North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 10/22/2019

Time: 1:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: Button Rock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 10/22/2019 Photo Album

My daughter, Amy, visited from Portland, OR, over the long weekend, and I deferred all fishing ventures until her departure. I did, however, review the stream flows and weather forecasts, while she remained in Denver, and the predicted high temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday suggested a couple days of fall fishing. Initially I hoped for a trip to one of the backcountry streams, that I discovered in 2019 or perhaps to South Boulder Creek, but as the day approached, the weather forecast worsened, and this forced me to re-evaluate my planned destination.

Predicted highs on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Colorado mountains sank to the mid-forties accompanied by wind, and I was not anxious to endure that level of adversity. Highs in Boulder, Lyons and Denver; however, were expected to be a more comfortable sixty degrees, so I opted for a relatively short trip to the Button Rock Preserve area of the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. Nine mile per hour wind speeds were a bit concerning, but I confronted similar conditions on many occasions and managed success. Jane decided to accompany me, and we stopped in Louisville, CO to add our grand puppy, Zuni, to our road trip group.

When we arrived at the Button Rock Preserve parking area at 11:50AM, the dashboard thermometer registered 55 degrees, and a fairly steady breeze ruffled the remaining leaves of the nearby trees. I probably overreacted to the weather, when I pulled on my North Face light down coat, and then I assembled my Orvis Access four weight. Jane and Zuni sped off upon our arrival, but I eventually caught them, and we continued our inbound hike for a mile, until I angled down a manageable slope to the creek. Jane and Zuni watched, as I scrambled over some dead branches, and before they attempted a similar descent, we spied a small herd of deer. A doe and three young ones browsed along the dirt road twenty yards above us, and Zuni immediately demonstrated a strong willingness to give chase. Jane resisted these efforts and somehow managed to control Zuni while negotiating the tricky rock and log strewn bank to arrive at the creek. Eventually the deer disappeared behind a large boulder on the opposite side of the road, but Zuni would not relax, until they were gone.

Since it was 12:40PM when I arrived streamside, I extracted my sandwich and carrots and made quick work of my lunch, before I began my quest for St. Vrain trout. The stream was 21 CFS, and this was fairly average for October. I avoided a large foam hopper as the top fly due to low clear flows and instead opted for a size 10 Chernobyl ant. I was skeptical that fish would rise for surface offerings, so I added a chartreuse copper john as the top fly and a salvation nymph on the end. The copper John displayed a nice shade of light green similar to a caddis larva, and it also provided additional weight to enable deep drifts in the cold autumn water.

At the Start

Within the first half hour I landed three small trout in the first four pools, that I prospected. The first fish was a barely six inch rainbow trout that grabbed the salvation. Next a six inch brown nabbed the salvation as well, and then an eight inch rainbow nipped the Chernobyl ant. The aggressive ‘bow refused the foam dry twice and then circled back and smacked the attractor, just before it accelerated at the tail of the pool.

Amazingly this early action was the highlight of my day. For the next hour I continued upstream at a steady pace and covered the attractive deep runs and pockets with the dry/dropper combination, but four or five tiny trout under six inches were my only reward for persistence. The weather, meanwhile, deteriorated; as some large clouds blocked the warming rays of the sun. The absence of solar energy prompted the wind to gust, and I pulled on my raincoat as a windbreaker to block the chilling impact.

At 2:15PM I approached a nice long smooth pool, and coincidentally Zuni and Jane appeared on the opposite bank. Zuni’s excitement level elevated as indicated by her rapidly wagging tail, when she spotted me, but she was reluctant to wade into the icy flows of the North Fork. I surveyed the long pool and noticed a pair of random rises, and since the dry/dropper was not generating results, I removed the three flies and replaced them with a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. For the next ten minutes I sliced some upstream casts into the wind, and drifted the tiny tuft through the areas that revealed rising fish earlier. The fish ignored my dependable BWO imitaion, but additional sporadic downstream rises shifted my attention.

I initiated a series of across and downstream drifts, but again my fly was not in favor, until I allowed it to dangle in the current, while I gathered up excess line, and I was surprised to feel the weight of a fish. The small eater remained connected for only a second, but it was clear that movement was a necessary part of the deception. I fired some casts across and down and executed some poor mends that caused the fly to hop, and on three occasions a fish swirled at the tumbling fluff, but in each case the result was a refusal.

Zuni and Jane were clearly getting antsy to leave, so I surrendered to the small selective eaters, and I hooked my fly to the rod guide, as I prepared to wade across the pool to the bank next to the road. Somehow in the process of doing this I exerted excessive pressure on the line, and the CDC olive broke from the leader and dropped in the pool and began floating downstream. I took a couple steps in an effort to retrieve the fly but then realized that it was not worth the risk of a stumble and fall. I paused to watch the tiny tuft of CDC, as it floated toward the tail, and then in a split second flash a small trout darted to the surface and ate the detached fly! I spent ten minutes attempting to fool the choosy eaters in the pool, and the first drift of my unattached fly was consumed. I concluded that my leader was too short or perhaps not fine enough, but that was a change in strategy for another day.

I joined Jane and Zuni on the road, and we ambled back to the parking lot together. Tuesday was more about being outside with Jane and Zuni, and the fishing was secondary. The air temperature was acceptable, but the cutting wind converted fun into a chore. The North Fork of the St. Vrain is largely a brown trout fishery, and I suspect that the larger fish were occupied with the reproductive cycle. Three trout in 1.5 hours is an acceptable catch rate, but the puny size did not justify the difficult conditions. The seven day weather forecast is not encouraging for additional fishing in 2019.

Fish Landed: 3

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 08/02/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 1:30PM

Location: Button Rock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 08/02/2019 Photo Album

Friday was a watershed day of 2019. It was my first visit to a Front Range stream since June 24 on the South Platte River, and that particular trip resulted in a skunking. My last successful day spent on the South Platte River or a tributary was June 14. I endured six weeks of high flows, that prevented me from venturing to nearby drainages for fly fishing in flowing water.

Jane and I had tickets for the Giants vs. Rockies game on Friday night, August 2, so my options were limited to streams within 1.5 hours of Denver. Even that relatively minimal time constraint meant I needed to quit fishing by 2PM in order to make a 1.5 hour return drive and prepare for departure to the game via the A Line. I reviewed the Front Range options and settled on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. Flows were reduced three days prior to 85 CFS, and I knew from prior experience that these were manageable levels for wading and edge fishing.

I departed my house in Denver by 8AM and arrived at the parking lot for the Button Rock Preserve by 9:30AM. The lot was half full, but I assumed most of the visitors were dog walkers. The Button Rock Preserve is an extremely popular dog exercising destination. I pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight and hiked up the dirt access road to distance myself from the parking lot. Several fishermen tested the water below the Longmont Dam, and a spin fisherman was busy just above the inlet. These were the only competing anglers infringing on my two miles of water on Friday.

Perfect Pool, Yet No Fish

When I reached my intended starting point, I followed a hunch and tied a green drake user friendly to my line. I encountered green drakes on the St. Vrain within Rocky Mountain National Park, and I speculated that they might maintain a presence on the tailwater below Ralph Price Reservoir. Even if this was not the case, the user friendly might serve as a decent attractor mouthful for the cold water residents.

The Other Braid Around the Island

The hunch did not prove accurate, so I followed up the user friendly with a yellow stimulator, and this bold attempt to seduce trout to the surface with a dry fly was also rejected. I was certain that the pools that failed to yield willing fish contained a few wild occupants, so I converted to a tan pool toy and trailed a beadhead hares ear nymph. Finally I began to observe sporadic refusals to the pool toy and evidence of fish, but my strong desire to feel the weight of a thrashing trout on my rod was not satisfied.

I added an iron sally to the dry/dropper below the hares ear in an attempt to create more weight and deeper drifts, but this ploy simply resulted in extended futility. Between 10AM and 11:30AM I covered some very attractive water, yet the fish counter languished on zero. Could my return to Front Range streams result in a humiliating skunking?

I reflected on my morning and settled on one obvious fact. The fish were looking toward the surface and not interested in subsurface offerings the least bit. I noticed three or four refusals to the pool toy hopper but never connected with a fish with the two trailing nymphs. I decided to experiment with smaller dry flies. First I knotted a yellow stimulator to my line, and after ten minutes of prospecting it produced only a rejection. Very few insects were obvious, so perhaps the fish were tuned into terrestrials that accidentally tumbled into the stream. A Jake’s gulp beetle failed to tempt the trout, and I was back to staring at my fly box.

Red Hippie Stomper!

A hippie stomper saved many a day, so I decided to give one a tryout. Normally I default to a dubbed peacock body version, but the green drake user friendly was unsuccessful, so I chose to diverge radically from the norm and tied on a red-body hippie stomper. Voila! I stumbled into my first fish, when a ten inch rainbow slurped the foam attractor on a downstream drift. A skunking was averted, and I found a nice flat rock and munched my lunch, while I observed a nice run in front of me.

Lunch View

After a quick bite I resumed my upstream progression with the red hippy stomper, and within fifteen minutes I approached a gorgeous long deep run with a soft shelf pool along the opposite bank. For some reason I added a bright green go2 caddis pupa and a salvation nymph, and I began to flick backhand casts to the top of the run. On the first two drifts trout flashed to the hippie stomper and turned away at the last instant. I persisted and eventually tempted two browns and a rainbow to grab my flies. The rainbow nabbed the go2 caddis pupa, and the two browns latched on to the salvation nymph. The last brown to come from the quality run measured twelve inches and was my best fish of the day.

Easily the Best Fish of the Day

During my remaining time on the water I persisted with the three fly dry/dropper, and I increased the fish count from four to ten. I moved fairly quickly, and my confidence soared, as the catch rate elevated. For some reason the salvation nymph became a food item of choice, as five of the last six snatched the iridescent nymph from the drift. Another rainbow darted to the surface and mauled the red hippie stomper. For some reason rainbows seem to be attracted to bright colors more than brown trout.

Stomper in Corner of the Mouth

I landed number ten at 1:25PM, and with double digits in hand, I decided to hustle back to the car in order to meet my targeted departure time for the Rockies game. What a strange day Friday evolved into. During the morning I feared a skunking, and for some reason the fish began to eat between noon and 1:30PM. Did I progress to less pressured water? The entire area that I covered was a decent hike from the parking lot, so I doubt that location explains the sudden shift in success. I was in a tailwater and relatively close to the dam, so I believe that it took all morning for the water temperature to rise to a level, where the trout became more active. I suspect that the higher catch rate would have continued for another couple hours had I been able to remain at Button Rock Preserve. Friday was another fun day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, and I will certainly return, although I will not rush to arrive early.

Fish Landed: 10

Between the Water Spots

Wildflower Assortment

 

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 04/01/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 04/01/2019 Photo Album

A cold front including a minor accumulation of snow moved into Colorado on Friday evening, and I put a hold on my 2019 fishing plans. On Sunday I reviewed the weather forecast for the week beginning on April 1, and I noticed highs in the fifties and sixties in Denver for most of the week. Jane and I made plans to ski on Tuesday, so I was not interested in taking a long trip on Monday, and I evaluated the nearby Front Range options. The most decisive factor was weather, as a high of 58 degrees in Denver translates to relatively cold temperatures at higher altitudes.

I narrowed the choices down to the North Fork of St. Vrain creek, Boulder Creek and the Cache la Poudre in Ft. Collins. Lyons, CO, Boulder, CO, and Ft. Collins all registered forecast highs in the low to mid fifties. The North Fork of St. Vrain Creek is a tailwater, and for this reason it received the nod. I was a bit concerned about flows of 18 CFS, but I reasoned, that I had fairly decent success on South Boulder Creek at that level. The high temperature in Pinecliffe west of South Boulder Creek was 45 degrees, so I postponed a trip to that favorite destination.

I departed Denver by 9:30 and arrived at the parking lot at the gated entrance to Longmont Dam Road a few minutes before 11:00AM. The temperature in the parking area was 44 degrees with occasional wind, so I wore a fleece and light down along with my hat with ear flaps. I rigged my Orvis Access four weight and began hiking up the access road that follows the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek a few minutes after eleven o’clock.

Some Snow on Hillsides

A brisk hike of twenty minutes delivered me to my desired starting point, and I began my day with a size 12 hippy stomper, beadhead hares ear nymph, and RS2. I probed some attractive pockets and runs, as I progressed upstream, but after fifteen minutes there was no sign of trout in the vicinity of my casting. I decided that my second fly needed to be larger and heavier to obtain more depth, so I exchanged the RS2 for an ultra zug bug. The flows were relatively low, but there was enough volume to create some nice deep runs and seams at the head of the pools.

After thirty minutes of unsuccessful fly fishing I found a nice long rock next to a decent pool, and I perched on the edge, while I munched my lunch. Clearly Monday was not evolving in a manner that matched my expectations.

On Display

After lunch I continued upstream, and I finally began connecting with some small fish. A brown trout crushed the ultra zug bug, and this bit of good fortune was followed by a rainbow trout and brown trout that nipped the hares ear nymph. The early fish emerged from slow moving shelf pools next to faster moving deep runs. The catch rate was slow, and I covered quite a bit of decent water, but I was pleased to finally experience some action.

Rising Fish in This Pool

In the time period between lunch and 1PM I approached a long slow moving pool, and I paused to observe before casting. As I surveyed the smooth water ahead of me, I noticed several subtle dimples, and the initiators of the surface disturbance were readily visible in the clear water upstream. I was hesitant to switch to a single dry, so I tossed my three fly dry/dropper system to the scene of the rises. It was a mistake. The trout darted off, and I concluded that the double nymphs and foam dry were too much disturbance for these skittish creatures. I snipped off the three flies and tied a size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line.

Jewel

Several fish showed their presence toward the middle of the pool, so I fluttered a cast in that direction, and I was shocked when a brown trout darted to the surface and plucked the CDC BWO. I congratulated myself on displaying the patience to make the changeover, before I released the aggressive feeder. I dried the CDC fluff and resumed casting to the top third of the pool, but my good fortune did not repeat.

I continued my upstream migration, but the next section of the stream was not conducive to prospecting with a size 24 dry fly, so I reverted to the dry/dropper arrangement. Since a trout responded to my blue winged olive imitation, I replaced the ultra zug bug with a sparkle wing RS2 without a bead, in case emergers were on the menu. The idea was worth trying, but the trout did not respond.

Once again I encountered a nice long pool with visible sippers, so I endured the time-consuming conversion to the same size 24 CDC BWO; however, this time I was not rewarded for my persistence. Again after I covered the length of the pool, I switched back to the three fly setup; however this time I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and chose an emerald sparkle caddis pupa for the end fly with the hares ear in the middle. I decided to dwell at one place less, move quickly and fish the faster runs and riffles at the head of the pools.

Emerald Caddis Pupa Did Its Job

The strategy more or less worked as I elevated the fish count from four to twelve before I quit at 4PM. I covered .5 mile of the small creek in my 4.5 hours on the North Fork, and I enjoyed moderate success. The largest trout landed over the course of my time on the creek was eleven inches, and most of the fish that nestled in my net were in the eight to nine inch range. Five of the last eight crushed the emerald caddis pupa, so that proved to be a fortuitous fly choice. Two more favored the hares ear, the last fish of the day slurped a size 14 olive-brown deer hair caddis.

I was near my end point, and I was about to strip in my flies to hook them to the rod guide before climbing the bank to exit. I glanced downstream and spotted a decent rise ten feet below me and four feet from the opposite bank in front of a large submerged boulder. Since I considered removing the three flies that comprised the dry/dropper, I completed that plan and pulled a size 14 olive-brown caddis from my box. This would be a last ditch attempt to dupe the source of the solitary rise across and below my position.

A Rare Rainbow on the North Fork

I stripped out adequate line and tossed a downstream cast. I checked the line high and allowed coils of slack to pile above the fly, and then it slowly drifted downstream. Unfortunately the line of the drift was off by three feet, but it did not matter, as suddenly a trout slowly emerged from the depths, and then it confidently slurped the deer hair caddis. I instinctively reacted with a hook set, and I quickly guided an eleven inch rainbow trout into my net. Needless to say I was quite thrilled and surprised with this late afternoon action. I persisted with the dry/dropper for most of the afternoon, and now I chastised my stubborn resistance to change. Perhaps prospecting with an adult caddis was the ticket to greater trout numbers? I’ll never know the answer to this quandary, but I do know that I generated two additional temporary connections with the caddis, when I deployed long downstream drifts through the tail of the pool.

Adult Caddis in Lip

Upon reaching the tail I stripped in the caddis and hooked it to my rod guide with the intention of testing several additional smooth pools along the road on the return hike. It never happened. I was weary, and it was after 4PM, and accessing the pools required scrambling over some large boulders on a steep bank. I adopted a comfortable pace and returned to the car for the drive back to Denver.

Twelve small trout in 4.5 hours of fishing is a decent record of success. The weather was chilly but tolerable, and the wind was present but never insurmountable. Two of the landed trout sipped dry flies, and that was a plus for early in the season. The hatch, if there was one, was very sparse. In fact I never actually saw an insect larger than a very small midge. Two of the twelve trout were rainbows, and the caddis eater at the end of the day was an eleven inch rainbow.

Fish Landed: 12

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 11/15/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Lavern Johnson Park

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 11/15/2018 Photo Album

A snowstorm on Sunday deposited three or four inches in Stapleton, but according to news reports it delivered a foot to Boulder and the front range foothills. The weather forecast predicted highs of 60 degrees in Denver on Wednesday and Thursday, and I targeted one of these days for a late season fishing adventure. I dropped the Santa Fe off at the auto body shop on Monday for repairs to the bumper after a minor rear end incident on an earlier fishing trip to Boulder, and this reduced Jane and I to two cars. Adding to the logistical challenge of getting away for some stream time, the 1998 RAV displayed battery woes, and I was unable to start it on Tuesday. With Jane’s assistance we started it using jumper cables, and I immediately drove it to the nearby Brakes Plus. The man at the counter checked the schedule and committed to a diagnosis on Wednesday. Our two person family with three vehicles was now reduced to one on Wednesday, and I was reluctant to strand Jane with no transportation, so I delayed my fishing plans to Thursday.

LaVern Johnson Park

Fortunately Brakes Plus lived up to their commitment, and they replaced the battery in the RAV on Wednesday. Jane needed her Forte for tennis permanent court time on Thursday, so my fly fishing venture was dependent on the twenty year old RAV 4. Originally I selected Boulder Creek within the city of Boulder as my destination, but when I checked the flows, I noticed a 10 CFS spike on Tuesday and Wednesday. I suspected that this resulted from low elevation snow melt from the dumping on Sunday and Monday, and I never enjoyed much success under these conditions. I checked the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and the graph displayed a nice even line at 28 CFS. Of course this was measured at the outflow from the dam, and melting snow would impact the conditions below that location, but I surmised that there was less distance for run off effect.

I stuffed all my gear in the tiny RAV 4 and departed Denver by 10:30AM on Thursday morning. The air temperature was already at 54 degrees in Denver, and by the time I pulled into a parking space at Lavern Johnson Park, the temperature in Lyons was 58 degrees. Thursday evolved into a very mild sunny day in Lyons and Colorado, and I was optimistic that I might land some late season trout. Before I paid my $5 fee for four hours of parking, I visited the rest room and checked out the stream along the way. The creek was crystal clear and flowing at 28 CFS. Residual mounds of snow were evident in the shade, and full scale thawing was in effect, but I concluded that the conditions were favorable for a few hours of fly fishing.

Red Hippy Stomper

I rigged my Orvis Access four weight and quickly strode across the park to the downstream border with private land next to the RV camping space. I knotted a silver ice dub body hippy stomper to my line and added a beadhead hares ear on a 3.5 foot dropper, and I began to prospect the small stream. The St. Vrain in the park forms a  huge horseshoe, and man made dams and rocky stream improvement structures create a series of deep pools and eddies throughout the public area. These were my prime targets, although I allocated a few casts to the deep runs and pockets in between the human creations. The stream improvement project evidently was a response to the 2013 flood.

After thirty minutes of focused fishing I recorded only a rude refusal to the hippy stomper, so I paused and found a picnic table in the sun, whereupon I consumed my small lunch. At 12:15 I resumed my quest, and I added a beadhead ultra zug bug to my offerings. Finally in a deep shelf pool along the current seam formed by a deep run, I connected with two small brown trout. The first extended to eight inches, and I paused to snap a photo. This proved to be a fortuitous choice, as it represented the first and largest fish of the day.

First and Largest

My optimism elevated somewhat, and I continued around the curve and into the sunlight in the western section of the horseshoe. Although the temperature was nearly sixty degrees, my wet hands sent out a stinging sensation, while I dwelled in the shade from the steep hill on the south side of the creek.

One of the first places I encountered when I migrated into the sunshine was a long clear pool, and I sprayed some long casts through the bottom end of the area. A deep trough bordered the left bank next to a large rectangular rock, and I shifted my back cast to the right in order to angle a cast to the left side. I was surprised and depressed, when I discovered that I wrapped the trailing nymphs around an overhanging branch high above the creek. I was very reluctant to write off three flies, but the limb was out of reach, even when I climbed to the top of the bank. Finally I conceded to the tree and grabbed the leader as close to the hippy stomper as I could, and gave the line a strong steady pull. The tippet snapped below the hippy stomper, so I salvaged the largest and newest fly, but the two nymphs taunted me from their perch near the end of the overhanging branch.

I was about to replace the nymphs with a new set, when I developed another scheme. A jumble of dead branches was visible at the base of a tree on the opposite side of the creek, so I waded across at the tail of the pool and lifted the longest of the cluster. It was quite thick and extended to twelve feet, so I grasped it in the middle to balance the weight and lugged it back to the top of the high right bank. I used the clumsy branch like a jousting pole and managed to thrust the tip into the monofilament jumble and then lowered it toward the ground. Amazingly I snagged the ultra zug bug in the split in the end of the long pole, and I quickly recovered it, but the hares ear was no where to be found.

I congratulated myself for recovering two out of three, but then I made one last inspection of the branch dangling high above the creek. I spotted another tangled mass of line, and I concluded that it was the end of my dry/dropper rig, and a beadhead nymph dangled from the mess. I deployed the battering ram one more time and thrust it into the tangled web, and once again I succeeded in stripping the line from the tree. I placed my impromptu tool on the ground and rushed to the tip, where I discovered a previous angler’s line and a decaying beadhead nymph. The bead and hook were all that remained of an aging unidentifiable nymph imitation. I took credit for removing the fishing waste from the tree and returned to reconfiguring my line.

Since I was faced with nearly a total rebuild, I used the interruption to swap the silver hippy stomper for one of my trusted peacock body versions. I replaced the ultra zug bug and hares ear with fresh versions of the same flies, and I resumed my casting in the attractive pool. Of course I was extremely conscious of the streamside trees during my return engagement to fly fishing St. Vrain Creek.

Sunshine Welcome

The head of the pool paid dividends, when I connected with two additional small brown trout on the hares ear, and then I moved to the next attractive man-made structure. At some point during this interval a fish rose to the hippy stomper, and I quickly lifted the rod tip and felt a solid connection. This fish was clearly larger than my previous catches, but I was disappointed to discover that it was foul hooked after refusing the foam attractor. The victim of this inadvertent hook up was a stunning rainbow trout with a wide orange-red stripe along its side. I was disappointed with the foul hook, but I was excited to discover the existence of rainbow trout in the Lavern Johnson Park stretch.

During the remainder of my time on the creek I curled around the northwest section of the bend until I reached the huge pool just below the Riverbend dance floor, where Dan and Ariel performed their first dance on September 14. Along the way I notched a fifth small brown trout to finish the day at five. Five is a relatively low total, and the size of the fish was in the six to eight inch range, but I was nonetheless pleased with my small level of success. The sun was bright, and the temperature approached sixty degrees, and I escaped a skunking during ice cold snow melt conditions. A five fish day on November 15 is always welcome in my book.

Fish Landed: 5

 

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 11/10/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 11/10/2018 Photo Album

After a superb outing on October 29 on South Boulder Creek, I was itching to wet a line a few more times during 2018; however, the weather in early November was being unusually uncooperative. Between October 30 and November 10 a series of light snowstorms and cold fronts kept the high temperatures in the forties and thirties, and I desire temperatures to remain in the 45 -55 range to allow a modest amount of comfort. Highs in the mid-fifties in Denver generally translate to ten degrees cooler in the mountains and foothills, so I used the first two weeks of November to kick off my production fly tying for the 2019 season.

Finally when I checked the long term forecast, I noticed that Saturday November 10 was projected to yield a high in the mid to upper fifties in Denver. Jane and I were dog sitting our grandpuppy Zuni, and she loves the trails and off leash area at Buttonrock Preserve, so we scheduled a combined fly fishing/dog walking excursion. The high temperature in Lyons, the closest nearby town, was forecast to reach fifty-one degrees on Saturday, so I gambled that I could tolerate the chill and land a few trout.

Jane and I departed Stapleton by 9:30 and after stopping to fuel the car and buy a new leash for Zuni, we arrived at the nearly full parking area below Buttonrock by 10:50. The abundance of vehicles elevated my concerns over angler competition, and I passed a few fishermen on my way to the stream, but most of the visitors were dog walkers. I later told Jane that the Buttonrock Preserve is the boardwalk of dogs, as we passed a steady parade of canines of every variety.

Jane was prepared to leave the parking area almost immediately, and Zuni was not demonstrating an abundance of patience, so they departed, while I cycled through my fishing preparation ritual. One of Jane’s water bottles leaked and swamped the floor mat in the back of the Santa Fe, so I spent additional time repositioning¬† clothing and bags to avoid saturation. The stool and carpet sample that I normally use to pull on my waders were drenched with water, so I sat on a boulder in front of the car to wader up, and this added additional preparation time to my venture.

I elected my Orvis Access four weight to coddle my elbow, even though my final physical therapy appointment occurred on Thursday. The air temperature on the dashboard registered forty-one degrees, and a stiff breeze blasted down the canyon. The wind was strong enough to periodically create dust clouds, and this was a weather factor that I failed to consider. The sky was overcast and remained mostly in this state for my entire time on the creek.

I wore my fishing shirt and a fleece and stuffed my light down coat in my backpack along with my lunch and then cinched my long sleeved Under Armour shirt around my waist. For head gear I chose my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps, and during my 2.5 hours in the canyon, I was thankful for this choice. I hiked for over a half hour at a decent pace, and the wind chill and shade forced me to stuff the hand that was not holding the rod inside my waders to prevent numbing and aching from the cold. The wind was a huge negative, that I did not bargain for, and I actually considered returning to the car to eat my lunch and wait for Jane and Zuni to complete their loop.

Finally I reached my targeted starting point, and I angled down to the stream, where I removed all my upper body layers and pulled on my Under Armour shirt. To combat the chilling impact of the wind I added my fishing shirt, fleece and light down and snugged my ear flaps over my ears. In the process of returning the sweaty undershirt to my backpack, my sandwich wrap tumbled to the ground and dumped my sandwich on to some rocks. I lost some of the extras on my ham sandwich, but quickly slapped the bread layers back together along with the ham and lettuce to salvage a reasonably appetizing lunch option.

Nice Clear Flows

I was now ready to begin my fishing adventure. I knotted a peacock hippy stomper to my line and then added an iron sally as the solitary dropper, and I began to prospect the deep holes and likely fish holding locations. The flow was low but actually quite acceptable for early November. In a nice long run early in the game, a fish darted to the surface and refused the hippy stomper, and in a spot slightly above this rejection I felt the temporary tug of another fish, as it latched on to the iron sally. I was encouraged that two fish found my flies interesting, but I was disappointed that the fish counter remained locked on zero.

After the two early fish encounters I suffered through an extended dry spell. I did learn during this lull that the fish were concentrated in deep slow moving pools. I wasted my time prospecting faster runs and riffles of moderate depth, before I isolated the prime holding water on November 10. During the first 1.5 hours I registered a few more temporary hookups on small fish, before I approached another nice long pool with a moderate center current and four to six feet of depth in the upper section.

By now I added an ultra zug bug as a third fly below the iron sally, and I cast toward the midsection of the long pool. The hippy stomper paused, and I reacted with a solid hook set, and this action resulted with a small rainbow trout in my net. The length of this trout was in the vicinity of six inches, so I tentatively counted it as my first fish of the day. I carefully waded to the middle portion of the run and paused to observe, and I was both amazed and encouraged to witness a few sporadic rises. Initially the rises were in the top fourth of the pool along the perimeter of a deep pocket, where the creek spilled over a curved and spaced wall of exposed rocks.

I lobbed some casts to this upper section, but the fish continued their sporadic feeding and ignored my large hippy stomper and subsurface offerings. What could these fish be eating? As I continued to observe, I spotted some small insects, as they skittered across the water. I was unable to identify the food source, nor was I able to place the species as mayfly, caddis or stonefly. Given the cloudy conditions and the time of year, I concluded that a sparse blue winged olive hatch was in progress, so I swapped the ultra zug bug for a RS2, and I began drifting and swinging the flies through the pool.

The Only Fish on Saturday, November 10

My logic was sound, but the trout ignored my nymphs whether dead drifted or active, and I was about to modify my approach, when a fish suddenly crushed the hippy stomper. I was almost caught off guard, but I responded in time to hook and land a ten inch rainbow, with the foam attractor solidly attached to its lip. This trout was clearly above my minimum threshold, so I made it my first legitimate catch of the day, and then I resumed casting.

After ten unsuccessful drifts I once again paused. By now five or six fish were rising throughout the length of the pool. I scanned the air above the creek, and I saw tiny midges and two small stoneflies. The stoneflies were easily distinguishable, because two sets of wings were visible, as they fluttered above the water. I also noticed an insect as it tumbled and skittered across the surface, and I assumed that it was a stonefly. I was undecided over my next step, but I decided to try a size 22 CDC blue winged olive first.

I tied the CDC BWO to my line and began to target the various rises around the pool. One fish that was fifteen feet below me in the center of the pool was a more consistent riser than the others, so I delivered several downstream drifts over the feeder. Twice the small aggressive sipper elevated, but each time it dropped back to its holding position. This was a strong sign that they were not eating baetis mayflies, so I defaulted to my back up plan. I replaced the BWO with a size 18 dark stonefly adult, that I tied for autumn emergences on South Boulder Creek. This was the smallest stonefly in my possession, although the naturals that I observed appeared to be lighter in color.

I will never know whether it was size or color, but the dark olive body imitation with a dark gray wing never fooled the residents of the North Fork pool. One trout displayed a splashy refusal directly across from me, but the stonefly searching period was characterized by an abundance of futility. I was frustrated that I did not possess any small light colored stonefly imitations, so I pondered my predicament once again. I was fortunate to encounter surface feeding late in the season, yet I was unable to unlock the secret code that would deliver fish to my net.

The only small light colored flies in my box were the light olive blue wings. I decided to give them another try, and I knotted a different size 22 to my tippet. During this repeat engagement of the CDC BWO, I managed to fool the small sipper that refused me earlier, but it escaped before I could net it, and it was below the six inch cut off. As this drama was unfolding, Jane and Zuni arrived, and Zuni nudged my waders to make me aware of her presence. After we exchanged greetings, she ascended the path, and I tossed the car keys to Jane, so they could return to the warmth of the Santa Fe.

I committed to quit by 2PM, and only ten minutes remained. I was evaluating a new plan of attack, when I saw a decent brown trout swirl to the surface three times in quick succession in the very attractive deep pocket at the top of the pool. Perhaps a caddis could induce a take? My caddis were larger than anything I saw on the water, but perhaps a large mouthful would generate an opportunistic slurp? I replaced the blue winged olive with a size 16 deer hair caddis with an olive brown body, and I drifted and skittered the hackled fly through the top section. Nothing. I fired a few casts to the location of the riser across from me and then fed some downstream drifts to the fish in the lower half of the pool. I was not rewarded for my efforts, and it was 2PM, so I stripped in my line and climbed the bank and ambled back to the parking lot at a brisk pace.

One fish in 2.5 hours of fishing was not great, but the time was far from boring. At least five or six fish rose in the quality pool, and I was consumed by my efforts to fool the small feeders. I mostly failed in the undertaking, but I registered one rainbow trout on a newly tied hippy stomper, and I encountered several additional opportunities but failed to convert. As snow descends outside my office window, I question whether this was perhaps my last outing of 2018. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 1

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 09/30/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Between RMNP and the Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 09/30/2018 Photo Album

On Sunday, September 30 my son, Dan, agreed to join me for a day of fishing. Dan’s busy life affords him only rare opportunities for fly fishing outings, so I felt very fortunate. After reviewing the flows of the front range streams, I proposed two possible destinations; the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek and the Big Thompson River. Dan opted for the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, and I picked him up at his home in Louisville, CO at 8AM.

We drove to the trailhead and began hiking at 9:30. After we pulled on our waders and assembled our rods, we worked our way downstream and began fishing by 11:00. When we departed from the parking lot, the dashboard thermometer registered forty degrees, and dense fog blocked the warming rays of the sun. I suspect that the temperature never rallied above fifty-five degrees during our day, and the narrow canyon was quite chilly particularly in the shade. I wore a fleece and raincoat layer for most of my stay on the creek. Eventually the sun burned through the fog and clouds, but the additional sunlight failed to neutralize the chilling impact of the wind.

Dan Breaks Through Early With This Cutbow

Dan began with a Chernobyl ant and ultra zug bug, and I started with a peacock hippy stomper and a hares ear nymph. In a brief amount of time Dan landed a gorgeous cutbow that measured thirteen inches, and our optimism skyrocketed.

Could Be a Calendar Photo

We alternated pools, until we arrived at the spot, where we stashed our packs, and we paused along the creek to eat our lunches on a large flat rectangular rock. It was perfect for our purposes. Just before lunch I added an ultra zug bug below the hares ear, and the glistening peacock concoction enabled me to land an eleven inch brown trout in the next pool above the one, where Dan netted his cutbow. At the head of a very long smooth pool just below the intersection with the trail, that we followed to the creek, I landed two more ten inch browns that grabbed the ultra zug bug. These fish attacked the nymphs, shortly after they penetrated the surface of the creek.

Unwound and Fly Removed

After lunch we continued upstream, from where the trail met the creek. The area was breathtaking, as the stream cascaded over and around an abundant quantity of huge boulders. Maneuvering around the rocks and fallen logs required persistence and strength. We pool-hopped upstream, since the creek consisted of a series of spectacular plunge pools connected by short segments of fast white water chutes.

Two Trout Came from the Narrow Top Section

During the early afternoon I removed the hares ear, as it never produced a fish, and I replaced it with a salvation nymph. I reconfigured my lineup by attaching the ultra zug bug as the top fly, and I positioned the salvation on the bottom. This three fly lineup moved the fish counter from three to seven, at which point I set the hook in response to a barely perceptible pause in the top fly. The line encountered no resistance, and my flies hurtled into a branch high above the creek. I quickly determined that there was no way to recover the flies, so I applied strong direct pressure, and they quickly snapped off above the hippy stomper near the end of the tapered leader.

The tree branch forced me to rebuild my leader, and I used the reset as an opportunity to experiment with a solo Jake’s gulp beetle. On the first cast of the beetle a beautiful cutbow moved at least a foot to sip the terrestrial, and I landed one of the two best fish of the day. The scene was ultra visual, and I can still picture it in my mind.

Dan Shows Off a Fine Brown Trout

Over the remainder of the afternoon we moved upstream and alternated pools, and the beetle yielded four additional catches. Small deep slow moving pockets next to the bank provided the most success, as brown trout used the cover of the rocks and then ambushed any available source of food. My beetle was fortunately regarded as a sumptuous meal

Mighty Fine

At 3:30 we reached a place that required more rock climbing effort than we were ready to provide, so we decided to make it our turnaround point. The unending uphill return hike required a bit more than an hour to conquer, and in spite of our weariness we were both euphoric over finding new water and enjoying a decent level of success. I would love to return to the section of the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek that provided success to Dan and me on September 30.

Fish Landed: 12

 

Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 07/24/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Camp Dick Campground

Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek 07/24/2018 Photo Album

A mild case of tennis elbow persisted since after my guided float trip on the Bow River in August 2017, but the discomfort escalated after two fishing outings on July 16 and 17. A dull ache on the top of my elbow expanded to a pinching sensation coupled with an increased burn on the bone on the underside of my right elbow. After my last fishing outing on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek on July 17 I decided to rest my casting arm for a week.

On Wednesday July 18 Jane and I completed a hike along the Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek, and I was intrigued by the rushing mountain stream that paralleled the hiking trail. I resolved to return with a fly rod in hand in a reasonable period of time. I began a program of icing my elbow on a daily basis, and I made an appointment with my primary care physician. The rest and icing calmed down the elbow discomfort, and my primary care physician wrote a referral to my favorite physical therapy clinic.

I Saw a SUV Drive Over This

Tuesday July 24 represented the one week anniversary of my last fishing trip, so I decided to test the arm before my scheduled physical therapy appointment on Wednesday. I made the relatively short drive to Camp Dick Campground and parked in the western trailhead lot. I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight and tramped along the Middle St. Vrain Trail for twenty minutes, before I veered to the left and bashed through dead limbs and bushes, until I intersected with the tumbling Middle Fork.

Pretty Typical Water

The air temperature was 71 degrees when I began, and during my time on the water it never peaked higher than 75. A very brief rainstorm passed by in the early afternoon, and the intermittent cloud cover prevented the strong rays of the sun from overheating the Rocky Mountains in my chosen fishing location. I had no basis for comparison, but the stream seemed to be at near ideal flows.

As this stream was brand new to me, I decided to charge in without any knowledge to guide me. The stream was a relatively high gradient section of fast moving water, and I suspect this was true of the entire section from the Peak to Peak Highway and west. The combination of the tight streamside vegetation and the rushing whitewater and large boulders made negotiating my way westward quite a challenge.

Typical Brook Trout on Middle Fork

During my time on the medium sized creek I landed thirteen small trout. Ten were brook trout in the 7 – 8 inch size range and the other three were brown trout. Two browns measured out at nine inches and one lunker by Middle Fork standards stretched the tape to twelve inches.

Slightly Larger Brookie

I began my fly fishing adventure with a gray stimulator, and this bushy attractor accounted for the first five fish, all brook trout. I sensed that perhaps larger fish were lurking beneath the surface, and perhaps they were more interested in nymphs and pupa, so I converted to a dry/dropper approach that consisted of a size 14 hippy stomper with a peacock dubbed body and a beadhead pheasant tail on a short two foot dropper. The hippy stomper attracted two trout to surface for a bite, and the beadhead pheasant tail delivered the best fish of the day to my net; a twelve inch brown trout. All three of these trout arrived at my net from a gorgeous pool; one of the few quality fish holding lies that I encountered.

Best Pool of the Day

The brook trout clobbered the hippy stomper near the tail of the pool, and I was beginning to doubt the efficacy of the pheasant tail. I flicked the two fly combination upstream five feet in front of an exposed boulder in the center of the pool, and suddenly the hippy stomper took an obvious dive. I immediately reacted with a solid hook set, and the bend in the four weight signaled, that the fish frantically attempting escape maneuvers was larger than the heretofore diminutive brook trout. I guided the thrashing trout away from a branch and scooped it into my net, and my enthusiasm for the Middle St. Vrain suddenly skied to new levels.

Lunker by Middle St. Vrain Standards

Unfortunately as I progressed upstream, the action waned. I covered quite a distance with no fish encounters, and I attributed the disappointing circumstance to the lack of quality fish holding locations. The creek was simply a cascade of whitewater, and the effort to move from one marginal target spot to the next was excessive. By noon I found a nice round wide rock in a clearing used by disbursed campers, and I rested my arm, while I munched my sandwich. I pondered the fast stream and my morning results and concluded that I would try a size 12 Chernobyl ant and a salvation nymph dropper. The larger foam top fly would not require frequent squeezing and drying, and it could support the larger beadhead nymph, which I surmised might be more visible to the trout in the tumbling oxygenated environment.

My Future

The move paid off somewhat, as I added three additional small brook trout to the fish tally. All of the early afternoon netted fish nabbed the Chernobyl on the surface, and all were brook trout in the seven inch range. During this time period some dark clouds developed to the east, and I was certain that I dodged the storm, until a deafening thunderclap ricocheted off the surrounding mountains. I nearly jumped out of the water, as I reacted to the startling natural crash.

Another lull in action caused me to once again pause and reexamine my approach. In previous situations in high gradient mountain settings I utilized a three fly dry/dropper with success. Two droppers provided additional weight, and I theorized that reaching greater depth in the plunge pools might yield more fish. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line to support two beadheads, and then I added an ultra zug bug and a pheasant tail. Once again the change reversed my fortunes, and I registered three more catches including another brown trout that chomped the ultra zug bug, but then I once again endured a slump.

Wildflowers Everywhere

Another dark cloud hovered overhead and a few large raindrops spurred me to extract and pull on my raincoat slightly in advance of a brief heavy deluge. The rain only lasted for five minutes, and I continued my upstream migration with the dry/dropper method. Alas I plateaued at thirteen trout for the day, and the number of attractive fish holding lies shrank, as the gradient of the stream surged even beyond the section that I already covered. Fatigue dominated my thoughts, and the sun reappeared to create a steamy environment, and I faced a thirty minute hike back to the parking lot. I reeled up my flies and called it a day.

Thirteen trout was a reasonable total for four hours on a small mountain stream, yet I was undeniably disappointed. I was quite excited, when I discovered the clear tumbling branch of the St. Vrain on July 18, and I was certain that it received low pressure and would reward the diligent fisherman willing to hike away from the trailhead. I crashed through deadfalls and brush and scrambled over boulders and fallen trees, and I was convinced that the extra effort would be rewarded with a large quantity of unsophisticated albeit small trout. In reality the extra effort did not justify the results. As anticipated the fish were small, but fish density was low thus requiring abnormal effort to cover a significant amount of water in challenging wading conditions. I am unlikely to return in the near future.

Fish Landed: 13

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.

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.

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.

Same Fish, Better Lighting

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.

Best Fish of the Day Took a Salvation Nymph

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Home of Best of the Day

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