North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 05/15/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Button Rock Dam

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 05/15/2018 Photo Album

The euphoria from three fun days of fly fishing on the Frying Pan River abated, and I felt the itch to wet a line on a Colorado stream on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. When I researched stream flows and fly shop fishing reports, I quickly discovered that my options dwindled, while I cast my flies in the relatively low clear waters of the Frying Pan tailwater. The Big Thompson River, South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek and Cache la Poudre graphs reflected varying degrees of early stage run off, and I did not wish to undertake a one hour plus drive only to encounter difficult stream conditions.

Bear Creek displayed 42 CFS, and although high, this reading represented a manageable level. All sections of the South Platte River were in play, but I decided to reserve the longer drive for later in the week, when the weather stabilized. Tuesday’s forecast predicted a fairly high probability of afternoon thunderstorms. I settled on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek as my low risk alternative. The flow data displayed 111 CFS, and the drive was one hour and fifteen minutes. In addition I had first hand knowledge as a result of the Mothers’ Day hike that Jane, Dan, Ariel, Zuni and I completed on Sunday.

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Slow Water Along the Edge Was the Place to Be

I launched my adventure at 9:40, and after donning my waders I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked up the road in the Button Rock Preserve for a considerable distance. I started my effort to fool St. Vrain trout with a size 8 Chernboyl ant, beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph. The temperature when I began my hike was 61 degrees, and it climbed gradually to a high of 69 in the canyon. I estimated that clouds blocked the sun’s rays forty to fifty percent of the time during a pleasant day. The flows were in the 113 CFS range, and my casting was relegated to all the areas that presented slower velocity and protective depth for the resident trout.

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Nice Slick Below the Rocks

I covered a fair distance in the first fifteen minutes with no success, as I gained familiarity with the stream at higher flows and developed knowledge of the most productive locations. Finally a small brown trout snatched the salvation, and shortly thereafter another somewhat larger brown followed suit. By the time I perched on a large midstream rock to consume my lunch, the fish count registered five, and all the landed trout grabbed the salvation except for one maverick that snatched the hares ear.

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Same Fish, Better Lighting

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My Lunch Spot

After lunch I continued my upstream quest for St. Vrain trout, and I boosted the tally to nine, before I reeled up my line at 3PM. The only variation in my approach was my fly offerings. I somehow snapped off the two nymphs while executing across stream casts and downstream drifts. Normally I feel the snag or grab that causes such an outcome, but in this case I stripped in my line and discovered that I was fishing with only a Chernobyl ant and dangling empty tippet. I used this interruption to modify my lineup, and I replaced the hares ear with an emerald caddis pupa and swapped the salvation for a small size 16 prince nymph. The prince delivered a small trout to my net, and then I thoroughly covered some outstanding water with no response. I sensed that the fish were less attracted to the prince than the salvation, so I returned to the source of my early success with a salvation nymph as my bottom fly.

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Best Fish of the Day Took a Salvation Nymph

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Those Orange Spots

The Chernboyl, caddis pupa, and salvation remained on my line for most of the afternoon and accounted for the last five fish that rested in my net. The emerald caddis fly fooled one trout, and the salvation generated the other four takes. During Tuesday all the landed fish were brown trout except for one outlier rainbow.

On Tuesday it was a matter of moving quickly to cover a significant amount of water. The high flows concentrated fish in places, where the current slowed, and water depth provided cover from overhead predators. Once I determined the prime trout lies, I skipped marginal spots and focused my casting on the high probability pockets and pools.

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I Liked This Scene

Ten fish in three plus hours is a reasonable catch rate, although the largest fish may have extended to eleven inches. The quality of the fish and pleasant weather more than offset the lack of size, and I thoroughly enjoyed my day on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. I was thankful for the opportunity to fish clear water within 1.5 hours of home, while other rivers raged with snow melt. Hopefully my good fortune will extend a bit longer.

Fish Landed: 10

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