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Iron Sally – 11/28/2022

Iron Sally 11/28/2022 Photo Album

Check out my post of 01/09/2022 for additional information on this favorite nymph that occupies my line quite frequently. My confidence in this fly has expanded dramatically during the past several seasons. The flash of the iron sally is a high powered fish attractor, but it also imitates golden stonefly and yellow sally nymphs. These naturals are present in significant numbers during the June through August time frame, and I take advantage by tumbling this fly through attractive trout lairs. The trout of the Arkansas River and Eagle River are particularly receptive to a dead drifted iron sally. The abdomen construction with ultra wire makes this fly relatively heavy, and it is, therefore, a good option when I seek a deeper drift on my dry/dropper rig.

Lots of Flash

My supply experienced a decent amount of shrinkage, so I knuckled down at my vise and manufactured nine additional nymphs split between size 12 and size 14. Bring on the stonefly hatch in 2023.

New Ones from the Vise

South Platte River – 11/01/2022

Time: 12:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Deckers area

South Platte River 11/01/2022 Photo Album

After a cold week with no fly fishing opportunities and a visit to the physical therapist resulting from groin and leg pain, I was exceedingly anxious to return to a river for mental relaxation. I find that total focus on the enterprise of catching fish is a therapeutic activity to eliminate stressful thoughts. The high temperature was forecast to reach the upper seventies in Denver, and this translated to the sixties in the South Platte River drainage. I chose the South Platte as my destination due to lower elevation and a higher ratio of rainbow trout compared to other streams along the Front range. My remaining decision was which section of the South Platte to visit. The flows at Lake George were 175 CFS and the flows farther down river at Trumbull were 134 CFS. I had more confidence that I could enjoy success at the lower levels, so I made the drive to the Deckers area on Tuesday morning.

As I turned on to the river road at Nighthwak, I decided to check out the upper special regulation section from Deckers to Scraggy View. This turned out to be an eye opener, as I was astounded by the number of vehicles occupying every available parking space. How could there be so many anglers on a Tuesday; a weekday in November? I suppose the favorable weather and proximity to Denver and Colorado Springs were the explanation.

134 CFS

At any rate, I made a U-turn at Deckers and reversed my tour to the open water below the special regulation section. Parking spaces were available, but a fair number of fishermen apparently copied my thought process of moving downstream away from the crowds. My extra survey of the upper section delayed my arrival, so I decided to consume my lunch before engaging in my highly anticipated fly fishing endeavor. After lunch I rigged my recently repaired Sage One five weight, and once I was prepared, I hiked down the dirt road to a stretch with faster current around large boulders to begin my quest for autumn trout.

After Release

I began my effort with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper, a size 16 salvation nymph and a sparkle wing RS2. Between noon and 3PM I moved upstream at a steady pace and cast the three fly dry/dropper to all the likely trout holding spots. During this three hour time frame I landed two rainbows and one brown trout. The largest was a rainbow of around twelve inches, and the other rainbow and brown were in the seven to ten inch range. In addition to the three netted trout, I experienced temporary connections with three other fish. The fly fishing on Tuesday was not exactly a torrid affair. In fact, it was quite slow. During this time I broke off a couple RS2’s and switched between a sparkle wing and classic version. For the top fly I concluded that I needed more weight to place my drifts nearer to the stream bottom, so I paused to consider options. Initially I was prepared to grab a weighted 20 incher, and although it certainly would have provided ballast to sink the RS2, I suspected it was not a menu item for South Platte residents.

Soft Egg

Surely spawning was in progress by now on the tailwater drainage, and wouldn’t rainbow trout take advantage of drifting brown trout eggs? Why not give an egg fly a try? I never tested egg flies other than early season trips to the North Platte River below Grey Reef. I inspected my fleece wallet and spotted four egg flies and plucked one constructed with soft Otter egg material with a white fibrous veil. I replaced the salvation with the egg fly and kept the RS2 in place and resumed casting. On the first couple drifts I noticed that the highly visible peach-colored egg was floating six inches below the surface, and I desired a deeper bottom bouncing presentation, so I crimped a small split shot to the line just above the egg. My offering now consisted of a tan pool toy hopper, peach soft egg with a tiny split shot above it, and a sparkle wing RS2.

The Run Ahead

This combination created some bumps and a temporary connection, and these encounters held my interest, but the egg and RS2 ploy was not a revelation of November fishing success. The few bumps, however, prompted me to persist, and I moved around a ninety degree bend and began to fish a section that featured faster, deep runs and pockets. I picked up my pace and allotted three to five casts to each targeted location, until I arrived at the upper section, just before the river made another ninety degree bend to the right. Here a nice long run curled around the corner and continued for thirty yards parallel to the road before tumbling over rocks. Next to the current, that was easily noticeable by the bubble line, there was a fairly wide slow-moving shelf pool that displayed four to five feet of depth.

Home of Hook-Jawed Beauty

I launched a long cast to the soft band of water next to the bubble line, and I thought I saw a rise to the hopper and swiftly elevated my Sage One to set the hook. The set was accurate, and a very respectable trout began to dive and thrash, as it attempted to disengage from my fly. Initially I thought that the fighter was foul hooked, but as the battle continued, I could feel the main pull from the mouth, and once the hook-jawed brown rested in my net, it was clear that the egg fly was embedded in the corner of its mouth. What a shock to land a sixteen inch brown on an egg fly late in my day! I snapped a gallery of photos of my fish of the day and prepared to fish out the long run before calling it a day.

Love the Orange Fins

I waded fifteen feet, so that I could cover the midsection of the long narrow shelf pool, and I once again launched some long casts to the area three feet to the left of the bubble line. Whoa! The hopper dipped suddenly, and I set the hook, and I was elated to connect with a second hook-jawed brown trout that also chomped the soft egg. I congratulated myself on my good fortune, but at the same time I began to wonder how many positive fishing outings I missed through my fly fishing career by not defaulting to egg flies? This brown was every bit as fat and mature as the previous, and I snapped off a few shots to document my success.

Looking Down

Home of Number Two

I was about to turn around and hike back to the nearby car, but I observed a nice wide riffle section in the center of the river just below the right turn. Earlier casts to these sorts of areas were mostly futile, but I decided that this would be my end of day prospecting. Some glare on the surface made tracking the hopper for the first five feet difficult, but the fly was easily observable over the bottom two-thirds of the riffle. I executed five fruitless drifts, and I was about to quit, when I initiated cast number six. Just as the hopper emerged from the glare, I spotted an aggressive slurp that created a small wave, and I raised my rod with a solid hook set. The recipient of the hook prick immediately curled its body and surfaced, so that I could see the wide pink stripe of a rainbow, but before I could even consider celebrating, the brute broke off the hopper and the egg fly and the RS2. It was a clean sweep, and I used this disappointing turn of events to amble back to the car. I reeled up my line, and when I inspected the end, I noted the telltale pigtail curl of a malfunctioning knot.

Tuesday on the South Platte River was a slow and disappointing fly fishing adventure, until my persistence paid off with two very respectable brown trout and an escaped rainbow. The unanticipated effectiveness of the egg fly was very gratifying, and I have already added tying egg flies to my winter fly tying agenda. Five trout in 3.5 hours is a below average catch rate, but the weather was perfect for the first day of November, and I found some space that contained nice trout to entertain me. November 1 was a success in my book.

Fish Landed: 5

Clear Creek – 08/01/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 1:30PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 08/01/2022 Photo Album

If you read my blog post of 07/29/2022, you know that I broke my Sage four weight fly rod on South Boulder Creek. When I returned home, I immediately filled out an online warranty claim with Sage and packaged my broken rod and mailed it to Bainbridge Island, WA. The broken rod was a sentimental favorite, as it was the first graphite fly rod that I purchased, when I moved to Denver. It was a 490-4 LL, and it served me well for at least thirty years. I am anxious to learn, if Sage can repair such an old rod.

Since my fly rod inventory was down to one Orvis Access eight foot four weight, I made a trip to Charlie’s Fly Box on Saturday, and I walked out of the store stunned and the owner of a brand new Sage R8 nine foot, four weight. Most of the shock came from the sticker price.

By Monday I was recovered from my state of depression and anxious to follow my commitment to focus on high country streams and tailwaters. I decided to make a relatively brief drive to Clear Creek, as the location I selected was at high elevation and flows remained quite robust. I am disappointed to report, however, that my outing was once again short circuited by a ridiculous angler error. Read on.

Small Pool Ahead

I arrived at the pullout high above the creek at 9:45AM, and by the time I assembled my Orvis Access four weight, hiked to my starting point and attached my flies; it was close to 10:30AM. The sky was perfectly blue, and the temperature was cool and in the sixties. By late morning the sun dominated the sky, and the temperature warmed, but then some heavy clouds moved in and kept the atmosphere cool during the early afternoon.

Pink and Lime

I began my search for gullible trout with a medium olive hippie stomper and beadhead hares ear nymph, and the combination delivered positive results. By the time I paused for lunch at 11:45AM, the fish count rested at eleven. All the landed trout were cutthroats and cutbows, and three hammered the hippie stomper, and the remainder nabbed the hares ear. Nearly all the fish were in the six to ten inch range with possibly one or two that stretched the tape to eleven inches.

Wild Beauty

After lunch I decided to experiment with a double dry. The hippie stomper drew periodic interest, but many of the strikes came in the form of refusals. I snipped off the hares ear and added a size 16 gray deer hair caddis on a twelve inch dropper.

Cutthroat Haven

Between 12:15PM and 1:30PM I flicked the dries to likely fish holding locations and moved the fish counter from eleven to twenty-four. I had a blast, as I moved quickly with only two or three casts to marginal areas. Eventually I learned to bypass the small and short pockets, as they produced only sub-six inch fish or no fish at all. The deeper slow moving holes next to logs and boulders were the spots that delivered trout. Of the thirteen early afternoon trout landed, three chomped the stomper and the remainder attacked the caddis adult.

Perfection with Fins

By 1:30PM I fell into a nice rhythm, and the fish count was improving steadily. It was at this time that I landed a very nice cutthroat that was probably my largest of the day at twelve inches. Because of its beauty and size, I paused along the bank to photograph it and carefully released it into the current. The spot I chose was at the tail of a nice pool and just above a narrow chute of fast water and small pockets. Somehow in the process of releasing the fish and unhooking the flies, the net slipped into the creek, and it was unclipped from the retractor on my backpack. I stabbed the water quickly, but I failed to get a grip, and in a fraction of a second the net floated downstream. As I pointed out, I was above a narrow chute, and the net gained speed and tumbled down the rapids. I quickly placed my rod on the rocks and began to scramble along the bank, but I was losing ground, and I began to fear for my physical well being. I could easily sprain an ankle, or even worse, fall and break something.

Lovely Red Cheek

I returned to the origination point of the runaway net, and I gathered my sungloves, camera and rod and began to wade downstream. I was banking on the net getting caught in a tree, log jam or shallow section; and my eyes searched anxiously for any exposed portion of the net. After .5 to .7 of a mile I encountered three successive stream improvement devises that spanned the entire creek, and I was certainĀ  the net would appear; but, alas, no sign of it presented itself, and I conceded that my relatively new $100 Wolf Moon net was donated to the wilderness or some downstream beneficiary.

I was physically exhausted from the intense downstream wading exercise over extremely slick rocks, and I was mentally distraught. All I could think about was breaking my favorite rod and now losing my Wolf Moon net. I now realize why I purchased cheap nets up until this last purchase. I gave up my pursuit, and I hiked back to the car, after ending my day at twenty-four trout by 1:30PM. Once again I was forced to quit early, and similar to Friday I was on the verge of a very productive day.

Fish Landed: 24

South Fork of the Rio Grande – 06/21/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Chain up area

South Fork of the Rio Grande 06/21/2022 Photo Album

My sampling of the South Fork of the Rio Grande River on Monday after our Revolution Rails experience and a hike on the Lake Fork Trail convinced me to revisit the gorgeous cold and clear flowing stream again on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Other than my brief exposure on Monday, I never fished the South Fork previously, so I was anxious to give it a try. I also considered the main stem of the Rio Grande, but after spending three days drifting the river in 2021, the thought of wade fishing the big river did not appeal to me as much as exploring the more intimate South Fork, although the significant tributary sourced near Wolf Creek Pass was by no means a small mountain creek. At most places the South Fork was twenty to thirty yards wide, and even at somewhat elevated post-runoff flows, I was able to cross at numerous locations to obtain favorable casting positions.

The temperature was in the low sixties as I began, and I felt comfortable during my stay on the creek with just my fishing shirt. There were a few periods of clouds, but bright sunshine ruled the sky most of the time. It was my first time on the South Fork, so I had no experience with water levels to compare against, but I suspect they were seasonally low although high compared to ideal. Nevertheless, I found the conditions to be very conducive to fly fishing.

Nearly Ideal Flows

I began my quest for wild trout with a yellow body pool toy hopper, an iron sally nymph, and a go2 sparkle caddis pupa. My success was almost instantaneous, as three twelve inch brown trout slashed the hopper and four grabbed the caddis pupa. Between 10:30AM and noon I built the fish count to seven, and all but one fish were browns in the twelve inch range. One small rainbow joined the mix.

A Solid Start

While I ate my lunch, I observed a sparse cloud of mayfly spinners above the riffles to my left. As I munched my sandwich, the mating swarm intensified, and then five or six trout began feeding in the deep eddy in front of my position. I decided to finish my sandwich, but I deferred the remainder of my lunch in order to capitalize on the developing spinner fall. I removed the dry/dropper arrangement after lunch and knotted a classic size 10 Chernobyl ant to my line and added a rusty spinner on a twelve inch dropper. The combination generated a few looks and refusals, but then the two flies were completely ignored, while ravenous trout sipped spinners on a semi-regular basis.

Lunch Pool and Eddy

Nice Size

I was averse to missing out on this early season dry fly action, so I reevaluated my lineup, and I replaced the rusty spinner with a light gray size16 comparadun. The body color of this fly seemed to more accurately mimic the naturals drifting about the eddy. I smashed down the wing to flatten it and create the image of a spinner, and I began casting to various parts of the eddy, where rises materialized. It worked. I landed two additional trout along with several temporary hook ups, and then I progressed upstream along the left bank and upped the count to ten. At some point I pulled some of the deer hair fibers from the comparadun, as I removed the fly from a fish’s mouth, and I replaced it with another version with a fuller wing.

Comparadun Fooled This One

Mashed This Comparadun to Imitate Spinner

As this prospecting took place, I began to observe a smorgasbord of aquatic insects that included golden stoneflies, yellow sallies, pale morning duns, and a couple drakes. The spinner fall subsided, and I decided to institute another fly change. I chose an olive hippie stomper as the front fly and extended a tippet section from the bend and attached a size 12 yellow stimulator. These flies remained on my line until 2:45PM and enabled me to boost the fish count to twenty. Two trout chomped the stomper, and the remainder nabbed the high floating, bushy stimulator. I totally enjoyed myself in a gorgeous environment with clear and cold flows and hungry trout.

Typically Productive Water

At 2:45PM the catch rate lagged, and I shifted to yet another approach. I tied a size 8 amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl to my tippet and added an iron sally and a salvation nymph. I covered quite a bit of stream real estate, until I approached some faster deep runs that bordered some slow moving deep slots. On one of the drifts through this run, an energized trout snatched one of the nymphs, but after a streaking run, the fish slid free. I was puzzled by this rapid change of events, and I discovered that all three flies were missing. A closer examination of my line revealed a curly end, and I was forced to acknowledge that a bad knot was responsible.

Distinct Spots and Large Fly

Not wishing to go through the time consuming act of reconfiguring a three fly dry/dropper, I returned to the hippie stomper and yellow stimulator, but I was unable to resurrect the earlier magic. Tuesday was the first day of summer, and I was blessed with a wonderful day of stream fly fishing. I was on a new river for me, and I managed to unlock the code to land twenty fish. All except three were brown trout in the twelve inch range with a couple thirteens in the mix as well. The scenery, the river, and the insects were in perfect condition; and I capitalized.

Fish Landed: 20

Arkansas River – 03/28/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Chafee – Fremont County Line

Arkansas River 03/28/2022 Photo Album

The last of a string of very nice days prompted me to make my second fly fishing excursion of the year. The forecast high temperature in the Salida, CO area was 72 degrees, and this prospect along with flows in the 300 CFS range enticed me to make the nearly three hour drive to the Arkansas River for a day of fly fishing on a much larger body of water than that which I explored on Friday.

I arrived at my familiar pullout by 10:10AM, and this enabled me to make my first cast to the river by 10:30AM. The air temperature at the start of my day was 54 degrees, and I wore my light fleece cardigan, and it remained in place for the five hours I spent on the river, and I was never too warm. With winds in excess of 10 MPH predicted for the afternoon, I rigged my Sage One five weight, and this allowed me to utilize my new fly line for the first time. The line was a gift from Jane at Christmas.

The only other fisherman I saw all day happened to be parked in the same pullout as me; and, of course, he was ready before me and had first dibs on the river. He hiked quite a distance east along U.S. 50, before he dropped out of view in his descent to the river. My favorite location on the Arkansas River was downstream in the same direction, although I prefer crossing to the opposite side, and I contemplated that ploy, but in the end I opted for solitude and began working my way upstream along the south bank that bordered the highway. The south bank probably absorbed more fishing pressure than the north side, but I prefer the structure of the water on the highway side of the river.

Optimistic About This Section

I configured my five weight line with a beadhead yellow-light green Pat’s rubberlegs, and below it I added a mini leech with no bead. These two flies were present with a nymph rig that included a split shot and a New Zealand strike indicator. I began prospecting the water and quickly learned that the slower shelf pools and seams along the faster currents provided the most action.

During the first 1.5 hours, before I broke for lunch at noon, I landed one trout and endured four temporary hook ups. The Pat’s rubberlegs accounted for the single landed brown trout, and the success story was accompanied by four temporary connections. After a decent trial period I exchanged the mini leech for a size 22 zebra midge, and I suspect the long distance releases resulted from the tiny midge fly.

Molting Pat’s Rubber Legs Was Desirable

After lunch I continued with the deep nymphing approach and persisted with it until I quit at 3:30PM. I never saw any insects besides tiny midges and a very rare caddis. I was anticipating some blue winged olive action, but either it was too early in the season or the bright sun combined with a lack of cloud cover prevented a BWO appearance.

Lunch View

I managed to increase the fish count from one to seven, and the additional six included a twelve inch brown trout, and five browns in the nine to eleven inch range. The average size for the day surpassed the length of my North Fork of St. Vrain catches on Friday, but I have to admit that my expectations for size and quantity were a bit higher.

I Suspect a Moth

After a lull in action with the Pat’s rubberlegs and zebra midge I switched to a 20 incher and classic RS2. Five of the six PM fish that I landed chomped the 20 incher, and one grabbed an emerald caddis pupa, after I replaced the RS2. A couple more fish felt the penetration of one of my flies, but they managed to evade my net.

Another Decent Brown Trout

Between 2:30PM and 3:30PM I covered a significant amount of water and failed to land a single fish. In fact, I never experienced a look or refusal or temporary connection. I swapped the emerald caddis pupa for an iron sally during this time frame, but the move proved futile. The wind gusts made casting upstream a formidable challenge, and I finally surrendered at 3:30PM and climbed the bank to the highway, and walked a mile along the shoulder back to the car.

Juicy Shelf Pool

Monday was a fun day under bright sunshine with temperatures eventually touching the upper sixties and possibly nudging seventy. The wind was a nuisance, but I logged quite a bit of fishing time before it became a hassle. I suspect the absence of significant insect activity explained the slightly below average catch rate. I will probably return to the Arkansas River in a few weeks when the blue winged olives make a more sustained appearance.

Fish Landed: 7

CDC Blue Winged Olive – 02/18/2022

CDC Blue Winged Olive 02/18/2022 Photo Album

My post of 02/21/2019 covers much of the basics of this fly. This small baetis imitation continues to be my most productive fly for fooling trout during the spring and fall blue winged olive hatches. The comparadun style allows it to ride low in the water column; and, thus, it imitates adults and emergers. During very windy days; however, it often loses its effectiveness, and for this reason I also stock a supply of Klinkhammer emergers and soft hackle emergers. I theorize that the trout pick off emergers below the surface because the adults get swept away by the wind in rapid fashion.

Trout Food

Last year, however, I formed a new theory on this windy day conundrum. During wind gusts the adults skitter across the surface, and my observation suggests that perhaps the trout look for small insects with a lot of movement. For this reason I may tie up a few fully hackled blue winged olives to create the illusion of tumbling wind-blown food morsels.

15 New Ones

When I counted my supply of size 22 CDC BWO’s, I discovered that I was a bit low, so I churned out fifteen additional copies. These should keep me in adequate supply over the coming season. In addition I produced five new size 24 CDC BWO’s in case some of my lack of success during hatches results from the presence of very small mayflies.

Purple Haze – 02/12/2022

Purple Haze 02/12/2022 Photo Album

Once again during the 2021 season a guide exposed me to the effectiveness of the purple haze. I floated the Rio Grande in the vicinity of Creede, CO for three days in late June, and the purple haze proved to be exceptionally productive on one of those days. To read more about my initial introduction to this interesting dry fly, check out my post of 02/15/2021. This post contains a materials table and some success stories from the summer of 2020.

The Better Side

Aside from my guides’ knotting the purple haze to my line, I actually chose it myself on a few occasions, and it accounted for several fish. I was impressed enough to approach my vise to create five additional models for the upcoming season. The official instructions from the creator of the fly call for using a purple floss style thread for the body; however, I deviated from the recommendation and utilized purple dubbing. I suspect the trout will not care. Will 2022 be the year when the purple haze becomes a mainstay in my dry fly attractor box. Stay tuned.

Cool Looking Fly

 

Ultra Zug Bug – 12/15/2021

Ultra Zug Bug 12/15/2021 Photo Album

How can such a simply tied fly be so productive? I do not know the answer, but I am certainly pleased that this is the case. I saw this fly in a Scott Sanchez book and began tying it many years ago. It has become another top producer among my nymph and wet fly arsenal. If you check out my 11/10/2020 post, you will encounter links to previous posts that include a materials table and earlier narratives that describe my introduction to this fly and explain its continued effectiveness.

Looking Unruly

Sanchez created the ultra zug bug as a quick replacement for the prince nymph, and he accomplished the easy construction goal. The fly requires only a hook, a bead, some thread, a pheasant body feather for tailing, crystal flash, and peacock dubbing. Initially I used it in lieu of the prince nymph during the spring caddis emergence, but eventually I learned that its effectiveness is not limited to the spring caddis time period. It works year round. For some reason I seemed to abandon it in the early season of 2021, but it proved its worth on several autumn fly fishing outings during this past year.

Seven for Me and Five for a Friend

I counted my remaining supply of ultra zug bugs and determined that my various fly boxes contained 53. I approached my vise and knocked out seven more to bring my total to a nice round sixty. This should provide more than adequate ammunition for fooling wild trout during 2022.

South Platte River – 10/20/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/20/2021 Photo Album

Recent weather reminded this fair weather angler that we are on the downside of the 2021 fly fishing season. However, I typically take advantage of intermittent nice days in October to satisfy my addiction. The high in Denver on Wednesday was forecast to be in the upper sixties, so I decided to make another trip to a Colorado waterway, before the temperatures became too prohibitive.

Instead of focusing on the stream flows, I first surfed through my Weather Underground app, as I looked for locations with relatively mild air temperatures. Along with streamflows and air temperature, a third variable entered the destination choosing equation. Late October coincides with the brown trout spawning ritual, and historically I discovered that eating is not the number one objective, when the browns are preoccupied with procreating. Sure, not all the brown trout are on the same cycle, and some continue to satisfy their appetites, but from a big picture perspective, fewer trout are available to the searching fly fisherman. Rainbow trout, on the other hand, spawn in the spring, so their instincts have them eating as much as possible to fatten up for the lean and cold days of winter. A stream with a decent population of rainbow trout, therefore, became the third variable.

Most of the Front Range streams are primarily brown trout fisheries. My inclination quickly leaned toward the Big Thompson River, South Boulder Creek, and the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. I guestimated that South Boulder Creek holds 25% rainbow trout, while the Big Thompson River and Eleven Mile Canyon contain populations that are 50% of the pink striped fighters. The forecast for Wednesday projected highs in the low sixties for Lake George, CO and highs in the low fifties for Estes Park. Flows on South Boulder Creek were a piddling 7 CFS, so I eliminated that option quickly. I made the South Platte River my destination, but I did not rush out the door, in order to allow the low sun to warm the narrow canyon before my arrival.

Spent Some Time in These Prime Runs

By the time I arrived in the special regulation area of Eleven Mile Canyon and completed my preparation routine the air temperature was in the mid-forties, and the river was mostly covered by shadows. I pulled on my fleece hoodie, North Face down coat, and snugged my New Zealand billed hat with earflaps over my ears. For a fly rod I selected my Sage One five weight with the hope of tangling with some larger trout on October 20.

Looks Like Fish Number Two

I hiked down the road for .1 mile, until I found a nice angled path of moderate slope to negotiate the steep bank. By the time I arrived at a nice open spot along the river, it was 11:45AM, so I paused to devour my standard lunch. After lunch I rigged my line with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2. When I stopped to purchase 5X and 4X tippet spools at the Anglers’ Covey in Colorado Springs, I asked the salesman what was working, and he matter-of-factly stated blue winged olives and midges, so this dictated my RS2 choice. For the next 1.5 hours I prospected the nymph combination through deep pockets and runs, and I succeeded in guiding four trout into my net. The first and second were twelve inch brown trout, as number one nipped the RS2 and number two grabbed an emerald caddis pupa. During the early half of this time period, the hares ear failed to produce, so I swapped it for the emerald caddis pupa.

Close Up of the Emerald Caddis Pupa

Emerald Caddis Pupa in Lip

During the latter portion of the after lunch time frame I landed two gorgeous rainbow trout. The first one also grabbed the caddis pupa, as I lifted it from the tail of a deep pocket. Number four was a sixteen inch beast, and it was easily the best fish of the day. Similar to the caddis eater, the large rainbow nabbed the trailing sparkle wing RS2, as I began to lift at the tail of a wide slow moving pool bordered by two merging currents on either side. Needless to say, the shimmering silver and pink slab made my day.

Gratifying Catch

Lowering to Freedom

From 1:30PM until 3:30PM I covered a significant amount of river real estate, but failed to register any additional trout. I hopped from prime pool to prime pool and directed my casts to the faster runs that entered the upper portions of the pools. I experienced two temporary hook ups that felt substantial, but I was unable to convert. Bright bluebird skies allowed brilliant sunshine, and this in turn warmed the atmosphere to create comfortable fishing conditions, but this was great weather for fly fishermen, but not favorable for blue winged olives. I spotted a few small olives in the air and three rises during my time on the river. I hoped for more surface action, but it never materialized, and this left me probing the depths with the strike indicator and split shot arrangement. The worst part of the four hour outing was the never-ending task of plucking aquatic slime from my flies. I inspected the pair of flies on every third cast, and I was rarely surprised by clean hooks.

Rainbow Abode

Four trout in four hours of fishing is surely a slow day; however, I adjusted my expectations downward given the cold temperatures and the absence of significant natural insect activity. Landing the sixteen inch rainbow was a blast, and seeing it sagging in my net made the trip worthwhile. Perhaps another mild overcast day in the future will attract me to Eleven Mile Canyon one more time.

Fish Landed: 4

Pine Creek – 09/08/2021

Time: 12:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Backcountry

Pine Creek 09/08/2021 Photo Album

Wednesday, September 8 was supposed to be the day I returned to South Boulder Creek for my weekly encounter with the green drake hatch. My previous three trips to SBC resulted in excellent results, as I fished mostly parachute green drakes and green drake comparaduns. When I woke up on Wednesday morning, my first action was to fire up the desktop computer, as I nervously scrolled to the South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir chart. The nearly perfect horizontal line at 95 CFS had a slight tail on it, as the flows dropped to 91 CFS. I resumed my preparation for a day of fishing, but I made a mental note to check the flows again, before I departed.

Fast forward to 7:30AM, and I positioned myself in front of the computer once again, and in this case the straight downward tail on the graph plummeted to 60 CFS. Clearly the Denver Water managers were initiating a major adjustment to the flows from Gross Reservoir. I endured these events in the past, and I was reluctant to devote my precious day of fishing to a tailwater in the throes of a major modification, and it was unclear what the bottom point would be. I made a flash decision to change my destination in order to allow the South Boulder Creek situation to stabilize. I checked the flows upon my return to Denver, and the flow reduction bottomed out at 15 CFS! 95 CFS morphed to 15 CFS in one day!

Small, Low Creek

Earlier in the summer Jane and I completed an out an back hike along Pine Creek, and I was intrigued enough by the small high country stream to plan a future fishing visit. With South Boulder Creek’s flows disrupted by the water managers, I decided to give Pine Creek a try. I arrived at the trailhead by 11:15AM and quickly jumped into my wet wading attire and assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod. The air temperature was 68 degrees at the trailhead with nary a cloud in the sky, although a persistent haze from wildfires permeated the atmosphere. I hiked along the trail for 1.3 miles, at which point I cut in a northwestern direction, until I intersected with the small creek.

Encouraging

I began my quest for backcountry trout with a peacock dubbed hippie stomper, and the small attractor remained on my line for the duration of my time on the creek. In the early going it attracted a couple refusals, although attractive trout lies were a scarce commodity. I persisted and eventually landed a pair of nine inch brown trout from a nice run above a jumble of sticks and branches that stretched across the stream. I expected the stream to hold small brook trout, so encountering brown trout was a welcome introduction.

Surprised Early by A Brown Trout

Another lull followed the brown trout successes, so I added an ultra zug bug on a 1.5 foot dropper, and the move improved the catch rate somewhat, as the fish count mounted to eleven by 2:30. For the last hour I swapped the ultra zug bug for a salvation nymph, and the hippie stomper/salvation combination enabled me to increment the count to seventeen, before I quit at 3:30PM. Approximately ten of the landed fish on the day attacked the peacock stomper, and the remainder nabbed either the ultra zug bug or salvation nymph.

A Brook Trout Hot Spot

So Bright

Beast for This Small Creek

During my 3.5 hours of fishing I landed seven brown trout and ten brook trout. From a size perspective the brown trout were the larger fish, and I even netted a thirteen incher that put up quite a fight in the close quarters of the small stream. A pair of ten to eleven inch browns were also welcome surprises from the the high country habitat. Although the brook trout were routinely smaller fish in the six to nine inch range, they made up for their lack of size with vibrant colors. Several sported bright orange bellies that contrasted with luminescent gray-blue upper bodies, that were sprinkled with bright spots.

Big Jaw and Unique Spots

While one might think that these backcountry trout were easy marks, that would be a bad assumption. The low clear water along with a vast array of streamside obstacles made connecting with these small fish an interesting challenge. I scattered decent fish from several prime holes with clumsy approaches, sloppy casting, and snagged branches or sticks. I also experienced quite a few long distance releases, and four or five of these were almost certainly trout that exceeded my six inch minimum to qualify for adding to the fish count.

Another Respectable Brown

Deep Run

Wednesday was a fun day, and I attribute much of my satisfaction to exploring new water and the allure of discovering what species were present. The weather was perfect for wet wading, and the surrounding scenery was spectacular. Will I return to Pine Creek? Perhaps, although I rank several other high country destinations ahead of this one, so I am doubtful another visit is in my future for 2021.

Fish Landed: 17