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

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

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.

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.

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

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon. 

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

Due to technical issues I am unable to insert photos. If you click on the above link, you can view photos from this fishing trip. Hopefully I can resolve the problem soon.

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 paralled 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Chernobly 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.

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-uK3YzjX86yw/WvuZ66op-vI/AAAAAAABcxM/5WL-saCKlPoN51w6T7J5fOu08F1t3NV_gCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P5150003.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6556002921098079329?locked=true#6556002920019131122″ caption=”Slow Water Along the Edge Was the Place to Be” type=”image” alt=”P5150003.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-5ttPwIedPBg/WvuZ6yrMIaI/AAAAAAABcxM/kgigV0Fcb1wtz5FLv3uy9btU9LIJ7EaYwCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P5150005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6556002921098079329?locked=true#6556002917882274210″ caption=”Nice Slick Below the Rocks” type=”image” alt=”P5150005.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-GXbhv78naZI/WvuZ65tQMJI/AAAAAAABcxM/SisEU7x_8toblt6P2Ro0hwAH7AuaM6tewCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P5150002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6556002921098079329?locked=true#6556002919769976978″ caption=”Same Fish, Better Lighting” type=”image” alt=”P5150002.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Br57Cv6oJMY/WvuZ69VyhmI/AAAAAAABcxM/BKYmswTHhucbGQ-3hnjXu4cy7D84Jk2WQCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P5150007.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6556002921098079329?locked=true#6556002920745305698″ caption=”My Lunch Spot” type=”image” alt=”P5150007.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-g4ZoFDwZ0ZI/WvuZ6zlNB0I/AAAAAAABcxM/OzJfhoxvoAEcIKYwq3TSKs1Vv7yRaOo-QCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P5150009.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6556002921098079329?locked=true#6556002918125602626″ caption=”Best Fish of the Day Took a Salvation Nymph” type=”image” alt=”P5150009.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-2PBV8b6gYvs/WvuZ627I-sI/AAAAAAABcxM/5NMpkQTsvZE9Xz2qn2ahXco6qwb3RCZlgCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P5150010.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6556002921098079329?locked=true#6556002919022918338″ caption=”Those Orange Spots” type=”image” alt=”P5150010.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-cbUmQlGl174/WvuZ67kJuCI/AAAAAAABcxM/QB3rOHkzG2kxyupYfDUhok4wp2e02tccgCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P5150006.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6556002921098079329?locked=true#6556002920268675106″ caption=”I Liked This Scene” type=”image” alt=”P5150006.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-P3Ao56eVLWM/Wtf7Je93uQI/AAAAAAABbWw/2h6_6DLmQWIdCC_7hOSaWxGmk-F1tG_FQCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P4180010.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6545976348163372289?locked=true#6545976723756267778″ caption=”This Little Guy Was the First Fish of the Day” type=”image” alt=”P4180010.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-XTNsIp1WGog/Wtf7JX1u3-I/AAAAAAABbWw/7O_kFco108sBaEPlVNJ77WALyWKUXP9kgCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P4180011.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6545976348163372289?locked=true#6545976721843085282″ caption=”Another RS2 Lover” type=”image” alt=”P4180011.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-3MwcBPYXU30/Wtf7JV_GHlI/AAAAAAABbWw/hQhj0-O73dsN0oxxZApI72aJjE5B87VLwCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P4180013.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6545976348163372289?locked=true#6545976721345486418″ caption=”Soft Hackle Emerger Eater” type=”image” alt=”P4180013.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-dviY_5PJH0g/Wtf7JS-6MkI/AAAAAAABbWw/d26HB7oMD3oyttDSzifhGVPBjQV1nMTkACCoYBhgL/s144-o/P4180015.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6545976348163372289?locked=true#6545976720539398722″ caption=”Zuni’s First Kiss” type=”image” alt=”P4180015.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-OhlCDL2m2No/Wtf7JWF0SsI/AAAAAAABbWw/Hqeju1Rww2Efx-B9S9PTCnPb4Nfqrvh7wCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P4180016.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6545976348163372289?locked=true#6545976721373678274″ caption=”Licking the Net” type=”image” alt=”P4180016.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Te04R7Bq1qg/Ws6c6NqYiSI/AAAAAAABbGY/y_tuHd8Bbv4M24K6_L15FlvqWLZZRX2hACCoYBhgL/s144-o/P4110021.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6543339829080804081#6543339832529684770″ caption=”Starting Pool Yielded a Small Fish” type=”image” alt=”P4110021.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-kZ-z4VapyRM/Ws6c6BV0gZI/AAAAAAABbGY/BVoSO3oCSCsAC4IikzyDUv3TJ-qkPvEiQCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P4110022.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6543339829080804081#6543339829222211986″ caption=”Lovely Run and Pool” type=”image” alt=”P4110022.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-9rDR9GMMm2k/Ws6dMA2CQiI/AAAAAAABbGY/wzmmPdlERoU50Y4-29ksDTVc3StmNQrRACCoYBhgL/s144-o/P4110025.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6543339829080804081#6543340138326540834″ caption=”Home of Best of the Day” type=”image” alt=”P4110025.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-fM4hvc8xk8M/Ws6dMD4cgDI/AAAAAAABbGY/mhicYKw6ohgvGDJsCLvpJr5GmxeSq_NKgCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P4110024.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6543339829080804081#6543340139141955634″ caption=”Best of the Day” type=”image” alt=”P4110024.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-eJPe0sfimfM/Wr-UIJcHKrI/AAAAAAABaiM/RScIBD650XcE2Yo2RI_IFy1TsWeGhkSHgCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3300001.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6539108050220820817?locked=true#6539108051658943154″ caption=”Pool at Starting Point” type=”image” alt=”P3300001.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-f10sWfqvLN8/Wr-UV5Nz0oI/AAAAAAABaiM/3uqQpXn8rb4VQdthVRywEHOYW_5GZuX_ACCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3300003.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6539108050220820817?locked=true#6539108287822156418″ caption=”Rising Fish in This Long Pool” type=”image” alt=”P3300003.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-UjPy5fvleYw/Wr-Uok5I0GI/AAAAAAABaiM/CxJAMkC45P4SnDOurmcz5_s3iKwu3mNaQCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3300007.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6539108050220820817?locked=true#6539108608784257122″ caption=”This Guy Liked My Hand” type=”image” alt=”P3300007.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-pqS7a5TyCmg/Wr-U7r4MT7I/AAAAAAABaiM/GIJ1aB4iVQw7gZvUiGPQ_0q_cb5oAAhdwCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3300013.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6539108050220820817?locked=true#6539108937076854706″ caption=”Having Fun” type=”image” alt=”P3300013.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-NAjmTooeFRM/Wr-VQ8KTIHI/AAAAAAABaiM/SZvfz5SdrOYergnpZYG-gemXIBtusJS1wCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3300017.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6539108050220820817?locked=true#6539109302225018994″ caption=”Quality Spot” type=”image” alt=”P3300017.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-JgHf5rdJPNs/Wr-VQ5aomyI/AAAAAAABaiM/NKskgDkhWsQqm2r2w_I-0yY1DdgAEFdAQCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3300016.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6539108050220820817?locked=true#6539109301488229154″ caption=”Keeping Wet” type=”image” alt=”P3300016.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-HY5ynhCb-kM/Wr-VZXUboXI/AAAAAAABaiM/exJ2i4Qc-6YOQrJ6Lzmoos2FiOInAt7rACCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3300020.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6539108050220820817?locked=true#6539109446954230130″ caption=”Ears on Alert” type=”image” alt=”P3300020.JPG” image_size=”4608×3456″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-_q0Cb61FXAM/Wq2I92mTLxI/AAAAAAABZz0/QkgTbaOvlBEtW2EOnxY-mCN4L7yr50b7wCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3150032.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6534029225136879393#6534029230594010898″ caption=”Trevor Changes Flies” type=”image” alt=”P3150032.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-pr2hF95ZTUE/Wq2I-eK6AuI/AAAAAAABZz8/9ynwwULPqmkky6BNFSt48x_n-toLN-9fgCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3150033.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6534029225136879393#6534029241216533218″ caption=”Promising” type=”image” alt=”P3150033.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Wo9Gl7cAA3w/Wq2I-96z74I/AAAAAAABZ0E/SIFzbJHMeK0g6OCstmBJgYZPOdv8wxYdACCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3150034.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6534029225136879393#6534029249738960770″ caption=”Deep Run” type=”image” alt=”P3150034.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-W552qU8PGx8/Wq2I_3nvBkI/AAAAAAABZz8/IUxFpmU2TBIKWovVDybk9Q3r5CpXaO02ACCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3150036.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6534029225136879393#6534029265228203586″ caption=”First Trout of 2018 in North America” type=”image” alt=”P3150036.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-nHEwZgFgv5M/Wq2JBbuWEnI/AAAAAAABZzw/PHGZoqcxpNkwLpPk7fJbS5DpnTQfCk1PACCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3150039.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6534029225136879393#6534029292099474034″ caption=”A Hares Ear Fooled This Rainbow Trout” type=”image” alt=”P3150039.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-n_V3JXlWl0o/Wq2JBwp4pJI/AAAAAAABZ0I/pRNbHE_7ilMc7aoun79Y7E1lIk-c2-rKACCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3150041.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6534029225136879393#6534029297717912722″ caption=”Brilliant Orange Spots” type=”image” alt=”P3150041.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-dsb915bZH30/Wq2JFuaOWpI/AAAAAAABZzw/aTUyRJms9RAewZzuXdnhdlZt9Ea9BDUwgCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3150049.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6534029225136879393#6534029365834832530″ caption=”Hot Spot” type=”image” alt=”P3150049.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-TINXBaYksE4/Wq2JF_uk0OI/AAAAAAABZz0/HcI1AqJZNhEIVX8-xFF1j6-68f_78wUYwCCoYBhgL/s144-o/P3150050.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6534029225136879393#6534029370483593442″ caption=”A Fine Small Stream Catch” type=”image” alt=”P3150050.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-ET_o0QvdHoA/Wh3xMx4Dm2I/AAAAAAABSLc/IYJWD4JSyYgmsdo1XuIbj2VtQdRYjRZRwCCoYBhgL/s144-o/PB270007.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6493611432128634289?locked=true#6493611439587302242″ caption=”Man-Made Pool Near My Starting Point” type=”image” alt=”PB270007.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-w4ffxdO6Ujw/Wh3xN7-u3wI/AAAAAAABSLc/DXR9oSLxONMIrpufrDP_Rn2xIkMWKL47ACCoYBhgL/s144-o/PB270009.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6493611432128634289?locked=true#6493611459479527170″ caption=”Bright Red Underside on This Fly” type=”image” alt=”PB270009.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-1tWXKrgu8Y4/Wh3xPDQWuYI/AAAAAAABSLc/JL0pxwgAE8c94pyXzoCbJJ7Bvix8h3TbgCCoYBhgL/s144-o/PB270012.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6493611432128634289?locked=true#6493611478612359554″ caption=”Another Late November Eater” type=”image” alt=”PB270012.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Ctd3ZVmUuEA/Wh3xQoBi7BI/AAAAAAABSLc/Jy4pbrcq_v8h2gwWXDBZR1qbqSnsPkMYwCCoYBhgL/s144-o/PB270016.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6493611432128634289?locked=true#6493611505662225426″ caption=”One of the Better Fish on the Day” type=”image” alt=”PB270016.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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