North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 03/30/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 03/30/2018

Steve and I returned from our wonderful trip to Wyoming on Thursday, March 22, and the weather returned to typical variable conditions with cool temperatures, a couple small snow accumulations in Denver, and high winds. I was quite anxious to get out on a stream before my scheduled skin procedure on Friday March 30. Jane and I skied on Tuesday, and the highs on Wednesday and Thursday barely reached fifty degrees. This translated to much lower temperatures at higher elevations, where I was likely to fish.

On Thursday I received a surprise call from the dermatology office, and my appointment was rescheduled for April 20. This provided me with a two week reprieve, and Friday now became an option for a day of fishing. The high in Denver was projected to peak in the low sixties, and I chose another trip to the North Fork of the St. Vrain. The forecast high in nearby Lyons was expected to top out at sixty-one, and I concluded that the small tailwater would be a better bet than other freestone options given the possibility of low elevation snow melt from the recent storms.

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Pool at Starting Point

I took my time preparing on Friday morning, and I arrived at the parking lot below the gate by 10:45. I hustled to apply sunscreen, pull on my waders, and assembled my Orvis Access four weight; and this enabled me to hit the dirt road by 11AM. A thirty minute hike delivered me to a nice section of the stream, and I scrambled over some rocks and entered the creek. I began my quest for small North Fork brown trout with a size 8 fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. These flies produced quite well on my previous visit to the St. Vrain.

Twenty minutes elapsed before I finally detected a pause in the fat Albert, but I reacted and landed a small brown trout to register my first fish of the day. I continued my progression upstream for another forty-five minutes, until I reached a long deep slow moving pool, and here I paused to eat my lunch behind a large streamside boulder that offered protection from the gusting wind.

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Rising Fish in This Long Pool

Fortunately after lunch the catch rate elevated, and I finished the day with seventeen on the fish counter. The wind remained a nuisance throughout the afternoon, and large gray clouds prevented the air temperature from rising to the sixty degree range. In fact, I wore a fleece and light down coat during my entire day, and I was quite  comfortable.

Three of the first five brown trout favored the beadhead hares ear, and two snatched the salvation, but then I somehow snapped off the salvation on a rock or stick. I replaced it with a size 20 soft hackle emerger, since a small gray stonefly landed on my hand, and the soft hackle emerger proved to be a favorable imitation in previous years. I was also covering my bases in case a blue winged olive emergence evolved.

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This Guy Liked My Hand

The soft hackle emerger yielded three trout, but then my catch rate slid below my expectations, so I swapped the small fluoro fiber BWO imitation for an ultra zug bug. This fly produced one eater, and then I slipped into another lull. Finally I approached another slow moving deep pool, and small sipping rises were visible in the tail area. I reluctantly removed my dry/dropper configuration and knotted a size 22 CDC BWO to my line. The wind continued to blast down the canyon, and the tiny fluff of CDC was not a fit for casting into the gusts. After ten unsuccessful casts I moved up along the bank a bit and shot a cast across, thus causing a cross wind to blow the fly near my target area. The adjustment worked, when a small brown sucked down the minute olive. It was my first landed trout on a dry fly in North America during 2018.

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Having Fun

I continued with the CDC BWO olive a bit longer, but the fierce wind compromised my accuracy, and I reached the head of the pool, so I reverted to the dry/dropper. I assumed that the fish were responding to blue winged olives, even though I never saw a natural, so I combined an RS2 with the hares ear nymph. The move rewarded me with five additional trout, and three grabbed the RS2, as I lifted at the end of a drift. The other two snatched the beadhead hares ear.

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Quality Spot

This action coincided with fairly rapid progress through some nice quality water, but eventually I broke off the RS2 on a submerged stick. I covered some juicy spots without results just prior to losing the fly, so I used the separation as an excuse to return to the salvation nymph. The salvation was on fire during the afternoon on March 15, 2018, and I hoped to recapture the magic. To some extent the ploy worked, as I landed two more trout during my remaining time.

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Keeping Wet

By 4:30 I was quite chilled, and the wind continued to attack everything in its path, so I hooked my flies to the rod guide and scrambled up the steep bank to the road. Forty-five minutes later I was in the parking lot, and shortly thereafter I was munching on sourdough specials and sipping a Red Bull.

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Ears on Alert

Friday was a fun, although challenging, day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain. The fish were small, with the largest perhaps extending to eleven inches. I cycled through an array of flies, and I experienced some success with each. I suspect the trout were hungry, and Friday was more about placing casts in prime areas, and this required patience and persistence given the persistent air movement. Blue winged olives made an appearance, and that event encouraged me to schedule more fishing outings over the next two weeks.

Fish Landed: 17

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