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North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 03/06/2020

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 03/06/2020 Photo Album

A forecast of high temperatures approaching seventy degrees dictated a day of fishing on Friday, March 6. My last outing was February 1 on Boulder Creek, so I was overly anxious for another winter trip with spring in the air. I checked the flows on several front range options, but rather quickly I settled on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek in the Buttonrock Preserve. The DWR chart exhibited steady flows in the 20 CFS range, and I knew from prior experience that these were decent numbers for a day of winter fishing. Temperatures in Lyons, CO, the closest town, were expected to peak in the upper fifties.

I departed Denver by 8:30, and after a brief stop for fuel, I arrived at the parking lot for the Buttonrock Preserve by 10AM. Several fishermen were gearing up, but my process was apparently more efficient, since I was on the trail by 10:20. Before my departure on Friday morning, I viewed a video on how to utilize the New Zealand strike indicator, that I received for Christmas, and I was impressed with how easy it was to add and remove from my line.

A Nice Pool

The access road was alternately dry, muddy and covered with ice and snow; but, I hiked for thirty minutes and arrived at a satisfactory starting spot and carefully backed my way down a steep rocky bank to a section of the creek that contained a series of short deep pools. I began my quest for winter trout with a peacock hippie stomper, beadhead hares ear nymph and Pat’s rubber legs; but after forty-five minutes of fruitless casting and covering a substantial distance, the fish count stalled on zero. I was bordering on frustration but reminded myself that the water remained quite cold, and warmer afternoon temperatures portended more active fish. During the morning time period I swapped the Pat’s rubber legs for an ultra zug bug and a salvation nymph.

Hiding Spot

Prince Nymph

At 11:45 I found a nice open area with large rocks perfect for lunch, and I took advantage to consume my light snack. After lunch I decided to modify my offerings, and I exchanged the hippie stomper for a size 8 yellow fat Albert and replaced the hares ear and salvation with a prince nymph and Craven soft hackle emerger. A tiny gray stonefly perched on my hand during lunch, and the soft hackle emerger was an attempt to mimic the size 18 insect.

Craven Soft Hackle Emerger

Finally after another fifteen minutes of casting, a fish slashed at the fat Albert, but a momentary connection was my only reward for an instinctive hook set. I did not wait long, however, before a nice ten inch brown trout crushed the fat Albert in a slow shelf pool on the opposite side of the creek. This prize did not escape, and I lifted the deep buttery colored brown into my net and snapped a few photos. I continued my progress upstream in the early afternoon and netted two small rainbow trout. They were both barely over six inches, and one grabbed the prince nymph, while the other nabbed the soft hackle emerger.

As I continued upstream, I arrived at a relatively deep but short pool, where the creek deflected off a large collection of branches and sticks. I spotted several fish at the tail of the pool, but they rose to inspect the fat Albert but resisted the temptation to eat. I decided to change tactics, and I removed the three fly dry/dropper configuration and tied on a size 18 stonefly adult. This fly prompted a refusal, and then it was treated with total disdain, so I once again executed a change. I replaced the small stonefly with a size 22 CDC olive hoping to cover a midge or blue winged olive natural. The move partially paid off, when a ten inch rainbow darted from the stick bramble and inhaled my imitation. I set the hook and played the fish for fifteen seconds, at which point it twisted free of the small dry fly.

Fat Albert Produced

On Display

I was back to the drawing boards, and I retained the small olive, as I encountered another long slow moving pool. Unfortunately the CDC olive proved to be a one fish wonder, and I once again contemplated a move. I remembered the New Zealand indicator system and decided to test it out. I crimped a split shot to my line and then deployed the indicator four feet above the split shot. For flies I chose a prince nymph and a sparkle wing RS2. The deep nymphing system lasted for thirty minutes, and I added a fourth trout to my count in the form of a six inch brown trout that struck the RS2. I grew weary of the indicator style of fishing and decided to try one last ploy before ending the day.

Inviting Pool

I inspected my fly box and focused on a size 14 gray stimulator. This struck me as a solid lead fly, and below it I knotted the RS2. I flicked the large dry fly to the top of a nice pool and tight to a vertical rock wall and allowed the two fly combination to drift along the rock and then across from me and downstream. On the third such pass a six inch trout nipped the sparkle wing, just as I lifted to make another cast, and fish number five rested in my net for a short amount of time. I progressed upstream a bit farther, but once again my fly was ignored, and at 3PM I decided to call it a day.

Friday was a gorgeous day from a weather perspective; however, the fishing was quite slow. I managed to land five trout during four hours of concentrated fishing with the largest being a ten incher that savored the fat Albert. The air temperature rose to the upper fifties, but the melting snow fields along the creek reminded me that winter was relinquishing its grip at a slow pace. I’m sure the melting snow kept the water temperature below the level required to promote more active feeding. The five day forecast projects more days with highs in the sixties, so I plan to venture forth on another early season fly fishing expedition.

Fish Landed: 5

Salvation Nymph – 11/17/2019

Salvation Nymph 11/17/2019 Photo Album

The salvation nymph clearly established itself as my number two producer, and it may have surpassed the beadhead hares ear nymph in 2019. Aside from being a premium fish attractor, it is relatively easy to tie, as well as being a very durable fly. The official name of the commercial version of this fly is tungsten salvation nymph, but I substitute a less expensive gold brass bead for the tungsten, and the fish do not seem to mind. If you plan to fish fast water, and you desire a rapid sink rate, by all means substitute a tungsten bead.

My post of 12/30/2011 provides a materials list and describes the tying steps required to create this fish magnet. I continue to tie my salvation nymphs in the same manner, as I did in 2011. Last year I applied Solarez UV resin to the nymph back, and I marveled at the results. This is the only significant modification that I made to the initial tying process.

Nicely Done

The salvation nymph yields peak results in the June through August time frame in Colorado. This time period coincides with pale morning dun emergences, and I suspect that the salvation represents a flashy version of a pheasant tail nymph, and thus, a reasonable imitation of a pale morning dun nymph. One should not, however, limit this fly to purely a PMD imitation, as it generates action throughout the season, albeit not quite as intense, as the months I cited. All the components of the fly scream fish attractor including the ice dub abdomen and thorax, the flashback and flashabou nymph back and wing case, and the flexible silli legs. It qualifies as an attractor nymph year round, and it also serves as a viable imitation of small stoneflies. Fish love it.

Macro of a Few Jewels

I performed my usual count of all the salvation nymphs in my various storage compartments, and I determined that I held 68 in inventory. My goal for the start of the 2020 season was 100, so I cranked out thirty-two shiny new versions and then added five for a friend. When I gaze into the salvation nymph compartment in my large plastic fly box, I get a warm feeling knowing that I am more than adequately equipped for the upcoming season.

32 New Salvation Nymphs


Oregon/California Road Trip Day 10 – 06/05/2019

Wednesday June 5, 2019 was the first leg of our return drive from California to Denver, CO. It was largely uneventful, but an interesting story developed toward the end of the day.

After we packed up our camping gear, we exited the campground and turned right on highway US 199. We followed this scenic road mostly along the Smith River, until we entered Oregon and then reached Grants Pass. At Grants Pass we merged on to Interstate 5 and followed the expressway eastward to Medford, OR, at which point we exited and continued on Oregon 140. This highway became our home for quite awhile, as we traversed southern Oregon. Eventually OR 140 dropped south into Nevada at the Sheldon Antelope National Refuge. Southern Oregon and northern Nevada contain a lot of wide open spaces!

At Denio Junction, NV 140 veered south, until it intersected with US 95, and this highway eventually transported us to the interchange with Interstate 80 at Winnemucca, NV. Prior to our trip we marked Elko, NV as our Wednesday night lodging destination, but Winnemucca seemed to be a large enough town to offer chain accommodations for the night. Elko was a larger city, and we stayed there seventeen years ago, when we returned from a trip to California to visit friends in Fresno. Jane and I remembered the presence of a significant Basque community, and we anxiously anticipated some Basque cooking. For these reasons we drove on and took a pass on the inviting environs of Winnemucca.

When we stopped in Winnemucca for fuel, we switched positions, and I became the driver while Jane navigated. Part of navigation duty was researching lodging in Elko, NV. We were in for a surprise. Jane checked all the major chains that we favor, and each one signaled no vacancy. Elko is one of a limited number of stay over cities, as travelers cross northern Nevada, but full hotels on June 5 was hard to comprehend. Finally she called the Comfort Inn, and the recipient of the call referred Jane to the Scottish Inn. Given the dearth of options, Jane immediately connected with the front desk person and reserved a room at the independently operated Scottish Inn.

Two hours later we arrived at the Scottish Inn and checked into room number 26. We were happy to have a bed, but the accommodations could be described as barely passable. It is ironic that we felt this way after sleeping in a tent for seven nights!

By now it was 8PM, so we quickly jumped back in the car to search for some tasty lamb prepared as a Basque specialty dish. This was my dream meal. The Star Hotel advertised Basque cooking, so we quickly found it on the corner of W. Silver St. and S. 3rd St. A parking space was not readily visible, so I turned right on a side street hoping to find parking. We passed three or four brothels, and Jane’s desire for Basque cuisine from the Star Hotel faded.

I executed a U-turn, and we returned to Silver and found Luciano’s, an Italian restaurant directly across the street from a public parking lot. Given our hungry state and level of frustration, we jumped on the Luciano’s option for dinner. When we walked through the door, we were overwhelmed by the loud din of voices and the number of patrons swarming the small restaurant. Because we were only two, we were seated immediately next to a wall and next to a large table of ten.

It was not long before the waitress approached our table to take drink orders, and I asked her why Luciano’s and Elko were so crowded, and we discovered that our visit coincided with a week long mining expo. We endured a similar situation several years ago, as we passed through Des Moines, IA during a pork convention. Never take lodging reservations in any U.S. city for granted.

Big Thompson River – 10/22/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Four miles below Lake Estes and then near the downstream border of the special regulation water

Big Thompson River 10/22/2018 Photo Album

Mild autumn weather continued on Monday, October 22, and this stroke of good fortune prompted me to make a drive to the Big Thompson River below Lake Estes. I arrived by 11:15AM, and after I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, I was on the water casting by 11:30AM. The air temperature was in the low fifties, so I wore my long sleeved Under Armour undershirt, fishing shirt, and a gray fleece. When the sun was out, I was a bit warm, but when a cloud obscured the sun, and the wind kicked up, I was dressed appropriately. The Big Thompson flows were 47 CFS, and this seemed on the low side, as quite a bit of the riverbed was exposed, but adequate deep pools and pockets provided cover for the stream residents.

Vegetation Absent Since the 2013 Flood

I began my day with a single size 18 gray deer hair caddis, but the ten minute trial period was a resounding dud, and the tiny caddis adult was very difficult to track in the shadows and glare. I swapped the caddis dry fly for a peacock body hippy stomper and added a beadhead hares ear and ultra zug bug. With this three fly combination I was confident that I would attract attention, but after an hour of futile casting I could point to only one small brown trout as my reward for perseverance.

At 12:30 I found myself below a very high bank that was recently excavated during the reconstruction of US 34, and a SUV with a rod vault was parked along the shoulder of the highway. I never saw another fisherman, but given my lack of action I surmised that perhaps a fisherman or two disrupted the water ahead of me. I decided to pursue a fresh beginning, and I returned to the car and then drove east for another three miles, until I was just above the downstream border of the catch and release section.

I crossed the highway and found a welcoming rock and paused to eat my lunch, while I observed the water. The river in this area consisted of huge exposed boulders with deep pools and pockets interspersed with fast rapids and chutes. Very little vegetation was present, as the the flood of 2013 scoured everything in its path.

After lunch I began to prospect a nice deep run along the opposite bank, and on the second cast a very nice trout rose and smashed the hippy stomper. I quickly lifted my rod to set the hook, and a rainbow surfaced, splashed and quickly ended our brief association. After the slow frustrating morning I was very disappointed with this turn of events, but I was at least encouraged to attract attention from a respectable fish. I reeled up my line, and I was disgusted to note a curled end of my leader. All three flies were lost, as the line broke at the knot that held the hippy stomper. I was relieved to remember that I tied five new peacock body hippy stompers on Sunday night, but I now faced the task of re-configuring my line.

I extended my tapered leader with a section of 5X and then attached my one remaining carryover hippy stomper. Below the foam attractor I added a beadhead hares ear and sparkle wing RS2, and I was quickly back in business.

First Decent Fish on the Day

Another juicy pool presented itself above the scene of the unfortunate separation, and I tossed the three flies into the sweet spot. Almost immediately a fish attacked the hares ear, and I quickly stripped in a five inch rainbow trout. The second cast resulted in a similar response, but on the third drift a ten inch rainbow crushed the peacock stomper. The contrast between this downstream section and the area that I visited in the first hour was dramatic.

I released the rainbow and continued to lob casts to the center of the quality pool, and I connected with another six sub-catchable rainbow trout. What was going on here? I moved on and continued the upstream progress, and the sequence of events that I described in the previous paragraph persisted for the remainder of my time on the river. I managed to elevate the fish count from two to seven. All of the counted fish except for the first were rainbow trout, and three were very nice brightly colored pink striped fighters in the twelve to thirteen inch range. The rest were very small bows barely over my six inch minimum standard for counting.

Big Surprise

This account of my day on Monday, October 22 would be incomplete, if I failed to mention the other thirty fish that attacked my flies. They were all rainbow trout in the three to five inch size range. They were actually a persistent nuisance, as they consumed time to release, and in several cases they created moderate line tangles. At least another twenty tiny trout grabbed my flies temporarily, but with my approval they fell off before I was forced to release them.

I concluded that the Department of Wildlife stocked sub-catchable rainbows in the areas where CDOT made emergency repairs to the highway. Five years after the flood the road construction work was completed, and as promised,  stream improvements were finished. I am guessing that efforts to repopulate the river with rainbow trout are in progress. These are merely my own personal assumptions, and I have not read about any DOW population enhancement projects.

The Entire Flock of Five

At any rate Monday was a somewhat frustrating day. I managed to land seven trout including three very nice feisty rainbows. The weather was delightful for October 22, and I encountered a small herd of bighorn sheep, when they crossed the highway and approached the river for cold refreshing drinks. Dealing with the ongoing nuisance of handling and releasing countless small trout was an unforeseen negative to my day on the Big Thompson River.

Fish Landed: 7

North Fork of the Shoshone River – 08/15/2018

Time: 8:00PM – 9:00PM

Location: Long pool near the campsite

North Fork of the Shoshone River 08/15/2018 Photo Album

After dinner and clean up I revisited the river by the campground with the hope of encountering the hatch that entertained me on Tuesday evening. I succeeded. By 8:10 PM I spotted several rises in the slower tail section, and I knotted a size 18 light gray comparadun to my line. In short order a fish gulped the fly, and my expectations soared, until I netted a fat whitefish. I was unable to extract the fly from the tiny lip-ringed mouth, so I eventually cut off the fly, although I probably killed the whitefish during the extended ordeal.

I replaced the comparadun with a size 16 caddis, and in the center of the pool a small rainbow inhaled it. By now the pool was alive with rising fish throughout its expansive area. I placed a nice cast toward the middle, and another solid take ensued. Once again my excitement morphed to disappointment, when a small whitefish flopped in my net. The magic hour was slipping away, and I had only a small rainbow for my efforts.

The fish seemed to ignore the caddis, so I reverted to a size 18 comparadun. This fly was totally ignored during the most intense surface feeding of the evening. Finally at 8:45 I flicked on my head lamp and returned to a size 16 light gray caddis. By now the fly was very difficult to follow in the dim light, so I cast above rises and executed the setting motion, when I approximated my fly to be in the vicinity of a rise.

Tail Grasp Before Release

It worked. I lifted and felt weight, and some aggressive thrashing followed. This fish felt different from the whitefish, and indeed a sixteen inch cutbow eventually rested in my net. I snapped some photos and released the sought after prize, and then I dried my fly and resumed a last ditch effort to repeat the near dark success. I suspected that I spotted a pair of rises upstream near the bank in the faint glare. I shot a couple casts to the area, and when a barely visible dimple appeared, I set the hook. Another fish! Alas, this fish revealed itself to be another whitefish. Fortunately the hook was embedded in the outer lip, and a quick release was possible, before I ascended the bank and returned to the campsite in darkness.

For the second night in a row I fished to numerous rising fish next to the campground in waning light. I love the electricity associated with frequently rising fish, approaching darkness and feverish casting. I should do more evening fishing.

Fish Landed: 2

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 07/17/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 1:00PM

Location: In Rocky Mountain National Park between bridge on Wild Basin entry road and Finch Lake Trailhead

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 07/17/2018 Photo Album

A Good Place to Start

After a successful day on the Cache la Poudre River on Monday, I sought another Front Range fly fishing adventure for Tuesday, July 17, 2018. Unfortunately, I aggravated my mild case of tennis elbow on Monday, and now it mushroomed into a more severe situation. Would I be able to withstand back to back days of casting, and would the discomfort escalate to higher levels? I decided to take the risk, since I wanted to assess the extent of my injury.

After my review of my fishing reports over the last eighteen years, I logged my green drake encounters on front range streams, and this exercise revealed two instances in July when I successfully cast green drake imitations to resident trout on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek within Rocky Mountain National Park. With this information tucked in my brain, I decided to make the trip to the small mountain stream in the Wild Basin area on Tuesday. Upon hearing of my plan Jane jumped on board, and we both departed from our home in Denver by 8:15AM.

A relatively uneventful drive enabled us to turn left on to the Wild Basin entry road by 9:45, and we slowly followed the winding narrow dirt road for a mile before we were halted by a young lady with a walkie talkie and a reflective vest. She informed us that all the parking at the trailhead was full, so I executed a tight three-point turn in the dirt roadway, and we found a parking space next to some picnic tables along the stream. Jane gathered the necessary gear to hike to Ouzel Falls, and I climbed into my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight in preparation for some stream time.

Flows Were Near Ideal

The air temperature was in the sixties and the stream appeared to be clear and near ideal flows. It had been a while, since I fished the narrow high gradient section of the North Fork in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I was anxious to see if it changed much over the intervening years. My stream notes suggested that historically I landed small brook trout and larger brown trout, but the ratio was roughly 60% brook and 40% browns. Would today’s experience match up to history? I asked myself these questions, as I strode along the dirt road at a brisk pace, until I reached the bridge that was .3 miles back toward the entrance. By now a string of cars was lined up along the narrow dirt road, and the RMNP guide was informing them that parking was full beyond the stopping point.

I walked to the middle of the bridge and gazed upstream and discovered two gentlemen in the creek approximately thirty yards above. One of the young men was wearing waders, and it appeared that a wide band stretched over the creek next to their position. At the time I assumed that they were fishermen, and they were using the band as a support for crossing the swift current. Later I concluded that the band was set up for slack lining over the water. Regardless of their intent, I circled through the woods and around them, until I was positioned a good distance above. They were no longer in view, as I knotted a size 12 olive stimulator to my line, and I began to prospect likely fish holding locations.

In the early going I experienced a mixed bag of success and frustration as exemplified by a 50/50 mix of takes and refusals. I landed five brook trout in the first thirty minutes, and none measured up to my standards for a photograph. The five that I counted were barely over my six-inch threshold. I felt that I was passing over catchable fish, so I snipped off the stimulator and swapped it for a size 12 Chernobyl ant, and below the ant I added a size 18 pheasant tail on a two-foot dropper. The Chernobyl was moderately more effective than the stimulator, and I built the fish count to eight, before I reeled up the flies and reconfigured the droppers. The pheasant tail was not carrying its weight, so I replaced it with a beadhead hares ear and then added a salvation nymph as the point fly. Although the Chernobyl accounted for three fish, it also generated its share of refusals.

Best Fish of the Day

The three-fly dry/dropper combination improved the catch rate, and I incremented the fish counter to fourteen. Once again, the Chernobyl was the clear leader in attracting trout, but the salvation chipped in a few fish as well. In fact, the best fish of the day put a sag in my net during this time period. A small patch of slow water formed just upstream of a fallen angled evergreen. It was a marginal spot at best, but I decided to allocate a few casts. I lobbed three casts to the short space above the newly fallen evergreen, but after only a two-foot drift, I raised my rod to extract the flies, before they snagged one of the branches. On the fifth cast I decided to go for it. I cast farther toward the bank and then moved my rod tip to the right, which caused the trailing nymphs to sweep deep under the overhanging evergreen boughs. I was shocked, when I saw a thirteen-inch brown trout emerge from its hiding place, and it nabbed the accelerating salvation nymph, as it moved diagonally along the fallen tree. The fish hooked itself, and then I played it in the narrow stream and managed to prevent the battling brown trout from tangling around the numerous rocks and branches in the area. This scenario represented the high point of the day.

Model Brook Trout

When I reached fourteen, I sensed that the action slowed measurably, so I once again implemented a change in tactics. I snipped the three flies from my line and reverted to a single stimulator. I deviated from the morning session and tied a size 14 gray stimulator to my line. For the next thirty minutes I prospected likely spots with the high floating attractor and increased the count to seventeen. I experienced quite a few refusals, but one nine-inch brown trout and two brook trout mistook the bushy stimulator for a natural food of some kind. As this scenario was unfolding, dark clouds appeared in the western sky and faint thunderclaps heralded an oncoming storm. A few large raindrops created wet imprints on my shirtsleeves, and I knew that the forecast predicted thunderstorms in the 1PM time frame. I stripped in my line and hooked the stimulator in the hook keep and returned via the dirt road to the Santa Fe.

After I removed my fishing gear and waders, I pulled on my raincoat and set out on the bridal trail that paralleled the road in search of Jane. The sky grew darker, and I was very pleased to encounter her after a brief eight-minute hike.

Tuesday was a reasonably successful day, as I landed seventeen fish in 2.5 hours of fishing. I had the stream to myself, and I moved quickly and covered a fair amount of stream mileage in a short time. The fish were small, but two brown trout encouraged me to continue seeking more surprises, and the brook trout made up for their lack of size with brilliant orange bellies. The area was crowded with park visitors, but they did not interfere with my fishing. The constant pinching sensation in my right elbow was an annoyance, but it did not prevent me from notching a fun day of fishing during the summer of 2018.

Fish Landed: 17

Cache la Poudre River – 07/16/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Pingree Park above bridge on CO 14

Cache la Poudre River 07/16/2018 Photo Album

I did not fly fish over the weekend, but I did some research to determine my next destination. I used the search and find capability of my blog to ascertain the dates, when I encountered green drakes on front range streams. I was rather certain that early to mid-July coincided with the presence of green drakes on northern Colorado streams, and this exercise confirmed my recollection. I met green drakes on the Cache la Poudre River on July 13, 2017 and July 15, 2016. The North Fork of the St. Vrain produced green drake activity on July 28, 2010 and July 23, 2006. Brief emergences enabled some dry fly action with green drakes on the Big Thompson River on July 18, 2013 and July 18, 2002.

Armed with this historical data I made the drive to the Cache la Poudre River west of Ft. Collins with the hope of rendezvousing with green drakes. I arrived at a pullout along CO 14 at 10AM, and after I pulled on my waders and assembled my Fenwick five weight fiberglass, I hiked east along the shoulder of the highway, until I reached the bridge. Here I angled down a steep bank and began fishing back toward the Santa Fe.

Clear, Cold and Fast

Monday was a warm day with highs in Denver in the upper 80’s. This probably translated to highs in the low eighties in the Poudre Canyon by the time I quit at 3PM. The sky was virtually cloudless for most of my time on the water. The flows remained quite strong, and I never entertained the thought of wading across the full width of the river.

This Stimulator Got It Done Early

I began with an olive-brown size 12 stimulator, and I began prospecting the slow-moving pockets and pools along the left bank. This approach was effective, and I brought eight trout to my net using the single dry fly method. All the landed fish were brown trout, and several extended to the 12-13 inch range. A fish of this size on the Cache la Poudre is worth celebrating.

Another Large One By Poudre Standards

I was curious whether a dry/dropper technique might produce more and larger fish, so I used my nippers to remove the stimulator and switched to a size 12 Chernobyl ant trailing a salvation nymph. Several trout nipped the Chernboyl but easily escaped my hook set, and then an aggressive feeder assaulted the black foam attractor, and I landed number nine. The catch rate with the dry/dropper lagged that of the olive stimulator, and I was about to revert to the productive fly of the morning, but then I decided to experiment with a green drake. I selected a Harrop hair wing green drake from my box and tested it in a long smooth glide, and after five casts a decent brown surfaced and smashed the green drake imitation to increment the fish count to ten.

Delicious Shelf Pool

It was around this time, that I found myself next to a nice rocky area in the sun, and it was after 12PM, so I paused for lunch. After lunch the Harrop hair wing yielded several refusals, so I decided to switch to a size 14 green drake comparadun with no ribbing. This offering was quite popular, and the fish count swelled to seventeen on  the appeal of the green drake with the upright deer hair wing. The comparadun was more difficult to follow than the hair wing, and it necessitated frequent dunkings in the dry shake canister; however, when properly presented, it was very effective. Most of the green drake munchers were typical brown trout in the nine to eleven-inch range with one outlier that measured twelve inches. By 1:30 I reached a section along the south bank characterized by a long deep shelf pool, and this type of water failed to produce on Monday, so I exited and hiked back down the road to the car.

My tennis elbow was acting up, and I blamed it on the fiberglass rod with a wider grip than I was accustomed to, so I stopped and switched to my Loomis five weight. As I advanced on the south shoreline, I craved an opportunity to sample the nice pockets and pools along the north bank, so I ambled east on CO 14 once again, but this time I crossed the bridge and circled along the opposite bank.

Afternoon Beauty

During my entire stay on the river to this point, I observed only one green drake, and I sensed that the fish were not responding to my green drake offering with the zest that they demonstrated earlier. I decided to try a dry/dropper approach once again, and my afternoon lineup included a yellow fat Albert, size 12 beadhead prince nymph, and a salvation nymph. The prince was intended to imitate the nymphal stage of the green drake, and the salvation was geared to suggest a pale morning dun nymph. Whether the fish interpreted them this way is unknown, but the next 1.5 hours produced ten additional fish to raise the fish tally to twenty-seven. Two aggressive feeders pounded the fat Albert, and a brown trout nipped the salvation, while the remainder grabbed the prince nymph. Perhaps the stream residents were accustomed to seeing green drake nymphs and therefore responded to the prince as a close facsimile. Two of the final ten trout in my net were rainbows including a ten incher that crushed the fat Albert in some faster riffles.

By 3PM the air temperature was peaking, and I felt very sluggish after a day of rock climbing and battling through overhanging branches. I reeled up my line and called it quits. I was also conscious of the request to voluntarily not fish during the hottest afternoon hours of the day in order to avoid stressing the trout in elevated water temperatures.

Two Blue Spots Are Unusual

Monday was a fun day. I landed an abundant quantity of trout, and I fulfilled my goal of successfully fishing green drake dry flies. I only noted one natural, but the fish seemed tuned into my green drake comparadun imitation. Competing anglers were scarce, and I explored the north side of the river with some success.

Fish Landed: 27

CDC Blue Winged Olive – 04/22/2018

CDC Blue Winged Olive 04/22/2018 Photo Album

The history of my association with this fly is available in my 03/11/2014 post, and it evolved into a mainstay in my fly box since the inception of this blog. In many instances it is the only blue winged olive imitation required, although I carry the fly in sizes 18 through 24. The broods of baetis that emerge in the fall tend to be more diminutive than their spring cousins, thus necessitating the size 24’s. Normally I utilize size 20 and 22 during spring hatch matching situations.

Materials to Tie a CDC BWO

During 2017 I encountered several instances when my trusted CDC BWO’s failed to meet my expectations. Two notable examples were 04/19/2017 on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon and 11/01/2017 on the Eagle River. In an attempt to remedy this weakness in my blue winged olive arsenal, I researched and identified the BWO Klinkhammer style as my secret weapon in difficult baetis hatch conditions. The commonality of the frustrating experiences was wind. I theorized that the wind blew the olives off the water, before adults with upright wings became a triggering feature. The Klinkhammer style featured a dangling abdomen on a curved hook with a small wing post and parachute hackle to represent the emerging wing and legs at an early stage.

Nice View of Split Tail

On 04/05/2018 I faced my first test of blue winged olive hatch matching options. Overcast skies and dim light prompted a steady emergence of baetis on the South Platte River during the afternoon, and my first response was to knot a CDC BWO to my line. I managed to hook and land a couple trout, but the successes required excessive casting, and abundant refusals and lack of interest by visible fish suggested that the CDC version was not the answer. I shifted gears and attached one of my new Klinkhammer BWO’s to my line, and the rest of the afternoon was spectacular. Sixteen energetic South Platte residents were deceived by the new addition to my fly supply.

On 04/16/2018 I arrived on a quality pool on the Eagle River confident that I was armed with the necessary ingredients to fool trout during blue winged olive hatches that coincided with windy conditions. After all, I possessed CDC BWO’s in a range of sizes, and I supplemented these winners with Klinkhammer BWO’s that proved their worth on the South Platte River on 04/05/2018. The weather was very similar to 04/05/2018 with ongoing overcast skies, and wind that gusted up to sixteen miles per hour.

As anticipated small olive bodied mayflies made an appearance at noon, but my line contained a size 20 Craven soft hackle emerger. I knotted this to my leader thirty minutes earlier in an attempt to imitate small gray midges, that held the attention of the fish in the pool. I applied floatant to the body and wing of the soft hackle and decided to continue fishing it as a dry fly trapped in the surface film. I did not observe adults with upright wings and surmised that emergers and cripples were the preferred food source on a very windy day.

It worked! I landed twenty-one trout on 04/16/2018, and fifteen of them succumbed to the greased soft hackle emerger. In addition five slashed at and ate the Klinkhammer BWO. Despite the discovery of new weapons in my quest for blue winged olive hatch matching, I also experienced several days when the CDC BWO earned its place in my fly box.

A Completed Batch

With all this background in mind I counted my CDC BWO’s and determined that I needed a handful of new models. I produced four size 22 and four size 20 versions, and I feel confident that I have an adequate array of imitations to dupe greedy fish selectively feeding on some stage of blue winged olives. But then again confidence is a dangerous thing in the fly fishing game.

Homestake Creek – 07/11/2016

Time: 7:30PM – 8:30PM

Location: Across from Hornsilver Campground

After dinner at the campground, I took a short walk to the section of Homestake Creek that is across the highway. The path led me to a very attractive pool that appeared to be the beneficiary of some stream improvement efforts. I stood motionless and observed the water for a bit, and the surface came alive with four or five rise rings. I had an hour or more before darkness, so I walked at a brisk pace back to the campsite and pulled on my wet waders and assembled my Sage four weight and quickly returned.

I began my efforts to attract surface feeding inhabitants of the pool with the same size 16 deer hair caddis that produced on the Eagle River, but the gray fly generated only a couple refusals. During the first thirty minutes I could see some tiny cream colored midges buzzing about, and these may have accounted for the rises. I did not possess a viable imitation, so I stayed with the caddis until 8PM. At this time I moved upstream to a deep run at the head of the pool, and here I began to see pale morning duns. Apparently this mayfly does not strictly adhere to the morning portion of its name.

I switched to a cinnamon size 16 comparadun, and in the remaining thirty minutes I managed to temporarily hook two fish. The first hook up felt a bit larger than what I expected from small Homestake Creek, but I will never have an opportunity to confirm my hunch. At 8:30 the surface activity subsided, and the waning light forced me to give up on Homestake Creek, and I returned to the warmth of my sleeping bag.

Fish Landed: 0

Clear Creek – 05/03/2016

Time: 1:00PM – 4:30PM

Location: Western section of Clear Creek Canyon just beyond Tunnel 6.

Fish Landed: 9

Clear Creek 05/03/2016 Photo Album

I have long stopped relying on Clear Creek as a numbers boosting proposition, and Tuesday was no exception.  After fishing in severe temperatures on Friday and Saturday, the projected high of 65 degrees in Denver made me yearn for a day on the stream in mild weather. In addition I organized the streamer side of my fleece pouch, and I discovered a batch of old mangled flies, that I stripped and reconditioned. Since I experienced a fair degree of success with the go2 caddis with a bright green diamond braid body, I elected to tie some caddis pupa Lafontaine style, but I strayed from the original recipe by substituting the green diamond braid for the body. I was quite anxious to give these new go2 sparkle pupa a test.

Since I was planning a longer trip to the Arkansas River on Wednesday and Thursday in an effort to once again meet the caddis hatch, I desired a relatively close destination for Tuesday. Close proximity yields four options: Bear Creek, Clear Creek, South Boulder Creek and Boulder Creek. Bear Creek was evidently in the early stages of run off with flows posted at 265 cfs. This is quite high for the small stream that flows through Morrison, CO. South Boulder Creek on the other hand was being starved for water with releases from Gross Reservoir trickling at 16 cfs. Boulder Creek was rushing down the canyon at 84 cfs, which is probably reasonable, but elevated from my last visit. Clear Creek was bouncing between 55 and 48 cfs, and these are reasonable levels for the small stream that flows west of Golden, CO. I searched my blog and discovered that I fished Clear Creek at 50 cfs on April 28 in 2015 and enjoyed a reasonably successful outing, so this clinched my choice.

Clear Creek Fairly Clear

I arrived at the pullout just east of Tunnel 6 at 12:30 and decided to eat my lunch before entering the stream. Originally I considered eating on a rock overlooking the creek, but temperatures in the mid-fifties and a breeze persuaded me to reconsider, and I ate in the shelter of the Santa Fe. Just as I finished my yogurt and began to apply sunscreen, another fisherman pulled into the parking lot across from me, and he pulled wading boots and waders out of his trunk. I was deciding whether I could work around this angler, when a Suburban parked at the entrance to the parking area, and an older gentleman, already attired in waders, emerged and headed straight for the creek. Working around one other fisherman was manageable, but two caused me to throw my gear back in the vehicle, and I departed for another location farther west.

I found a nice wide pullout .3 miles west of the tunnel, and I could see another car parked fifty yards upstream, but I concluded that there was enough space for me to fish, and if I encountered another fisherman, I could exit and walk farther west. I quickly rigged my Orvis Access four weight and then climbed down a rough path the the stream. I tied a size 8 Chernobyl ant to my line and added the go2 sparkle pupa on a two foot dropper. In the first half hour I experienced five refusals to the Chernobyl, so I decided to make a change. I downsized the top fly from a Chernobyl to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. This terrestrial was also apparently too large, as two additional refusals frustrated my efforts to land a fish.

Quite a few caddis were present on the streamside boulders and vegetation, so I opted to try a size 14 gray stimulator. It was larger than the naturals, but I hoped that I could avoid going to the less visible size 16 deer hair caddis that probably matched the adults that fluttered about. Finally I hooked and landed a small brown trout on the stimulator, and I celebrated with a smile and congratulated myself. I was disappointed to learn, however, that the stimulator was a one trick pony, and the fish began to ignore this fly as well.

An Early Success

Although I tried to avoid it, I now elected to match the hatch, and I knotted an olive brown deer hair caddis to my tippet. This was what the fish desired, and I landed six additional brown trout over the next 1.5 hours. I quickly learned to ignore the gorgeous deep pools, as these did not even produce a look or refusal. All the fish emerged from slow moving water along the bank or runs of moderate depth that did not exceed four feet. If I stayed back a safe distance and dropped the caddis in a smooth pocket next to a rock with adequate slack, I was likely to catch a fish.

Bright Spots on This One

By 3:30 I was near the bridge where route six crosses to the north side of Clear Creek, and the shadows began to cover the south side of the stream. This made it extremely difficult to follow my small caddis, so I elected to return to the Chernobyl ant albeit a smaller size 10. It was a nice attempt to create visibility, but the trout quickly informed me that they did not approve by rudely refusing the large foam impostor.

Edge Water Like This Produced

As the shadows lengthened, I also began to spot a few mayflies, as they slowly glided up from the surface of the water. They were likely blue winged olives, and surely I would not be able to follow one of my tiny CDC olives in the late afternoon shadows and glare. I retreated to the bridge and crossed and then began casting to the pockets on the north side, as they continued to be bathed in sunlight. Some more olives caught me attention, so I took the time to add a six inch section of monofilament to the bend of the Chernobyl, and then I tied on a size 20 CDC olive. I did not find instant success, but in the fourth or fifth shelf pocket, a ten inch brown sipped the trailing BWO, and I moved my fish count to eight.

The double dry produced a fish, but in the next couple prospecting locales, I observed fish inspecting and rejecting the Chernobyl. I concluded that I needed an indicator fly that was more natural and less an attractor, so I exchanged the Chernobyl for a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis. The move paid dividends in the last small pocket before re-entering the shadows, when a nice brown slurped the blue winged olive imitation. It was getting late, and I did not relish battling the shade again, so I reversed my direction and returned to the water below the car. I was obsessed with double digits, and I worked my way along the south bank for twenty yards, but I could not generate any interest. At 4:30 I reeled in my line and hooked the BWO to a guide and climbed the bank to the car.

Nine fish in 3.5 hours is a reasonable afternoon, and I enjoyed the challenge of solving the Clear Creek puzzle. The small brown trout in the tumbling stream near Denver are not easy pickings. They taught me that lesson on numerous occasions.