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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-2JAV_3ewGRE/VylwyHiqq9I/AAAAAAAA9ak/LNdn-3-0-bI8ZacsthfVeg6yrTZBenp7gCHM/s144-o/P5030001.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6280675152306258081?locked=true#6280675161665088466″ caption=”Clear Creek Fairly Clear” type=”image” alt=”P5030001.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-fZ5yh_yH2SE/VylwyH7rBeI/AAAAAAAA9ao/-4ttCadCFtYVWW6hT0_LTEA6qyNmGl_4gCHM/s144-o/P5030002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6280675152306258081?locked=true#6280675161769969122″ caption=”An Early Success” type=”image” alt=”P5030002.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-YG9BWWnXUjY/VylwzHdKFFI/AAAAAAAA9a4/B6Exonh63_EHfNfX9D-YCuQT3ljCOcY3QCHM/s144-o/P5030007.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6280675152306258081?locked=true#6280675178821850194″ caption=”Bright Spots on This One” type=”image” alt=”P5030007.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-KeeDNCyUBh4/VylwyxMydwI/AAAAAAAA9bI/k2xCCWItrCIds2u-8ohKnHnZgJ3wxusxACHM/s144-o/P5030006.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/6280675152306258081?locked=true#6280675172847613698″ caption=”Edge Water Like This Produced” type=”image” alt=”P5030006.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

 

Roswell, NM – 03/20/2015

While the kids attended Rock Ridge Elementary School, they were on a year round class schedule, and this gave us the opportunity to take vacations during off seasons. Jane and I often discussed a trip to Big Bend National Park during the February or November break, but for various reasons, we never made it happen.

2015, however, would be different. We used the online reservation system to reserve a campsite from March 21- 24 and committed to make the trip. On March 20 we embarked on our long awaited journey to west Texas. We anxiously anticipated warm temperatures with typical highs in the seventies and lows in the fifties, and of course our trip coincided with a period of unseasonably warm spring weather in Denver, but we looked forward to it nonetheless.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-k6H9MSs7ycc/VRQ7sBiSXkI/AAAAAAAAx0c/3wO9LVOobBE/s144-c-o/IMG_0964.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03212015CarlsbadCaverns#6130590620270616130″ caption=”Aliens Greet Us in Roswell” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0964.JPG” ]

The first day was rather uneventful as we drove south on interstate 25 and exited the highway below Las Vegas, NM. We reserved a room at the Hampton Inn in Roswell for Friday night, and we vaguely knew that Roswell was associated with aliens. While I drove, Jane Googled Roswell on her phone and read me the history. Apparently a rancher discovered some materials north of Roswell that he assumed were remnants of a flying disc. Stories spread until the army made a press release on July 8, 1947 that the materials resulted from a weather balloon that crashed in the area. The story died until UFO enthusiasts resurrected it in the seventies and constructed goverment conspiracy theories that involved a cover up.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-ozouwIn_Awg/VRRMmgwFtsI/AAAAAAAAyHo/E3irxqrifYE/s144-c-o/P3250146.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03242015BigBendDay3#6130609217268463298″ caption=”The Aliens Welcome Us Back to Roswell on the Return Trip” type=”image” alt=”P3250146.JPG” ]

Just as Forks, WA has latched on to the Twilight saga to attract tourists, Roswell attempts to capitalize on the alien connection. As we entered the town from the north nearly every hotel had some variation of a little green alien positioned near the entrance way. This was actually the highlight of Friday and our time in Roswell. We found the Hampton Inn on the north side of town and checked into our room, and then we drove south on the main 285 strip to a restaurant where we enjoyed barbecue. Jane and I slept soundly on Friday evening and never encountered an extraterrestrial being of any sort.

Stimulators – 01/26/2015

Prior to my trip to Rio Manso Lodge in December of 2013, Taylor Edrington of Royal Gorge Angler suggested that I take some large caddis along to Patagonia. I accepted his suggestion and cranked out 15 – 20 stimulators with various body colors. I made bushy attractors in light olive, yellow, tan, gray, black and peacock. I recall only using a stimulator once or twice on the trip with no resulting hook ups, so I returned to the U.S. with a nice supply of size 14 flies available for the 2014 season.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-HPEPIgTga0w/VMHJfkdwqvI/AAAAAAAAwV4/hSyGlVLPsjk/s144-c-o/IMG_0825.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01222015Stimulators#6107384113892731634″ caption=”Zooming In” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0825.JPG” ]

Early in the summer after the run off conditions subsided, I began experimenting with my stimulators and discovered that they were quite productive. The success began on South Boulder Creek and continued on the small streams that I fished in Idaho, Rainey Creek and Bear Creek. I loved their visibility and the way they remained on the surface in fast turbulent pockets and runs. I reached the point where I would not want to be without my stimulators while fly fishing in the west.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-YP6bSucVesc/VMHJiN24B4I/AAAAAAAAwWc/nnERvMxYv6E/s144-c-o/IMG_0829.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01222015Stimulators#6107384159363663746″ caption=”Yellow Stimulator” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0829.JPG” ]

Meanwhile the zipper on my Fishpond front pack broke, and I could not completely close the one side of the inside pocket where I stored my fly boxes, tippets and leader material. I was hesitant to take the front pack out of service during the season as this would have involved transferring all my gadgets to an old-time vest, so I attempted to make do with a partially closed pocket. This proved to be a mistake.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-kWojjv8dyms/VMW_ZEWTrpI/AAAAAAAAwkQ/Ad4d1FugMQQ/s144-c-o/IMG_0838.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01252015RockyMountainArsenal#6108498906982887058″ caption=”Stimulators for 2015″ type=”image” alt=”IMG_0838.JPG” ]

On a September trip to the Frying Pan River I landed a small brown trout on a dry/dropper arrangement, and the frisky fish made numerous spins in its valiant attempts to escape my hook. These maneuvers caused one of the worst tangles I’ve ever experienced in my career of fly fishing. I eventually had to snip off the entire tippet section and begin anew, however, while making all these changes while standing in the middle of the river, I apparently squeezed my fly box out of the inside pocket and into the river.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-HLjYmAtHNTI/VMW_ZvZ6OfI/AAAAAAAAwkU/ZCxTfjdzeYI/s144-c-o/IMG_0839.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01252015RockyMountainArsenal#6108498918540720626″ caption=”Beginning to Fill the Boat Box with Stimulators, Trudes and Muggly Caddis” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0839.JPG” ]

When I realized that it was missing I searched the area frantically hoping that it became lodged on a rock or branch as it floated downstream. Alas, it was nowhere to be found. The fly box that escaped my front pack was the very same one that contained my entire supply of stimulators. Needless to say I was heartbroken over this loss.

Prior to a subsequent late season fishing trip I purchased ten replacement stimulators, and I lost a few of these, so I decided to replenish my supply last week. I now have 25-30 fresh high floating stimulators stashed in my fly bin ready and waiting for the 2015 season.

Breckenridge – 01/23/2015

I have probably skied at Breckenridge 30-50 times in my lifetime, yet I discovered yesterday that much undiscovered terrain remains. I can thank my friend Fred Young for guiding me to new high elevation adventures.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-BARZ9wVqLdI/VMPHaUmU3-I/AAAAAAAAwcc/1qg2h7G0LbY/s144-c-o/P1220001.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01242015Breckenridge#6107944774664511458″ caption=”Fred and Jane About to Launch at Peak 6″ type=”image” alt=”P1220001.JPG” ]

Jane and I felt that we were sufficiently recovered from a pair of nasty colds in early January, so we arranged to meet our friends, the Youngs and Gaiges, at Breckenridge. All of us skied together in the morning after rendezvousing at the Peak 7 base, but Douggie Young excused herself as we boarded the T-bar at Peak 7, and we eventually reunited with her at the Vista Haus for lunch.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-XIogRytMWFs/VMPHe_Cq5yI/AAAAAAAAwcs/aBHHZGOHZ0o/s144-c-o/P1230011.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01242015Breckenridge#6107944854777161506″ caption=”Whales Tail Ahead” type=”image” alt=”P1230011.JPG” ]

Fred and Douggie rent a house in Dillon, CO, and they join senior groups on set days of the week. During these gatherings, Fred tours Breckenridge and Keystone and learns about all the nooks and crannies bypassed by most skiers. After lunch the girls split from the guys, so Fred led us on a private tour of the upper reaches of Breckenridge. We seemed to bounce back and forth between the above timberline terrain available from the T-bar and the Imperial lift. It was a blast as we skied Whales Tail, Horseshoe Bowl and some chutes south of the Imperial lift that we reached without removing our skies and climbing.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-TJCNP4FhEEU/VMPHdJcXYYI/AAAAAAAAwYA/bV3mQ7qxyfA/s144-c-o/P1220007.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01242015Breckenridge#6107944823209550210″ caption=”Horseshoe Bowl from the Precipice” type=”image” alt=”P1220007.JPG” ]

We’ve already made plans to rejoin at Vail next Thursday, January 29. I can’t wait.

Pool Toy – 01/17/2015

I’ve written several posts on the pool toy hopper imitation, and you can read them at Grillos Pool Toy and Pool Toy 02/14/2014. I’ll avoid being redundant by resuming my commentary where I ended on my post from 2014.

I made another four last winter to put my supply at around fifteen, and I carried three or four along with me on my trip to Argentina, but they never got wet. During the spring, summer and fall season I did indeed cast a pool toy as a top fly in a dry/dropper configuration more frequently than in the previous year. This resulted in a few more success stories, however, I still feel that a Letort hopper or parachute hopper would out fish a pool toy if used a comparable amount of time.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-Y4ziftoXQcw/VLNLWu9R3WI/AAAAAAAAwJU/pxiwdW5dSks/s144-c-o/IMG_0795.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01112015PoolToy#6103304773951413602″ caption=”Top View” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0795.JPG” ]

The pool toy does offer great buoyancy and visibility, thus, it spends more time on my line admittedly as a sophisticated indicator. Because of its ability to remain afloat while a size 14 beadhead nymph is suspended two feet below, the pool toy was used fairly frequently. This resulted in the loss of quite a few flies mainly in situations where a fish grabbed the nymph, and in its valiant efforts to escape broke off both flies.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-Hjmny6a-90I/VLNLcPVLpqI/AAAAAAAAwKk/EFKItKgBphg/s144-c-o/IMG_0805.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01112015PoolToy#6103304868540950178″ caption=”Yellow Underside” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0805.JPG” ]

By the end of August my supply of pool toys dwindled to the point that I began opting for a tan Charlie Boy hopper to preserve my few pool toys for September. Guess what happened? I rediscovered the tan Charlie Boy and experienced some hot hopper fishing in September and October on this forgotten fly that was exiled to the end of my fly bin. Days on the Arkansas River and Yampa tailwater stand out as two examples where the tan Charlie Boy yielded numerous good sized fish. In fact, the tan foam bodies became so mangled that I had to replace them.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-8twqDcjNHUk/VLNLXggrcPI/AAAAAAAAwJk/9K47SVfMZB0/s144-c-o/IMG_0797.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/01112015PoolToy#6103304787253227762″ caption=”Zoomed in on Pool Toys” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0797.JPG” ]

The pool toy was effective enough to merit a decent supply for another season, so I tied thirteen over the last couple of weeks including eight tan, two gray and three yellow. I have approximately 15-20 in inventory, and I’m anxious to continue experimenting with the pool toy in 2015.

2014 Season

I never succeeded in documenting my top ten fishing outings in 2013, but after significant time spent reading my 2014 posts, I’m prepared to suggest a new top ten. It is always fun to review my fishing adventures while avoiding the cold snowy weather currently gripping Colorado.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/–VK–KAmlaU/VBZaUp7Wn7I/AAAAAAAAnPg/M_8XxUXPdbI/s144-c-o/P9100005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09102014FryingPanRiver#6059129659572264882″ caption=”Nice Photo of Green Drake on My Net” type=”image” alt=”P9100005.JPG” ]

Here are the top ten of 2014 in reverse order:

10. Lake Crescent 08/11/14 – My first trout ever in the state of Washington was a thirteen inch crescenti cutthroat, a species unique to Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. I did not catch many fish, but the unique species and the spectacular setting put this in the top ten.

9. Camp Creek 06/05/14 – I landed eighteen small brown trout from this small spring creek in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. It is always fun to experience success in new water, and this small meadow stream reminded me of many streams in my home state of Pennsylvania.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-Mrz0ZCZMTWQ/U_EvBgRsYjI/AAAAAAAAmZ4/l98AkLz8Dnk/s144-c-o/P8110078.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/08112014OlympicNationalParkDay3#6048667477425807922″ caption=”View Along the South Shore of Lake Crescent” type=”image” alt=”P8110078.JPG” ]

8. Eagle River 07/17/14 – Despite a tent catastrophe the night before, I persisted to join Todd Grubin for a great day on the Eagle River. I began with some nice action at the rest area, and then Todd escorted me to fish private Arrowhead water farther upstream. Strong numbers and size put this day in the top ten.

7. North Platte River 03/25/14 – 31 rainbow trout averaging 14-15 inches on 2X tippet. The Grey Reef section of the North Platte continues to be an amazing fishery.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-pRef2lm0-ZM/UzObZwb1R6I/AAAAAAAAjO0/s1mz-y5Ylf4/s144-c-o/P3250083.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/03252014NorthPlatteRiver#5995306395760936866″ caption=”Another Shot to Be Certain” type=”image” alt=”P3250083.JPG” ]

6. South Platte River 08/22/14 – A rare day devoted to fishing with my son in a gorgeous remote setting is hard to beat. Landing a bunch of fish makes it even more fun.

5. South Fork of the White River 09/18/14 – This was my best day ever on the South Fork of the White River as I was rewarded for hiking over two miles. The action was slow until late afternoon, but once it heated up, I had a blast.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-EWjucUkEiU8/VB-hZN9TsfI/AAAAAAAAni4/4e4fwA3KrWk/s144-c-o/P9180045.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09182014SFOfWhiteRiver#6061741078079582706″ caption=”Crystal Clear” type=”image” alt=”P9180045.JPG” ]

4. North Fork of the White River 09/16/14 – This was my best day of the year in terms of numbers, and amazingly I could have landed 70 had I not experienced so many long distance releases. This all took place after a four hour drive to the Flattops from Denver; a fabulous half day of fishing.

3. Bear Creek, ID 07/28/14 – New water in a spectacular remote setting yielded 20+ wild cutthroat trout including several in the fifteen inch range. It was just superb!

[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-t-357cLURw8/U9hoNB-xEWI/AAAAAAAAmEo/JNetcvDkrfA/s144-c-o/P7270065.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/072914SwanValley#6041693473196806498″ caption=”An Even Nicer Fish Landed in the Late Morning” type=”image” alt=”P7270065.JPG” ]

2. Arkansas River 09/05/14 – How could the tried and true Arkansas River deliver the second best fishing outing of 2014? Simply by delivering thirty-four fish to my net with plenty of them in the 14-16 inch range. A bonus was discovering that the Charlie Boy hopper was productive in the afternoon. It was perhaps my best day ever on the Arkansas River, and that says a lot.

1. Frying Pan River 09/11/14 – Another oft visited river produced my best day of 2014. I landed twenty-nine trout with at least a third in the 14-18 inch range. The Frying Pan River is typically my dry fly refuge, but I accomplished the best day of 2014 with no significant hatch. It was dry/dropper prospecting at its best.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-WOwLn6ac0bw/VBZcmV9mB1I/AAAAAAAAnRg/SI3WbAxVgiQ/s144-c-o/P9100022.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/09112014FryingPanRiver#6059132162473854802″ caption=”Beautiful Frying Pan Rainbow” type=”image” alt=”P9100022.JPG” ]

Ultra Zug Bug – 12/07/2014

My history with this fly goes back to the Scott Sanchez fly tying book I purchased at the Fly Fishing Show several years ago. In 2012 I was flipping through the book looking for new ideas, and I encountered Scott’s recipe and instructions for ultra zugs and decided to give it a try. I tied a few ultra zug bugs, and at the time I viewed them as simple replacements for a prince nymph. I dislike mounting the white goose biots as wings on the prince nymph, so the simplicity of the ultra zug appealed to me.

Until this year I rarely fished a prince nymph, and thus an ultra zug, except for the April and early May time frame when I’ve had decent success with the peacock bodied subsurface flies during the caddis hatches that occur frequently on Colorado streams. My theory is that the dark peacock body is a reasonable imitation of egg laying female caddis flies. Unfortunately the spring of 2014 featured abnormally high and cold conditions, and I did not fish during the heavy presence of caddis as I was accustomed to in previous years. For this reason my ultra zug bugs remained dormant in my fly box for most of the summer.

During my trip to the Flattops Wilderness in September after hiking two miles into the backcountry to fish the South Fork of the White River, I came to the realization that I was running out of my salvation nymphs. The salvation had advanced from an experimental fly to the new number one workhorse fly in my arsenal. With another month of prime fishing remaining in the 2014 season, I did not want to deplete my salvation supply, so I rummaged through my zippered fleece pouch and spotted several ultra zugs.These flies had an abundance of flash, a scraggly look, and the peacock color that trout relish. Could these be a replacement for the salvation for the remainder of the day?

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-yukdity8o30/VIMmst2hoWI/AAAAAAAAtos/qizOyDNNLC0/s144-c-o/PC050005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/12052014UltraZugBug#6089753670799434082″ caption=”15 Ultra Zug Bugs with Better Light Setting” type=”image” alt=”PC050005.JPG” ]

I tied one on my line, and it instantly became the hot fly. I always avoid tying flies during fishing season, so I continued opting for the ultra zug over the salvation for the remainder of the season, and guess what I discovered? The ultra zug yielded fish on par with the hares ear and possibly matched the salvation nymph in productivity. Was this a fall phenomenon, or is the ultra zug an all season attractor similar to the hares ear and salvation?

In order to answer this question, I decided to tie another thirty this winter so that I have fifty as I enter the 2015 fishing season. Quantity will not be a deterrent to tying an ultra zug to my line, and I intend to test it throughout the season and not limit it to early and late season situations.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-jEddud3t4m4/VIMmtZoI1iI/AAAAAAAAto0/Sn5BGfxg6dg/s144-c-o/PC050006.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/12052014UltraZugBug#6089753682550248994″ caption=”Ingredients for Ultra Zug Bug” type=”image” alt=”PC050006.JPG” ]

The beauty of the ultra zug is its simplicity. Excluding the hook, bead and thread only three materials are required to construct this fish catching machine. I start with a brown tail made from pheasant feather fibers, and then I tie in a strand of crystal hair. Next I dub a tapered body of synthetic peacock, and then I rib the body with the crystal hair. Finally I spin small clumps of the peacock dubbing around the body just behind the bead, and then I whip finish. I can crank out two of these flies for every single hares ear or salvation nymph. The synthetic peacock dubbing creates quite a bit of sparkle and the crystal hair augments the flash even more than fine wire. Once I whip finish the fly, I pinch the dubbed collar with my right hand, and then I pull the excess fibers with my left and tear them away. This shrinks the dubbed hackle to the proper length and also strokes the fibers into a nice sheath around the body of the fly.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/-8_B4YlprP_M/VIMmuEQVgQI/AAAAAAAAtpE/yHoZqOK4A5I/s144-c-o/PC060008.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/12052014UltraZugBug#6089753693993140482″ caption=”Ultra Zug Bug” type=”image” alt=”PC060008.JPG” ]

I’m excited to give the ultra zug more time on my line. It is a great looking simple fly, and I’m betting the fish will give it a thumbs up.

Salvation Nymph – 11/15/2014

Salvation Nymph 11/15/2014 Photo Album

You can read my previous posts that chronicle how I was introduced to this fly. Suffice it to say, the salvation nymph has risen from a purchase at the fly shop along the Conejos River to the status of my most productive nymph in 2014. The shiny attractor nymph is typically the first nymph that I attach to my line when I approach a stream.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-WmUY1jWhDJE/VGeuiYAV29I/AAAAAAAArYs/XkNLMfD5wVQ/s144-c-o/PB130002.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11152014SalvationNymph#6082021727369812946″ caption=”Nice Sideview” type=”image” alt=”PB130002.JPG” ]

During 2013 I experienced some stellar days while tossing the salvation nymph in Colorado streams so I entered the year with 35 in inventory. Unfortunately this quantity did not meet my needs, and I nearly depleted my entire supply. In the last couple months of the season I began to substitute the ultra zug bug, another fly with an abundance of flash, but that is a future story. I found the salvation nymph to be particularly effective during the time periods when there were pale morning dun mayflies available to the trout. An outing on the Eagle River in early July stands out in my memory. For an hour in the early afternoon I spotted an occasional PMD mayfly in the air, but the fish ignored surface flies and aggressively chased my salvation nymph.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-Sj7IRJa0_WQ/VGeujBtU-qI/AAAAAAAArY4/LWC6Xo3-4eo/s144-c-o/PB130004.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11152014SalvationNymph#6082021738564352674″ caption=”Very Nice Top View” type=”image” alt=”PB130004.JPG” ]

I spotted one fish next to a submerged boulder, and as my nymph began to lift above the visible target, it aggressively moved a foot to inhale the artificial offering. I recall similar days on the White River in September and the Frying Pan River in late June. This nymph is not just a match the hatch phenomenon, however, as it produced many fish when used as a general attractor during time periods when pale morning duns were not a factor.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-iSbxE_sWHZw/VGeujyDMVdI/AAAAAAAArZE/tN_0oQps5Ig/s144-c-o/PB130005.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/108128655430094950653/11152014SalvationNymph#6082021751540962770″ caption=”Ten Completed Salvation Nymphs” type=”image” alt=”PB130005.JPG” ]

Since I nearly ran out of salvation nymphs in 2014, I plan to begin 2015 with 50 brand new shiny prototypes in my fly fishing arsenal. For this reason I kicked off my production tying season by making salvation nymphs, and I’ve already completed twenty-one. I have supreme confidence in this fly. I’m also considering experimenting with some variations that will use different colors for the abdomen. A brown, amber or rust color is high on my list of experimental variations, as this color is an even closer imitation of  pale morning dun and sulfur nymphs. Stay tuned for more on the evolution of the salvation nymph.

Yampa River – 10/08/2014

Time: 3:30PM – 5:30PM

Location: Tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir

Fish Landed: 5

Having finally connected with Steve at our parking place along Bear River, we both agreed that we had sampled enough of Bear River to satisfy our collective curiosity, and we were anxious to move on. Steve told me on the drive to Steamboat Springs on Tuesday that the tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir had changed dramatically since the stream improvement work was completed in 2013. He suggested that we stop at that magnificent fishery on our return from Bear River so that I could judge it for myself. Steve commented that the stream improvement work straightened the stream and removed rocks and current breaks. I was led to believe that the opposite is true of stream improvement; rocks and structure are typically added to straight and shallow featureless water. I was very curious to understand what Steve meant by these observations.

Only two or three other cars populated the normally crowded lot near the Yampa River tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir, and the fishermen that were present appeared to be crowding into the upper unimproved stretch of water. Steve and I remained in our waders and our rods remained strung from our Bear River expedition, so we were on the water in a short amount of time. As we negotiated the well worn trail to the lower portion of the public water, Steve realized that he forgot to remove his phone from his shirt pocket, and not wishing to risk water damage, he returned to the car. This allowed me to access the water first, and I began fishing just below the only large bend in the upper catch and release section.

Steve Sneaks Up on Pool

Steve Sneaks Up on Pool

The state park and department of wildlife personnel went to great pains to re-vegetate the land bordering the river by hammering unattractive metal posts into the bank and then stretching metal fence wire in between. The fence was so close that it leaned over the stream a foot or two in many places. There were well marked chutes between the fenced areas to allow fishing access. It reminded me of the crowd control mazes that exist at amusement parks and ski lift lines.

Yampa Tailwater Rainbow

Yampa Tailwater Rainbow

The portion of the stream where I began was representative of the stream improvement area. It appeared to be a deep trough, and the main current began at the center and then angled to the far bank where the river curved. Once the current deflected against the bank closest to the parking lot, it ran for another thirty feet before tailing out and continuing. The mangled Charlie Boy hopper remained on my line from the end of my fishing time on Bear River, so I decided to stick with it for a bit, and the ultra zug bug dropper continued to dangle below the hopper.

The Charlie Boy hopper is an interesting story. I am in a perpetual quest to find the ideal grasshopper imitation. Earlier in my fly fishing career, my preferred hopper imitation was a yellow Letort hopper, and I enjoyed tremendous success with this fly. But as time went by, I grew more and more disillusioned with the dubbed body of the Letort hopper and yearned for an equally effective imitation that was more buoyant. The Letort hopper required frequent trips to my sleeve to sop up the absorbed water and then subsequent dunkings in my dry shake canister.

Jane bought me a fly tying book authored by Charlie Craven, and there was a chapter for the Charlie Boy hopper. Several winters ago I tied a batch of tan and yellow Charlie Boys and anxiously awaited the arrival of fishing season to test the effectiveness of this new pattern. The recipe in the book included unknotted rubber legs, but I have noticed that Charlie’s latest directions on his web site incorporate knotted rubber legs. At any rate, the Charlie Boy served the purpose of floating several medium weight nymphs without sinking, and it was very visible in various difficult lighting situations. Unfortunately it rarely produced fish.

For this reason I continued searching for alternatives, and on a guided fishing trip with Taylor Edrington, I asked him what his favorite hopper pattern was. Taylor was quick to reply “pool toy”. I greatly value Taylor’s opinions on matters that relate to fishing, so I dutifully returned to my vise the following winter and churned out 10-15 pool toys in colors ranging from yellow to tan. The next summer I began using pool toys as my number one hopper imitation, and the Charlie Boys began gathering dust in my large plastic fly bin.

During 2014 I continued using pool toys, but for various reasons including tree branches and broken off fish, my supply dwindled to the point that I was concerned I would have enough for the prime late summer hopper season. On several outings when I needed a large buoyant fly to support several nymphs, I decided to use a tan Charlie Boy since I had a bunch of them, they were visible and buoyant, and I was just using them as in indicator. Guess what happened? Fish started smashing the Charlie Boy! The Charlie Boy was staging a revival that put all of Brett Favre’s comebacks to shame. On two trips to the Arkansas River in October the brown trout craved the tan Charlie Boy as I tossed it upstream along the bank. Not only did they favor the Charlie Boy pattern, but I was catching these fish on the same fly.

Beautiful Fish Fell for Charlie Boy Hopper

Beautiful Fish Fell for Charlie Boy Hopper

By the time I tied this very same tan Charlie Boy to my line on Bear River, it exhibited numerous holes and tears from the teeth of a long line of ravenous fish. The Bear River usage served to mangle my treasured Charlie Boy even more. Now I was casting my poor workhorse hopper to the inside seam of the main current on the Yampa River. At 3:30 in the afternoon I was certain that it would only be an indicator, and despite its ragged appearance, it still floated reasonably well. Guess what happened? I’m sure with that history lesson on the Charlie Boy, you must have guessed the answer. As the Charlie Boy danced along the inside edge of the current seam and drifted back toward me, a large silvery missile with a crimson flank dashed to the surface and inhaled it. I could not believe my eyes, but somehow I reacted in an appropriate manner and set the hook in the lip of a hungry rainbow trout. The rainbow streaked up and down the slow moving water next to the faster current several times until I could apply side pressure and slide my cracked net beneath it.

I expected difficult fishing in the late afternoon using tiny midge imitations and in my first section of water, I landed a sixteen inch brightly colored rainbow trout on a large foam hopper imitation. Apparently the fishing gods were rewarding me for my patience on Bear River. I moved on and approached another section where the main current flowed down the center of the river in a deep run. This created slack water on both sides, but the area between the opposite bank and the center current featured an eddy and a small white foam patch. I flicked the Charlie Boy and ultra zug bug along the downstream edge of the eddy, and as the top fly slowly floated upstream next to the foam, it disappeared. I set the hook and felt significant weight, so I responded by battling a second sixteen inch rainbow. This tough fighter sucked in the ultra zug bug, and I was quite surprised to experience this exciting action late in the afternoon when there did not appear to be any significant source of food present.

A Second Gorgeous Rainbow from the Yampa

A Second Gorgeous Rainbow from the Yampa

Once again I moved upstream, but now my success rate fell, and I began to make numerous casts without any response. I decided to add a third fly to hopefully attract more attention and spied a gray scud in my fleece patch that I purchased in Viroqua, WI. The Yampa tailwater typically contains quite a bit of aquatic vegetation, and that usually suggests scuds, so I added the gray scud to my lineup. I approached another deep run in the center of the stream and ran my three flies along the seam and witnessed another dip of the Charlie Boy. Could the scud have made the difference already? I managed to land this fish, and it turned out to be a thirteen inch brown that fell for the ultra zug bug. The late afternoon time on the Yampa was proving to be icing on the cake.

I continued on, but now I was covering attractive water, and I was not generating any response so I clipped off the gray scud and replaced it with an orange version, but this also was ignored by the residents of the Yampa River. I did observe a fair amount of midge activity in the cool late afternoon air with shadows beginning to lengthen across the river, so I opted to follow the conventional wisdom and tied on a zebra midge as my bottom fly. By now I arrived in a slow deep pool and fish were sipping something sporadically on the surface. I cast the Charlie Boy one third of the distance up the pool, and as it slowly drifted back toward me, it dipped and I set the hook and discovered a small seven inch rainbow had sipped the zebra midge. It was not much of a fish, but at least I now knew that the tiny zebra midge was viewed as a viable source of food on the Yampa River in the late afternoon.

A short stretch of faster water separated the slow deep pool from another nice pool closer to the dam. The second pool was above the stream improvement area, and it exhibited many of the features that were prominent in the entire tailwater prior to stream reconstruction. There were numerous large boulders with downstream pockets, and the current split into many areas and did not just run down the center of the river. But I’m getting ahead of myself. In the faster water below the second classic pool, I landed a nine inch brown trout that followed the lead of the rainbow and grabbed the zebra midge just as it started to swing at the tail of the drift.

Stagecoach Reservoir Late in the Afternoon

Stagecoach Reservoir Late in the Afternoon

I was quite optimistic as I waded into the tail of the classic pool, but my optimism was misplaced as I covered the entire area with casts and received no response. Steve walked up from below, and his fly was in the hook keep, so we decided to call it quits. It was a pleasant day weather wise with temperatures around 60 degrees when we began on Bear River at 10:30AM, and they probably reached a high in the upper 60’s. I wore a fleece all day and never felt too warm. Landing five fish from the notoriously difficult Yampa tailwater was a pleasant surprise, and I felt rather satisfied as we drove back to Steve’s condo in Steamboat Springs.