North Fork of the St. Vrain River – 05/01/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of the St. Vrain River 05/01/2017 Photo Album

The forecast of variable weather for Monday, May 1 convinced me that I needed to avoid the streams and catch up on other chores, while I awaited a warming trend on Thursday. As I watched a show on Sunday evening, I was surprised to receive a text message from my new fishing pal Doran. Doran inquired regarding my plans for fishing on Monday. This prompted me to check the weather and the flows on the local front range streams. A late spring snowstorm on Friday and Saturday caused me to be concerned over the impact of low level snow melt particularly in the foothills.

Much to my amazement the DWR graph for Bear Creek at Morrison showed a minor spike on Saturday, and then flows returned to 25 CFS. In addition the high temperature in Morrison was forecast to reach 62 degrees. Next I checked the North Fork of the St. Vrain and the Big Thompson. Both registered nearly ideal flows in the 50-55 range, and the trend was steady for the last five days. The high temperature for Estes Park, unfortunately was expected to reach only 45 degrees, but Lyons projected a high of 60. I texted back to Doran and informed him that I was interested in fishing Bear Creek or the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and after several additional exchanges, we settled on Bear Creek. I felt more confident about Bear Creek, since we visited the same stream a week prior.

Before I could finish gathering my fishing essentials for the morning; however, Doran delivered the news that he received an email reminder of a doctor’s appointment on Monday morning at 10:30. We could not concoct a plan to work around this obstacle to our fishing trip, so we reluctantly agreed to check in again in the future. I made a lunch and gathered most of my fishing gear before Doran canceled, so I decided to forge ahead with a day of fishing on my own.


Yummy Deep Run

On Monday morning I rechecked the flows on the St. Vrain, and they remained steady at 52 CFS, so I elected to make the trip to that destination. I viewed it as a scouting expedition to assess conditions for a possible future joint trip with Doran. I departed Denver by 10AM, and this enabled me to reach the parking lot below Buttonrock by 11:15, and after gearing up and assembling my Orvis Access four weight I was on the gravel road by 11:30. The temperature was in the mid fifties, and the sky was mostly clear with some large puffy white clouds, and the one concern was intermittent wind. After recent days on the South Platte River and Arkansas River battling ridiculous wind, this caused me some misgivings, but I trusted the accuracy of the weather reports and began my walk.

After a twenty minute hike at a brisk pace I reached a point where the creek passed under the road, and I chose this as my starting point. The stream was in a Goldilocks state, not too high and not too low, and clarity was excellent with just a small tinge of color. I moved to the south edge of the creek and tied a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear and a salvation nymph. This was my first experience with a salvation nymph in 2017, and I wanted to test the effectiveness of the flashy subsurface offering.

I fished for forty-five minutes and managed to land one small brown trout that snatched the hares ear, but I was frustrated by several refusals to the fat Albert as well as three or four temporary connections. In a short amount of time I was faced with six opportunities and converted only one. I took solace in the fact that my flies were drawing considerable attention.


Happy to Be in Colorado

By 12:45 I could sense the hunger building in my stomach, so I sat down on a large rock and chowed down on my usual sandwich, yogurt cup and carrots. The setting was spectacular with a large vertical rock wall bordering the southern side of the creek just above me. After lunch I pulled my raincoat over my light down coat as a windbreak and continued my upstream progression. The salvation nymph was not producing, so I decided to exchange it for a RS2 in case baetis were active. The fat Albert continued to generate refusals, and this was distracting the fish from the subsurface offerings, so I decided to adjust my approach.


Glistening Brown Trout

I removed the dry/dropper arrangement and tied a solo yellow size 14 stimulator to my line. I prospected some very attractive locations with this fly, but it was totally ignored. Maybe a smaller terrestrial was the answer. I clipped off the stimulator and replaced it with a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. I might as well have been fishing with a pine cone. Again the fish informed me that they were not interested. I considered going deep with a strike indicator and split shot, but most of the water type was not appropriate for this approach. I finally decided to revert to the dry/dropper, but to utilize a different top fly. For this job I selected a size 8 Chernobyl ant, and below it I knotted the workhorse beadhead hares ear nymph and an emerald caddis pupa. Before I made this switch, the fish count rested on four; however, all the fish landed were small brown trout in the six to seven inch range.


Surprise Rainbow Mauled a Chernobyl Ant

The Chernobyl dry/dropper combination seemed to improve my fortunes. Over the remaining two hours I incremented the fish count from four to thirteen, and the mid afternoon catch included a couple trout that stretched the tape measure to eleven inches. Number ten was an eleven inch rainbow trout, and two aggressive stream residents pounced on the huge Chernobyl ant. The emerald caddis also accounted for two fish, and the remainder were attracted to the reliable hares ear nymph.


Hares Ear Produced

The sky clouded up during the last hour, but I never saw any evidence of a baetis hatch. The thick cloud cover dropped the air temperature, and by 4PM I reached the point where the road split, so I reeled up my flies and hooked them to the rod guide. A thirty minute hike returned me to the parking lot, and I quickly removed my waders and prepared for the return drive. The fish were small, but I enjoyed a fun afternoon on the North Fork of the St. Vrain in nearly ideal water conditions and tolerable weather. I did not plan to fish on Monday, so I viewed the day as bonus fishing in 2017.

Fish Landed: 13


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