North Fork of St. Vrain River – 07/03/2013

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: First road crossing to outlet pipe

Fish Landed: 38

North Fork of St. Vrain River 07/03/2013 Photo Album

After an inspiring day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain on Saturday, June 29, I was itching to return and Wednesday July third felt like the right day. I departed from my house by 8AM and made the drive to the gate just west of Lyons, CO. By the time I put on my waders and rigged my rod and hiked up the dirt road it was around 10AM. Would I be able to repeat my success from five days ago?

It was a bright warm day and not as ideal for fishing as the previous Saturday. Even though the DWS site indicated flows dropped marginally from 93 to 91 out of Buttonrock Dam, it was obvious that the stream level was down as more streamside boulders were exposed and there were more slack water pockets that could be fished. I decided to begin fishing at the first road crossing of the North Fork and ended up fishing to just beyond my beginning point on Saturday at the lower outflow pipe from the lake.

I began with a Chernobyl ant and a salvation nymph as the Chernobyl served me well on my previous visit, and I was curious to see if the salvation nymph would produce as a general attractor nymph. The salvation did yield a couple small browns, but I was off to a slow start near the road probably due to more pressure and the close proximity to easy access. As I moved upstream away from the worn path from the road; however, small browns began hammering the Chernobyl ant. After a half hour, the salvation nymph wasn’t producing so I switched to a beadhead hares ear nymph. By 11:40 I had landed 16 brown trout with maybe two on the hares ear, two on the salvation nymph, and the remainder on the Chernobyl ant. At this point I decided to stop for lunch on a nice large rock overlooking the stream.

Large Brown by St. Vrain Standards

Large Brown by St. Vrain Standards

After lunch the catch rate held strong, but once I reached around 23 landed, I began seeing a lot of refusals to the Chernobyl so I tested a light gray caddis and then a dark olive caddis, but these didn’t seem to interest the fish. Next I switched to a yellow Letort hopper and a beadhead pheasant tail, as I was hoping the yellow Letort hopper might imitate golden stoneflies and that the pheasant tail would pass for the nymph stage of PMD’s. This combination did in fact produce some results as I landed roughly 10 additional fish with a couple rising to the hopper, but all the others snatching the pheasant tail as it drifted along below the surface.

Eventually I removed the hopper and returned to the Chernobyl ant and continued catching fish on the nymph; however, at some point I snapped off the pheasant tail and with only one remaining in my frontpack, I returned to the salvation nymph. This produced rather well, and I landed the remaining fish on an even split between the Chernobyl and salvation nymph.

Pretty Typical Churning Whitewater in Main Channel

Pretty Typical Churning Whitewater in Main Channel

Wednesday ended up being a fun day in beautiful early summer conditions, and I actually landed more fish than Saturday; however, the average size of the fish was inferior to my previous visit and it seemed like there were more refusals. On Saturday in the upper water the fish were smashing the Chernobyl with reckless abandon, and I never was tempted to switch flies. This was not the case on Wednesday, but still it was very enjoyable and impressed me with the density of fish on the North Fork of the St. Vrain below Buttonrock Dam.

6 thoughts on “North Fork of St. Vrain River – 07/03/2013

  1. Great Blog! Found your site while searching for more details on some of the rivers I regularly fish here in Colorado. As a relative new comer to fly fishing (3 years) it’s great to read your approach and thought process on fishing some of these streams.

    Funny story, I read your blog entry on the St Vrain (at button rock) the other day since I was planning to make a quick trip there (I live in Boulder). I saw that you had a lot of success with the Chernobyl ant, a pattern I have never tried or tied, and thought I would tie a couple to give them a shot. When I looked around the internet for tying instructions I found directions but they seemed more complicated and had more steps then the ones you tie. I followed the directions anyways and tied a couple.

    Towards the end of my day fishing I started trying those chernobyl ants and was not having any success. They worked great as an indicator for my nymph but I was not getting much action on the ant itself. At one point I went to do a back cast to target a nice looking pool and my rig got stuck in the tree’s behind me. As I started to work the rig out of the tree branch I noticed it looked like I had an extra fly tangled in with mine. When I finally retrieved both flies I noticed the other fly was actually another Chernobyl Ant. However this one looked exactly like the ones on your site and I am guessing it may be one you lost! I noticed a big difference between this new ant and the ones I tied, namely the profile was much slimmer than the ones I had tied. I decided to tie it on to my rig and give it a try and sure enough on the second cast after putting it on I had a fish. I was near the end of my fishing day but I did manage to catch a few more on it. Looks like I will have to take another shot at trying to tie them and this time I will use your fly as the model.

    • Justin,
      Wow it’s gratifying to hear that someone else besides me and my family actually reads my blog! It’s probably pretty boring to most people.

      Even more amazing is the fact that you may have found one of my flies. I think there is a posting on my blog with a photo of one of my Chernobyl ants. The differentiator on mine is that I wind a peacock metallic chenille around the body between the rear and front tie down points. The patterns I’ve seen on YouTube don’t do this. I learned this from a guide I had on the Green River below Flaming Gorge and I really think that iridescent peacock is similar to the underside of a lot of beetles I’ve observed.

      I also tie them narrow because it takes longer before the body starts to spin around the hook. I’m actually going to try putting zap a gap on the tie down points when I make my next batch.

      So did the fly you found have the peacock chenille on the underside?


      • Yes it does have the peacock chenille which was another big difference from the ones I tied. I used peacock ice dubbing but the chenille seems to stand out more and I think it will probably hold up better to use as well.

        • Yep that sounds like one of mine. What an amazing coincidence. What are the chances that you read my blog, and then what are the chances that within a .5 mile stretch of a stream with thousands of trees and vegetation on both sides, that you would hang up in the very same place I did, and then find my fly? You must be taller than me, because I usually try to retrieve unless I can’t reach the fly.

          Let me know if you need any tying tips, but if you have mine as a model, you should do fine.

          So what date were you on the St. Vrain and how was the fishing overall beyond the ones you caught on my Chernobyl? I’ve thought about returning in the next week or two so a recent report would be valuable.


          • I was fishing with a 13 foot Japanese style Tenkara rod that day which was why I was able to retrieve the fly. It was high up in branch but still within reach of the rod and I managed to snag some of the line to bring them both down.

            I fished on the St Vrain last Thursday (which is when I found the fly) and also on July 8th. Fishing was a bit tougher last Thursday but that was due mostly to the the weather. It was in the 90’s with no clouds, hardly ideal fishing weather. Still I managed to catch a decent amount for the conditions. I was using a dry dropper with a clown shoe caddis for my top fly and beaded hares ear nymph for the dropper most of the day. Most of the takes were on the dropper with a few on the dry. On the 8th there was some cloud cover and conditions were much better. That day I caught close to 30 fish in one hour all on a fur ant I was floating on the surface.

            I might head back there this week to give it another shot. I was originally planning on going to RMNP instead but the reports I have been hearing on conditions there so far are pretty mediocre.

          • I can vouch for RMNP being slow as I went there with the expectation of catching a bunch of small greenbacks on Saturday in Roaring River. I caught one in two hours and hardly spotted any. This is highly unusual for me on that stream. I then went down to the Big T below Moraine Park and landed 3 small fish. There are better options right now I think.

            30 on a fur ant is impressive! I may have to go to that. They are hard to see so I tend to not use them as a prospecting fly. Do you fish exclusively tenkara?

            I’m heading to the Colorado at Parshall tomorrow. I don’t know what to expect. The last two years have been very disappointing there. Two years before that it was probably my favorite stretch of water.

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