Category Archives: St. Vrain Creek

Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 08/10/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Peaceful Valley Campground

Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek 08/10/2021 Photo Album

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.

Breathtaking Pool

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.

Colorful Brook Trout Above the Water Spot

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.

A Gem of a Cutthroat

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.

Tough Water to Approach

Wow, Those Colors

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.

Postcard Pretty

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

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 08/03/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 08/03/2021 Photo Album

My last fishing day was Wednesday, July 28, so I was itching to get in another outing before my scheduled trip to Pennsylvania for a reunion. I desired a short drive and reviewed the stream flows for the usual Front Range options. Heavy thunderstorms and rain caused flash flooding and mudslides over the previous five days, so I wanted to assure myself that I would not be impacted by these events. Three streams stood out from my review: South Boulder Creek, the Big Thompson River, and the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. South Boulder Creek was running at 185 CFS, which is higher than I desire, but manageable, particularly if insect hatching activity is present. That option, however, involved a fairly significant and strenuous hike into the canyon, so I moved on to the Big Thompson River, which was rolling along at 126 CFS. Once again this volume was higher than I favor, but I in the past I fished the Big T at 125 CFS successfully. The North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek was registering flows of 46 CFS, and I knew from experience that these levels were quite favorable for fly fishing. The NF of the St. Vrain was a 1.25 hour drive and closer than the Big Thompson River, so it became my choice.

I prepared the night before and arrived at the Buttonrock Preserve parking lot by 9:45AM. Steady rain commenced, as I drove through Lyons, CO, and it continued, as I rigged my Sage four weight and pulled on my waders and raincoat. Six cars were in the parking lot when I arrived, and the quantity quickly shrank to three including me, as dog walkers and hikers returned to their cars to avoid the rain. I was gloating internally, as I prepared to fish in spite of the wave of hikers and walkers avoiding the steady preciipitation that was more than a drizzle but less than a steady downpour.

Salivating

Stretched Out for Viewing

I hiked for forty-five minutes and then paused to configure my line for a day of fly fishing. I began with a peacock hippie stomper, but it was totally ignored in some very attractive deep pockets and pools. I added a purple haze, and a small surface disturbance appeared just below the trailing purple attractor. This told me that the fish were looking toward the surface, so I swapped the purple haze for a size 18 olive-brown deer hair caddis. Bingo! A small rainbow trout and brown trout responded to the change and sipped the tiny caddis. I was off and running with a fish count of two within the first thirty minutes. Unfortunately the catch rate quickly dropped to zero, and the small caddis was nearly impossible to follow in the glare created by the overcast skies.

Salvation Nymph and Yellow Sally

Narrow Band Along the Rock Produced

The creek was nearly devoid of insect activity, so I decided to experiment with a dry/dropper approach. One never knows what works, until one tries. I began with a Chernobyl ant trailing an iron sally and salvation nymph. The dry/dropper ploy worked, and I steadily increased the fish count from two to six, as the salvation nymph caught the attention of the local stream residents. Even with this improvement in action, I remained dissatisfied with the effectiveness of my offerings. The Chernobyl ant was totally ignored, as was the iron Sally, so the only productive fly on my line was the salvation nymph. The Chernobyl ant was increasingly hard to follow in the glare due to its sunken position in the surface film, so I exchanged it for a tan pool toy hopper. While doing this, I extended the leader between the hopper and the first fly, which I swapped for an emerald caddis pupa. The combination of the hopper, caddis pupa and salvation remained on my line for most of my remaining time on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, and it served me quite well.

Shimmering

Deeply Colored Wild Brown

I ramped up the fish count from six to eighteen between noon and 3:00PM, when I pulled down the curtain on a successful day. The sky remained overcast, and consequently the temperature never spiked out of the seventies. The weather conditions were nearly ideal for fly fishing in the middle of the summer. Most of the trout snapped up the drifting salvation nymph, but three crushed the pool toy hopper. One of the pool toy hopper lovers was a sixteen inch cutbow, and it smashed the large terrestrial in the middle of a large smooth pool. Needless to say I felt very fortunate to net the beauty. Another pair of brown trout in the twelve inch range mauled the hopper as well, so the terrestrial imitation was popular with larger than average fish.

Great Side View

I was also surprised to land a nine inch lake trout. I can only assume it washed over the top of Buttonrock Dam, and that also may have been the case with the cutbow. The lake trout and cutbow when combined with the rainbow trout and brown trout allowed me to claim credit for a grand slam, and for me a slam including a lake trout is very unusual.

Head Shot

Tuesday, August 3, evolved into a very enjoyable day. The flows were favorable, and the cool overcast skies were very refreshing after the recent string of ninety degree temperatures. Eighteen fish in four hours of fishing was very respectable. Two-thirds of my catch were small trout in the six to ten inch range, and the remainder included the cutbow and a bunch of eleven to twelve inch brown trout. The quality of the fish was quite acceptable for a small stream such as the North Fork of the St. Vrain.

Fish Landed: 18

So Green

Another Shot

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 08/08/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 1:00PM

Location: Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 08/08/2020 Photo Album

One of the by-products of my mitral heart valve surgery was getting introduced to many front-line health care workers within the Boulder Community Health network. Among my favorites is Meghan Gerlach, one of the anticoagulation pharmacists that I conferred with on nearly a weekly basis, while I adhered to a blood thinner regimen after my heart surgery. In one of the early appointments I mentioned my passion for fly fishing, and she informed me that her eleven year old son, Lucas, was an avid fisherman. Apparently Lucas experienced some success fishing for bass while visiting his grandparents cabin in Missouri, and he was keenly interested in advancing his capabilities in the realm of fly fishing. I volunteered to guide Lucas on a local stream or lake, once my arm and shoulder recovered sufficiently from my surgery, and when the covid19 threat was minimized.

Fast forward to August 8, 2020, and the two conditions described above were met, and Meghan and I worked out a plan, whereby I would meet them at Buttonrock Preserve for several hours of instruction and fishing. Boulder Creek in Boulder Canyon was my first choice, but ongoing road construction presented a formidable obstacle with forty-five minute delays and potential disruption of the stream clarity. My second choice was the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek in Laverne Johnson Park in Lyons, but an online search revealed that the park was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Knowing that the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek at Buttonrock Preserve offered more challenging conditions, I opted for it anyway, since it was relatively close, and the flows were in a reasonable range for a novice fly fisherman. The large parking lot offered a nice space to introduce some casting instruction, and I was hopeful that the attractive pools next to the parking lot might harbor a few willing trout.

I arrived at the Buttonrock Preserve parking lot at 9:45 and quickly secured one of the six remaining spaces. I prepared to guide Lucas by pulling on my waders, and I set up my Orvis Access four weight. Meghan told me in a text that Lucas had his uncle’s fly rod, but I wanted to provide an alternative. Lucas is saving money that he earns from chores to purchase a starter rod, and I wanted him to have a basis of comparison. As I waited for the two Gerlach’s to arrive, additional preserve visitors appeared, and the free parking spaces dwindled to two. I kept my fingers crossed, and the move paid off, as a white Toyota Sienna arrived and secured a parking space one car over from mine.

Friday’s weather was in line with the recent trend of a lingering heat wave, and the thermometer was already in the low eighties when we began. I pondered suggesting wet wading for Lucas, but he was wearing shorts, and I was concerned about sunburn and scratches, so he climbed into my backup waders and boots. In case you are wondering, he is eleven years old and already has a foot size equal to mine. He is shorter, and this caused the waders to bunch up a bit, but we made it work by shortening the shoulder straps and cinching the belt around his waist.

We began the outing with some casting practice in the parking lot, and although Lucas did not perfect dry fly casting, he advanced his abilities to the point, where I felt he was ready to attack the stream. We meandered to the edge of the creek by a nice starter pool, and I tied on one of the size 16 hippie stompers, that he showed me in his fly box. I directed his casts, and we worked through three or four nice pools and pockets, but neither of us saw any evidence of trout. The high sun and hot atmosphere dampened my confidence, but Lucas was undeterred.

I was reluctant to deploy a dry/dropper due to the risk of entanglement, but I decided to give it a trial. I swapped Lucas’s hippie stomper for one of my peacock size 12’s, and then I added a beadhead hares ear on a 2.5 foot dropper. Lucas managed the two fly system quite well with only a few minor tangles, but the trout in the North Fork were not cooperative. In one shallow run I took the rod to demonstrate how to flick a short backhand cast, and a small four inch brown trout grabbed the hares ear near the middle of the run. Lucas’s eyes grew wide, and I could sense that his level of determination elevated, after he actually held a small trout in his hand.

Lucas Examines His Line

At noon we paused for lunch, and Meghan had moved the minivan closer to the western portion of the parking lot, so we made a short hike to the nearby van. While we munched our snacks, another angler returned to his car right next to us, and he had been fly fishing in Ralph Price Reservoir. I asked him how he did, and he extracted a nice fourteen inch rainbow trout from his bag. It was already gutted and ready for the grill, and he related that he caught it on a woolly bugger. Of course this merely served to get Lucas more optimistic about landing a fish from the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. The neighboring gentleman also suggested that a good approach to the creek was a chubby Chernobyl trailing a beadhead pheasant tail.

Since our morning results could be described as futility, I adopted the suggested approach. I knotted a chubby Chernobyl with a tan ice dub body to Lucas’s line and then added a super nova nymph as a dropper. The super nova is a close approximation of a pheasant tail. Forty-five minutes remained in our allotted time, before Meghan needed to return to her father’s house to collect Lucas’s sisters. We escalated our focus and fished with intensity for the remainder of our time, but I am sad to report that Lucas failed to land a fish. I concentrated his casts to the whitewater spots at the head of the runs and pools under the theory that the trout sought oxygenated water during the high air temperature conditions. In one promising pocket along the right side Lucas flicked a nice cast next to the seam, and the chubby Chernobyl dipped quickly. Lucas responded with a quick side set, but nothing was attached to his line. I suspect this may have been his closest encounter with a fish.

At 1PM Meghan was ready to depart, so I climbed up some large boulders to join her. Lucas remained in the stream and executed several eleventh-hour casts in an effort to avoid a skunking. I was very impressed with his intensity and persistence, and I am certain he will grow up to be a first rate fly fisherman. He is thirsting for knowledge and willing to seek sources of instruction. These qualities should carry him a long way in fishing but also in whatever career path he pursues. I was very pleased to meet Lucas, and perhaps we can meet again when the temperatures cool in September or October.

Fish Landed: 0

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 07/09/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Button Rock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 07/09/2020 Photo Album

Thursday’s fishing adventure was the polar opposite of Tuesday on the Colorado River. The results were also on the opposite end of the spectrum, but the one consistency was the continuing heat wave in Colorado. July and September are generally my most productive fly fishing months. so I felt a strong impulse to utilize the summer prime time to rack up fly fishing hours. As is my practice, I evaluated all the Front Range streams, but some of my favorites continue to crash through their drainages at very high rates. The two exceptions to this condition were the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek and the Cache la Poudre River. I decided to sample the closer North Fork of St. Vrain Creek on Thursday, and planned a longer trip to the Cache la Poudre River in the canyon west of Fort Collins on Friday.

My last trip to the St. Vrain took place on 06/24/2020 with Dan, and it was essentially a bust from a fishing perspective, so I was a bit apprehensive about another visit. The water gauge below the dam registered 68 CFS, and that elevated my optimism, although the flows dropped from 90 CFS to 68 CFS twenty-four hours earlier. I generally try to avoid fishing within the first couple days after significant flow changes, but a downturn is usually less disruptive than a large increase. I rolled the dice and made the one hour and fifteen minute drive to the Button Rock Preserve northwest of Lyons, CO.

Such Unique Flowers

As I mentioned at the outset of this piece, the heat wave that settled over Colorado continued on Thursday, and the warm temperatures prompted me to undertake my first wet wading effort of the year. It proved to be a solid decision, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ice cold flows, while the air temperature soared to the upper eighties. Unfortunately trout did not appear to adapt as readily to the high temperatures. I fished from 11:00AM until 2:00PM and landed five small trout including three browns, one rainbow, and one cutbow. The creek was clear and cold, and the flows were very conducive to successful fly fishing. Insect activity was largely absent, and this might explain the lack of action. After lunch I noticed a couple pale morning duns and a single yellow sally, but that was the extent of my observed food sources.

Slick on the Right Looks Promising

I broke for lunch at 11:45 and landed four of the five fish in the first forty-five minutes. This is an indicator of how slow my early afternoon was, when the temperature climbed into the eighties. I began my day with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph; and the salvation produced three of the morning catches. The other trout gobbled the hares ear. After lunch a lengthy period with no action transpired in spite of some very attractive structure, I began to cycle through a variety of flies. I swapped the salvation for a beadhead emerald caddis pupa, and then I exchanged the hares ear for an iron sally. These flies were totally ignored, however, a couple looks and refusals to the fat Albert caused me to reconsider my approach. If the fish were looking toward the surface, perhaps a single or double dry approach would release the lock on the fish counter? I experimented with a size 14 gray stimulator, size 14 yellow stimulator, a size 14 deer hair yellow sally, a size 16 gray deer hair caddis, and a size 16 light gray comparadun. The stimulators and gray deer hair caddis spurred refusals, but none of the imitations yielded a trout to my net.

A Little Jewel

In a last ditch effort to dupe the St. Vrain trout with dry flies I tied a peacock hippie stomper to my line, and then copying from my Tuesday guide on the Colorado, I trailed a gray caddis eight inches behind the stomper. Both the hippie stomper and caddis attracted refusals, but the persnickety trout were apparently looking for something else. I finally abandoned the dry fly approach and returned to dry/dropper with a size 12 prince nymph and size 16 fusion nymph trailing the hippie stomper. At the lip of a long deep run a cutbow snatched the fusion nymph, as I began to lift it to complete another cast.

Area to the Right Beckons

After releasing the cutbow I continued fishing for another fifteen minutes, but at 2PM the stream ahead look less appealing, and I decided that the slow catch rate and diminutive fish did not justify additional time on the St. Vrain. I hooked my fly to the bottom guide and hiked back to the car. Thursday was a rough day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. It was the second unproductive visit in a row, and I blame the heat and the lack of insect availability. The recent change in flows may have also played into the situation, with the stream residents requiring more time to adjust.

Five trout in three hours of fishing is not a ridiculously poor showing, but the size was very disappointing. The largest fish was perhaps nine inches, and most were in the six to seven inch range. The ice cold creek kept me very comfortable, and that was probably the highlight of the day. I will seek other options, before I make a return visit to Button Rock Preserve.

Fish Landed: 5

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 06/24/2020

Time: 6:30PM – 8:30PM

Location: Button Rock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 06/24/2020

My son, Dan, sensing that the long hours of daylight were sliding by rapidly in 2020, while simultaneously lamenting that he was not taking full advantage of living in Colorado, decided to remedy the situation and organized a longest week medley of outdoor activities. The outdoor ventures were scheduled to begin after work, and they were made possible by the abundance of daylight. Dan named his initiative his “longest week”, although technically the five days that were included did not represent the five longest days of the year. The series began with trail running on Monday, road biking on Tuesday, mountain biking on Thursday, and hiking on Friday. The astute reader will note that Wednesday is missing, and that is because Wednesday was earmarked for fly fishing. I agreed to join Dan for an evening of fly fishing on Wednesday, June 24.

While Dan was occupied with the task of earning a living, I took advantage of my retired state and researched fly fishing options. Continuing snow melt along the Front Range escalated the difficulty of my challenge, but I narrowed the options to the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins, the North Fork of the St. Vrain at Buttonrock Preserve, and South Boulder Creek below Eldorado Canyon State Park. I also suggested a few lakes, but neither Dan nor I are proponents of stillwater fishing, so that option never received serious consideration. South Boulder Creek below Eldorado was within six miles of Dan’s home, but the reported flows were 145 CFS, and we were both unfamiliar with the stretch under consideration. The North Fork of the St. Vrain registered flows of 107 CFS, and the Cache la Poudre in Fort Collins was tumbling along at 130 CFS. From a flow standpoint the Poudre was probably the best choice, but we elected the North Fork of the St. Vrain due to proximity and familiarity. I researched this blog and found four outings to Button Rock Preserve, when I enjoyed decent success at comparable flows.

I met Dan at his house at 3:30PM to pick him up, and after a stop at Snarf’s for delicious sandwiches we drove to Button Rock Preserve and arrived in the parking lot by 5:45PM. We quickly consumed our tasty meals and assembled our rods and hiked up the canyon for approximately a mile. I selected my Sage four weight for the evening and stuffed my regular glasses and headlamp in my backpack. By 6:30 we were positioned in the creek and ready to make our first casts. The flows of 107 CFS were, indeed, a bit high, but many possible holding spots behind structure provided hope to two eager evening fishermen.

Dan Lands a Cast

I began with a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl trailing a beadhead hares ear and iron sally, and Dan and I were both frustrated by splashy refusals to the top fly in the early going. We both found it interesting that the trout were looking toward the surface despite higher than normal flows. After thirty minutes of fruitless casting I landed a six inch brown trout along the far bank on the chubby. In spite of some very focused fishing, that was the extent of our success on Wednesday evening. Dan endured a few more refusals.

A Fortuitous Find Before the Storm

By 7:30PM some dark clouds arrived, and we found shelter beneath a wide rock overhang on the opposite side of the dirt road. Some lightning and thunder concerned us, but the net result of the disruptive weather was a five minute drizzle. Once the precipitation slowed we headed back toward the car, but along the way we paused to try some nice plunge pools above a concrete diversion. Alas, this also proved futile, and we reeled in our lines and quit by 8:30PM.

Blackness Was Overrated

I must acknowledge that I was disappointed with our evening outing on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. My main goal was to see a few wild fish in Dan’s net, but we never solved the riddle of how to entice the creek inhabitants. I expected to see some caddis activity at dusk, but the stream was largely devoid of insect life. Perhaps the lower flows of the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins would have been a better choice. At any rate, I always enjoy the opportunity to spend time with my son given the demands of his job and his devotion to his wife and soon to arrive son. The highlight of the evening was sitting under the shelf rock and chatting, while we waited out the threatening storm.

Fish Landed: 1

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 03/18/2020

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 03/18/2020 Photo Album

With my scheduled surgery on my birthday postponed indefinitely, and the corona virus spreading at unprecedented rates, I decided to take advantage of a forecast mild late winter day, before a snowstorm moved into Colorado on Thursday. Because Jane, Amy and I traveled to Vail for a day of skiing on March 9, we were self quarantined, but a day of fly fishing seemed like a safe and enjoyable form of social distancing.

I narrowed my destination choices down to four, and the list included the Cache la Poudre in Ft. Collins, the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek in Buttonrock Preserve, the same North Fork in Lyons, and the South Platte River in Deckers. I consulted with my fly fishing buddy, Trevor (@rockymtnangler), and he promptly recommended Buttonrock Preserve. Trevor enjoyed an outstanding day there several weeks ago, and the flows were around 20 CFS with a high temperature in Lyons projected to be in the low sixties. These factors convinced me to make the one hour and fifteen minute drive to the small front range stream near Lyons.

A Good Place to Start

I arrived at the parking area by 9:30AM, and I was surprised by the number of cars in the lot. Obviously quite a few self quarantined workers were unable to work, and thus, taking advantage of unexpected free time to hike the access road. I quickly assembled my Orvis Access four weight and threw on my light down coat and strode at a medium pace through the gate and followed the dirt road to a point just beyond Longmont Reservoir. Trevor mentioned that he had success along the entire length of the creek, so I decided to sample the lower creek, that I normally skip past.

I Skipped This Pool

I configured my line with a yellow fat Albert, a 20 incher, and a fly that resembled a Frenchie without the jig hook. I spent the next two hours working my way upstream with the dry/dropper rig but failed to interest a single trout in my offerings. Needless to say I was frustrated. During this unproductive quest for trout I cycled through a salad spinner, Frenchie, ultra zug bug, chartreuse copper john, and hares ear nymph in addition to the first pair of flies enumerated above. Nothing worked, and I was perplexed regarding my inability to attract interest from the small mountain tailwater trout.

I arrived at a nice pool across from the incomplete Chimney Rock Dam by noon, and I paused to down my lunch and collect my thoughts. The sun was out, and it climbed high enough above the vertical rock wall opposite my position to bathe ninety percent of the stream in sunshine. As I observed while munching my carrots, I spotted a shadow, as it hovered above a large light colored flat rock. Sure enough the dark form moved from side to side, as it appeared to snatch small food items from the drift. Clearly the trout were feeding on something, but what was it?

Classic RS2

Salvation Nymph Nabbed a Pair

By 12:30 I stood next to the stream near my lunchtime dining spot, and I was refreshed and anxious to continue my pursuit of cold water fish. I retained the yellow fat Albert, but beneath it I knotted a salvation nymph and a classic RS2. I began lobbing casts upstream of the previous location of the trout shadow, that I observed during lunch, and I allowed the fat Albert and trailing flies to swing past the flat rock. I am not sure whether it was the same fish, but on the fourth drift a ten inch rainbow trout snatched the RS2, just as it began to swing, and the fish counter registered one. After two and a half hours of fruitless casting, I was finally on the scoreboard.

One of the Better Fish

Huge Appetite

For the next three hours I prospected the dry/dropper rig upstream, and the fish count increased from one to nine. The highlight of this period was an eight inch brown trout that crushed the size eight fat Albert. Two of the first nine landed fish grabbed the salvation nymph, but the main producer was a sparkle wing RS2 that replaced the classic RS2 after a thirty minute trial. I made the change hoping that the sparkle wing would serve as a more visible attractor, and the tactic seemed to pay off. Of course four or five temporary connections were part of the scene, but in many cases the drop offs were very small trout that may have measured beneath my six inch standard.

Risers in This Long Pool

At 3:30PM I approached a long smooth pool, and sporadic rises caught my attention. I astutely avoided splashing the large fat Albert in midst of the feeding trout and removed the three fly set up and shifted to a single fly approach. For my single fly I chose a size 22 Klinkhammer BWO. I did not observe any naturals, but the sky was clouding up, and it was the baetis time of the year, so I played the hunch. In an earlier slow moving pool, I switched to a CDC BWO, but that choice prompted only a couple refusals, before it was ignored entirely. Shortly after the earlier switch to a dry, I spotted a pair of small gray stoneflies, and I regretted not testing one of my size 18 early stonefly imitations.

Klinkhammer BWO Caught Two

Sipped Dry

My late afternoon Klinkhammer selection proved to be a winner, and I landed two nine inch brown trout that could not resist the low riding emerger imitation. In addition to the landed fish, I connected ever so briefly with several additional opportunistic feeders. Landing two trout on the Klinkhammer dry in the last thirty minutes was icing on the cake for my first double digit day of 2020. Of course the trout were small, but in spite of this minor drawback, I was challenged to find a combination of flies that would dupe wild fish, and I managed to partially solve the riddle. Three fish were in the nine to ten inch range, and the remainder were between six and eight inches. Wednesday was an example of social distancing at its finest, as I never came within six feet of the other outdoor enthusiasts that paraded along the road high above me. Hopefully the March 19 storm will fade quickly, and I will experience additional corona virus induced outdoor adventures.

Fish Landed: 11

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 01/26/2020

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Laverne Johnson Park

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 01/26/2020 Photo Album

I am the first to admit that I am a reluctant winter fisherman, so it takes multiple days of mild weather to motivate me to make a rare outing. Fortunately, that is exactly what transpired between January 24 and 26. Three consecutive days with high temperatures in the upper fifties in Denver including the forecast of a high of 56 on Sunday, January 26, prompted my first fishing outing of the new year. My friend, Trevor (@rockymtnangler), suggested the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and I jumped on the idea. Flows were a steady 20 CFS, and the small tailwater in the foothills is lower in elevation than other options, and consequently offers higher temperatures, albeit colder than Denver.

I was extremely careful to review my checklist, since it was my first trip after an extended layoff. I departed my house in Denver by 10:15, and this enabled me to arrive at the parking area at the trailhead for the Buttonrock Preserve stretch. Tilt. Abort. I cruised the long row of pull-in parking spaces, and every opening was occupied, while several vehicles surveyed the lot ahead of me. I feared that a mild January day on a weekend might cause a mass migration of Coloradans to the outdoors, and my quick assessment of the available parking confirmed this to be the case.

I made a brief review of my options and decided to retreat to Laverne Johnson Park within the town of Lyons. Trevor mentioned this as a solid alternative, and I experienced modest success there on previous fly fishing ventures. By the time I reversed direction and returned to Lyons, I wheeled into the parking lot at 11:45AM. I paid my day use fee and returned to the car, where I hastily chomped my lunch. By noon I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight and meandered to the creek. A large ridge bordered the stream on the south side of the park, so I directed my steps to the sunnier extreme western section of the oxbox loop formed by the St. Vrain in this area. I stopped on the top of the bank and surveyed the gorgeous long pool and run in front of me and decided to make it my starting point for 2020.

I pulled a new and untried Amy’s ant with a peacock body from my box and knotted it to my line. Next I added a beadhead hares ear on a two foot dropper, and then I extended another six inches and added a size 12 prince nymph. I cautiously approached the tail of the pool and prospected to the very top without any action or signs of fish. As this scenario unfolded, a couple arrived and perched on the rocks at the top of the pool, and then in an act of bravery the young man removed his shoes and socks and waded to the opposite bank to pose for a photo. He did not wade through the area I intended to fish, but his silhouette may have startled any potential hungry fish in the area.

A Nice Run

Throughout my time on the water I competed with similar non-fishing park users, and this forced me to circle around quite a few prime locations. The most frequent obstacles were families with small children, who could not resist the urge to toss or skip stones in the small stream. I could not be upset with these families enjoying the outdoors, but I am fairly certain that I could have caught a few more fish if they were not present.

Kids Throwing Stones Was the Theme

After an hour of fruitless wading and casting I approached the pedestrian footbridge that spans the creek just below the Riverbend wedding venue that hosted my son and daughter-in-law in 2018. Another army of boys pelted the creek in this area, so I pulled back and crossed the park to the southern border. I spotted another fisherman downstream near the campground, so I cut to the water midway between him and the ice hockey rink. The Amy’s ant was low in the water and difficult to follow in the shadows created by the high ridge, so I swapped it for a bright yellow fat Albert. I used this change out as an opportunity to reconfigure the nymphs as well, and I replaced the hares ear with a size 12 Pat’s rubber leg and then added an orange scud as the point fly. The rubber leg and scud were both products of my recent winter production tying, so I was anxious to test them.

This Area Yielded Two Rainbows

I worked my way to the top of the gorgeous pool created by man-made rock structures, and despite the appealing nature of the water in front of me, the fish counter remained locked on zero. I positioned myself on one of the flat rocks that were part of a wing that forced the creek through a narrow chute, and I began to drop casts in the drop off and allowed the flies to drift along the near current seam. On the fifth such pass the fat Albert darted sideways, and I reacted with a hook set and found myself attached to a significant opponent. Early in the struggle I determined that the fighter was a rainbow trout, and after several bursts up and down the pool, I netted a sixteen inch beauty. What a way to begin the year! I commemorated the event with a couple photos and a video, and then I plunged my hands in the frigid flows and wiggled the Pat’s rubber leg free and released my prize. A new fly produced, and I began the year with a sixteen inch fish. My day was complete regardless of what transpired during my remaining time.

Pat’s Rubber Legs Produced

I dried my hand on a blue towel, that I stuffed in my front wader bib pocket, and I resumed casting to the pool next to me. A similar deep run along the center current seam existed on the opposite side of the stream, so I began to toss the dry/dropper setup next to a protruding in-stream rock and allowed the current to pull the flies through the eddy and along the deep border with the faster current. On the fourth cycle, the fat Albert plunged six inches below the surface. I was uncertain whether this resulted from a fish or some conflicting currents, but I lifted just in case. Once again I felt the throb of a live fish, and after a short battle I landed a thirteen inch rainbow. I was once again pleased to discover the Pat’s rubber leg in the corner of the mouth of this silvery catch.

Quick Release

My optimism elevated, as I continued my upstream progression along the southern section and then curled around the curve on the western end, where I launched my day, but I was unable to generate additional interest from the resident trout. I switched out the scud for a size 20 salad spinner midge emerger, but the move failed to improve my fortunes. In fairness to myself, quite a few couples and families rested along the stream, and of course this prompted stick throwing, dogs swimming and pebble tossing. The scene was less than ideal for stealthy approaches in the low clear water conditions.

Number Two Came from the Nook Next to the Rock

Eventually I approached the large pool above the pedestrian bridge, and I spotted a young fisherman on the large rock stream improvement wing. I hooked my flies in the rod guide and asked the angler whether he could see fish, and he replied that he could, and quite a few rises were visible, until a dog disturbed the pool. I watched him and chatted for twenty minutes, and I learned that his name was Denver, and his handle on Instagram is @denverhoughton, and we follow each other. It was fun to meet an Instagam follower face to face.

Denver recommended the pool next to the campground, so I said goodbye to him, as I ambled across the park to the suggested location. Sure enough I found another huge man-made pool, and I began working my dry/dropper through the wide shelf pool along the right side. I failed to generate interest, so I slowly moved out on the stream improvement wing at the very top of the pool. I paused to observe and spotted two small trout and one larger one facing into the back eddy. I attempted an abundant quantity of drifts through the eddy and along the deep current seams, but I was unable to generate a take. On one drift along the center run I saw a decent fish move toward the droppers, as they began to swing. After fifteen minutes of futility I noticed a couple sporadic rises, so I switched to a single CDC blue winged olive, but the visible fish exhibited no interest. In a last ditch effort to dupe the pool dwellers I exchanged the CDC BWO for a size 18 parachute ant, and the larger of the trio facing the back eddy eyed it and moved a few inches, but that was the extent of the interest. With the shadows lengthening and the temperature cooling, I called it quits and returned to the Santa Fe.

Two trout in three hours of fishing is a low catch rate, but I was more than pleased with these results given the distractions and disturbances at the park. Netting a sixteen and thirteen inch fish on my first outing was assuredly icing on the cake. I will resume my fly tying regimen and patiently wait for another string of mild weather, when I can further test some of the new patterns that I tied in the off season.

Fish Landed: 2

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