Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM
Location: West of Peaceful Valley Campground
After five days in Pennsylvania I returned to Colorado and immediately departed on a camping trip to Peaceful Valley Campground. A group of pickleball friends reserved three sites in February, and after a six month wait, our turn to enjoy the beauty of the mountains west of the Peak to Peak Highway arrived. One of the campers was a Brit named Dave Hughes, and he was a very reluctant participant and not fond of roughing it in these modern times. In an effort to make him feel at home, Jane went all out and set up the picnic table with a lace tablecloth, wine bottles, wine glasses and a summer flower bouquet. We think he was impressed, but we were certain the other ladies in our camping group were wowed by the effort. For dinner the first night we made salmon wrapped in pancetta skewers with a fresh garden salad. After dinner the entire group gave Jane a standing ovation including the reluctant camper, Dave Hughes.
Tuesday was my allotted day to fish. A week transpired since my last outing on August 3, so I was very anxious to wade into an ice cold mountain stream. The Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek rushed by our campground, so I took advantage of the convenience. After a delicious breakfast prepared by the Hughes party, all the campers loaded themselves in two cars, and we drove 1.2 miles to the Buchanan Pass Trailhead. There were ten of us, and the other nine charged up the trail, while I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my waders. I probably should have chosen wet wading on August 10 with high temperatures peaking in the low 90’s in Denver, but I felt that the high altitude would keep temperatures at a tolerable level. I failed to account for the body heat generated, while I hiked uphill for a couple miles.
I caught and passed the nine hikers from our group and found a spot above a narrow cascade with steep vertical walls on both sides, and here I cut through some spaced out trees to the creek. The water was crystal clear and flowing at a healthy pace on the high gradient stretch. I began my quest for mountain trout with a peacock hippie stomper, but after ten minutes I concluded the locals were uninterested. I was about to make a change, when I was greeted by my wife and four of the hikers. We chatted briefly, and then they continued their hiking journey.
I abandoned the hippie stomper entirely and opted for a gray size 14 stimulator and trailed a purple haze. The haze and stimulator picked up a few fish, but refusals outnumbered hook ups, so I once again paused to make a change. The flows were a bit high for early August, so I decided to test a dry/dropper approach to get deeper in the water column. I knotted a classic Chernobyl ant to my line as the top indicator fly and then attached a salvation nymph below that. The Chernobyl attracted attention in the form of refusals, and the salvation was ignored, so I added an iron sally below the salvation. The iron sally enabled me to pick up a few more fish, but the long leader from the foam attractor to the iron sally was cumbersome and induced an abnormally high number of snags. I decided to swap the top fly to a yellow fat Albert for better visibility, and I reduced the subsurface offering to the solitary iron sally. This combination seemed to work better than the three fly dry/dropper, as the iron sally accounted for a few more fish, and the fish counter elevated to seven.
I paused for lunch a bit after noon, and shortly thereafter I approached a beautiful smooth, placid pool. I recognized that the fat Albert would simply spook the fish in this fragile setting, so I reverted to the peacock hippie stomper and added a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis on a twelve inch dropper. The hippie stomper was simply an indicator to allow me to track the tiny caddis fly. The ploy was a success, and I persisted with the double dry offering for the remainder of the afternoon. The fish counter climbed steadily to twenty-two, before I climbed the bank and followed a faint path to the main trail. The caddis was responsible for the majority of the takes with a few gullible fish falling for the hippie stomper. In the early going I landed four cutthroat trout, but all the double dry responders were brook trout.
Surprisingly the type of water that produced consistently was wide riffles that were a couple feet deep. The obvious large, slow-moving, deep pools were not trout factories, although many of them were bordered by well worn paths and casting perches. I suspect that hikers and four wheelers cherry picked the obvious spots with bait and spinning tackle. A few pools produced, but these locations typically required significant effort to climb over large fallen logs or bashing through thick streamside vegetation, and of course the riffles and marginal pockets were probably overlooked by the spin casting crew.
The hiking crew used my car to return to the campground, so my return hike was incremented by 1.2 miles, and needless to say, I was hot and thirsty, as I removed my waders and gear at the campsite. Tuesday was a fun day on the Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek. Sure, the fish were quite small with all falling in the six to nine inch range. I may have landed a ten inch cutthroat, but that was a lunker for the section of the creek that I covered. I spotted a few larger trout in a couple prime pools, but these trout saw me and bolted, before I could entice them with my flies. The bright colors of the trout made up for their lack of size, and the spectacular landscape made the day worthwhile. I am pleased to be back in Colorado, and I am already contemplating another outing on Friday, August 13. Stay tuned.
Fish Landed: 22