sequence of deep plunge pools. Perhaps it was the topography or maybe just timing, but the wind blasts peaked during my final thirty minutes. I spent more time holding my hat with my back to the creek, than I spent casting the flies. Had the fish rewarded me for my patience and persistence, I could have continued, but that was not the case, so I reeled up my flies and hooked them in the rod guide at 2:00PM.

I spotted several trout in one of the deep pools, but they were not paying attention to my offerings, although they seemed to shift from time to time, as if they were grabbing food from the drift. I thought I recognized two blue winged olives above the water surface, so I swapped the salvation for a sparkle wing RS2, and I dropped five casts into the relatively small eddy above the sighted fish. Perhaps the fish in front of me were nabbing active baetis nymphs? It was a great theory, but the change in flies did not end my fish catching slump.

I cut my losses and returned to the car with a fish tally of four. My sanity remained in place, and I enjoyed the silence and stillness inside my car on the return drive to Stapleton. In hindsight landing four trout in 1.5 hours of atmospheric turbulence was actually a notable achievement. Spring fishing can be quite variable, and Wednesday was a good example of the seasonal risk.

Fish Landed: 4

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 03/30/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 03/30/2018

Steve and I returned from our wonderful trip to Wyoming on Thursday, March 22, and the weather returned to typical variable conditions with cool temperatures, a couple small snow accumulations in Denver, and high winds. I was quite anxious to get out on a stream before my scheduled skin procedure on Friday March 30. Jane and I skied on Tuesday, and the highs on Wednesday and Thursday barely reached fifty degrees. This translated to much lower temperatures at higher elevations, where I was likely to fish.

On Thursday I received a surprise call from the dermatology office, and my appointment was rescheduled for April 20. This provided me with a two week reprieve, and Friday now became an option for a day of fishing. The high in Denver was projected to peak in the low sixties, and I chose another trip to the North Fork of the St. Vrain. The forecast high in nearby Lyons was expected to top out at sixty-one, and I concluded that the small tailwater would be a better bet than other freestone options given the possibility of low elevation snow melt from the recent storms.

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Pool at Starting Point

I took my time preparing on Friday morning, and I arrived at the parking lot below the gate by 10:45. I hustled to apply sunscreen, pull on my waders, and assembled my Orvis Access four weight; and this enabled me to hit the dirt road by 11AM. A thirty minute hike delivered me to a nice section of the stream, and I scrambled over some rocks and entered the creek. I began my quest for small North Fork brown trout with a size 8 fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. These flies produced quite well on my previous visit to the St. Vrain.

Twenty minutes elapsed before I finally detected a pause in the fat Albert, but I reacted and landed a small brown trout to register my first fish of the day. I continued my progression upstream for another forty-five minutes, until I reached a long deep slow moving pool, and here I paused to eat my lunch behind a large streamside boulder that offered protection from the gusting wind.

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Rising Fish in This Long Pool

Fortunately after lunch the catch rate elevated, and I finished the day with seventeen on the fish counter. The wind remained a nuisance throughout the afternoon, and large gray clouds prevented the air temperature from rising to the sixty degree range. In fact, I wore a fleece and light down coat during my entire day, and I was quite  comfortable.

Three of the first five brown trout favored the beadhead hares ear, and two snatched the salvation, but then I somehow snapped off the salvation on a rock or stick. I replaced it with a size 20 soft hackle emerger, since a small gray stonefly landed on my hand, and the soft hackle emerger proved to be a favorable imitation in previous years. I was also covering my bases in case a blue winged olive emergence evolved.

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This Guy Liked My Hand

The soft hackle emerger yielded three trout, but then my catch rate slid below my expectations, so I swapped the small fluoro fiber BWO imitation for an ultra zug bug. This fly produced one eater, and then I slipped into another lull. Finally I approached another slow moving deep pool, and small sipping rises were visible in the tail area. I reluctantly removed my dry/dropper configuration and knotted a size 22 CDC BWO to my line. The wind continued to blast down the canyon, and the tiny fluff of CDC was not a fit for casting into the gusts. After ten unsuccessful casts I moved up along the bank a bit and shot a cast across, thus causing a cross wind to blow the fly near my target area. The adjustment worked, when a small brown sucked down the minute olive. It was my first landed trout on a dry fly in North America during 2018.

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Having Fun

I continued with the CDC BWO olive a bit longer, but the fierce wind compromised my accuracy, and I reached the head of the pool, so I reverted to the dry/dropper. I assumed that the fish were responding to blue winged olives, even though I never saw a natural, so I combined an RS2 with the hares ear nymph. The move rewarded me with five additional trout, and three grabbed the RS2, as I lifted at the end of a drift. The other two snatched the beadhead hares ear.

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Quality Spot

This action coincided with fairly rapid progress through some nice quality water, but eventually I broke off the RS2 on a submerged stick. I covered some juicy spots without results just prior to losing the fly, so I used the separation as an excuse to return to the salvation nymph. The salvation was on fire during the afternoon on March 15, 2018, and I hoped to recapture the magic. To some extent the ploy worked, as I landed two more trout during my remaining time.

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Keeping Wet

By 4:30 I was quite chilled, and the wind continued to attack everything in its path, so I hooked my flies to the rod guide and scrambled up the steep bank to the road. Forty-five minutes later I was in the parking lot, and shortly thereafter I was munching on sourdough specials and sipping a Red Bull.

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Ears on Alert

Friday was a fun, although challenging, day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain. The fish were small, with the largest perhaps extending to eleven inches. I cycled through an array of flies, and I experienced some success with each. I suspect the trout were hungry, and Friday was more about placing casts in prime areas, and this required patience and persistence given the persistent air movement. Blue winged olives made an appearance, and that event encouraged me to schedule more fishing outings over the next two weeks.

Fish Landed: 17

North Fork of the St. Vrain River – 03/15/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of the St. Vrain River 03/15/2018 Photo Album

My season opener on the South Platte River near Deckers was a disappointing experience, and I was eager to visit another Colorado stream, where I could atone for my frustrating performance. My 2018 fish count consisted entirely of trout landed in the southern hemisphere. Surely Thursday would be the day, when I posted fish number one from North America on the fish counter.

Wednesday was actually a nicer day from a weather standpoint, but a morning doctor appointment prevented a meaningful fishing adventure. Thursday’s forecast projected a high of 65 in Denver with afternoon showers, so I opted to make a second trip in the early season. Historically I enjoyed early and late season success on tailwaters, and when I reviewed the flows, I noted that South Boulder Creek and the North Fork of the St. Vrain were running slightly below 15 CFS. These flows were low, but I knew from experience that a cautious approach and longer casts could produce decent action. The North Fork of the St. Vrain was more open to the direct rays of the sun, so I selected it over South Boulder Creek.

I contacted my Instagram friend, Trevor, and informed him of my decision to visit the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and he decided to meet me there. Trevor prefers an earlier start, so I agreed to look for him on the stream. The time change on Sunday meant that it took longer for the sun to warm the air temperature, and I intended to fish later in the afternoon, so an early start was not a priority for me.

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Trevor Changes Flies

I arrived at the parking area near the entry gate by 10AM, and after I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and climbed into my waders, I embarked on a thirty-five minute hike. I tied my light fleece coat around my waist, since I knew that I would overheat with the extra exertion of hiking. I eagerly scanned the creek for Trevor and his dog, Shilling, and finally after the expected walk, I spotted my friend along the left side of a long smooth pool. I asked about Shilling’s whereabouts, and Trevor explained that he left him at home for this longer trip and hike. Trevor also disclosed that he landed a trout near the parking lot, and he spotted numerous fish, as he ambled along the road high above the creek. These pieces of information revved up my expectations, and I announced that I would continue upstream to a point where a large boulder was situated between the road and the stream.

I strung my fly line and tied on a gray stimulator, and below the attractor dry fly I added a beadhead hares ear. I prospected this combination through several attractive areas with no positive results, so I added a size 20 salad spinner. This addition was ineffective, so I replaced the salad spinner with an ultra zug bug. Trevor in the meantime landed two fish that snatched a fly with a sparkling body similar to the ultra zug bug. The changes failed to attract hungry fish, and the stimulator did not support the two beadhead nymphs very well, so I once again initiated a change. I swapped the stimulator for a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle.

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Promising

Trevor spotted several fish at the tail of a nice pool, but he concluded that his leader was too short, and his flies were passing over the fish. I moved in and made some drifts with my flies, but I experienced a similar lack of interest, and my leader length was similar to Trevor’s. I abandoned the sulking bottom huggers and moved on, but before resuming my casting I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a size 20 soft hackle emerger. This fly produced results during previous March visits, when I observed very small stoneflies, and I was hopeful that a similar occurrence might commence.

I continued fishing with renewed concentration, but the fish were not cooperating. I pondered the situation, and I decided I needed to get deeper, so I clipped off the beetle and replaced it with a size 8 yellow fat Albert. This fly was quite visible, and it could easily support two size 14 beadhead nymphs. Unfortunately my deep drift ploy was also unsuccessful, and Trevor and I approached the large pipe, where the overflow of the lake dumps into the creek. Since it was the middle of March, and the flows were regulated to a paltry 15 cfs, the pipe was dry, but Trevor wanted to show me the pool on the upstream side of the road. We walked across the dirt road, but the small pool was covered with ice. Trevor mentioned that when he checked out the pool later in the season, he observed as many as twenty-five trout gathered in the small space.

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Deep Run

We crossed back to the main creek, and Trevor retreated to some nice water thirty yards downstream, while I approached the deep pool across from the pipe. I made some nice long casts to the tail of the pool and then worked the top portion where the faster water entered, but once again my efforts were thwarted.

Trevor and I climbed to the top of the bank on the edge of the road, and we realized that it was noon. Since Trevor volunteers to coach the Longmont baseball team on Thursday afternoons, he departed, and I grabbed a rock high above the creek and devoured my small lunch. My 2018 North American scorecard remained blank.

After lunch I mysteriously broke off the soft hackle emerger, as I began to migrate upstream from the pipe area. It was not producing, so I used this as an opportunity to lengthen my leader and to change flies once again. I added tippet below the fat Albert, and then I reconnected the hares ear. Below the beadhead hares ear I extended another fifteen inches and knotted a salvation nymph to my line. The total length of my droppers below the fat Albert was in excess of three feet, and I had the weight of two size 14 beadhead nymphs to improve the sink rate.

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First Trout of 2018 in North America

I once again began to prospect the deep runs and pockets, and finally I connected with a small seven inch brown trout. In spite of the small size, I snapped a couple photos, since it was my first Colorado fish of the new year. In a short amount of time I added another similar small brown trout to the count, and then I was surprised by an eleven inch rainbow trout. Two of the first three trout snatched the hares ear and one attacked the salvation.

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A Hares Ear Fooled This Rainbow Trout

It was now around 1PM, and some gray clouds moved in and blocked the warming rays of the sun. I responded by retrieving my light down coat from around my waist, and this improved my comfort level dramatically. I continued my upstream path and tallied two more trout, before I once again inexplicably lost a fly, and this time it was the salvation. At this point four of the five fish preferred the hares ear, so I replaced the salvation with a pheasant tail nymph.

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Brilliant Orange Spots

Over the next hour the fish count mounted to ten, and the hares ear accounted for all except one pheasant tail victim. The action was steady up until this point, but each fish required three or more drifts to arouse the interest of the trout. The pheasant tail was in the prime position at the end of my line, and it was relatively ineffective, so I returned to the salvation nymph. This move proved to be a winner, as I landed eight more trout over the remaining two hours. Included in this batch of netted fish were a thirteen and twelve inch brown trout and another eleven inch rainbow. The two afternoon browns were easily the best fish of the day.

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Hot Spot

In one particularly productive hot spot, I landed four trout including the eleven inch rainbow and the foot long brown. All of these trout grabbed the trailing salvation nymph. Unlike the early afternoon quite a few fish snatched the tumbling nymphs on the first or second cast. In addition two trout smashed the fat Albert, although I was unable to land these small but aggressive feeders.

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A Fine Small Stream Catch

By 3:45 my hands were curled and ached from the cold, and my toes began to lose their feeling. I reeled up my line and hooked my fly to the guide and completed the forty minute hike back to the Santa Fe.

During the morning I failed to land a single fish, but the afternoon proved to be a fun beginning to my fly fishing season in Colorado. I extended my leader, added heavier flies, and changed to a salvation nymph; so it is difficult to isolate which variable produced my afternoon success. The air temperature warmed, and perhaps that prompted the fish to become more aggressive. I will never know which factors contributed to my enjoyable day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain, but I am thankful and anxious to continue my fly fishing adventures in a new year.

Fish Landed: 18

North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek – 11/27/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 3:00PM

Location: Lyons, CO; several spots

North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek 11/27/2017 Photo Album

The weather service recorded a new high temperature for Denver, CO yesterday of 81 degrees. Readers of this blog can easily guess what this meant for this retired fisherman. I packed my gear and lunch and jumped in my car and made the one hour drive to Lyons, CO to take advantage of the summer-like conditions in late November. Christmas shopping was put on hold.

I found a nice picnic table next to the stream and munched my sandwich, while I watched a small cluster of young pre-school boys and girls toss rocks into the stream. I made a mental note to begin fishing a decent distance downstream from this innocent disturbance. When I returned to the car, I rigged my Orvis Access four weight, and then I hiked across a makeshift soccer field, until I reached the edge of the creek at the downstream border with private land. I wore my long sleeve REI shirt under my fishing shirt, and even this single layer caused me to feel excessively warm during my time on the stream. The small waterway was flowing at 19 CFS, and since I was new to the section, I had no basis for comparison; but it seemed very conducive to late season fly fishing.

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Man-Made Pool Near My Starting Point

I began with a hippy stomper with a red body and added a beadhead hares ear on a thee foot dropper. The stream in the park where I fished for the first two hours contained a series of five or six spectacular deep pools and eddies, and the first one greeted me at my starting point. These pools were created by man-made stream improvements after the 2013 flood scoured the area of structure. Unfortunately on November 27 I was unable to take advantage of these deep holes, and all my landed fish emerged from pockets and runs of moderate depth between the quality holes. Perhaps I should have tested a deep nymphing rig to bounce nymphs along the bottom, but that would be second guessing.

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Bright Red Underside on This Fly

During my two hour stint, I advanced around the horseshoe curve until I reached the end of the public water on the north side of the park. I landed seven small brown trout, and the largest extended eleven inches. The second fish crushed the hippy stomper in a very small pocket along the left bank, and the other six brown trout snatched the hares ear nymph from the drift in runs of moderate depth. I circled around one other fisherman at the western edge of the park, and I skirted another deep pool occupied by a pair of lovers.

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Another Late November Eater

Since I covered the entire public section by 2:30, and the weather was spectacular, I jumped in my car and moved to a new spot along the main stem of the St. Vrain along highway 66 in Lyons. My rod remained rigged from the earlier venture, so I quickly jumped into the creek thirty yards above another fisherman and worked my way upstream, until I approached a point where the water bordered the highway. Initially I continued with the hippy stomper and hares ear combination, and I managed to land a ten inch brown trout that slurped the foam attractor in a shallow riffle along the edge of a moderate run.

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One of the Better Fish on the Day

The two fly combination seemed to lose its allure, so halfway through this one hour time period I replaced the hippy stomper with a yellow fat Albert and then added an ultra zug bug below the hares ear nymph. The change paid dividends, when I experienced temporary hookups with two fish in some narrow pockets in the section where the stream moved away from a canal and the highway. Twenty feet above the location of the long distance releases I was surprised when a ten inch brown trout shot to the surface and crushed the fat Albert. I carefully netted the aggressive feeder, but it proved to be the last fish of the day, as it created a huge tangle, when it wrapped the trailing flies around itself repeatedly. It took me fifteen minutes to unravel the mess, and I finally resorted to snipping off both the dropper nymphs.

As I ambled back to the highway through a grove of trees with bare branches, I encountered a small herd of deer. I estimated that eight to ten were grazing along the gravel path between me and my car. How ironic that the safest place for deer is within man’s communities, while hunters penetrate remote areas in pursuit.

I enjoyed spectacular weather, discovered some new water to revisit, and landed nine trout on November 27. The fish were on the small side, but I will never complain about an action packed 2.5 hours of fly fishing after Thansksgiving.

Fish Landed: 9

North Fork of the St. Vrain – 10/13/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Dam

North Fork of the St. Vrain 10/13/2017 Photo Album

Steady flows of 26 CFS attracted me to the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek below Buttonrock Reservoir. That and a trip to the Big Thompson on Thursday during which I traveled along the North Fork for several miles.

I found myself in the parking lot below the gate that marks the entrance to the access road to the St. Vrain at 10:45AM, and after donning my waders and assembling my Orvis Access four weight I was on my way. I hiked for thirty minutes and then angled to the stream where the bank was comfortably gradual. The temperature at the parking lot was fifty degrees and the wind gusted with surprising frequency. These factors caused me to wear my fleece and raincoat as well as my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps. The thirty minute hike caused me to overheat a bit, but I embraced the double layers throughout the day and never felt over dressed.

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Prime Trout Water

The stream meanwhile was quite clear, and the flows were nearly ideal. On Thursday I experienced success with a gray size 14 stimulator, so I elected to begin Friday with the same offering. The Big Thompson and St. Vrain are both front range streams on the eastern side of the continental divide, so perhaps the fish savored the same food items? The choice proved to be favorable, as I landed two brown trout in the first hour, and I managed to connect temporarily with a third, before it leaped above the creek and slipped free of the hook. The section where I began was mostly in shadows, and I discovered that a downstream drift provided the best visibility. All three of the fish in the first hour emerged from deep narrow slots where several currents merged, and over the remainder of the day I discovered that these were the most productive stream structures.

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Typical Small St. Vrain Brown Trout

After lunch the catch rate slowed a bit, but I continued with the stimulator, and upon spying some blue winged olives, I added a size 20 RS2. The stimulator produced a fourth small brown trout, and then the RS2 earned its keep, when a small brown trout nabbed the baetis nymph, as it began to swing in a relatively shallow area. I pressed on with the abbreviated dry/dropper approach, but the BWO hatch intensified, and it seemed that my small nymph should be attracting more attention. I concluded that I needed to get deeper by pairing the baetis nymph with a larger subsurface pattern.

I opted for a yellow fat Albert, and below it I attached a beadhead hares ear and a beadhead soft hackle emerger size 20. The foam top fly suspended the two nymphs, and the weight of the larger hares ear produced deeper drifts. The change succeeded somewhat, and I landed two additional small brown trout to increment the fish count to seven. The two fish that succumbed to the dry/dropper snatched the soft hackle emerger at the tail of the dirft.

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A Bit Larger

By 2:30 I reached the point where a lower outflow from the dam merged with the main creek that emanated from the main spillway upstream. The confluence created several nice deep runs and a wide smooth bordering pools. I began drifting the dry/dropper offering through the lower run, but my casts were futile. I crossed the lower branch and positioned myself between the two merging currents and paused to scan the setting. Quite a few tiny blue winged olives danced over the surface, and a series of rises commenced along the main runs. Many of the splashy rises appeared to result from tiny fish, but I spotted a larger feeder that hovered a foot below the surface downstream from my position. I decided to convert to a CDC BWO for the last thirty minutes of fishing.

I opened my fly box and extracted a size 24 CDC olive and knotted it to my line, and then I lobbed a downstream cast to the area of the sighted fish. On each cast I checked my cast abruptly at eleven o’clock, and this created a pile of slack line that allowed the small morsel to gently drift downstream. The third attempt was perfect, and as the tuft of CDC floated into the vicinity of the target fish, it darted to the left and grabbed the fraud. I quickly powered the eight inch brown trout into my net, but despite the small size it was a thrill to fool a trout with a tiny fly and a downstream drift. It took a while to dry the CDC wing, but eventually I was back in action, and I landed two additional six inch rainbow trout to complete my day with a fish count of ten. I suspect that the small rainbows resulted from a stocking of subcatchable rainbows in an effort to supplement the natural reproduction of the brown trout subsequent to the 2013 flood.

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Deep Coloration

The largest fish from the St. Vrain on Friday was a ten inch brown, but I did manage to reach double digits, and seven of the landed fish consumed a dry fly. The weather was a bit chilly, but the scenery was spectacular, and I had the stream to myself. I am sensing that twenty fish days are history, so I was quite pleased to enjoy reasonable success on Friday the 13th.

Fish Landed: 10

 

North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek – 07/27/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Dam.

North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek 07/27/2017 Photo Album

After fishing in three different rivers between July 24 and July 26, I decided that I needed to choose a local destination for my next venture. Friends visiting from South Carolina were arriving as guests on Friday, so Thursday offered the best opportunity to sneak in another day of fishing; the fourth successive day of the week. After three great days during the first half of the week, I was skeptical that a Front Range stream could provide comparable enjoyment.

I checked the DWR water graphs, and I determined that the Cache la Poudre River and North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek were my best options. The Poudre was tempting, since I logged three very successful days there in July 2017, but it was a longer drive and involved a higher risk of traffic snarls. The NF of the St. Vrain was chugging along at 110 CFS, and that is high for the relatively small stream northwest of Lyons, CO. After weighing the pluses and minuses I finally settled on the St. Vrain, since it involved only a one hour and fifteen minute drive, and I was anxious to try something new. I convinced myself that I could edge fish the stream, if the flows were high enough to concentrate the fish along the banks.

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Churning St. Vrain Remains High

I departed my house in Denver by 8:40, and this delivered me to the parking area at the trailhead to the North Fork by 10AM. I quickly put on my waders and fishing gear, and then I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and began to hike up the dirt road. The weather was rather warm with the temperature already in the high seventies when I departed at ten o’clock, and the stream was indeed high but clear. As I examined the segment of water next to the parking area, I concluded that it was not high enough to concentrate the fish along the bank, and midstream current barriers also provided sufficient shelter from the high flows.

I hiked for twenty minutes, and at that point I angled down a steep bank to the creek. I tied a Chernobyl ant to my line along with an ultra zug bug and a beadhead hares ear nymph, and I began to prospect a succession of deep slow moving pools. Within the first five minutes a fish elevated and inspected the Chernobyl ant, but then it returned to its holding position at the tail of the pool. On another later drift I watched a fish as it moved slightly to its right as the nymphs passed by, but once again the inspection did not lead to a take.

I gave up on the first pool and moved on to several equally attractive areas along the left bank. In each place I spotted fish, but they seemed to be hugging the bottom, and they completely ignored my three fly offering. I was pleased to observe so many fish in water that I skipped since the 2013 flood, but I was equally frustrated that I could not connect. I swapped the ultra zug bug for a salad spinner, since the fish seemed to snatch something from the subsurface drift occasionally, and a midge larva or emerger is a good bet in these circumstances. No dice. Next I exchanged the salad spinner for a size 20 RS2, but this fly was equally ineffective.

I reconsidered my approach, and I recalled that a fish elevated to look at the Chernobyl ant at the start of my casting. I decided to test a size 14 gray stimulator. The ploy was worth a try, but it simply resulted in casting practice. I concluded that I was dwelling on the sighted fish in deep water, and one of my cardinal rules is to keep moving, so I climbed the bank and hiked farther up the road.

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Point Where Second Outlet from Dam Enters

Previous trips to the North Fork of the St. Vrain taught me that two outlets from the dam exist, and roughly a mile of water exists between the two releases. I decided to seek lower volume above the second release pipe, and I reached this spot by noon. Twenty yards above the gushing conduit a small cluster of trees bordered the creek, so I skipped to that spot and consumed my lunch.

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Lunch View

I estimated that one-third of the North Fork flow was derived from the second outlet pipe, so I now confronted a stream carrying two-thirds of the downstream volume, and this was a welcome change. Counterbalancing this positive, however, was the relatively steep gradient, which created a series of rapids, fast riffles, pockets, deep runs and plunge pools. I quickly concluded that the gray stimulator was not the preferred approach, and I reverted to a three fly dry/dropper setup. I substituted the yellow fat Albert for the Chernobyl ant to obtain maximum floatation to support an iron sally and salvation nymph. These flies connected with fish almost immediately, and they remained on my line for the duration of my stay on the small tailwater.

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First Fish Was This Small But Brilliant Rainbow Trout

I advanced into dry/dropper prospecting mode, and I had a great time. I delivered two to five casts depending on the quality of my target area, and then I moved on to the next likely fish holding locale. The fish count climbed from zero to fifteen before I quit just below the dam at 3:30. The sky remained mostly clear, and the air temperature peaked in the eighties, but the forecast thunderstorm for 2:45 never arrived. I spotted a pale morning dun or two and a handful of blue winged olives, and although the mayfly activity never spurred surface feeding, it did seem to increase the aggressiveness of the fish between 12:30 and 2:30.

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One of the Better Fish Next to a Wildflower

The fish were small, with the largest perhaps reaching twelve inches, but most measured in the seven to nine inch range. Roughly 40% responded to the iron Sally, and the others latched on to the salvation. During the active two hour time slot, several fish stopped the drift of the fat Albert, when they attacked the trailing nymphs. Throughout the afternoon the top producing technique was to cast across the strong midstream current to slow moving slack water along the opposite bank. I held the rod tip high to keep the fly line off the water and allowed the foam indicator fly and the nymphs to sweep downstream along the bank. If executed properly, this approach generally resulted in a strike near the downstream border with faster water. The brown trout were suckers for the nymphs, as they began to swing away from the bank. During the course of the afternoon, I probably lost more fish than I landed. I attributed this unfortunate circumstance to the small mouths of the stream residents.

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Slicks Behind Rocks Produced

Although Thursday did not measure up to the early week outings, it did satisfy my need for a local day of fishing. I managed to partially solve the puzzle, as I landed fifteen fish. The first hour raised the specter of a skunking, but a lunch break and change of scenery made that a distant concern. I hit the fly fishing pause button in order to catch up on this blog and attend to some pending errands. More adventures lie ahead during the first week of August, I am sure.

Fish Landed: 15

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A Surprise Rainbow on the Return Hike

 

North Fork of the St. Vrain River – 05/01/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of the St. Vrain River 05/01/2017 Photo Album

The forecast of variable weather for Monday, May 1 convinced me that I needed to avoid the streams and catch up on other chores, while I awaited a warming trend on Thursday. As I watched a show on Sunday evening, I was surprised to receive a text message from my new fishing pal Doran. Doran inquired regarding my plans for fishing on Monday. This prompted me to check the weather and the flows on the local front range streams. A late spring snowstorm on Friday and Saturday caused me to be concerned over the impact of low level snow melt particularly in the foothills.

Much to my amazement the DWR graph for Bear Creek at Morrison showed a minor spike on Saturday, and then flows returned to 25 CFS. In addition the high temperature in Morrison was forecast to reach 62 degrees. Next I checked the North Fork of the St. Vrain and the Big Thompson. Both registered nearly ideal flows in the 50-55 range, and the trend was steady for the last five days. The high temperature for Estes Park, unfortunately was expected to reach only 45 degrees, but Lyons projected a high of 60. I texted back to Doran and informed him that I was interested in fishing Bear Creek or the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and after several additional exchanges, we settled on Bear Creek. I felt more confident about Bear Creek, since we visited the same stream a week prior.

Before I could finish gathering my fishing essentials for the morning; however, Doran delivered the news that he received an email reminder of a doctor’s appointment on Monday morning at 10:30. We could not concoct a plan to work around this obstacle to our fishing trip, so we reluctantly agreed to check in again in the future. I made a lunch and gathered most of my fishing gear before Doran canceled, so I decided to forge ahead with a day of fishing on my own.

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Yummy Deep Run

On Monday morning I rechecked the flows on the St. Vrain, and they remained steady at 52 CFS, so I elected to make the trip to that destination. I viewed it as a scouting expedition to assess conditions for a possible future joint trip with Doran. I departed Denver by 10AM, and this enabled me to reach the parking lot below Buttonrock by 11:15, and after gearing up and assembling my Orvis Access four weight I was on the gravel road by 11:30. The temperature was in the mid fifties, and the sky was mostly clear with some large puffy white clouds, and the one concern was intermittent wind. After recent days on the South Platte River and Arkansas River battling ridiculous wind, this caused me some misgivings, but I trusted the accuracy of the weather reports and began my walk.

After a twenty minute hike at a brisk pace I reached a point where the creek passed under the road, and I chose this as my starting point. The stream was in a Goldilocks state, not too high and not too low, and clarity was excellent with just a small tinge of color. I moved to the south edge of the creek and tied a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear and a salvation nymph. This was my first experience with a salvation nymph in 2017, and I wanted to test the effectiveness of the flashy subsurface offering.

I fished for forty-five minutes and managed to land one small brown trout that snatched the hares ear, but I was frustrated by several refusals to the fat Albert as well as three or four temporary connections. In a short amount of time I was faced with six opportunities and converted only one. I took solace in the fact that my flies were drawing considerable attention.

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Happy to Be in Colorado

By 12:45 I could sense the hunger building in my stomach, so I sat down on a large rock and chowed down on my usual sandwich, yogurt cup and carrots. The setting was spectacular with a large vertical rock wall bordering the southern side of the creek just above me. After lunch I pulled my raincoat over my light down coat as a windbreak and continued my upstream progression. The salvation nymph was not producing, so I decided to exchange it for a RS2 in case baetis were active. The fat Albert continued to generate refusals, and this was distracting the fish from the subsurface offerings, so I decided to adjust my approach.

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Glistening Brown Trout

I removed the dry/dropper arrangement and tied a solo yellow size 14 stimulator to my line. I prospected some very attractive locations with this fly, but it was totally ignored. Maybe a smaller terrestrial was the answer. I clipped off the stimulator and replaced it with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. I might as well have been fishing with a pine cone. Again the fish informed me that they were not interested. I considered going deep with a strike indicator and split shot, but most of the water type was not appropriate for this approach. I finally decided to revert to the dry/dropper, but to utilize a different top fly. For this job I selected a size 8 Chernobyl ant, and below it I knotted the workhorse beadhead hares ear nymph and an emerald caddis pupa. Before I made this switch, the fish count rested on four; however, all the fish landed were small brown trout in the six to seven inch range.

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Surprise Rainbow Mauled a Chernobyl Ant

The Chernobyl dry/dropper combination seemed to improve my fortunes. Over the remaining two hours I incremented the fish count from four to thirteen, and the mid afternoon catch included a couple trout that stretched the tape measure to eleven inches. Number ten was an eleven inch rainbow trout, and two aggressive stream residents pounced on the huge Chernobyl ant. The emerald caddis also accounted for two fish, and the remainder were attracted to the reliable hares ear nymph.

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Hares Ear Produced

The sky clouded up during the last hour, but I never saw any evidence of a baetis hatch. The thick cloud cover dropped the air temperature, and by 4PM I reached the point where the road split, so I reeled up my flies and hooked them to the rod guide. A thirty minute hike returned me to the parking lot, and I quickly removed my waders and prepared for the return drive. The fish were small, but I enjoyed a fun afternoon on the North Fork of the St. Vrain in nearly ideal water conditions and tolerable weather. I did not plan to fish on Monday, so I viewed the day as bonus fishing in 2017.

Fish Landed: 13

 

North Fork of St. Vrain – 03/03/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of St. Vrain 03/03/2017 Photo Album

If you follow my blog, you could probably guess my destination on Friday March 3 without having to read the title of this post. On February 22 I landed eleven trout on the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek, and this was by far the most productive day of fishing I ever experienced in the month of February. I was once again infected with the fly fishing bug, and I could barely contain my urge to return to the small stream near Lyons, CO. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, and I was forced to endure nine days of more typical February weather.

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Near the Start on Friday

At last a peek at the weather forecast revealed a warming trend with high temperatures in Denver expected to spike around sixty on Friday. That was the sole impetus I needed to stash my fly fishing gear in the Santa Fe, and I departed for the St. Vrain at 8:40 on Friday morning.  I kept an eye on the dashboard thermometer while I was in transit, and I was a bit concerned by the inability of the reading to climb above 45 F. In fact when I pulled into the parking lot, the temperature was 41 degrees, and a fairly stiff wind buffeted me as I pulled on my waders and layers. I elected to wear my fleece along with a light down jacket along with my ear flap hat. I stuffed hand warmers in the bib pocket of my waders as well as wool fingerless gloves. I was pleased with my preparedness throughout my day on the stream.

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Nice Pool

Unlike Denver the hills and rocks that bordered the stream were covered with four inches of snow, and the creek next to the parking lot was tinged with a bit of discoloration. This caused me some concern, but I embraced the thought that the snow melt effect would be minimal once I walked closer to the dam. This assumption proved to be correct, and after a mile of anxious exertion, it became evident that the stream was essentially clear, although the amount of snow along the bank was also in greater supply.

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Fish Number Two

I moved above the large pipe that serves as an alternative outlet from Buttonrock, and after another .2 mile I carefully stepped down a step bank, crossed a small side channel and approached the main fork of the creek. I decided to adhere to the approach that worked on February 22, and I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph and a size 14 copper john. I began my normal routine of probing the deep runs and pockets, and in the first narrow deep trough I witnessed a pause in the fat Albert and connected with a small rainbow trout. It was around seven inches long, but it broke the ice, and I was relatively confident that I could land a few more fish.

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Number Three Was This Pretty Rainbow

I suffered through a dry spell for the next fifteen minutes, but then I notched two additional fish that snatched the beadhead hares ear in a slow moving shelf pool along the opposite side of the stream. The takes were quite subtle and characterized by an almost imperceptible pause of the fat Albert. I was fortunate to react, and my prize for attentiveness was an eleven inch brown trout and a ten inch rainbow, that displayed vivid colors. The process of releasing and photographing these trout caused my hands to get wet, and I struggled to completely dry the back of my left hand, as the cold and wind induced a constant sting. I repeatedly congratulated myself for stuffing the fingerless gloves in the side pockets of my wader bib.

At 11:50 I spotted some large rocks facing the sun situated halfway up the bank, so I took advantage of this scene and paused for lunch. For most of the morning a large high gray cloud blocked the sun’s ineffective attempts to penetrate, but as I munched my sandwich, it became fairly obvious that the cloud cover was about to disperse. This eventuality did in fact come about, and the air temperature rose five to ten degrees as a consequence, and this greatly increased my comfort level for the remainder of the day.

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Attractive Run Below Boulder and Along Bank

After lunch I continued my upstream migration until I reached the settling pond at the dam by 2:30PM. During this stretch I landed nine additional trout to boost the fish counter to twelve. One additional rainbow trout nestled in my net, while the other eight were deeply colored golden browns. Twelve trout landed on a chilly day in early March exceeded my expectations, and several of the browns were above average for the North Fork of the St. Vrain based on my sampling over the last two years.

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Best Fish of the Day Took a Tiny Mercury Flashback Black Beauty

I swapped the copper john for a mercury flashback black beauty shortly after lunch, and then I approached a nice deep pool next to a large rock. The area where the current spilled into the small pocket was five feet wide and four feet long, and then the current funneled into a deep run along the vertical rock face. The corner of the pocket was covered by a three by two foot foam layer, and I made four or five drifts through the narrow clear water that bordered the foam. I was astounded to discover that the juicy lair was devoid of fish, but before I wrote it off as a tease, I lobbed one more cast into the middle of the foam patch. The fat Albert was visible only as a foam lump, so I gently twitched it to create some movement, and miraculously I felt the bump of some active weight. I quickly lifted my rod tip and set the hook, and a decent brown trout emerged from the foam and thrashed violently in an effort to escape. I maintained tension on my line and carefully slid the fish across the tail of the run and then into my net. Unbeknownst to me a pair of women paused on the road high above, and they asked what I caught. I informed them that it was a brown trout, as I carefully removed the black beauty and captured several photos and a movie. This trout was the largest St. Vrain catch during my four visits over the last two years.

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As I approached the settling pond at 2:15 the stream widened, and the current spilled over the lip of the huge man-made pool. I was below the right half of the creek, and I decided to shoot some casts into the riffles below the lip. The deepest troughs were only a couple feet deep, and I was almost certain that the area did not hold trout, but I felt compelled to cover it nonetheless. My instincts were correct in the segment near the bank, but then I plunked a cast to the second deeper section towards the middle. The fat Albert drifted three feet, and then a twelve inch brown trout materialized out of nowhere and crushed it. What an unexpected thrill to witness a solid surface take on an over-sized dry fly near the end of my day!

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Greed Has Its Downside

Once I photographed and released my prize end of day catch, I scrambled up a steep bank covered with large rocks and accessed the road. By now it was 2:30, and I intended to complete the 30 minute hike back to the car. However as I rounded the ninety degree bend and skirted along the section of the creek above a diversion structure, I had a change of plans. The air temperature was actually the warmest of the day, and I always wondered about the productivity of the large plunge pools in the high gradient section to my left. The warmth of the sun accelerated the run off, as the snow succumbed to the more intense rays of the sun, and this in turn created increased turbidity in the water below me. The milky olive-brown water caused me to pause, but relatively good visibility remained along the edge, so I decided to climb down the bank just above the concrete diversion wall.

Before I began prospecting the deep plunge pools, I switched the black beauty for a prince nymph, as I hoped to create more contrast against the brown stained flows. The first couple pools did not yield any evidence of fish, but then I spotted a small deep pocket next to an exposed mid-stream boulder. This location did not appear to be as attractive as some of the other pools ahead of me, but I decided to dedicate a couple casts, before I moved along. On the third cast the fat Albert slowly bobbed from a position in front of the rock to a foot to the side, and then a wondrous sight appeared. A large mouth rose, and the size eight fat Albert disappeared, and this sudden stroke of good fortune forced me to raise my rod with a sudden and effective hook set.

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Last Fish of the Day

The recently pricked brown trout was not happy, but after a brief display of anger, I pressured it into my waiting net. Another twelve inch brown nestled in my net, and I once again snapped a representative collection of photos and video. Do you readers believe that thirteen is a lucky or unlucky number? I prefer to believe it brings good fortune, as I ended my day resting on a fish count of thirteen.

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What fun! I landed thirteen trout on the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek in 3.5 hours of fishing. I managed to land my largest trout from the St. Vrain in two years on a recently tied size 20 mercury flashback black beauty. Two golden yellow twelve inch brown trout crushed the fat Albert. During the day four trout consumed the fat Albert on the surface, three fish were able to pick the tiny black beauty from the drift, and six fish favored the beadhead hares ear. I will probably sample another front range stream when the weather cooperates again, but who knows? Before I wrote this piece, I checked my St. Vrain reports from 2016, and I discovered that my first trip to the flood damaged creek was on March 4, and I scored my first trout of the 2016 season during that early March visit.

Fish Landed: 13