Big Blue Creek – 08/23/2021

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Near Big Blue Creek Campground

Big Blue Creek 08/23/2021 Photo Album

Jane and I completed a scouting hike on the Alpine Trail in the morning, and I used my Garmin watch to clock the distance. This information was useful, as I planned my afternoon fishing venture. It was 68 degrees, when I began to fish on Monday afternoon, and this may have been the high for the day as a result of afternoon clouds, wind and breezes.

Beaver Pond at the Start

After a decent hike I angled down to the creek and arrived at a long, slow-moving beaver pond, and the telltale rings of feeding fish up and down the pool caught my attention. I quickly rigged my Orvis Access four weight with a peacock hippie stomper and a beadhead hares ear nymph on a two foot dropper. On the first cast a four inch brook trout clobbered the stomper, and as I worked my way up along the left side of the pond, I continued casting and netted three brook trout that met my criterion for counting. One crushed the hippie stomper, and two nabbed the trailing hares ear. I was pleased to discover that both flies were liked by the pond residents.

Stunning

Wading a beaver pond with its mucky bottom is always a challenge, and this one was no exception. I grew somewhat bored with the “stillwater” fish and began seeking an exit strategy. If I turned left, I needed to wade through the marshy area filled with some sort of low woody shrub that tended to grab fly rods and lines. A right side exit involved crossing the pond with its silty bottom and deep water. If I could pull it off, however, there was a shorter distance through the shrub filled marsh, before I reached the sagebrush hill and higher ground. I chose the second option, although I waded along the left bank for a ways, until I found a shallower spot to cross. Once I was on high ground, I followed the contour of the hill, until I reached a spot, where the creek nearly bordered the sagebrush.

Top of the Beaver Pond

The creek at this point met my expectations; moving water consisting of riffles, pockets, and occasional deep pools. Between 1:15PM and 3:30PM I methodically worked my way up the creek and built the fish count from three to twenty-three. Roughly 75 percent of the brook trout that I landed snatched the trailing hares ear, and 25 percent darted to the surface to slurp the hippie stomper. There was a section early on, where I was catching trout in obscure shallow runs of a foot or less in depth, and these trout were colorful nine inch brookies.

Nymph Eater

I noticed that nice pools that were easily accessed often failed to produce; whereas, marginal spots in difficult to reach stretches yielded some of my better fish. Angler pressure was clearly a factor. Tamped down grass and scuffed dirt clearings made it easy to identify the presence of man.

The Only Trout, Not a Brook Char

By 3PM the catch rate slowed, and the thread head on my hares ear began to unravel. I replaced the hares ear with a salvation nymph, and in the process of landing a brook trout, I snapped off the newly attached fly. I uttered some choice words and replaced the salvation with an ultra zug bug. The fishing gods must have been looking out for me, because the hippie stomper dipped in the next deep hole, and I connected with a larger than average and aggressive fish. I carefully played my catch around the pool and eventually netted a feisty thirteen inch rainbow trout that gulped the ultra zug bug. It was the only fish that ate the shaggy peacock dubbed imitation, and it proved to be my only fish that was not a brook trout and the largest fish of the day. Unfortunately the ultra zug bug could not resurrect its magic, and I suffered a lull, so I made a radical change and swapped the stomper for a tan pool toy hopper, and exchanged the ultra zug bug for another hares ear nymph.

Interesting Spot

The hopper attracted immediate interest in the form of bumps and refusals, but no trout came to the net. I suspect the size 8 hopper was bigger than the plentiful naturals surrounding the creek and too large for the mouths of the smaller brook trout. As a final act, I returned to the hippie stomper and paired it with a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis. The caddis fooled three very colorful brookies and brought the fish count to thirty-one. It was 4PM at this point, so I stripped in my line and hooked the caddis to the rod guide and climbed an extremely steep bank, before I intersected with the trail.

Streamlined

Monday was a blast on Big Blue Creek. I landed thirty brook trout and one rainbow trout in three hours of fishing. I prospected with mainly two flies, and I enjoyed the confident feeling that a fish would grab my offering, if I presented my flies in a natural manner to likely holding spots. That is one of my favorite mental states while fly fishing. Bring on Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 31

South Boulder Creek – 08/18/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/18/2021 Photo Album

I made a pledge to myself to return to South Boulder Creek the week that began with August 16, and today, Wednesday I fulfilled that promise. On August 13 I learned that the flows below Gross Reservoir were at manageable levels, and green drakes were making their presence known to the stream residents. Flows on August 18 remained at 102 CFS, and I took advantage.

When I arrived at the Kayak Parking Lot only one vehicle was present, and while I prepared to fish another car arrived. The temperature was already at 77 degrees, when I began my hike down the steep trail to the creek, and I once again strung my Orvis Access four weight. My smallest rod is always a good choice for small stream fishing, as it is not as taxing on my shoulder and elbow as the longer and heavier rods in my arsenal.

Stunning

I was perched along the edge of the creek at 10:45AM, and after I configured my line with a tan pool toy hopper, prince nymph, and salvation nymph; I was ready to cast at 10:50AM. The air temperature was warmer on Wednesday compared to the previous Friday, and I was curious how that might affect the timing of the green drake hatch. On August 13 my early efforts with a parachute green drake and peacock hippie stomper were not effective, thus, I chose a dry/dropper combination with a pair of heavy nymphs.

Wildness

Well, the shift to nymphing paid modest dividends, as I landed three small brown trout on the salvation, before I paused for lunch at 11:45AM. In addition to the netted fish I experienced quite a few refusals to the tan pool toy hopper. The fish seemed interested in surface food, but my hopper was not exactly to their liking. After lunch I shifted gears and removed the three fly set and opted for a peacock hippie stomper. The stomper did not generate action in a couple of prime pools, so I added a one foot leader and attached a size 14 gray stimulator for a double dry offering. The gray stimulator and hippie stomper enabled me to increase the fish count by a few fish, but once again looks and refusals outnumbered takes. I noted a couple of natural green drakes shortly after lunch, so I decided to migrate directly to my ace in the hole parachute green drake. I knotted the same fly to my line that produced twenty-two fish on Friday, and the fun began. By same fly, I mean the same type of fly and the same physical fly. After Friday’s battering the maroon thread ribbing was unraveled, but the wing post, hackle and dubbing remained in decent shape, although the abdomen closest to the thorax was down to bare olive thread.

Battered and Bruised Parachute Green Drake Lost the Hook Point!

Very Fine

The blemishes to the parachute green drake did not bother the trout in the least, and I proceeded to land another fourteen, before the hook point finally broke off ending a string of thirty-six fish landed on one fly. I suspect this may have been some sort of record for this long time angler. With my workhorse fly out of commission I dug into my green drake fly box and extracted another parachute green drake. This one had maroon ribbing and tightly wound dubbing with a dense hackle and a tall wing post. It looked ideal to me, and it worked fine for two fish, at which point the hackle climbed up the wing post, and I was forced to retire it from service. Unlike the previous Mr. Durable, green drake number two proved to be a fragile version of the pattern. I pulled out another brand new paradrake, and it generated a few fish, but the interval between landed fish extended. This circumstance was probably more attributable to the waning hatch than my fly choice, but I persisted with the solitary green drake approach and boosted the fish count to twenty-four.

Out of the Net for a Second

Green Drake Comparadun Produced

By now it was 2:30PM, and the bright sun warmed the atmosphere to the upper seventies. I was feeling rather tired, and it seemed that the fish were exhibiting the same fatigue. I did, however, witness a pair of natural green drakes, so I knew they were still active, In fact I saw one flutter on the surface nearby, and then it was promptly slurped by an aggressive eater. Perhaps my parachute version was not presenting the fuzzy profile of fluttering wings? I removed the parachute green drake and replaced it with a Harrop hair wing, which is heavily hackled similar to a stimulator. This was a great thought, but the trout showed no interest in the hair wing.

Head Macro

Should I abandon the green drakes? I was still seeing the occasional natural, so I decided to cycle through a few more of my green drake styles. First I tested a May break, which is a type of green drake cripple. This fly was difficult to track, and it never produced as much as a look, so it was quickly returned to the green drake fly box. I examined my box closely and decided to try a comparadun with a large and dark deer hair wing. The comparadun delivered success, and I stuck with it for my remaining time on the creek, and the fish count climbed from twenty-four to thirty-four. The trout did not jump on this fly in a manner similar to the noon to 2:30PM period, but the response was steady enough to keep me interested until 4:00PM. I made many more casts to each prospective holding lie, and many quality spots failed to produce, but if I persisted, I could dupe a trout here and there.

Horizontal Line on the Side

By 4:00PM I ran up against a natural breaking point, so I stripped in my flies and hooked them to the last rod guide above the grip. I was hot and weary and ready to call it a day. What a day it was! I landed thirty-four gorgeous wild trout. Three or four were rainbows, and the remainder were brown trout. I estimate that two rainbows and three brown trout stretched to the twelve to thirteen inch range, and the remainder were beneath the one foot cut off. Far and away the typical landed brown trout was in the nine to eleven inch range. All but five of the trout consumed a green drake, and two of the five non-drake eaters fell for a size 14 gray stimulator, which is a close relative to a green drake imitation. Once again moderate riffles and the tail of pockets and pools were the home to trout feeders. During the 12:00PM to 2:30PM period I could nearly bank on a trout, if I cast to one of these stream structures. I am proud to claim South Boulder Creek as my home water. If only the water managers would allow the flows to continue at the current levels.

Fish Landed: 34

Clear Creek – 08/16/2021

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 08/16/2021 Photo Album

In my opinion cutthroat trout are the most beautiful of all freshwater trout. I find it ironic that the only fish native to Colorado is also the rarest; and, therefore, I am always thrilled to catch these rare and gorgeous fish. On Monday August 16 I decided to pursue cutthroat trout in a relatively close stream.

The high for Denver was forecast to peak in the low 90’s, and the dashboard digital thermometer registered 66 degrees, as I began my trip to Clear Creek. When I parked near my ultimate fishing destination, the temperature was 53 degrees. The impact of elevation on temperature always amazes me. Knowing that the temperature would quickly rise to more comfortable levels enabled me to forego an extra layer, but I did elect to wear my waders. My decision proved to be a solid one, as the high for the day in my location was in the low seventies. The creek was clear and flowing near ideal levels, and the weather was perfect, as I fitted together my Orvis Access four weight four piece rod.

Sweet Spot

I decided to explore a new section of the creek and began casting my flies at 9:30AM after a short hike. For starters I knotted a peacock body hippie stomper to my line, but after covering some delicious pockets and runs with no response, I reconsidered my options. The water was very cold, and I guessed that the local trout were hugging bottom, so I extended a leader from the bend of the stomper and added a salvation nymph. This finally prompted some action, and I landed one rainbow and three small cutbows on the shiny nymph pattern.

Even though I was on the scoreboard, I remained dissatisfied with my catch rate. I attributed some of the lack of action to being closer than normal to the parking lot and path, but my fly choices were also possibly a factor. I decided to go deeper and added another nymph to the end of the tippet, and this time I opted for a beadhead hares ear nymph. The addition of my most productive fly failed to make a difference, and I once more pondered my options.

Big Chunk of Food

I decided to return to a dry fly approach and elected to present a silver hippie stomper with a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. The caddis accounted for one small cutthroat, and the silver stomper picked up a pair. This brought the fish count to seven by the time I sat on a small beach to consume my lunch. Seven fish in 2.5 hours of morning fishing was only slightly better than the standard average of two fish per hour; however, all the landed fish were quite small.

Inviting Run

Lunch Spot

After lunch I once again implemented a change, and in this instance I experimented with a Chernobyl ant trailing the salvation nymph. The Chernobyl generated a few looks, but no takes, and the salvation was ignored. Maybe the looks suggested that the high country cutthroats were looking for smaller terrestrials. I replaced the Chernobyl and salvation with a Jake’s gulp beetle, and the size 12 terrestrial added a trout to the count along with a four-pack of refusals.

Subtle Yet Vivid Colors

I was now frustrated by my inability to dupe these normally aggressive trout. I decided to return to the dry/dropper approach and attached the silver hippie stomper to my line along with a size 18 black stonefly nymph and a sunken ant pattern. Finally I discovered offerings that generated some fairly consistent action, and I moved the fish count from eight to eighteen over the next hour. All the flies produced at least a fish, but the sunken ant was the favorite of the Clear Creek residents.

Mostly Spotless

By 1:30PM I approached a stunning deep pool with a deep run 1/3 of the of the way across the stream from the left bank. The main current then curled around toward the right bank and created a small eddy, and as I observed the pool, I spotted five fish. Two of them were very respectable and likely the largest fish that I saw on Monday, August 16. The larger than average targets were having no part of the hippie stomper, black stonefly or sunken ant; so I removed them and switched to a solitary dry fly. My first choice was a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis, but it never generated a look.

Nymph Eater

As I was casting the caddis, I counted four olive hued green drakes, as they slowly fluttered up from the creek. Were these fish selectively looking for drakes? I was certain that was the solution to the puzzle, so I plucked a size 14 parachute green drake from my fly box and knotted it to my line. Nothing. The drake pattern looked perfect to this seasoned angler, but the sighted trout barely waved their tails, when the fly drifted over their position in the pool. Next I tried a user friendly version and then a Harrop hair wing, but each failed to attract interest. One of the big boys hovered just below the surface, so I assumed it was in eating mode. I pulled a parachute ant from my box with the hope that the picky trout could not resist a trapped terrestrial. Quite a few large black ants were crawling about on the logs, as I climbed over them to make progress up the creek, so I was, in effect, matching the hatch. The ant may have created a look from the bigger of the two fish, but that was the extent of the interest shown. I decided to give up on the quality eddy and continue my upstream migration.

Perfect

I returned to the approach that delivered the most fish, and resurrected the peacock hippie stomper along with a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail nymph and the sunken ant. This combination proved to be a winner, and I elevated the fish count from eighteen to thirty-one, before I called it quits at 4:00PM. During this late afternoon period all three flies produced, but the clear favorite was the sunken ant. Next on the cutthroat trout hit list was the hippie stomper, and the pheasant tail produced a couple trout as well.

Riffles Were Productive

The most productive water types were long runs and moderate riffles. In these places I executed relatively long casts, and the stomper paused for a split second, at which point I lifted the rod tip and felt the rewarding throb of a wild trout. The hippie stomper was typically attacked at the tail of a large pocket in front of a large boulder or next to the bank. Structure seemed to be a key ingredient for the trout that responded to a dry fly.

In summary, my quest for cutthroat trout was a success. I struggled early, but once I dialed in the sunken ant and hippie stomper combination, the action accelerated notably. Was it the flies, or did the fish density increase, once I distanced myself from the path and parking lot? Time of day and the presence of more insect activity may have also played a role in my improved catch rate. I will never know for certain which factor was most important, but I suspect they all had a role to varying degrees. The success of the sunken ants that I tied this winter was another gratifying outcome from my day on Clear Creek. I suspect I will return during the 2021 season.

Fish Landed: 31

South Boulder Creek – 08/13/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/13/2021 Photo Album

Early August, western green drakes, and South Boulder Creek go together like pretzels and beer. Or at least that is what I thought, as I contemplated another fishing outing on August 13, 2021. The Denver Water managers seemed to have other ideas, as they sustained the flows at 180 CFS and above for all of July and early August. Imagine my excitement, when I checked the DWR graphs and learned that South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir was percolating along at 102 CFS. Game on. Were my expectations too high? Read on.

When I arrived at the kayak parking lot four other vehicles occupied spaces. The air temperature was 66 degrees, when I departed, and according to Weather Underground the high never exceeded seventy degrees, although it felt warmer with bright sunshine and very few clouds for most of my time on the water. I put together my Orvis Access four weight and began my descent of the steep trail to the South Boulder Creek canyon. As I ambled along the upper canyon, I passed five fishermen, and this accounted for all the cars. I was pleased with this circumstance, as it meant I would probably have the lower canyon area to myself. At one point another angler met up with me, since he parked at the Walker Ranch trailhead, but he cut to the stream quite a bit upstream of my chosen point of entry. Favorable weather, manageable flows and lack of competition portended a fine day of fly fishing. Would the trout and green drakes cooperate?

Nice Place to Start

I began my day at 10:00AM with a solo parachute green drake, but after prospecting four or five quality pools, I was forced to acknowledge that there was nary a sign of fish. Apparently green drakes were not present long enough to create the hoped for intuitive response to an imitation outside the emergence period. Or perhaps they were late, and I would not meet them on August 13. My confidence was a bit shaken. I added a hippie stomper as my front fly and followed it with the parachute green drake, but once again I was greeted with no response from the fish. Concern crept into my outlook.

Perhaps the trout were keying on green drake or pale morning dun nymphs? I rigged my line with a buoyant tan pool toy hopper and added a prince nymph on a four foot dropper. Finally I connected with a pair of trout, but the catch rate lagged and refusals to the hopper became a commonplace occurrence. I added a salvation nymph below the prince to gain depth, and the pale morning dun nymph began to click, as I raised the fish count to seven by the time I sat on a rock to consume my standard lunch. I was catching fish at a decent rate, but the results required constant movement, and I was passing over some prime spots with no netted fish to show for my effort.

Prince Nymph Produced

So Delicate

After lunch I exchanged the pool toy hopper for the peacock hippie stomper, and I swapped the prince for a hares ear nymph. This threesome moved the fish counter from seven to nineteen, and obviously the catch rate improved. The hippie stomper attracted a few fish, but the salvation was the main target of the trout. In many cases the hippie stomper generated a look or refusal, but persistent casting eventually fooled a trout into snatching the nymph particularly at the tail of a pocket or pool or in a riffle with over two to three feet of depth.

Ooh. Certain Trout Lair

So Dark. Ate the Stomper

By 1:30 I began seeing a few natural green drakes in the air above the creek, and the hippie stomper began to generate an increased number of refusals, and a couple of fish actually ate the attractor dry fly. I decided it was time to convert to a green drake. I knotted a size 14 parachute green drake to my line, and the fun escalated. In a testimony to how durable my fly was, I landed twenty-two trout, before I deemed it too ragged to continue presenting. I replaced it with another paradrake, but this one had brown microfibet tails instead of moose mane, and the catch rate lagged significantly. This change coincided with the end of the hatch, so perhaps it was the insect cycle and not the fly that caused the slow down; however, my observation told me that the moose mane version looked more like a natural. I plan to sort through my inventory of parachute green drakes to preferentially stock the moose mane versions.

Zoomed a Bit

Very Nice of S Boulder Creek

Between 1:30PM and 3:00PM I was supremely confident in the green drake imitation. All the prime locations produced fish, and the browns and infrequent rainbows inhaled the impostor with confidence. This was the torrid green drake fishing that I recalled from previous Augusts, and I was thrilled to be the benefactor of the sparse emergence.

Very Fine Rainbow Trout

Most of the forty-two landed trout were in the seven to eleven inch range, but I also netted a thirteen inch rainbow and a few twelve inch brown trout. The fish were all wild gems with brilliant and vivid coloration. In short, I had a blast working my way upstream and prospecting with the confidence-building green drake. Hopefully the flows will remain near the current level or slightly lower, and I plan to take advantage with another trip or two next week. I discovered that early August, western green drakes, and South Boulder Creek do, in fact, go together like beer and pretzels. While in a celebratory mood, I munched some pretzels and sipped a Red Bull on my drive home. Beer is taboo while driving.

Fish Landed: 42

Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 08/10/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Peaceful Valley Campground

Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek 08/10/2021 Photo Album

After five days in Pennsylvania I returned to Colorado and immediately departed on a camping trip to Peaceful Valley Campground. A group of pickleball friends reserved three sites in February, and after a six month wait, our turn to enjoy the beauty of the mountains west of the Peak to Peak Highway arrived. One of the campers was a Brit named Dave Hughes, and he was a very reluctant participant and not fond of roughing it in these modern times. In an effort to make him feel at home, Jane went all out and set up the picnic table with a lace tablecloth, wine bottles, wine glasses and a summer flower bouquet. We think he was impressed, but we were certain the other ladies in our camping group were wowed by the effort. For dinner the first night we made salmon wrapped in pancetta skewers with a fresh garden salad. After dinner the entire group gave Jane a standing ovation including the reluctant camper, Dave Hughes.

Tuesday was my allotted day to fish. A week transpired since my last outing on August 3, so I was very anxious to wade into an ice cold mountain stream. The Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek rushed by our campground, so I took advantage of the convenience. After a delicious breakfast prepared by the Hughes party, all the campers loaded themselves in two cars, and we drove 1.2 miles to the Buchanan Pass Trailhead. There were ten of us, and the other nine charged up the trail, while I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my waders. I probably should have chosen wet wading on August 10 with high temperatures peaking in the low 90’s in Denver, but I felt that the high altitude would keep temperatures at a tolerable level. I failed to account for the body heat generated, while I hiked uphill for a couple miles.

Breathtaking Pool

I caught and passed the nine hikers from our group and found a spot above a narrow cascade with steep vertical walls on both sides, and here I cut through some spaced out trees to the creek. The water was crystal clear and flowing at a healthy pace on the high gradient stretch. I began my quest for mountain trout with a peacock hippie stomper, but after ten minutes I concluded the locals were uninterested. I was about to make a change, when I was greeted by my wife and four of the hikers. We chatted briefly, and then they continued their hiking journey.

Colorful Brook Trout Above the Water Spot

I abandoned the hippie stomper entirely and opted for a gray size 14 stimulator and trailed a purple haze. The haze and stimulator picked up a few fish, but refusals outnumbered hook ups, so I once again paused to make a change. The flows were a bit high for early August, so I decided to test a dry/dropper approach to get deeper in the water column. I knotted a classic Chernobyl ant to my line as the top indicator fly and then attached a salvation nymph below that. The Chernobyl attracted attention in the form of refusals, and the salvation was ignored, so I added an iron sally below the salvation. The iron sally enabled me to pick up a few more fish, but the long leader from the foam attractor to the iron sally was cumbersome and induced an abnormally high number of snags. I decided to swap the top fly to a yellow fat Albert for better visibility, and I reduced the subsurface offering to the solitary iron sally. This combination seemed to work better than the three fly dry/dropper, as the iron sally accounted for a few more fish, and the fish counter elevated to seven.

A Gem of a Cutthroat

I paused for lunch a bit after noon, and shortly thereafter I approached a beautiful smooth, placid pool. I recognized that the fat Albert would simply spook the fish in this fragile setting, so I reverted to the peacock hippie stomper and added a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis on a twelve inch dropper. The hippie stomper was simply an indicator to allow me to track the tiny caddis fly. The ploy was a success, and I persisted with the double dry offering for the remainder of the afternoon. The fish counter climbed steadily to twenty-two, before I climbed the bank and followed a faint path to the main trail. The caddis was responsible for the majority of the takes with a few gullible fish falling for the hippie stomper. In the early going I landed four cutthroat trout, but all the double dry responders were brook trout.

Tough Water to Approach

Wow, Those Colors

Surprisingly the type of water that produced consistently was wide riffles that were a couple feet deep. The obvious large, slow-moving, deep pools were not trout factories, although many of them were bordered by well worn paths and casting perches. I suspect that hikers and four wheelers cherry picked the obvious spots with bait and spinning tackle. A few pools produced, but these locations typically required significant effort to climb over large fallen logs or bashing through thick streamside vegetation, and of course the riffles and marginal pockets were probably overlooked by the spin casting crew.

Postcard Pretty

The hiking crew used my car to return to the campground, so my return hike was incremented by 1.2 miles, and needless to say, I was hot and thirsty, as I removed my waders and gear at the campsite. Tuesday was a fun day on the Middle Fork of St. Vrain Creek. Sure, the fish were quite small with all falling in the six to nine inch range. I may have landed a ten inch cutthroat, but that was a lunker for the section of the creek that I covered. I spotted a few larger trout in a couple prime pools, but these trout saw me and bolted, before I could entice them with my flies. The bright colors of the trout made up for their lack of size, and the spectacular landscape made the day worthwhile. I am pleased to be back in Colorado, and I am already contemplating another outing on Friday, August 13. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 22

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 08/03/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 08/03/2021 Photo Album

My last fishing day was Wednesday, July 28, so I was itching to get in another outing before my scheduled trip to Pennsylvania for a reunion. I desired a short drive and reviewed the stream flows for the usual Front Range options. Heavy thunderstorms and rain caused flash flooding and mudslides over the previous five days, so I wanted to assure myself that I would not be impacted by these events. Three streams stood out from my review: South Boulder Creek, the Big Thompson River, and the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. South Boulder Creek was running at 185 CFS, which is higher than I desire, but manageable, particularly if insect hatching activity is present. That option, however, involved a fairly significant and strenuous hike into the canyon, so I moved on to the Big Thompson River, which was rolling along at 126 CFS. Once again this volume was higher than I favor, but I in the past I fished the Big T at 125 CFS successfully. The North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek was registering flows of 46 CFS, and I knew from experience that these levels were quite favorable for fly fishing. The NF of the St. Vrain was a 1.25 hour drive and closer than the Big Thompson River, so it became my choice.

I prepared the night before and arrived at the Buttonrock Preserve parking lot by 9:45AM. Steady rain commenced, as I drove through Lyons, CO, and it continued, as I rigged my Sage four weight and pulled on my waders and raincoat. Six cars were in the parking lot when I arrived, and the quantity quickly shrank to three including me, as dog walkers and hikers returned to their cars to avoid the rain. I was gloating internally, as I prepared to fish in spite of the wave of hikers and walkers avoiding the steady preciipitation that was more than a drizzle but less than a steady downpour.

Salivating

Stretched Out for Viewing

I hiked for forty-five minutes and then paused to configure my line for a day of fly fishing. I began with a peacock hippie stomper, but it was totally ignored in some very attractive deep pockets and pools. I added a purple haze, and a small surface disturbance appeared just below the trailing purple attractor. This told me that the fish were looking toward the surface, so I swapped the purple haze for a size 18 olive-brown deer hair caddis. Bingo! A small rainbow trout and brown trout responded to the change and sipped the tiny caddis. I was off and running with a fish count of two within the first thirty minutes. Unfortunately the catch rate quickly dropped to zero, and the small caddis was nearly impossible to follow in the glare created by the overcast skies.

Salvation Nymph and Yellow Sally

Narrow Band Along the Rock Produced

The creek was nearly devoid of insect activity, so I decided to experiment with a dry/dropper approach. One never knows what works, until one tries. I began with a Chernobyl ant trailing an iron sally and salvation nymph. The dry/dropper ploy worked, and I steadily increased the fish count from two to six, as the salvation nymph caught the attention of the local stream residents. Even with this improvement in action, I remained dissatisfied with the effectiveness of my offerings. The Chernobyl ant was totally ignored, as was the iron Sally, so the only productive fly on my line was the salvation nymph. The Chernobyl ant was increasingly hard to follow in the glare due to its sunken position in the surface film, so I exchanged it for a tan pool toy hopper. While doing this, I extended the leader between the hopper and the first fly, which I swapped for an emerald caddis pupa. The combination of the hopper, caddis pupa and salvation remained on my line for most of my remaining time on the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, and it served me quite well.

Shimmering

Deeply Colored Wild Brown

I ramped up the fish count from six to eighteen between noon and 3:00PM, when I pulled down the curtain on a successful day. The sky remained overcast, and consequently the temperature never spiked out of the seventies. The weather conditions were nearly ideal for fly fishing in the middle of the summer. Most of the trout snapped up the drifting salvation nymph, but three crushed the pool toy hopper. One of the pool toy hopper lovers was a sixteen inch cutbow, and it smashed the large terrestrial in the middle of a large smooth pool. Needless to say I felt very fortunate to net the beauty. Another pair of brown trout in the twelve inch range mauled the hopper as well, so the terrestrial imitation was popular with larger than average fish.

Great Side View

I was also surprised to land a nine inch lake trout. I can only assume it washed over the top of Buttonrock Dam, and that also may have been the case with the cutbow. The lake trout and cutbow when combined with the rainbow trout and brown trout allowed me to claim credit for a grand slam, and for me a slam including a lake trout is very unusual.

Head Shot

Tuesday, August 3, evolved into a very enjoyable day. The flows were favorable, and the cool overcast skies were very refreshing after the recent string of ninety degree temperatures. Eighteen fish in four hours of fishing was very respectable. Two-thirds of my catch were small trout in the six to ten inch range, and the remainder included the cutbow and a bunch of eleven to twelve inch brown trout. The quality of the fish was quite acceptable for a small stream such as the North Fork of the St. Vrain.

Fish Landed: 18

So Green

Another Shot

Spring Creek – 07/28/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 1:30PM

Location: Between Harmel Resort and Spring Creek Reservoir

Spring Creek 07/28/2021 Photo Album

Wednesday was my getaway day from the Taylor River Valley, and I needed to choose between fishing the Taylor, returning to Spring Creek or seeking out another creek not yet visited. The choice was rather easy after landing a combined total of thirty-two fish on Spring Creek in two separate visits on Tuesday. I enjoyed the hour of fishing on the Taylor River with western green drakes on Tuesday, but the non-hatch times were extremely slow. I slept in a bit later on Wednesday morning and packed all my gear and departed the campground by 9:00AM. The tent was covered with dew, so I rolled it up along with the rainfly and stuffed it under a pair of bins. Once I returned home, I could spread everything out in the patio, and it would dry in minutes given the hot, dry temperatures in Denver.

I made the thirty minute drive to Spring Creek and found a pullout upstream from my locations on Tuesday. Before I parked, however, I drove north along the creek a bit to make sure that the gradient was not excessive, and also that I could find a relatively manageable exit point. My Orvis Access four weight remained rigged from Tuesday, so it was not long before I waded into the creek to begin my Wednesday adventure. I was admittedly rather confident, after I enjoyed substantial success the previous day. On Tuesday morning I prospected almost entirely with a peacock body hippie stomper, and this strategy led to eighteen trout in two hours of fishing. How could Wednesday not be a repeat?

Change is constant in fly fishing, and Wednesday was not a repeat of Tuesday morning. Naturally I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line, and in the first twenty minutes I landed two brown trout that exceeded my six inch minimum. This was not the relaxed dry fly fishing that I experienced on Tuesday. For each fish I landed, I witnessed three refusals. For some reason the same attractor fly that the Spring Creek trout loved on Tuesday was now avoided. On Tuesday afternoon I modified my approach to that of dry/dropper fishing, so I decided to make the same switch on Wednesday. My line absorbed a Chernobyl ant and trailed a salvation nymph and eventually a hares ear to gain more depth, but the dry/dropper technique on Wednesday morning was a bust. I landed one small brown trout on the Chernobyl ant, and the nymphs were blatantly ignored.

What now? I observed a couple of yellow sallies along with a veritable swarm of spruce moths. I began my experimentation with a yellow size 14 stimulator, but refusals reigned, so I abandoned it after ten minutes. I peered into my fly box for large caddis flies and spotted a size 14 muggly caddis with a light gray body. Perhaps the muggly caddis imitated the spruce moth? I knotted it to my line, and in a short amount of time it attracted the attention of two trout. My optimism quickly waned; however, as the fly failed to produce in some attractive spots, and the body and wing absorbed water and began to sink. I grew weary of the excessive drying and pondered yet another switch. By now I had fished for forty-five minutes, and the fish count rested on five.

Harrop Hair Wing Green Drake Getting It Done

Green drakes hatched on the Taylor River on Tuesday. Could the same aquatic insects be present on this cold tributary stream, and could their emergence lag their appearance on the main river? I decided to give one a try and attached a Harrop hair wing green drake to my line. Finally I met with success, and I began catching trout with some regularity bringing the fish counter to nine after one hour of fishing. Suddenly my day of frustration morphed into one of optimism, as my catch rate mirrored the rate for the two morning hours of the previous day!

Fine Brown Trout

After a period of steady production the hair wing became saturated with fish slime and moisture, and like the muggly caddis it required constant sopping, trips to the dry shake vial, and application of floatant. I yearned for a green drake imitation that floated better, and I actually had such a fly in my box. I retrieved a user friendly green drake with its narrow foam back, and I replaced the Harrop hair wing. The user friendly proved its worth, as five additional brown trout succumbed to its magic, but then once again I endured a lengthy lull in prime trout habitat.

What a Trout Lie!

User Friendly Visible in the Mouth

I never actually observed a natural green drake, so I concluded that perhaps the sparse hatch was over or perhaps the normal emergence period had passed. I elected to try the terrestrial route and equipped my line with a size 14 Jake’s gulp beetle. The beetle prompted a few looks, but it was not on the menu, so I once again paused to consider my options. Could a double dry fly be the ticket? Maybe I did not give the hippie stomper a fair chance? I found a peacock body stomper in my frontpack and attached it to my tippet, and then I added a purple haze on a foot long dropper. The double dropper method seemed to be in vogue so far in the summer of 2021, so why not give it another chance?

Small Shelf Pool

Suddenly trout appeared where I expected them to be, and the purple haze became a desirable treat for the Spring Creek trout. The two relatively large surface flies with large white wings were relatively easy to follow, and I capitalized to move the fish counter from eighteen to twenty-six. The purple haze became a hot commodity, and some larger than average trout went out of their way to crush the purple bodied attractor fly.

Chunky One

Unfortunately the torrid action suddenly ceased, and I spent the last thirty minutes in futility. Quality pools and pockets similar to ones that recently delivered multiple trout abruptly seemed to be devoid of fish. The lack of action and the advancement of my watch to 1:30PM prompted me to call it quits with a 4.5 hour drive to Denver ahead of me.

Subtle Fish Holding Water Here

I approached Wednesday with the expectation of tying a hippie stomper to my line, and that simple step would invite a parade of wild trout to compete to chomp the large attractor dry fly. It did not evolve that way. Three flies accounted for the bulk of my catch, and they were the Harrop hair wing green drake, user friendly green drake and purple haze. Wednesday’s success required thought, experimentation and persistence; and fortunately I was up to the challenge. A twenty-six fish day in 3.5 hours of fishing is an outing to be proud of, Of course, the fish were on the small side with most falling in the seven to eleven inch range. A few stretched the tape to twelve inches, but Wednesday was definitely a day where quantity exceeded size. I love small stream fly fishing, exploring new sections of a creek, and moving along at a steady pace; and Spring Creek certainly met these criteria.

Fish Landed: 26

Spring Creek Afternoon – 07/27/2021

Time: 3:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Between Spring Creek Reservoir and confluence with the Taylor River

Spring Creek Afternoon 07/27/2021 Photo Album

I was curious if I could catch fish on Spring Creek in the late afternoon, a time that is generally the doldrums on large rivers during hot summer days. My Orvis Access four weight remained set up with a peacock hippie stomper from the morning session, so I jumped right into action at 3:30PM. In a short amount of time the stomper delivered two small brown trout, but then a lull ensued, as I prospected some great looking water with no response. Would a nymph perform better in the late afternoon, when the hatches were history? I swapped the stomper for a Chernobyl ant for better flotation and added a salvation nymph on a two foot dropper. What a move!

Salvation Nymph Caught Fire

Handsome Brown Trout

The fish count soared to fourteen over the next 1.5 hours, and 80% of the brown trout snatched the salvation. I was particularly amazed at the trout that emerged from shallow riffle sections, when the Chernobyl paused. A few fish ate the attractor terrestrial, but it also generated a fair share of temporary hookups and refusals. I was using it as more of an indicator, with the main emphasis on the nymph. Most of the late afternoon fish were in the eight and nine inch range with a few stretching the tape to eleven inches. Another visit to Spring Creek is on tap for Wednesday, my getaway day.

Fish Landed: 14

Taylor River – 07/27/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Taylor Reservoir

Taylor River 07/27/2021 Photo Album

I quit fishing on Spring Creek at 10:30AM, and this enabled me to arrive at the Taylor River pullout above Lodgepole Campground by 11:20AM. I drove the ten miles from Spring Creek and stopped at the Harmel Resort store to purchase a ten pound bag of ice.

My Sage One five weight was rigged from Monday’s action, so I crossed the river at the same spot as Monday and then hiked down the north side of the river, until I was across from and above the paved parking lot across from Lodgepole. My Sage One five weight remained assembled from Monday with a tan pool toy hopper, iron sally, and bright green caddis pupa. I tested this threesome for thirty minutes with only a hopper refusal to show for my efforts. I beganĀ  to regret my decision to leave Spring Creek.

Prime Pool

Green Drake Snacker

At noon I arrived at a tantalizing pool at the upper end of a large rock moraine, and the air above the river came alive with a smorgasbord of insects. There were caddis, yellow sallies, pale morning duns, and a green drake or two. The pale morning duns seemed most prevalent, and I saw a few aggressive rises, so I replaced the bright green caddis with a pale morning dun juju emerger. It was soundly ignored. Perhaps the trout were chowing down on subsurface nymphs? A salvation nymph replaced the juju emerger, and it was treated with similar disdain. I spotted two rises along the well defined center current seam, so I removed the dry/dropper and presented a solitary size 16 light gray comparadun. This fly provided one temporary hookup, but the take seemed tentative.

Scene of Multiple Hatches

As I pondered my next move, the river came alive with green drakes. They appeared to be size 14, and they were nearly as abundant as the PMD’s. I abandoned the comparadun and knotted a size 14 parachute green drake to my line. This solved the puzzle, as two gorgeous brown trout in the fourteen to fifteen inch range inhaled the western green drake imitation. There was nothing tentative about the eats from the pool dwellers. I persisted with the parachute green drake, until the hackle began to slip up the wing post, and I replaced it with another fresh version.

Looking Back at Crossing Point

I vacated the quality pool and began working my way upstream, but the green drake hatch began to wane. I felt like my parachute was riding low in the surface film, and perhaps the fish were tuned into something with a large upright wing which created the illusion of motion. I swapped the parachute for a comparadun, and this fly duped a few trout, before I broke it of on a decent fish that dove under a rock or stick. I persisted with the green drake approach, until I quit at 2:30PM. The last thirty minutes were quite slow, and I ended with a peacock hippie stomper and purple haze. One small brown nipped the haze to put me at ten on Tuesday on the Taylor River.

Other that the first two fish from the moraine pool, all the remainder were relatively small browns in the seven to eleven inch range. I decided to return to Spring Creek in an attempt to recapture the magic of the morning session.

Fish Landed: 10

Spring Creek Morning – 07/27/2021

Time: 8:30AM – 10:30AM

Location: Between Spring Creek Reservoir and confluence with the Taylor River

Spring Creek Morning 07/27/2021 Photo Album

It was 46 degrees, when I rolled out of my sleeping bag at Lottis Creek Campground . I got off to a nice early start for my long day of fly fishing and arrived at a pullout along the dirt road that follows Spring Creek by 8:10AM, and the temperature was up to 51 degrees. I wore my fleece to start the day, since I planned to return to the car by mid-morning, and this would allow me to shed a layer prior to continuing through the warmest part of the day. I rigged my Orvis Access four weight for some small stream fishing, but I really had no idea what to expect on this rare early morning venture into fly fishing.

Honey Hole

Suffice it to say, that I never anticipated landing eighteen trout in two hours of fishing. The creek was running full, yet very manageable, so I began and ended with a peacock hippie stomper. During a thirty minute period I felt that the catch rate slowed, so I added a pheasant tail nymph, but the fish continued to attack the attractor dry fly and ignored the nymph. The dropper was simply a nuisance, and it seemed that I experienced more long distance releases perhaps due to the leader connecting the stomper to the trailing subsurface fly. I theorized that the small fish felt the line coming off the bend, and this sensation caused the fish to flip off the hook.

Large for Small Stream

Bankside Lie

My two hours on Spring Creek were great fun, Nearly all the likely spots delivered, and in many cases they yielded multiple fish. Of course most of the stream trout were small, but early in the game I tempted a fourteen inch brown to chase the hippie stomper from its lair under a log. I made a downstream drift, and just as the fly approached the submerged log beneath an overhanging branch, I lifted to avoid a snag, and the wily trout grabbed the dry fly, before it could escape.

Fish Landed: 18