North Fork of St. Vrain – 03/03/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-6oHQPBXqUq4/WLrgXnvkACI/AAAAAAABHmM/PasJvsEUT3IH266FLoWhFnqHv98QQ6wTgCCo/s144-o/P3030001.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6393669314581396465?locked=true#6393669317415927842″ caption=”Near the Start on Friday” type=”image” alt=”P3030001.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/–e0UfQXQpo4/WLrgYZXmknI/AAAAAAABHmM/t2ZjaHrqXCExa_Il_LtxlyN2132pt18ugCCo/s144-o/P3030005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6393669314581396465?locked=true#6393669330737205874″ caption=”Nice Pool” type=”image” alt=”P3030005.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QyamzYyKZtU/WLrgYGFnlXI/AAAAAAABHmM/pdO_g73RnXoEhMeNHUp9UZQqAzQmQ5XigCCo/s144-o/P3030002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6393669314581396465?locked=true#6393669325561501042″ caption=”Fish Number Two” type=”image” alt=”P3030002.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-K0hKfqpGrE8/WLrgZG97W_I/AAAAAAABHmM/CQg27ffBMk4x2jzpb99uQd1yM7NiN1wBACCo/s144-o/P3030006.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6393669314581396465?locked=true#6393669342977547250″ caption=”Number Three Was This Pretty Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”P3030006.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-c1BBJtLa8qQ/WLrgZ3pEOvI/AAAAAAABHmM/Je2G8fkVuSomi37Wf_NgPojR3bavCvW-wCCo/s144-o/P3030008.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6393669314581396465?locked=true#6393669356043385586″ caption=”Attractive Run Below Boulder and Along Bank” type=”image” alt=”P3030008.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-w8siwUnN5cU/WLrgaws8rfI/AAAAAAABHmM/OJfUb2IPoTY__4IYSC8YtfF9mpUegI1uQCCo/s144-o/P3030012.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6393669314581396465?locked=true#6393669371360488946″ caption=”Best Fish of the Day Took a Tiny Mercury Flashback Black Beauty” type=”image” alt=”P3030012.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-fqU4O_3k7Q0/WLriQSVlNRI/AAAAAAABHmI/8JyuyB88nLMhd9UZ05Po7wLiTxjuFmCHQCCo/s144-o/P3030014.MOV” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6393669314581396465?locked=true#6393671390433981714″ caption=”” type=”video” alt=”P3030014.MOV” image_size=”1920×1080″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-LQz5Rmvfw1M/WLrgfk7CoDI/AAAAAAABHmE/B-3Bgz700Cc2uPpdGA38Zfb3w0xo4YDIQCCo/s144-o/P3030026.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6393669314581396465?locked=true#6393669454097719346″ caption=”Greed Has Its Downside” type=”image” alt=”P3030026.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-aoqnDYPBf_4/WLrghsy3F5I/AAAAAAABHmE/9SrNYD39jh4FDv2IRX_Nj8X6OcDcH1TGwCCo/s144-o/P3030032.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6393669314581396465?locked=true#6393669490570631058″ caption=”Last Fish of the Day” type=”image” alt=”P3030032.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-4tUwe5jt3bA/WLrirQjMDhI/AAAAAAABHmE/SnHn9Dzad_MknJbZ1ZJ1XVaaQPeK8vlQwCCo/s144-o/P3030035.MOV” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6393669314581396465?locked=true#6393671853810650642″ caption=”” type=”video” alt=”P3030035.MOV” image_size=”1920×1080″ ]

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

Fish Landed: 13

 

North Fork of the St. Vrain – 02/22/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of the St. Vrain 02/22/2017 Photo Album

Doubt and low confidence were my companions, as I planned another fishing trip for Wednesday February 22. I landed over 1,000 fish in 2016, so how could these feelings plague my thoughts? I injured my knee while skiing at Breckenridge on February 6, and the swelling and pain subsided, while a band of soreness and puffiness remained along the inside of my left knee. I resumed fishing with an elastic knee brace, and cycling did not seem to aggravate the injury, but I sorely missed my running schedule. My first doubt revolved around my ability to resume my activities and maintain my fitness for long hikes to remote fishing destinations.

Winter fishing has rarely been a positive experience for me. When my hands and feet are numb and aching, fly fishing ceases to be fun. I landed five trout from Clear Creek on Monday, but I suffered through some periods of discomfort when my hands became wet in the process of releasing fish. I carry low confidence when it comes to winter fishing.

The destination that I chose for my trip on Wednesday was the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek below Buttonrock Reservoir. This area was heavily impacted by the 2013 flooding, and while I experienced two decent outings there early in the 2016 season, I continued to harbor doubts about the quality of the post-flood fishery.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-BnbntZy4rbI/WK8Nc8RT__I/AAAAAAABHZQ/imJYYLsb0woehw1Bno3ggKzFa2U5ARs-wCCo/s144-o/P2220006.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6390341155953886017?locked=true#6390341187128262642″ caption=”Excellent Flows” type=”image” alt=”P2220006.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Despite high temperatures in Denver of 75 degrees on Tuesday, I abstained from fishing, since the wind forecast was quite adverse. The front range mountain towns that I checked on Weather Underground projected wind velocity in the 20-30 MPH range. Fly fishing in these conditions ceases to be fun. Highs on Wednesday were forecast to approach the mid-60’s, and the wind was expected to subside to the 10-12 MPH range. With cold weather moving in on Thursday, I elected to take advantage of one final day of mild weather, and I departed for the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek at 9AM.

I chose the St. Vrain, as I sought variety after spending two afternoons on Clear Creek. Two outings in March 2016 provided some decent action, and I was curious to see if the fishery improved, after another year elapsed. The flows were 25 cfs, and I recalled that level to be nearly ideal. I arrived at the parking lot below the gate by 10:30 and joined five or six vehicles already present. The road and trail along the St. Vrain in this area is very popular with hikers, runners and dog walkers; and I never encountered another fishermen during my stay.

The air temperature was 48 degrees and the wind was fairly strong, so I pulled on my down vest and billed New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and then I embarked on a one mile hike. Along the way I passed some trucks and road building equipment, and I realized that stream improvements were in progress just above the small Longmont Reservoir near the beginning of the hike. Halfway toward my destination, I began to curse my decision to wear a down vest, as the exertion warmed my body excessively. I had no place to stash the vest, so I resolved to endure.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-vK3fFKtyk4E/WK8Syji7DOI/AAAAAAABHZE/3TqA29962BwLHjDfy3KjdRBqtfnlWZcggCCo/s144-o/P2220002.MOV” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6390341155953886017?locked=true#6390347056006499554″ caption=”” type=”video” alt=”P2220002.MOV” image_size=”1920×1080″ ]

When I reached a point .2 miles below a Y in the dirt road, I angled down a rocky bank and approached the stream. As it turned out some clouds blocked the sun in the morning, and the wind escalated, and I was quite pleased to have my ear flaps and down vest in place. I began my quest for St. Vrain trout with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a size 16 copper john and size 14 beadhead hares ear nymph. After fifteen minutes of prospecting likely holding locations, the fat Albert paused in a slow deep pool, and I reacted with a hook set that delivered a thrashing ten inch brown trout to my net. My low confidence bumped up a few notches with this early catch.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-O4lq3hM6BOA/WK8NciFR2SI/AAAAAAABHZQ/8wcdM-pP4dcy3DbhhROJ_AwqOB5yELw9ACCo/s144-o/P2220005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6390341155953886017?locked=true#6390341180098468130″ caption=”Big Terrestrials in February” type=”image” alt=”P2220005.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

For the remainder of the morning I moved upstream at a careful pace and landed three additional trout. Much to my amazement two rocketed from the depths in order to mash the size 8 fat Albert, that I knotted to my line essentially as an indicator. The fourth morning trout chomped the copper john, so all my offerings were attracting attention. One of the fat Albert gulpers created a monofilament nightmare, when it wrapped both nymphs around itself in a futile effort to escape. This circumstance forced me to clip off both nymphs and battle the wind and the evaporation effect of cold hands in order to eliminate the snarl and resume fishing. I possessed the foresight to stuff two hand warmers in my wader pockets, and these proved to be saviors, when my hands reached the status of gnarled human claws.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-NRVB3EVG5wQ/WK8NepZcoBI/AAAAAAABHZQ/Ww_kNNOP4OU3z1jRW7erjrJS6ENvdq3EACCo/s144-o/P2220011.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6390341155953886017?locked=true#6390341216421847058″ caption=”A 12 Inch Brown Rose from The Lip and Sucked in the Fat Albert” type=”image” alt=”P2220011.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

At 12:30 I stopped for lunch near the junction in the dirt road, and I was quite pleased that I landed four trout in an hour of fishing. After my small snack I resumed my upstream migration, and I refined my approach to focus on slow moving deep pockets and pools. The wind died back somewhat, and the sun reappeared; and these weather changes improved my spirits and rendered fly fishing much more enjoyable.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-W1LOoDVjfG8/WK8NeEVp6xI/AAAAAAABHZg/U4DPoIB77AUo2f0IMuRVyIkguu3sZ1H0QCCo/s144-o/P2220010.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6390341155953886017?locked=true#6390341206473829138″ caption=”I Love This Fly” type=”image” alt=”P2220010.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Between 1PM and 3:30 I progressed upstream for another .5 mile and added seven trout to my count. During the day all the landed fish were brown trout except for two rainbows that managed to nestle in my net. Two additional fish slurped the fat Albert in the afternoon. During Wednesday the copper john produced two trout, and the hares ear accounted for five, while the fat Albert incremented the fish counter by four. During the last 30 minutes, I moved the hares ear to the top position and exchanged the copper john for a size 20 mercury flashback black beauty. This was a response to the small swarms of midges that hovered over several pools when the wind subsided. After the change I suffered several momentary hook ups, which I attributed to the diminutive hook size of the midge larva.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-3gg_n1ijFKA/WK8NgwqEvWI/AAAAAAABHZQ/0ZwiUOyWxLoGDGPyeNIuEn1MLHQcDCBtACCo/s144-o/P2220014.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6390341155953886017?locked=true#6390341252730371426″ caption=”Fantastic Water Disappointed” type=”image” alt=”P2220014.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

A double digit fish day on February 22 was a delightful surprise. The flows were ideal, the wind subsided, the sun dominated in the afternoon, and I thoroughly enjoyed a pleasant day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. My knee held up, and I managed a two mile round trip hike without aggravating the injury. The temperature rose to a level that enabled comfortable fishing, and my reservations about fish density and size on the recovering creek were overblown. The fish remain small, but most of the likely attractive spots delivered fish, so the quantity of fish is improving.

Fish Landed: 11

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 03/11/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir from below where the dirt road Y’s to the right and then upstream .75 mile.

Fish Landed: 7

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 03/11/2016 Photo Album

What is your favorite comeback story? Kurt Warner going from a grocery store clerk to a Super Bowl champion with the St. Louis Rams? The 1993 Buffalo Bills coming back from a 32 point deficit in a playoff game against the Houston Oilers? Ulysses S. Grant drank too much, suffered from depression and quit the army; only to return as the victorious general of the North and  a two term president of the United States. I could go on. When I read these stories, I realize that my fly fishing comeback from surgery is a minor occurrence on the world stage, but it means a lot to me, and I chose Friday March 11 to make another trip to a nearby Colorado stream.

Many fishermen are so focused on casting and fly selection that they fail to observe subtle clues that can lead to success. Friday was a day when I was proud of my ability to capitalize on a minor event that could have easily been overlooked.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-L7tW8p85ovQ/VuRK9mKaGEI/AAAAAAAA8JU/y-E2cKQ9A_kNVD3bghtmYIsqa5pkfIClw/s144-o/P3110001.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03112016NFStVrain?locked=true#6261211804028508226″ caption=”Looking Downstream after a Half Hour of Fishing” type=”image” alt=”P3110001.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Once again I reviewed the stream flows of the local front range streams, and very little change occurred since my last scrutiny of the DWR web site. I decided to make another short drive to the North Fork of the St. Vrain, since I landed a few fish on my previous outing, and the weather was forecast to be more favorable with high temperatures hitting seventy degrees in Denver. I left the house at 9:45 and arrived at the parking area below Longmont Reservoir at 11AM. By the time I assembled my gear and hiked the dirt road along the stream until I reached my exit point from the previous Friday, it was 11:30.

I scrambled down the rocks and tied a size eight Chernboyl ant to my line along with a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. The two nymphs were the last flies on my line on March 4, and they produced all my fish, so I decided to continue with proven fish attractors. This seemed like a sound strategy, but unfortunately it resulted in only one small brown trout after an hour of intense casting and quite a bit of stream coverage. I was feeling quite hungry and preparing for lunch, when I approached a small eddy on the left braid of the stream across from the port-o-let where the road splits. As my Chernobyl drifted along the current seam, I noticed a decent fish, as it quickly finned to the surface, but it then backed off and returned to a holding spot in the slack water near the tail of the eddy.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-RLB09wacJ-o/VuRK-iq2xBI/AAAAAAAA8JU/LYh_0EjR828xH6ko8aobhQSFW6i4SuIlg/s144-o/P3110003.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03112016NFStVrain?locked=true#6261211820270732306″ caption=”Same Fish, Different Lighting” type=”image” alt=”P3110003.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Since I was not setting the world on fire, and I planned to change flies shortly, I clipped off the Chernobyl and replaced it with Jake’s gulp beetle. I kept the hares ear but removed the salvation, and with these two flies in place, I resumed casting to the small eddy. On the third cast I spotted the fish, as it moved to the side a bit, and this suggested the possibility that it inhaled my trailing hares ear nymph. I executed a smooth hook set, and sure enough I connected with a slender eleven inch brown trout. I was quite pleased to record this fish after making a correction in my approach, and close observation played a key role in this success story.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-w6LUBFhoSBM/VuRK_G1RGLI/AAAAAAAA8JU/CzeCZjPa9MIV4hQCHqW_C1eYVxcpsc8gQ/s144-o/P3110004.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03112016NFStVrain?locked=true#6261211829978077362″ caption=”The Eddy on the Far Side of the Current Yielded a Fish” type=”image” alt=”P3110004.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

After releasing the brown trout, I climbed on to a long narrow gravel bar that separated the two channels of the stream. I was anxious to cross to the bank next to the road, as I spotted several large boulders that could serve as nice resting places for lunch. But before I could take another step, a fish rose in a relatively shallow riffle in front of me. I paused and focused on the water in an attempt to spot a morsel of food on the water surface, but nothing was obvious. As I was ready to wade across the roadside braid below the riffle, the fish rose once again near the previous location. This show of early March surface feeding was enough to force a change in plans, and I began to toss my foam beetle with a trailing hares ear above the spot of the two rises. I had no idea what the fish was eating, but perhaps a large tasty terrestrial would create an opportunistic slurp. That would be a storybook ending, but unfortunately the fish stopped feeding, and I resumed my journey to the opposite bank where I ate lunch.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-a1zL3ozxETo/VuRLAHncv5I/AAAAAAAA8JU/QVpapP3kcrENEyb9UPbok2Zz9fKn2xLYQ/s144-o/P3110006.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03112016NFStVrain?locked=true#6261211847368425362″ caption=”Nice Macro of the Stonefly” type=”image” alt=”P3110006.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

After lunch I observed the run where the fish caught my attention, but no sign of feeding reappeared. Something else however caught my attention. A small insect fluttered on the surface film in the slack water between shore and the main current. I stretched my seining material across my net and attempted to scoop the struggling insect, but I only succeeded in creating a wave that pushed the specimen away and out of sight. I was sorely disappointed with this lack of insect collection skill, but as I was reprimanding my clumsy approach, another buzzing surface bound sample appeared. This time I moved my net below the target and then softly lifted it until I scooped the prize on to the white mesh seining material. I quickly hunched over my net and discovered a tiny stonefly with the characteristic veined wings folded on top of each other over the abdomen. The color was light gray, and I estimated the size was roughly an eighteen.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-JF5RLnNUwh0/VuRLCd73idI/AAAAAAAA8JU/fc2NKKoZ7NgMxQwRwtmaKcsuBomVm_2Bg/s144-o/P3110012.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03112016NFStVrain?locked=true#6261211887719385554″ caption=”Soft Hackle Emerger Yielded Four Brown Trout” type=”image” alt=”P3110012.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Instantly I began to dredge my memory banks trying to recall whether I had a fly that might imitate this hard earned sample. I had a few size eighteen black stoneflies with charcoal colored wings and a dark olive brown body. These might work, but I was reluctant to prospect with such a tiny fly especially since I only noticed one or two in the air in addition to the two that were struggling in the surface film at my lunch spot. As I pondered what to do, I concluded that a soft hackle emerger possessed almost the exact same shade of gray as the stonefly that I observed in my net. In addition these were size 20, and I was certain that this wet fly could represent one of the light gray stoneflies if it were crippled or stillborn or damaged in some fashion.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-KS_Qi7uP-24/VuRLEKdvi2I/AAAAAAAA8JU/zStDkqps0ZUkJFwD-DrZGUZiz5QnUx0Eg/s144-o/P3110017.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03112016NFStVrain?locked=true#6261211916852497250″ caption=”Fat Albert Served as a Strike Indicator” type=”image” alt=”P3110017.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I elected to switch the beetle for a fat Albert on top, retained the hares ear as the middle fly, and knotted a beadhead soft hackle emerger to my line as the bottom fly. I resumed my upstream progression and quickly covered all the likely fish holding locations. This strategy rewarded my keen observation with five additional brown trout brought to my net, and four snatched the soft hackle emerger, while one smacked the hares ear. The fish grabbed the soft hackle on the dead drift, not on the swing, so this suggested that they were taking it for some form of the small stonefly. When fish eat the soft hackle on the swing or during movement, it usually means that blue winged olive nymphs are active in the subsurface aquatic environment.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-FuL8HWoeRGY/VuRLB_NvXZI/AAAAAAAA8JU/VFeaEKtW5YMcAmezN3RwA9AQKKxzmtuEw/s144-o/P3110010.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03112016NFStVrain?locked=true#6261211879472848274″ caption=”Deep Olive Color on This Brown Is Amazing” type=”image” alt=”P3110010.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

By 3:30 I approached some shallow riffle water, and I spied another fisherman above me. I was concerned that I was about to cover water that had just been waded through, so I reeled up my flies and secured them to the rod guide. I decided to hike back toward the car and perhaps pause and fish some of the deep pools in a steep canyon stretch above Longmont Reservoir and below the first large bend. When I arrived at this location, I carefully inched my way down a precipitous boulder field and thoroughly worked three or four promising pools, but either fish were not present, or I was not presenting them with a desirable meal. At any rate after fifteen minutes of fruitless exploration, I abandoned my efforts and returned to the car and made the return trip.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-DizTMGKpjYc/VuRLDKxlugI/AAAAAAAA8JU/I3q7E7__EQYQE3oc4VfwbqfgHZuzuPF4w/s144-o/P3110014.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03112016NFStVrain?locked=true#6261211899755870722″ caption=”Fly in Upper Lip of This Feisty Brown” type=”image” alt=”P3110014.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Pausing to observe the rising fish and then collecting a stream sample triggered me to tie a light gray soft hackle emerger to my line. I landed five fish after this modification in my approach. Would another fly have worked just as well? Perhaps, but I firmly believe that my soft hackle emerger was a close match in color and size, and this increased my catch rate over the last two hours of the day. My fly fishing comeback is well on its way.

Fish Landed: 7

 

North Fork St. Vrain Creek – 03/04/2016

North Fork St. Vrain Creek 03/04/2016 Photo Album

I launched my season with two and half hours of fishing on Monday February 29, and it was fun to enjoy the outdoors and prove that I could fish four weeks removed from my late January surgery. However catching zero fish continued to gnaw at my thoughts. Friday was forecast to be a day with high temperatures in the low 60’s, so I decided to take advantage of the mild early March weather to once again pursue my first trout of 2016.

I scanned the flows in the local front range streams, and I was surprised to discover that South Boulder Creek was trickling from Gross Reservoir at 12.5 CFS, and the Big Thompson was in a similar state at 13 CFS. Clear Creek was running higher, but I was not anxious to fish in the deep shadows, and previous experience taught me that a freestone like Clear Creek does not fish well when carrying ice cold low level run off. Bear Creek was flowing at 20 CFS, and that is actually fairly nice for the tiny creek that tumbles through the narrow canyon west of Morrison, CO. I checked one more stream, and that was the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek below Buttonrock Reservoir. The DWR graph displayed 25 CFS, and for a streambed smaller than South Boulder Creek and the Big Thompson, this was encouraging.

During the flood of September 2013, the St. Vrain and its tributaries likely absorbed more damage than any of the other South Platte tributaries along the Colorado front range. In fact the section below Buttonrock Reservoir was closed entirely for the 2014 season and only reopened in July 2015. Significant amounts of bridge building and road construction were required to regain access to the stretch below the dam. Prior to the flood this fork of the St. Vrain was one of my favorite destinations, as I could make the drive in 1.25 hours. I also experienced some very successful days fishing the North Fork, so the idea of returning on Friday was intriguing. I searched for fishing reports and information about the impact of the flood on fish density, but I was not very successful in gleaning any information beyond confirmation that the area was reopened.

I decided to take the plunge and packed up my gear and made the short drive to the parking lot below the gate at the dirt road that leads to Buttonrock Reservoir. The temperature was in the mid-50’s as I assembled my Orvis four weight rod and prepared to fish. The negative factor was the occasional gusting wind, but I have become accustomed to this frequent accessory to early season fishing. Once I was ready to begin my hike, I checked my watch and noticed it was 11:45, so I decided to eat lunch in the comfort of the car rather than lugging it up the path in my backpack.

[pe2-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-9mqqGjAYfIQ/VtsB51NI4JI/AAAAAAAA8Cc/1Q56rQF0UWo/s144-c-o/P3040001.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03042016NFStVrain#6258598200207794322″ caption=”Looking Upstream from Start” type=”image” alt=”P3040001.JPG” ]

After lunch I hiked for twenty minutes until I reached the section where the stream runs along the southwest side of the gravel road, and here I found a moderately sloping path down to the creek. The stream bed was devoid of any form of vegetation similar to the Big Thompson, as the flood apparently scoured all trees and bushes in its relentless rush to the Mississippi River. The flows were actually quite satisfactory, and the water above me suggested numerous nice pools, pockets and deep runs. I was cautiously optimistic that I could break through and add a fish or two to my fish counter.

[pe2-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-nE9v0JWtVxg/VtsB52zF2wI/AAAAAAAA8Cc/HzeEitP0NWo/s144-c-o/P3040009.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03042016NFStVrain#6258598200635415298″ caption=”2013 Flood Scoured Vegetation” type=”image” alt=”P3040009.JPG” ]

I began fishing with a size 10 chernobyl ant, ultra zug bug and RS2. I chose the dry/dropper approach as I felt I could cover the depths with this arrangement with flows at  a relatively low 25 CFS. There was no need to dredge the bottom with a split shot or two, and the heavier approach would tend to scatter fish when the flies entered the water. Unfortunately I began to doubt my choice as I worked my way upstream for 45 minutes with only a four inch brown as a reward for my focused fishing. The brown was below my cut off for counting fish, so I remained frustrated in my efforts to register a landed trout in the new season.

After this initial period of unsuccessful angling, I resolved to change my approach. I replaced the chernobyl ant with a fat Albert tied with a yellow floss body. This was a new fly I recently produced to provide more options for a large buoyant top fly in the dry/dropper system. Below the fat Albert I tied a beadhead hares ear, but I doubled the length of the tippet so that I could get deeper drifts. Finally I tied the ultra zug bug to the end of my line as the third fly, and I began to toss these morsels to all the likely fish holding spots in front of me. The total length of line below the fat Albert was now in excess of three feet, and this quickly paid dividends.

[pe2-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Z-qLfcO-Kj0/VtsB54nGOdI/AAAAAAAA8Cc/TA2yagWOLrA/s144-c-o/P3040003.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03042016NFStVrain#6258598201121978834″ caption=”First Fish of 2016″ type=”image” alt=”P3040003.JPG” ]

As the top fly slowly drifted toward the tail of a nice deep run, the fat Albert exhibited a subtle pause, and I reacted with a hook set. I was pleased to see a nine inch brown trout battling valiantly to free itself, but I maintained constant pressure and slipped my net beneath my first trout of 2016. Although on the small side, this fish was highly valued, and I marveled at its color and beauty, as I snapped a couple quick photos and removed the beadhead hares ear before releasing it back to its natural environment.

[pe2-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-sOyJa9QPAEw/VtsB53lwLyI/AAAAAAAA8Cc/xaGHvTp5A70/s144-c-o/P3040004.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03042016NFStVrain#6258598200847904546″ caption=”Numero Uno” type=”image” alt=”P3040004.JPG” ]

For the next hour I continued my upstream migration and landed four additional brown trout. After the first fish, I swapped the ultra zug bug for a salvation nymph, and this workhorse fly yielded two of the small browns, and two others snatched the hares ear as it tumbled through deep runs and pockets. For one hour I felt like I was getting back in the groove, and this was especially gratifying in light of my recovery from surgery.

[pe2-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-u0I-uhdUNck/VtsB592UqcI/AAAAAAAA8Cc/k0pm_QpyA08/s144-c-o/P3040007.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03042016NFStVrain#6258598202528016834″ caption=”Pretty St. Vrain Brown” type=”image” alt=”P3040007.JPG” ]

Between 2:30 and 3:00 the action slowed, and some gray clouds blocked the sun. My hands morphed into red stiff claws, and I ceased to have fun, so I reeled up my flies and made the return hike. Five fish in 2.5 hours of fishing is a reasonable day, and I recorded my first fish of the new season. I rediscovered one of my favorite stretches of local water, and although the fish were small, I saw enough to merit a return. I also proved to myself that I can resume fishing, and my physical status should only improve as time heals my body.

Fish Landed: 5

North Fork of St. Vrain River – 07/03/2013

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: First road crossing to outlet pipe

Fish Landed: 38

North Fork of St. Vrain River 07/03/2013 Photo Album

After an inspiring day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain on Saturday, June 29, I was itching to return and Wednesday July third felt like the right day. I departed from my house by 8AM and made the drive to the gate just west of Lyons, CO. By the time I put on my waders and rigged my rod and hiked up the dirt road it was around 10AM. Would I be able to repeat my success from five days ago?

It was a bright warm day and not as ideal for fishing as the previous Saturday. Even though the DWS site indicated flows dropped marginally from 93 to 91 out of Buttonrock Dam, it was obvious that the stream level was down as more streamside boulders were exposed and there were more slack water pockets that could be fished. I decided to begin fishing at the first road crossing of the North Fork and ended up fishing to just beyond my beginning point on Saturday at the lower outflow pipe from the lake.

I began with a Chernobyl ant and a salvation nymph as the Chernobyl served me well on my previous visit, and I was curious to see if the salvation nymph would produce as a general attractor nymph. The salvation did yield a couple small browns, but I was off to a slow start near the road probably due to more pressure and the close proximity to easy access. As I moved upstream away from the worn path from the road; however, small browns began hammering the Chernobyl ant. After a half hour, the salvation nymph wasn’t producing so I switched to a beadhead hares ear nymph. By 11:40 I had landed 16 brown trout with maybe two on the hares ear, two on the salvation nymph, and the remainder on the Chernobyl ant. At this point I decided to stop for lunch on a nice large rock overlooking the stream.

Large Brown by St. Vrain Standards

Large Brown by St. Vrain Standards

After lunch the catch rate held strong, but once I reached around 23 landed, I began seeing a lot of refusals to the Chernobyl so I tested a light gray caddis and then a dark olive caddis, but these didn’t seem to interest the fish. Next I switched to a yellow Letort hopper and a beadhead pheasant tail, as I was hoping the yellow Letort hopper might imitate golden stoneflies and that the pheasant tail would pass for the nymph stage of PMD’s. This combination did in fact produce some results as I landed roughly 10 additional fish with a couple rising to the hopper, but all the others snatching the pheasant tail as it drifted along below the surface.

Eventually I removed the hopper and returned to the Chernobyl ant and continued catching fish on the nymph; however, at some point I snapped off the pheasant tail and with only one remaining in my frontpack, I returned to the salvation nymph. This produced rather well, and I landed the remaining fish on an even split between the Chernobyl and salvation nymph.

Pretty Typical Churning Whitewater in Main Channel

Pretty Typical Churning Whitewater in Main Channel

Wednesday ended up being a fun day in beautiful early summer conditions, and I actually landed more fish than Saturday; however, the average size of the fish was inferior to my previous visit and it seemed like there were more refusals. On Saturday in the upper water the fish were smashing the Chernobyl with reckless abandon, and I never was tempted to switch flies. This was not the case on Wednesday, but still it was very enjoyable and impressed me with the density of fish on the North Fork of the St. Vrain below Buttonrock Dam.

North Fork of St. Vrain River – 06/29/2013

Time: 9:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Dam

Fish Landed: 36

North Fork of St. Vrain River 06/29/2013 Photo Album

Some days are just magical. Saturday June 29th turned out to be one of them.

As mentioned in the previous posting, I abandoned the Rincon Campground due to the high wind and inability to anchor my tent. In addition all the sites were reserved for Friday and Saturday night, so I needed to find a different location to camp, and I wasn’t sure where to look. The Arkansas River corridor is very popular at this time of the year due to the high river flows and the white water rafting crowd so I returned home to Denver on Friday night, but I didn’t give up on the idea of fishing on Saturday since Jane was scheduled to play tennis with her group that is getting ready for summer league play.

The question churning through my mind was where could I fish within a reasonable drive from Denver? I began my search by reviewing the Colorado DWS web site which logs stream flows. I checked South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir and the water was raging at close to 400 cfs. Clear Creek was rushing down the mountain at 500 cfs. Small Bear Creek was an option at 27 cfs, but it is very small, receives a fair amount of pressure and contains small fish. The Big Thompson below Lake Estes was clearly an option with steady flows at 128 cfs, and I’ve fished successfully at this level, but it is quite popular and frustrating to find space particularly on weekends. The South Platte at Deckers continues to run at very low levels with flows at 100 cfs at Deckers. This makes for difficult low clear water fishing and also can stress the fish. The North Fork of St. Vrain below Buttonrock Dam was listed at 93 cfs so this peaked my interest. 93 cfs, although high, is still a level that can be fished comfortably; however, another source listed the North Fork at 151 cfs.

I decided to make the NF of the St. Vrain River or Creek my destination and set out at 7:45. The drive was uneventful and I arrived at the gate parking area by 8:45 and quickly put on my waders, set up my Loomis five weight rod, and stuffed my water, raincoat and lunch in my backpack. I hiked the mile or so up the dirt road at a brisk pace as I targeted the stretch of water above the lower outlet pipe. I knew from previous experience that the water is released from the base of the dam, but additional water shoots into the stream from a narrow chute and culvert half a mile below the dam. I’m guessing the 93 cfs is the flow between the dam and the point where the second release enters. This proved to be a great strategy as the water above the pipe was much more manageable than below. I planned to fish to the dam, and then if time remained, retreat to a point where the road crossed the stream and try the stretch with more volume.

I recalled from previous years that the Chernobyl ant was productive on the St. Vrain and I liked the idea of a large buoyant foam attractor as my top fly. Beneath the Chernobyl I added a beadhead hares ear nymph and because the flows were fairly robust, I extended the leader to over three feet. At the tail of the large pool where I began, a twelve inch brown smashed the hares ear nymph and my fun day began. Another smaller brown smashed the Chernobyl ant at the top of the long deep pool and I was wondering if my good fortune was the product of the nice pool I began in, or would it continue in more marginal water?

Upstream View at Start of Fishing Day

Upstream View at Start of Fishing Day

I moved on and began drawing fish to the surface in all the likely places plus more marginal spots along the bank. That’s right, to the surface. Most of the fish were attacking the Chernobyl ant with conviction. Because I was wearing my polarized sunglasses I could see fish move at least two feet to inhale the large gaudy ant pattern. In addition it was thrilling to observe large swirls when browns crashed the low floating foam fly in the deep slots and seams along heavy current. These fish were also fairly nice sized browns by St. Vrain standards, and I landed quite a few chunky browns in the 13 and even 14 inch range.

The one downside was that many of the fish would create a massive tangle of the trailing line and dropper fly when they struck the top fly and then twisted and turned to escape the hook set. I debated removing the dropper several times, but each time I was about to pull the trigger, a fish would grab the hares ear, and I continued with the risk of tangle frustration. My fish count climbed into the twenties and I was having a blast prospecting my two flies in all the likely locations as I moved up along the right bank.

Nice Fish Fell for Chernobyl Ant

Nice Fish Fell for Chernobyl Ant

My focus was somewhat interrupted by the sound of thunder and the appearance of large gray clouds to the west, so I decided to find a pleasant spot on the bank and eat my lunch. I observed the water during my lunch break, but didn’t see any significant insect activity, so I resumed with the two flies that produced for me all morning. A short time after lunch the sky darkened even more, and I returned to the bank to put on my raincoat as a preemptive move. It was also at this time that I noticed some pale morning duns in the air. I never saw any on the water nor did I see any fish rise, but I decided to swap the hares ear for a pheasant tail in an effort to more closely imitate the pale morning dun nymph.

Amazingly this proved to be a great strategy and my catches over the remainder of the afternoon were split in a roughly 50/50 ratio between the Chernobyl ant and the beadhead pheasant tail. There were a few situations where I saw a fish rise almost the instant my flies hit the water and I assumed the Chernoyl ant was the target only to discover upon netting that the fish consumed the nymph. I’ve commented on this before, but I continue to be amazed by it.

Pretty Stretch Near Canyon Wall

Pretty Stretch Near Canyon Wall

In one instance I cast the flies to a place where a current angled from next to the bank back into a deeper area next to some main current. The angled run couldn’t have been more that two feet deep, but as I watched I saw a nice brown slide over from the bank position, move two feet and then grab the trailing pheasant tail. I love visual action such as this. Of course the exciting swirls and smashes of the Chernobyl ant continued in addition to the subsurface pheasant tail ambushes.

Nice Colors with Chernobyl Ant in Mouth

Nice Colors with Chernobyl Ant in Mouth

By three o’clock I reached the stretch of water below the settling pool of the dam and the wind blew a gentle mist toward me and also toward the east. Since it was already 3PM and I’d landed 36 fish I decided to call it quits and hike back down the road to my waiting Santa Fe.

What a day! I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fish the stream other than some small pockets along the edge, and I ended up landing 36 wild fish in a .5 mile stretch, and fly selection was about as easy as it gets. I’m assuming that the flows only recently dropped to the 93 cfs level and the fish are quite hungry after a month of high levels. Anything that looks like food is to their liking, and they aren’t spending a lot of time being particular. Even a flashy oversized Chernobyl ant looks like a tasty meal to these famished St. Vrain brown trout.

 

North Fork of St. Vrain River – 07/04/2012

Time: 9:30AM – 12:30Am

Location: Wild Basin in RMNP from first bridge upstream

Fish Landed: 9

North Fork of St. Vrain River 07/04/2012 Photo Album

Jane OK’d fishing on the Fourth of July, but I needed to return in time to attend the Rapids MLS soccer game at 7:30PM and the subsequent fireworks display at Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium. I was interested in trying the Colorado River as reports indicated that pale morning duns were hatching, but that was a bit distant given the plans for the evening. I decided to try the North Fork of the St. Vrain in the Wild Basin section of Rocky Mountain National Park.

For some reason Jane got up extremely early so I was up shortly thereafter and consequently was on the road by 7:30. I took the route through Boulder and experienced minimal traffic thus arriving at the Wild Basin entrance by 9AM. Even at this early hour the parking lots at the main trailhead and the Ouzel Falls trailhead had already filled. This was fine with me as I planned to fish starting at the fist bridge above the beaver ponds.

I rigged up my Orvis Access rod and walked down the dirt road .2 miles to the bridge. There was a man and woman fishing below the bridge so I made a right turn and hiked up the path a ways to the first water that might hold fish. It was already getting warm, but the cold sensation of the rushing high mountain river felt good through my waders. I tied on a Chernobyl ant with a salvation nymph dropper initially, but this produced only refusals from tiny brook trout. I clipped off both flies and tied on a royal stimulator, and this elicited the same response. Next I tried a small size 14 lime green trude and this also resulted in splashy inspections but no takes.

Pretty Purple Wildflowers Along NF St. Vrain

I was getting frustrated as I tried a yellow sally and deer hair caddis with no better luck. Maybe they wanted something bigger, not smaller? I plucked a size 12 2XL lime green trude from my pouch and sure enough this began to produce fish, but only sporadically. Maybe the water was still too cold with no significant hatches so the fish were still tuned into nymphs in the drift? But what should I use to support my beadhead nymphs? I spotted the large olive stimulator that I tried for a while on the Conejos to imitate the local stoneflies. I tied on the stimulator with a beadhead hares ear dropper and guess what happened? The fish began to smash the large attractor. In fact they weren’t paying the slightest attention to the nymphs so after landing a couple fish I clipped off the extra leader and the nymph.

Another Decent Brown

For the remainder of the morning and up until 12:30 I prospected the likely pockets with the olive stimulator and landed a total of nine fish. Three were browns and these were the largest fish, although perhaps only ten inches at the largest. The remainder were brook trout with three being decent by brook trout standards. I also landed somewhere between 5-10 brookies beneath my six inch cut off for counting.

Brook Trout with Large Caddis in Mouth

By 12:30PM I grew weary of the tough wading and the lack of size of the fish. I was distracted by thoughts of lunch and larger fish, so I packed it in and drove north through Estes Park to the Big Thompson River below Estes Dam.

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 05/05/2012

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: From fork in the trail upstream to the pond below the dam

Fish Landed: 8

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 05/05/2012 Photo Album

After working four days during the first week of May, I was looking for opportunities to fish on Saturday before run off kicked up in a major way. Jane was up for joining me on a trip depending on the destination. I checked out the flows and reports on Clear Creek, the North Fork of the St. Vrain below Buttonrock Reservoir, the South Platte at Deckers, and the Big Thompson below Lake Estes. The flows looked nearly ideal on the St. Vrain and the report from Rocky Mountain Anglers in Boulder was favorable, so we decided to make this our location for the day. Accessing the stretch of water below Buttonrock Dam involves a 30 minute hike on a dirt road that runs along the stream. Bikes and cars are prohibited, so this was a nice location for Jane to do some hiking.

We arrived at the parking lot by 9:45 and after a nice hike on the gradually graded road, I was in the water fishing by 10:30AM. We stashed our lunch and a stadium seat for Jane by some rocks between the road and the stream, and I walked back down the road beyond the spot where a second road cuts off to the reservoir. Jane meanwhile continued her hike to the dam and lake above.

I began with a yellow Charlie Boy hopper for visibility and good floatation and dangled a beadhead hares ear nymph 2.5 feet below the bend of the hopper. I methodically began working my way upstream and covered the likely holding locations. It didn’t take long before the hopper dipped and I landed my first small brown trout on the day. This continued until noon when I arrived at the series of nice deep pools across from where we stashed our lunch. I had landed five trout, four browns and one glimmering rainbow, and most of the fish came from obscure small pockets along the left bank as I faced upstream. One of the browns actually inhaled the large foam hopper.

Pretty Rainbow

Jane had returned from her hike and was sitting along the road high above the stream. At the tail of the lower pool I landed a ten inch brown and watched a refusal in the current seam. I moved up a bit and cast to the top of the current and let the hopper drift downstream to the tail. After a five foot drift the hopper dipped and I set the hook and felt the temporary weight of a fish. Unfortunately the weight disappeared as quickly as it began, and I was disappointed to have flies back at my feet with no reward.

My focus was renewed by the near miss and I climbed some rocks to the middle pool and made some drifts through the center and spotted two refusals to the hopper. A trend was developing with hopper refusals, and I decided to switch to nymphs for this nice deep run after lunch.

My Favorite Scene

I climbed up the bank and joined Jane for lunch. She had hiked to the lake above the dam and observed quite a few fishermen and showed me some photos she’d snapped with her iPhone. The water level in the dam was already eight to ten feet below the high water line on the rocks. The lake had opened for fishing on May 1, and she spoke to a pair of fishermen who had caught one trout each. While we ate our lunches a man walked by with his two golden retrievers, and of course the dogs wanted to jump in the pool I had targeted for nymphs after lunch. After they jumped in and thrashed around a bit, he added to the mayhem by tossing some sticks and stones in the water.

After this disturbance I elected to fish the smaller top pool in the series and continue on my way upstream. I kept the hopper dropper on but added a size 22 beadhead RS2 below the BHHE as I began to observe a few small mayflies in the air. The sky was partly cloudy for the most part over the remainder of the afternoon. I’d fished for half an hour or so with no action, and I felt that I should be catching some fish, and I began seeing a few more BWO’s in the air, so I decided to try an indicator with split shot and two flies including the RS2. The top fly of the two was a bright green caddis pupa. Between 2 and 2:30 I approached a nice long run toward the middle of the river where the smooth slick fanned out to a nice slower moving pocket of moderate depth over a rocky bottom. On the first drift I observed a refusal to my red strike indicator. This usually happens a couple times during a season of fishing.

I put some more nice drifts through the attractive water and witnessed a pause in the indicator and set the hook and this time I was attached to a decent fish. As I played the fish I could feel the fish roll on top of the line and then felt the hook slip, but I was still attached to the fish. Apparently the fish had slipped the top fly but then got foul hooked by the trailing RS2. When I finally netted the fish I discovered a 15 inch lake trout. I inspected my flies and flicked them to the top of the long pocket and once again saw a pause and set the hook. This time I played a nice chunky rainbow to my net and photographed it. The rainbow had fallen for the bright green caddis pupa and represented the nicest fish on the day.

Chunky Rainbow

Could this spot hold more fish? This period represented the most intense BWO hatching time, as I observed 5-10 over a half hour period. Why weren’t the fish going for the RS2 instead of the bright green caddis? I made a couple more casts and tried the jigging action that worked on the Arkansas with periodic quick tip lifts as the flies tumbled through the sweet spot and I was rewarded with a hit and felt the throbbing of my rod. This fish cleared the surface of the water and I could see that it was brown, but for some reason after it re-entered the water it came free. I brought my flies in to inspect and realized that the line broke at the knot just below the split shot, so I assume it weakened with the fishing and occasional snags on sticks and rocks. I’d now hooked a rainbow, a lake trout and a brown in this relatively obscure deep slot.

Rock Climber Near Canyon Entrance

After some additional unsuccessful probing of my hot spot I moved on up the stream and managed to land one more small brown on the bright green caddis pupa. The water between my hot spot and the settling pool below the dam was largely unattractive with fast white water and small pockets that didn’t hold fish. I reached the settling pool and hiked back down the road and found Jane in her stadium seat reading her Kindle. I dropped down the nice run that had been disturbed by the dogs and ran my nymphs through the sweet spot. I did manage to have a momentary hookup at the tail of the run as I applied the lifting action to the flies, but that was the extent of the action. Jane was ready to pack it up and return to the car, so I called it a day at 3:15 or so.

 

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 07/23/2006

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Wild Basin, Finch Lake Trailhead

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 07/23/2006 Photo Album

After having a great day on the Eagle River on Saturday, Jane and I agreed to go to Rocky Mountain National Park for the day on Sunday. Jane invited her friend, also Jane, to join us. We left the house around 8:30AM and decided to go to the Wild Basin entrance in the southeast corner of the park. This is where I fished on the Fourth of July with great success. The girls laced up their hiking boots and took off on the Ouzel Lake trail. I geared up and walked down the dirt road a decent distance. 

The stream level dropped considerably since the Fourth but was still flowing strong bank to bank. I tied on a green trude, and fairly quickly I landed a beautiful brook trout. I continued to catch fish, but not in the expected places. When another brookie came to my net, I thought it was going to be a brook trout day. By the end of the day I caught perhaps 5 or 6 brook trout, and they were in the 7-8 inch range, but they were very colorful. 

First Trout of the Day

I did not think the green trude was producing that well, so I converted to the royal stimulator that worked late afternoon on the Eagle. It is very buoyant and visible due to the swept back white calf tail wing. I picked up a few after the switch to the stimulator, but in a very nice run, refusals predominated, so I added a beadhead pheasant tail dropper, and the refusals morphed to takes. With the addition of the pheasant tail I began to catch predominantly brown trout. Many were in the 6-10 inch range with the occasional 11-12 inch fish, but it was great fun popping the stimulator in all the likely lies and pockets. The stream width enabled me to cover the entire area from either left, right or center position. 

Classic High Country Stream

At around 12:30 I returned to the car for lunch. I decided to remove the backpack and just fish with the front pack to lighten the load, and I returned to the stretch where I ended before lunch. At this point the stream spread out some, whereas before lunch I moved through a section where the stream narrowed and the gradient increased. The high gradient produced deep plunge pools, but they were not yielding fish. Unlike the Fourth of July, the fish spread out from the banks, but this was only the case in areas where the gradient was more gradual, and the stream bed widened. 

One of the Larger Browns

In the first hour after lunch, I caught trout with regularity on the royal stimulator. In fact, the pheasant tail dropper became a nuisance, so I removed it and fished with only the attractor. Unfortunately after about an hour of fishing, and 20 trout landed, the hackle unraveled, and this was the only royal stimulator in my possession. I switched to a green trude again, but the hackle on this fly also broke after a few fish. I decided to return to the car to my backpack and obtain more attractor dries.

Antennae Visible

  

When I returned to the creek, I fished a small size 14 lime green trude. This produced quite a few fish, although I also noticed quite a few green drake mayflies fluttering about. This was at 2:30PM, and I approached a beautiful deep pool with a large rock on the left bank. I experienced a refusal on the green trude from two fish, so I switched to a green drake cripple, and I drifted this large fly over the trout that I could see in the center of the pool. The visible trout indicated that it saw the drake cripple; when it rose, inspected, and then drifted downstream under it. I held my breath, and finally the cautious trout rose and slurped the cripple. What a fun scenario.  

A Very Productive Stretch

I continued fishing the green drake cripple and caught three or more fish, but eventually I lost it on a branch on a back cast. I looked in my front pack and spotted a gray humpy, that I placed there upon my return to the car. I tied on the humpy and landed another four or five. Eventually I reached the bridge where the road crossed the stream just before the Wild Basin parking area. By this time I landed approximately 40 trout. The largest fish was only 12 inches, but it was great fun, as I popped attractors in all the likely lies, stood in an ice-cold mountain stream, and enjoyed the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. I even sat down on a rock several times and drank from my water bottle, while I took it all in. 

Fish Landed: 40

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 07/04/2006

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Winter Parking on road to Wild Basin

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 07/04/2006 Photo Album

After reading all the fishing reports, I noted that Rocky Mountain National Park water levels dropped, and reports suggested that it was fishing well, so Jane and I decided to spend the day in the park. I chose the southern Wild Basin area, as that contains the North Fork of the St. Vrain River. The park entrance person told us the parking was full at Wild Basin, so we parked at Winter Parking lot around .5 miles from the entrance gate. I never fished the lower water below Wild Basin parking, so I was fine with this option. Jane decided to hike the Finch Lake trail, and that was another .5 mile up the road.

Smooth Beaver Pond

Wild Lily at RMNP

I hit the water around 10:45AM in a stretch full of channels and beaver ponds. I tied on an emerald trude and began casting in fairly shallow smooth water. Almost immediately I landed a small brook trout. I kept moving upstream a foot or two farther at a time and landed another three brookies. The last two were in the 9-10 inch range, and that represents a very reasonable size for Colorado brook trout. But the sky darkened, and a few raindrops fell, so I decided to exit and return to the car for my raincoat, before heavy rain commenced. When I reached the car, I was in the process of removing my vest and belt, when the rain really intensified, so I decided to eat my lunch in the car and wait out the storm. It was now 11:30.

Largest Brook Trout

After lunch I put on my raincoat and returned to the beaver pond area, where I ended my earlier session. Another cloudburst developed, and the trude began sinking repeatedly, so I tied on a yellow Letort hopper and beadhead hares ear nymph. I caught a couple browns on the nymphs, but I was progressing deeper in the maze of ponds and channels, and fear of getting lost entered my thoughts. Also I really desired faster moving water.

High But Clear

I exited and hiked along the stream looking for normal moving water, and I found it at a bridge, where the dirt road crossed over. Here I began fishing upstream. The creek was flowing rather high but clear, and I discovered that all the fish were in slack water lies tight to the bank. I switched to a beadhead prince dropper at some point, with the thought that it would be more visible to the resident trout population. I worked upstream covering a lot of water seeking the slack water lies along the banks, and this approach enabled me to pick up fish here and there. I lost several pairs of flies along the way and ended up utilizing prince nymphs, a chartreuse copper john, and a double bead caddis larva. For the most part, the fish were attacking the yellow Letort hopper. I lost the bright yellow version and switched over to a pale yellow model, but the fish did not seem to mind.

Pretty Speckled Brown

At one location near some picnic tables next to the stream in a nice pocket, I saw a fish rise but turn away. At this point I had the chartreuse copper john as a dropper. The fish appeared to be larger than others, and after a couple more casts I hooked up with a nice size brown. The fish immediately charged out of the pocket and headed downstream into some heavy white water. I let the fish run in the fast current, but after around twenty feet I applied pressure. I managed to elevate the fish to plane on the surface two or three times, but could not maneuver it to a position near me, and there was no way to follow it downstream due to tight evergreen vegetation and heavy current that bordered the bank. Eventually the fish parted the line, and once again my line was devoid of flies.

I landed seventeen trout before I quit, and I returned to the car at 3:15PM. Of the eleven trout caught after the beaver pond area, all but two or three rose to the hopper pattern.

Fish Landed: 17