Arkansas River – 05/03/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Big Horn Sheep Canyon below Stockyard Bridge

Arkansas River 05/03/2019 Photo Album

My inability to locate the famed Arkansas River caddis hatch in recent years has been well documented in this blog. Yet a few wildly successful interactions with blizzard hatches in 2010 tease me back for more. I attended a presentation by Greg Felt of ArkAnglers at the Sportsmen’s Exposition in January, and he informed the audience that a high water season in 2008 practically wiped out a generation of the caddis population, but better water management policies brought it back to blizzard status in recent years.

With this background I attempted to decide on a destination for Friday, May 3. I vacillated by the hour between the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon and the Arkansas River. The Eleven Mile water chart displayed steady flows of 92 CFS, and I visited the canyon tailwater on April 26 with decent success. This choice was a fairly low risk option.

The Arkansas River DWR data presented flows in the 750 CFS range, and this fact alone alarmed me after a successful day of fly fishing on April 23 at 444 CFS. Surely the root cause of the elevated flows was early snow melt from the above average accumulations over the past winter. I learned over my many years of fishing in Colorado that a shot of cold run off quickly reduces the metabolism of the resident trout. Another red flag was the emphasis that the fly shop report placed on visibility. If clarity were not an issue, it would not be mentioned; however, ArkAnglers emphasized that visibility existed up to three feet. Offsetting these cautionary signs was a bold notation that guides encountered fairly dense caddis emergences in the area below Salida. There it is was again. The lure of another epic caddis hatch experience. In my mind I debated the low risk option of consistent flows and predictable hatches on the South Platte River versus high flows, murky water, and the allure of a rare confrontation with the fabled Arkansas River caddis hatch. I concluded that the steady flows in Eleven Mile Canyon would continue for a few more weeks and gambled on the possibility of a mega hatch on the Arkansas River. What could be the outcome of this daring move?

Classic Brown Trout Bank Water on the Arkansas River

I departed Denver by 7AM and arrived at a wide pullout west of the Chaffee-Fremont County line by 10AM. The temperature was around fifty degrees, so I slid into a light fleece and pulled on my new Hodgman breathable waders. I strung my Sage four weight and ambled east along the shoulder of US 50 for .4 miles, whereupon I scrambled down a rough rocky path to the river. Another angler occupied the place, where I planned to begin my day, so I retreated to a point fifty yards upstream.

I began Friday with a tan pool toy hopper, an iron sally and a bright green go2 caddis pupa, but after some focused prospecting for thirty minutes I found no evidence of the presence of trout in the Arkansas River. The high stained flows forced me to limit my casts to the possible bank side holding spots, but even this targeted fishing yielded no response. I adjusted my offerings at 11AM to the bright green go2 caddis pupa as the top fly and knotted a sparkle wing RS2 to my line at the end position. These flies occupied my line, until I broke for lunch at noon. I was quite disappointed with my lack of results, but I consoled myself with the expectation that a blue winged olive hatch would likely place the trout in a hungry mood.

Shot Number Two

After I consumed my sandwich, carrots and yogurt on a small sandy beach, I reconfigured my approach with a thingamabobber and split shot, and I retained the caddis pupa and RS2 flies. In the next two hours I finally achieved a small level of success, as I netted three brown trout in the twelve inch range. One grabbed the bright green caddis and two snatched the RS2. The takes came from riffles of moderate depth, and movement in the form of a lift or swing seemed to be the common thread that yielded results. In addition to the landed fish, I experienced five temporary connections. Three were simply the feeling of weight for a split second, but two were actually attached long enough for me to see the outline of a brown trout.

Closer View

During this time period a sparse emergence of blue winged olives was in progress, although I never observed surface feeding from the Arkansas River trout. At 2:30PM I connected with a fourth trout along the bank within .1 mile of the car, and given the slow catch rate I decided to snap a photo. I opened my waterproof camera carrying case, and I was stunned to discover that my camera was absent. Perspiration began to ooze from my arm pits, as I went into panic mode and attempted to remember the whereabouts of the camera. I searched the area near me feet in case the case was not secured properly and fell out, as I opened the case, while the fish thrashed in the net, but it was not visible. Next I searched the area inside my waders in case it fell within, while I waded and moved. Again my search efforts were thwarted by the lack of a camera. I now pondered my afternoon of fishing, and I remembered removing the camera to take a photo, and then I placed it on a rock, while I released the fish and reattached my net. I concluded that the camera was on a rock along the shoreline somewhere between my lunch spot and my present position.

I clambered up a steep rocky bank and over some prickly vegetation, until I reached the highway, and I quickly strode along the shoulder, until I was perched high above the spot, that I remembered as my lunch stop. I spotted a small sandy area among streamside shrubs with red branches, and this agreed with my recollection. I carefully scrambled down the rocks and parted the leafless branches, and immediately spotted my Olympus Tough camera in the sand next to a rock. What a relief to grip it and place it back in its waterproof container!

With a crisis averted I climbed the steep embankment and returned to the spot, where I discovered my lost camera. I progressed upstream along the left bank, and I endured a long period of inactivity, so I once again reverted to the dry/dropper approach. During my previous trip I enjoyed decent success in the afternoon on the hippy stomper, so the foam attractor with a peacock body became the lead fly with the caddis pupa and a soft hackle emerger as the subsurface combination.

Another angler occupied a large pool next a huge rock, so I circled around and then encountered another fisherman in an attractive run and pool a bit farther upstream. I gave the second gentleman space and cut back to the river next to a very appealing shelf pool. This area offered a nice seam along the main current as well as a slow moving shelf pool. As I observed, the wind kicked up, and an increasingly abundant quantity of small caddis began to tumble along the surface of the river. I watched impatiently with the expectation that the surface would explode with frenzied feeding, but other than two random rises, it never materialized.

I decided to persist with the dry/dropper rig until risers became commonplace, but it never happened. I was surprised to see another angler across from me, and he landed three decent trout between three and four o’clock, but I was unable to determine his method. After a significant number of fruitless casts, I finally connected with a thirteen inch brown trout that snatched the caddis pupa, as it drifted along the main current seam, but that would prove to me the extent of my success during the heavy caddis activity of Friday, May 3.

Caddis Pupa Fan

After thirty minutes of frustration I switched my strategy and migrated to a single size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis dry fly. I placed casts in the vicinity of the two random rises that I observed early on, but this approach quickly struck me as futile. Massive quantities of active tumbling natural caddis, made my dead drifting imitation seem lifeless and uninteresting. The trout apparently agreed, and the caddis dry went unmolested.

In a last ditch effort to capitalize on the long sought after caddis hatch, I returned to a nymphing approach. The lack of surface action convinced me, that the trout were keyed on to subsurface pupa and egg laying females. I quickly configured once again with an indicator, split shot, prince nymph and bright green sparkle caddis pupa. I lobbed some casts and imparted action via bad mends and lifting movements, but before I could assess the effectiveness of my method, I snagged a branch. The obstruction holding my hook hostage was located in fast deep water, so I defaulted to a direct tug on the line and broke off both flies. I quickly replaced the lost nymphs with an ultra zug bug and another bright green caddis, and within minutes I was once again connected to a branch or rock in an area that left me no choice except to break off a second time. In this case the split shot was contributed to the stream bottom along with two flies.

I was now in an exasperated state, and it was 3:45PM and I was clueless regarding how to capitalize on the best caddis hatch in recent history on the Arkansas River. I reeled up my line and climbed to the shoulder of the highway and hoofed it back to the Santa Fe.

Be careful what you wish for. For years I searched for the caddis hatch of my dreams, and I found it on Friday, yet I was unable to take advantage. I landed five brown trout in the twelve inch size range, and connected with another five along with two foul hooked fish. The action was very slow, and I covered a lot of river mileage which encompassed quite a bit of strenuous rock climbing. The low point and highlight of my day were losing and then recovering my digital camera. I am at a loss to explain the lack of surface feeding fish during a spectacular hatch. Another week of fishing the Arkansas River is probably available before true run off commences, but I am uncertain whether I will gamble another long drive and day on the large freestone river.

Fish Landed: 5

Boulder Creek – 05/02/2019

Time: 12:30PM – 3:30PM

Location: Boulder Canyon west of Boulder, CO

Boulder Creek 05/02/2019 Photo Album

A cold front lingered in Colorado for three days beginning with Monday April 29, and after some relatively successful trips the previous week, I was frustrated by the adverse weather. Thursday’s forecast was moderately improved, and I was very anxious to satisfy my fly fishing addition, so I made the short drive to Boulder Creek in the canyon west of Boulder, CO.

Normally my choice of a destination is dictated by flows, fishing reports and my seasonal history; but on Thursday air temperature was the significant factor. Based on flows and fly shop reports, I probably would have chosen the Big Thompson; however, the high temperature in Estes Park was projected to reach 47 degrees. This was too cold for my tastes, and Boulder was expected to peak at 57 degrees.

My thorough analysis of factors impacting fishing success failed to consider the road construction under way in Boulder Canyon, and this oversight almost ruined my day. Pure luck caused me to arrive at the end of a line of traffic waiting for the canyon to open at 10:56, and the sign informed travelers that the closure was between 9AM and 11AM. My timing could not have been better, and the delay was minimal.

In spite of the good fortune relative to the timing of the closure, I was forced to wait for three flagmen, where the highway was limited to a single lane, and these short delays caused me to pull into a pullout by 11:30AM. I Assembled my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my brand new Hodgman H5 waders. The temperature was 48 degrees and cloudy, so I wore my heavy fleece and the billed hat with earflaps for additional warmth. I reasoned that if it got too warm, I could easily return to the car to shed layers and switch head gear.

Starting Riffle

By the time I approached the edge of the creek and rigged my rod, it was noon, so I found a large flat rock and ate my lunch. The water was clear and flowing at 45 CFS, and only small amounts of snow remained from the Monday night snow accumulation. I configured my line before lunch with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and a chartreuse copper john.

Chartreuse Copper John for the Win

In the early going I landed three trout on the copper john, but this was accomplished by covering an abundant quantity of water, and many spots that looked like certain producers failed to deliver. In addition quite a few refusals to the fat Albert plagued this phase of my fishing adventure. I swapped the chartreuse copper john for a bright green go2 caddis pupa, and I managed to increment the fish count from three to five. One fish gobbled the go2 caddis, and another nabbed the hares ear.

Acceptable

I was not pleased with my catch rate, so I decided to experiment with a stimulator, and I tied on a size 14 version with a light yellow body. This change paid dividends, when two small browns slurped the high floating dry fly in some moderate riffles. Unfortunately the gaps between success were fairly lengthy, and the stimulator was hard to follow in the canyon glare, so I once again converted to a single peacock hippy stomper. I reasoned that the high riding foam floater was easier to track in the early afternoon canyon lighting and in the frothy and riffled areas, that I was about to approach.

Soft Hackle Emerger Put in Play

The solo version of the trendy foam fly induced one refusal and failed to perform as well as the stimulator, so I added a 2.5 foot dropper and attached the hares ear and a size 20 soft hackle emerger. I never spotted a blue winged olive, but I surmised that nymphs might be present, and the Boulder Creek trout had long memories.

Faster Section Ahead

During the remainder of the afternoon I elevated the fish count from seven to twelve. One fish surprised me by slurping the hippy stomper, two nipped the soft hackle emerger, and two grabbed the hares ear nymph. Twelve fish in three hours may sound like a successful day, and the catch rate was in fact satisfactory; however, all the brown trout were in the six to eight inch range. I covered a significant amount of stream real estate, and many areas that I considered prime spots, failed to produce. I never reached the comfortable rhythm that I always seek, and fruitless casting was a constant state.

Afternoon Jewel

Why was the fishing so slow, when the flows were ideal, and the creek was essentially clear? The air temperature remained in the mid-fifties, and large clouds occupied the sky intermittently during the afternoon. I attribute the slow fishing to the lingering high pressure system and the absence of any significant insect activity. Brown trout tend to hug bottom and hide under rocks, unless a food source makes expending energy worthwhile. Hopefully as the temperatures rise in the next few days, the trout of Colorado will be more cooperative.

Fish Landed: 12

South Platte River – 04/26/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/26/2019 Photo Album

I do not normally promote viewing my photo album, but to gain a sense of my enjoyable day in Eleven Mile Canyon, I suggest that you click on the above link and take a peek. Today was a very nice rebound from a mostly disappointing trip on 04/05/2019. The best aspect of the earlier visit to the South Platte River was the companionship of @rockymtnangler and the outstanding lunch, that he prepared on the tailgate of his new truck.

A fun trip to the Green River occupied my calendar during the week of April 15, and I felt the pre-runoff fishing season quickly slipping away. Blue winged olives were the object of my pursuit, and the Arkansas River served as an appetizer on Monday. A sparse hatch occurred; however, surface feeding was not part of the equation. I managed to land four trout on subsurface baetis nymph imitations, but the experience was not the frenzied surface feeding event, that I was seeking.

Historically the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon provided dependable blue winged olive hatches in April and early May, so I decided to make the trek, while the weather was cooperative. I departed my home in Denver at 7AM, and this enabled me to arrive next to the South Platte River by 9:30. The temperature on the Santa Fe dashboard registered forty-eight degrees, so I pulled on my heavy fleece that previously served as the liner on a ski parka. I strung my Sage four weight and ambled down the dirt road for .4 mile, at which point I found a steep rocky path to the edge of the river. I quickly scanned the river and noted that it was clear, and the flows were nearly ideal at 90 CFS.

Near the Start on Friday

I decided to begin my pursuit of South Platte River trout with a buoyant and visible tan pool toy, and I then dangled a beadhead hares ear nymph and emerald caddis pupa. During the first twenty minutes I moved at a rapid pace, as the water was not to my liking. It consisted of very deep narrow pools between steep-sided boulders. This type of structure is fine, when rising fish are visible but is not preferable for blind casting a dry/dropper configuration. I finally arrived at a short section that exhibited some nice runs of moderate depth, but I remained scoreless, so I exchanged the emerald caddis pupa for a classic RS2. The move paid dividends, when a feisty thirteen inch rainbow nipped the baetis nymph imitation in a narrow run between two huge exposed boulders. Shortly thereafter another rainbow attacked the RS2, and I my optimism surged.

First Landed Fish

Home of the Rainbow Was the Narrow Run Between the Large Boulders

At this point the river reverted to a series of narrow deep plunge pools and rapids, so I took advantage of the worn trail and circled around and then approached a gorgeous wide pool. I was dissatisfied with the hares ear, so I swapped the middle fly out for a sucker spawn egg cluster, while I kept the RS2 in its previous position. This combination enticed a brown trout to hit the RS2, and at this point I decided to take my lunch break. I relished the idea of resting on a large rock next to the attractive pool, so I could observe, while I consumed my lunch.

Premium Run and Riffle

After lunch I abandoned the sucker spawn fly and chose a bright green go2 sparkle caddis pupa for the upper nymph position. I also replaced the classic RS2 with a sparkle wing version, since I was in reconfigure mode. Between 12:15 and 2PM these three flies occupied my line, and they performed admirably. I bolstered the fish count from three to nine, and two rainbows grabbed the go2 sparkle caddis pupa, while a cutbow crushed the pool toy, and the other three nabbed the RS2. This period was my favorite phase of the day, as I prospected all the likely spots and maintained a nice rhythm.

The cutbow was a special story, as it rose and refused the pool toy once. I rested it, while I prospected other runs and landed a nice rainbow. After I photographed and released the rainbow, I lobbed another cast to the narrow slot that harbored the cutbow, and it surfaced and slurped the foam terrestrial. What a beast! I could only fit the head and midsection of the fish in my net, and my hand was too small to grip the husky fish for a one-handed photo.

20″ Cutbow

Long and Powerful

Just before 2PM the intensity of the blue winged olive emergence escalated. I was positioned next to the long smooth pool adjoining a high vertical rock wall, when the action accelerated. This was the place where @rockymtnangler enjoyed his success on April 5. I removed my dry/dropper alignment and knotted a size 14 CDC BWO to my line, and I began presenting the tiny tuft in downstream drifts to the active trout across and below me. I managed to dupe one aggressive feeder, but it escaped after a fifteen second display of thrashing and jumping. The wind kicked up, and I was laboring to create drag free drifts. Eventually after a heavy bout of fruitless casting I decided to abandon the educated risers, and I moved upstream eighty yards to the next pool.

Some Width on This Brown

This pool was very large and wide and shallow, but I decided to wade toward the midsection and observe. Initially it seemed dead, but upon focused inspection I noticed three or four fish feeding across from me. I began executing some nice across and down drifts, but the results were not what I expected. One fish rose and refused my CDC olive twice, and then it was totally ignored. The same outcome resulted, when I placed casts in front of several other steady feeders.

Shallow Smooth Pool Produced During the BWO Hatch

Perhaps my fly was too small? I clipped it off and replaced it with a size 22, but this fly did not even produce refusals. I reached in my bag of BWO tricks and tried a size 20 Klinkhammer style BWO. The four fish next to me by this time were jaded from all the casting, so I surveyed the area below. This section of the pool was even more shallow, but despite this several fish were working the surface regularly. I moved downstream a few steps and shot an angled cast to two o’clock. Much to my amazement a bulge materialized in front of a small bump, where the current flowed over a submerged rock, and I instinctively reacted with a sweeping hook set. I felt the throb of a fish and played a nice rainbow to my net.

A Dry Fly Chomper

I now took a position below the midsection of the pool, and a pod of fish continued to feed, where the main center current spread out. I began shooting casts above this group, and this required punching the forward stroke into the wind. After a few short casts, I fired one above the rises, and a second trout sipped the Klinkhammer fraud. At this point I thought I found my salvation, but that proved to be a false assumption. I moved to the top of the run and pool, but these fish decided that the Klinkhammer was not to their liking.

Lots of Risers in This Area

The next section was a lengthy stretch of pocket water, so I abandoned the Klinkhammer and reverted to the dry/dropper method. I copied my earlier lineup, but I substituted a yellow fat Albert for the pool toy. I covered a lot of ground and managed to net a fine brown trout that nipped the RS2 to bring the fish count to twelve. The last fifteen minutes featured several very attractive runs, above two anglers, but the trout were not cooperative, perhaps because the other gentlemen disturbed the area. My watch displayed 4PM, so I climbed a very steep path and crested the rim to arrive at the dirt road, and then I made the short journey back to the car.

Friday on the South Platte River was a very successful day. I was mildly disappointed with my inability to capitalize on the steady feeding during the hatch, but this momentary setback was more than offset by the steady action that resulted from my dry/dropper prospecting. I landed a twenty inch cutbow, and eighteen and sixteen inch rainbows. All twelve fish except for one dink were thirteen inches or longer. Three brown trout joined the mix, and they were also very respectable fish. The weather was pleasant, the hatch provoked active feeding, and my thoughts were immersed in the challenge of fooling trout. What could be better?

Fish Landed: 12

Clear Creek – 04/25/2019

Time: 12:30PM – 3:00PM

Location: Below first bridge after Tunnel 1 heading west

Clear Creek 04/25/2019 Photo Album

I was interested in a nearby destination to sandwich between a longer trip to the Arkansas River on Monday and a planned trip to Eleven Mile Canyon on Friday. I surveyed Clear Creek on my return trip from Eagle, CO on Saturday, so I was confident that the stream was clear. When I reviewed the DWR stream flows for Clear Creek at Lawson, it confirmed my expectations with the stream level in the 50 – 55 CFS range. This combination of information sealed my decision, and I made the relatively short forty-five minute drive to Clear Creek in the canyon west of Golden, CO.

I Like the Looks of the Slick on the Left

I arrived at a pullout along the right shoulder just beyond the first bridge crossing by noon, and I proceeded to munch my small collection of snacks, before I prepared to fish. The air temperature was around sixty degrees, so I pulled on my light fleece, and then I assembled my Orvis Access four weight. I crossed the busy highway, and then sauntered down a path along the south side of the creek. Because it was spring, the dense vegetation, that normally blocks my path, was not a hindrance, and I was able to hike farther than any previous trips. I was about to cut down a bank to the river, when I stumbled across a small tan two-person tent. What was that all about? I was not certain if the tent was occupied, so I reversed my direction and skipped around a tall vertical rock wall, until I could find a reasonably manageable path to the creek.

Number Two on the Day

Once I was perched on the edge of the small canyon stream, I tied a size ten Chernboyl ant to my line, and then I added a beadhead hares ear nymph and emerald caddis pupa. These flies remained on my line, until I switched tactics in the last thirty minutes. I flicked the dry/dropper configuration to all the likely spots along the left bank, and I was rewarded with fifteen landed trout between 12:30PM and 2:30PM. Of course the trout were very small, as they ranged between six and eight inches with perhaps one stretching to nine inches. Nevertheless I enjoyed myself immensely, as I moved at a fairly rapid clip and popped casts to the slower pockets and pools.

Another Sweet Spot

I ignored the entire stream except for the fifteen feet that bordered the left bank. All the landed trout except for one Chernobyl fan grabbed either the hares ear or emerald caddis, and I estimate that four favored the caddis and the remainder crushed the hares ear. This description makes it sound like the two and a half hours were a mindless easy exercise, but that was not the case. For every landed fish I observed a refusal to the Chernobyl ant, and of course a decent dose of temporary hook ups were part of the mix.

Held Up for Display

At 2:30PM I was perched on fifteen landed trout, so I decided to experiment with a single dry approach. The incidence of refusals accelerated between 2PM and 2:30PM, and this prompted me to convert to a single peacock hippy stomper. The foam attractor brought one trout to the surface to move the fish count needle to sixteen; however, it also prompted three refusals. The last visible trout that refused the stomper encouraged me to execute one more fly change. I nipped off the hippy stomper and replaced it with a size 14 olive-brown deer hair caddis. I tossed the small dry to the top of the small deep pool, and on the third drift the hackled deer hair fly disappeared. I assumed it was sucked under by the random currents, but I lifted the rod tip anyway, and I instantly felt the weight of an eight inch brook trout. The small fighter advanced my count to seventeen, and since it was three o’clock, I called it quits.

This Run Failed to Deliver

Thursday was a decent day on Clear Creek. Seventeen trout landed in 2.5 hours represents an above average catch rate. The trout were small, but that is the price paid for fishing within forty-five minutes of home. Surprisingly the seventeen netted fish included three rainbows and two brook trout in addition to the standard twelve browns. I do not recall catching brook trout in Clear Creek previously. The trout were where I expected them to be, and they were not exceedingly choosy about their menu choices. I suffered refusals, but as long as I kept moving, I found an abundant quantity of residents interested in my subsurface offerings.

Fish Landed: 17

Arkansas River – 04/23/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Salida and Wellsvile

Arkansas River 04/23/2019 Photo Album

I characterized my 04/08/2019 trip to the Arkansas River as a mild disappointment, but I was itching for a return visit. During the early April appearance the flows were in the 560 cfs range, and the blue winged olive hatch seemed a bit delayed by the cold water temperatures resulting from a late spring. When I reviewed the stream flows and fly shop reports on Monday evening, I learned that the water managers reduced the supplemental flows from Twin Lakes, so that the Arkansas fell to native levels. In addition the fly shop reports indicated that the river was clear, and blue winged olive emergences were in full swing.

South Park Still Looks Like Winter

I departed from Denver at 7AM and drove through fresh snow in the South Park area, while the dashboard thermometer dipped to 33 degrees. Fortunately by the time I descended to the Arkansas River valley and arrived at my pullout below Salida, the air temperature elevated to 48 degrees. Even with this comparative warmth to South Park, I was chilled when I stepped out of the Santa Fe to prepare to fish. I elected to pull on my heavy fleece and topped it with my raincoat as a windbreaker. Initially I opted for my wide brimmed hat, but the gusts of wind and overcast skies forced me to swap it for my New Zealand hat with earflaps. The gray clouds, cool temperatures and wind continued throughout the remainder of the morning, and I was pleased with my clothing choices. I assembled my Sage five weight and surveyed the river.

Starting Point on the Arkansas River on Tuesday

As reported, it was in fine shape, and clarity was the prominent feature. I hoped to cross the river at the tail of the large pool below my parking space, and the DWR graph displayed 444 CFS, when I checked prior to my trip. Indeed the river appeared to be lower than my previous visit, when my better judgment forced me to execute a U-turn two-thirds of the way across the tailout. On Tuesday I decided to make another attempt, and this time I was successful. I carefully tested each foot placement and angled downstream rather than fight against the stiff current.

After my cautious crossing, I angled up the steep bank and ambled down the railroad tracks. After a short hike I was surprised to see another fisherman at the bottom of the island, that served as my target. Amazingly this would be the only other fishermen I encountered all day, and he happened to be where I desired to fish. I adjusted my plan and cut down a steep rocky bank to the river seventy-five yards above my nemesis. When I settled along the bank, I configured my line with a thingamabobber, split shot, Go2 caddis pupa and sparkle wing RS2. For the next half hour I prospected the troughs and riffles of moderate depth across from my position and worked my way upstream. During this phase of my day I hooked but failed to land two trout, and I was mildly upset by this turn of events but consoled myself with the knowledge that many hours remained.

Pleased With This One

As this was transpiring, I noticed that the downstream fisherman vacated his spot, so I found a steep path, that enabled me to scale the rocky cliffs, and I walked at a rapid pace to the destination I originally targeted to start my day. I decided to cherry pick the prime deep runs and skip the tailouts and slower moving areas, that I traditionally probed with a few casts. The first two quality areas failed to deliver a tug or dip in the indicator, but the long shelf pool below the island finally yielded two brown trout of average size. One nabbed the sparkle wing RS2, and the other grabbed an iron sally, that I substituted for the Go2 caddis.

By this time my watch displayed noon, so I found a wide flat rock and consumed my small lunch. After lunch I removed my raincoat and stashed it in my backpack and folded my earflaps under my hat. The sun now overwhelmed the clouds, and I prepared for a mild afternoon.

After lunch when I reached the downstream tip of the island, I moved up along the left shoreline, and near the tip I temporarily connected with another fish. I caught a brief glimpse of this escapee, and it appeared to be a bit larger than my two previous connections.

I returned to the bottom tip of the small island and surveyed the smaller north channel. I fired a few casts to the area where the flows curled around some exposed boulders, but no response was provided. Next I approached the tailout of the long pool, and I lobbed some casts to the slow water along the left side and along the center current seam. The nymph rig seemed too invasive for this tamer branch of the river, and I contemplated switching to a lighter dry/dropper approach. As this thought crossed my mind, a trout rose several times in quick succession directly above me on the left side. This settled the matter, and I quickly removed the split shot and indicator and replaced them with a peacock hippy stomper. I retained the iron sally and placed a classic RS2 in the bottom position.

Iron Sally in the Side of the Mouth

I progressed upstream along the north braid and added two nice brown trout to my fish count. In addition I temporarily connected with three trout that felt like very respectable Arkansas browns. One of the early afternoon landed browns crushed the iron sally as it smacked down on the water.

Impressive Girth

When I reached the upstream tip of the island, I debated switching back to the deep nymph method, but I decided to stay with the dry/dropper and work the deep pockets and moderate runs close to the north bank. This decision proved to be a smart one, and I increased the fish tally from four to twelve between one and four o’clock. All the late afternoon trout were browns except for one fourteen inch rainbow that surprised me in a deep shelf pool tight to a large rock. In addition to the netted fish I hooked and failed to land another three fish, including a rocket that snapped off all three flies. When I reconfigured my line I replaced the peacock hippy stomper with another comparable model, but I tested a chartreuse copper john and soft hackle emerger for the subsurface flies.

The Only Rainbow on the Day

The three afternoon hours were a blast. The dry/dropper with the three foot leader constrained me to areas of moderate depth. I popped the three flies into prime spots near the bank or behind large boulders, and I was amazed to learn that the brown trout responded. A sparse blue winged olive emergence commenced at 1:30 and continued until 3PM, but I never observed rising trout, so I persisted with the hippy stomper and the trailing nymphs. The hippy stomper was the star performer and accounted for six of the twelve fish landed, and three of the four trout in the 14 – 16 inch range crushed the surface attractor. I am now an even bigger fan of the hippy stomper, than I was previously.

Huge Spots. I Love This Look.

Over the course of the day I landed one trout on the iron sally, one on the chartreuse copper john, six on the peacock hippy stomper; and the other four favored one of the RS2 variations. I was a bit surprised that I did not generate more action on the small trailing baetis nymphs during the light blue winged olive emergence. The vision of wild vividly spotted brown trout smashing the hippy stomper continue to haunt my dreams, and I hope to make another trip before the heavy snow pack of 2019 impacts the river.

Fish Landed: 12

The Arkansas River at 444 CFS

Green River – 04/19/2019

Time: 10:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Little Hole area

Green River 04/19/2019 Photo Album

My expectations were low, and on Friday April 19 the end results confirmed my suspicions. After a superb float trip with our guide Charley on Thursday, Dave G. and I planned a morning of wade fishing, before we departed for our return journey to Eagle, CO.

Several known factors influenced my apprehension regarding our effort on Friday. The weather forecast suggested temperatures ten degrees higher than Thursday with no chance of precipitation. This translated to a bright sun and cloudless blue skies, and these conditions generally translated to challenging fishing. The blue winged olive hatch commenced at approximately 1:30 PM on Thursday, and the fishing from the drift boat was very slow until after lunch, when the small mayflies triggered the feeding habits of the resident trout. We were committed to departing by 12:30 in order to fulfill our obligation to arrive for dinner by 6PM. I suspected that our stream time would not overlap with elevated feeding activity. Nevertheless I was hopeful that we could connect with a fish or two in our limited allotment of time and based on our results of Thursday, we knew that some quality trout made the Green River their home.

After our fourth meal at the Flaming Gorge Lodge and second breakfast Dave G. and I checked out and drove to the large parking lot at Little Hole. Little Hole is seven miles below the dam and serves as the take out for float trips through Section A. We were already attired in our waders and fishing gear, and our rods were rigged with the three fly configuration created by our guide; so after paying the $5 day use fee we were on our way. Dave G. and I began hiking upstream using the Little Hole Trail, and we immediately encountered a cluster of bank fishermen. Several of these anglers appeared to be merely holding their claims to prime stream real estate with the expectation of a hatch in the future. This observation and the number of vehicles in the parking lot caused concern to occupy my brain waves.

Magazine Cover Scene

I set my Garmin watch on walk mode at the outset, so I knew, that we hiked for 1.2 miles, until we approached a decent stretch of water that was unoccupied. Dave G. and I decided to take advantage of the space, and we defined twenty-five yard sections to probe with our holdover flies from Thursday. All the flies on my line were of a similar genre. They contained tungsten beads and gray or olive bodies with a wire rib. In addition, two displayed short tails, and the top two flies were knotted to four inch droppers that angled away from the main line. I added a small clear thingamabobber near the end of the fly line, and I began to prospect my chosen beat.

I focused on smooth water, since Thursday’s experience demonstrated that the trout preferred slow spots next to faster runs. I made upstream casts with dead drifts, up and across lobs with a swing at the end, and casts directly across with some active manipulation. None of these techniques tempted a single trout. I reached the point where Dave G. entered, so I circled around him on the path and claimed a new section with promising water. When Dave G. reached my entry point, he also performed a circumnavigation maneuver. At this location I was twenty-five yards below him, when I noticed a severe arc in his rod. I paused to observe, and as I looked on, he manipulated a thrashing fish toward his net. I quickly retrieved my camera and shot a short video of the fish sliding over the lip of the net and the subsequent sag created by a surprise fish.

Dave G. Displays a Jewel

Dave G. asked me to take some photos, so I rested my rod and flies on a rock and made the short walk to his rock, where I snapped a pair of grip and grins. Afterward I resumed my futile efforts in the attractive water between us. I exited the river once again, when I arrived at the vicinity of Dave G.’s fine catch, and I once again cut to the trail and began another upstream migration. During this cycle, however, I encountered a large cluster of bank fishermen spread over a .2 mile section of the Green River shoreline. This area was adjacent to a pair of vault toilets, and I continued until I was beyond the last angler. I felt I was now safe to cut at a ninety degree angle to the river, so I did so and found myself at the tail of a gorgeous long shelf pool. Surely this attractive section would end my fishing drought on Friday, April 19.

Looked Perfect But No Success

By now my line contained an ultra zug bug in the top position, a size 22 beadhead RS2 in the middle, and the baetis nymph that carried over from Thursday. I methodically covered the long shelf pool with drifts through the slow water and along the current seam, but once again my efforts to land a single fish on Friday were thwarted. When I reached the top of the pool, Dave G. arrived, and we concluded that it was time to begin our hike back to the parking lot in order to make the 4.5 hour drive and arrive at Eagle, CO in time for dinner.

I clocked the return hike and determined that we were 1.8 miles from the parking lot at our farthest point. I anticipated the high sun and the lack of insect activity, but I underestimated the number of wading fishermen above Little Hole. We basked in the sun and exercised our legs with a nice hike in a spectacular canyon, but I was unable to fool any brown or rainbow trout along the north bank of the Green River. I was not significantly disappointed, since my expectations were very low, and I reminded myself that Thursday was an outstanding day.

Fish Landed: 0

 

Green River – 04/18/2019

Time: 9:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Section A below Flaming Gorge Dam

Green River 04/18/2019 Photo Album

I last floated the Green River in northeastern Utah on 04/12/2002, so when my friend Dave Gaboury called to suggest we book a trip to celebrate his recent retirement, I responded with an enthusiastic thumbs up. I dug out my reports from earlier experiences, and a quick review revealed that the middle of April enabled us to encounter dense blue winged olive hatches. Armed with this information I contacted Spinner Fall Guide Service and booked a float trip for April 18, 2019. Spinner Fall was the very same guide service, that I used in the 1990’s and early 2000’s; and I was pleased to discover that Scott Barrus, my previous guide, was now the owner of the popular guide business out of Dutch John.

I drove to Eagle, CO on Wednesday April 17, and I transferred my gear to Dave G.’s car. Within thirty minutes we were on our way to the Flaming Gorge Resort, where we had reservations for Wednesday and Thursday night. On Thursday morning Dave G. and I hit the Flaming Gorge Resort restaurant for breakfast, and then we drove to the assigned meeting place in Dutch John, where we met our guide for the day, Charley. Scott was booked with other customers, so he assigned Charley to us, and we were quite pleased with the selection.

Busy Place Below Flaming Gorge Dam

The temperature was in the low forties, when we launched below Flaming Gorge dam, and the thermometer peaked at sixty in the afternoon. Thursday proved to be a very pleasant day for a float through the canyon tailwater of the Green River. The sky remained cloudless during our entire stay on the river, as we drifted under deep blue skies and bright sunshine. Flows were reported to be 950 CFS, and according to our guide, Charley, this was low compared to historical averages for April.

On Our Way

Dave G. occupied the bow of the Boulder drift boat, and I held down the rear for the morning session. Quite a few boats were lined up at the launch, and we departed in a pack. It was rare during our float, that we did not enjoy the company of at least one other drift boat.

Our Guide Charley

Charley rigged both of us with nymph setups. He attached an eight inch butt section of red monofilament to the fly line with a loop to loop lock. A small inflated water balloon served as the strike indicator at the end of the red monofilament section. Next Charley ran five feet of level 5X fluorocarbon from the indicator, and then he knotted two flies with tungsten beads to the fluoro. The upper fly was attached to one of the five inch tag ends of a surgeon’s knot. At eleven o’clock Charley reconfigured with a three fly arrangement, and in this setup two flies were affixed to surgeon knot tag ends. All three flies were small ribbed nymphs with tungsten beads. Two had tails and one was more representative of a midge larva.

Baetis Nymph Imitation

During the first hour I landed a gorgeous eighteen inch rainbow and a fourteen inch brown trout. In addition I experienced three temporary hook ups, but the late morning was a dead time consumed by hours of fruitless casting.

 

 

A Brown from the Morning

Lunch Spread

After a streamside lunch of burgers and salad, we resumed our float. By 1:30 we began to observe occasional blue winged olives, as they skittered across the river in response to the intermittent blasts of wind. Charley reconfigured our lines once again with a smaller balloon indicator and three BWO nymph imitations spaced two feet apart. He explained that this set up would cover the entire water column, as the trout reacted to active baetis nymphs. The lighter weight and smaller indicator were also more conducive to prospecting the shallow rocky riffles along the bank.

Another Look

Dave G. and I switched positions, and the combination of the baetis emergence, a lighter rig, and being in the front position propelled me to improved success. From 1:30PM until 4:00PM I landed thirteen trout and one large whitefish to bring my trout total to fifteen on the day. Yes, it was a fun day on the Green River. Five rainbows occupied my net along with ten brown trout. Included in this tally was a nineteen inch brown and an eighteen inch rainbow. All the other fish, except for two small ones netted near the takeout ramp, were in excess of fourteen inches.

Happy With This Green River Catch

I bought into Charley’s pleas to fish the smooth slower moving slicks, and this paid off with a burst of action. Several browns materialized from fairly shallow riffles near the bank, and this conformed with Charley’s prediction. In short we had a blast. Dave G. tallied twelve on the day in addition to my fifteen. The river residents never fed on the surface, but they clearly went into feeding mode on the active nymphs. The number and quantity of fish landed on April 18 was excellent.

Fish Landed: 15

Boulder Creek – 04/16/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 04/16/2019 Photo Album

My outing a week ago on Boulder Creek merely served to whet my appetite for closure on unfinished business. I was only getting warmed up, when I quit at 5:30PM with seven trout registered in my fishing log.

Until I checked the DWR flow information on Monday, the gauge on Boulder Creek at Orodell displayed an I for ice. I mentioned this in my last blog report, and perhaps a DWR employee read my post and corrected the reporting bug. More likely the timing was coincidental, but regardless of the reason, the graph now showed 33 cfs for Boulder Creek. I knew from historical experience that this level was very acceptable for fly fishing. The air temperature in Denver was projected to peak in the upper sixties, so this placed another variable in the favorable column, and I chose to make the drive to Boulder Canyon.

Jane and I drove through Boulder on Sunday on our return from a hike with grand puppy, Zuni, and I recalled seeing a road sign warning of a closure to Boulder Canyon. In addition to checking flows and weather, I now resolved to access the COtrip.org web site for road conditions. After a bit of wheel spinning I found the Colorado road conditions page, and the Boulder Canyon entry informed me that CO 119 in Boulder Canyon was closed for blasting April 17 through April 19. I was planning a trip on April 16, so all systems were go.

The Path Forward

By 11AM I arrived at the same pullout that my car visited a week ago next to Boulder Creek. I quickly climbed into my recently patched waders and then geared up with my Orvis Access four weight and added a light fleece layer. The air temperature was in the low sixties, and it felt chilly, when the sun disappeared behind some large heavy gray clouds. I ambled upstream along the shoulder of the highway for .1 mile and then carefully scrambled down an angled path to the creek. I began my day with a Chernobyl ant, hares ear, and soft hackle emerger before lunch; and this combination enabled me to land two fish. One of the brown trout nipped a soft hackle emerger, and the other latched on to the Chernobyl ant.

Deep Colors

Several minutes after noon I encountered a gorgeous wide pool, but my quest for trout was plagued by refusals to the Chernboyl ant. I decided to pause for lunch and then modify my lineup, before I resumed in the afternoon. I followed through on this commitment, when I switched to an olive-brown size 16 caddis. The refusals suggested that the fish were looking to the surface for their meal, and I gambled that the small caddis dry fly was the answer. The ploy was worth a brief trial, but the visible fish in the pool ignored the small hackled offering.

Hippy Stomper Stands Out

After a fifteen minute test I gave up on the caddis, and I revisited the dry/dropper approach with a hippy stomper, ultra zug bug, and a classic beadhead RS2. This lineup was not productive, so I once again made a change and converted to an emerald caddis pupa instead of the ultra zug bug. During the last hour of fishing in the afternoon I used a massive tangle as an excuse to swap the emerald caddis pupa for a beadhead pheasant tail nymph.

Trout Lair For Sure

Between 12:30 and 3:30 I progressed upstream for .5 mile at a fairly rapid pace, and I popped casts with the dry/dropper to likely fish holding locations, while I built the fish count from two to thirteen. Two fish snatched the pheasant tail nymph, two inhaled the RS2, and the remainder slurped the hippy stomper. During my entire time on Boulder Creek the hippy stomper was the top producer and accounted for eight trout. Tuesday yielded a reasonable catch rate; however, the fish were small, and I experienced a generous number of refusals to the hippy stomper and many momentary connections.

I Love Orange Spots

In spite of these frustrations, Tuesday was an enjoyable day on Boulder Creek. The air temperature reached the mid-sixties, although quite a few clouds moved in during the latter phase of the afternoon, and this shift in weather was accompanied by an uptick in wind. I prospected at a moderate pace with three to five casts to attractive runs, pools, and pockets. The nymphs produced, whenever I cast across and allowed the flies to drift along the rocky shoreline. The trout pounced, as the flies accelerated and swept by the tails of these areas. Brown trout were more prone to grab the hippy stomper on upstream casts to long runs, pools and pockets.

Fish Landed: 13

Slow Along the Bank

 

 

Boulder Creek – 04/09/2019

Time: 3:30PM : 5:30PM

Location: Canyon west of Boulder, CO

Boulder Creek 04/09/2019 Photo Album

I made the trip to the Arkanasa River on Monday with the intention of staying overnight in Salida, if the fishing merited a second day. I packed additional food and clothing in case that eventuality played out. Although Monday was a nearly perfect spring day, the fly fishing was average to slow, and I could not foresee myself spending another day casting nymphs and climbing over large treacherous boulders. I returned to Denver and planned to make a shorter drive to a smaller front range waterway on Tuesday.

When I checked my email on Tuesday morning, I was surprised to learn that April 9 was the day that I committed to meet a college friend and his wife for lunch. The gorgeous weather momentarily enticed me to cancel the appointment, but after some serious thought I made the right decision and honored my commitment to a friend. Lunch took place at noon in Old Arvada, and this consumed a huge chunk of the day, but upon my return home, I decided to make a quick late afternoon fishing trip to partially satisfy my strong desire to wet a line.

Pretty Near Ideal

The water gauge that I rely on for Boulder Creek in the canyon west of the city is labeled, Boulder Creek – Orodell. Throughout March and April I repeatedly checked this reading, and it never budged from I. The legend indicated that I stood for ice, so I assumed that the canyon west of town was covered in ice. Visits to other front range streams at similar elevations such as the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek revealed minimal residual ice, so I decided to made the drive to personally inspect the conditions.

Most of my gear remained in the car from Monday’s trip, and I ate lunch with Jane and my friends, so I departed my house quickly. Volume on the Boulder Turnpike was reasonable, and I arrived at a wide pullout across from Boulder Creek near the intersection with Magnolia Road by 3:15PM. I slid into my waders, and with temperatures hovering in the 75 degree range I elected to wear my fishing shirt with no additional layers. The creek was a bit lower than ideal, but quite clear with only a few small vestiges of ice along the edges. I suspect the DWR needs to inspect and maintain the Orodell water gauge.

I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and walked along the south shoulder for .2 miles, until I was next to some concrete barriers across from Magnolia Road. Here I dropped down to the stream, and I decided to probe the currents and pockets with a size 14 gray stimulator. The trout on other front range streams seemed to be on the lookout for occasional large surface food items, and I always prefer dry fly fishing over deploying nymphs. Unfortunately after ten minutes of prospecting the high floating dry fly through some very attractive pools and pockets, I remained without a fish, so I modified my approach to the dry/dropper method.

Not Bad

I knotted a peacock-body hippy stomper to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear and an ultra zug bug. These flies occupied their positions on my line for the remainder of the afternoon, as I worked my way upstream for .3 miles at a nice moderate pace. The hippy stomper served primarily as an indicator, although it did produce three refusals. For the most part, however, it served its purpose; and I landed seven trout before I climbed the bank and returned to the Santa Fe at 5:30. All the landed trout were small browns in the 6 – 8 inch range, and their preferred source of nourishment was the ultra zug bug. Two wild trout chomped the hares ear, and the rest opted for the simple peacock-body zug bug.

Productive Slick

I also experienced four temporary hook ups, and several of these were simply small fish that more than likely did not meet my minimal standard of six inches to be counted. The most productive water types were slower shelf pools along the opposite bank and deep spots where two currents merged after splitting around a midstream current break. Two hours of carefree fly fishing were what the doctor ordered. The keys to success were mainly stealthy approaches, accurate casting and reading the water. With a snowstorm rapidly descending on Colorado it may be quite a few days, before I visit another stream or river in the Rocky Mountains.

Fish Landed: 7

Arkansas River – 04/08/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Salida.

Arkansas River 04/08/2019 Photo Album

Mild temperatures, favorable fly shop reports and nearly ideal flows had me anxious for a longer trip to a bigger river with the hope of hooking some larger trout in 2019. The small front range tributaries to the South Platte River offer decent fish density and provide close proximity, but size is generally a missing ingredient. The Arkansas River was running at 560 CFS below Salida, so I selected the large freestone river as my destination.

I packed clothing and food for an overnight stay in case the fishing merited a return engagement on Tuesday. After a three hour drive across a snow drift laden South Park, I arrived next to the river below Salida by 11AM. The river was nearly clear, and the flows, as expected, were in the 560 CFS range. The temperature was already 59 degrees, as I pulled on my waders, so I added only a single fleece layer over my fishing shirt. After I strung my Sage four weight, I carefully descended the steep bank near the Fremont – Chafee county line, and then I paused to assess the possibility of crossing at the tail of the long pool. I love fishing the Arkansas River from the bank opposite US 50, and I desired that experience on Monday.

560 CFS was a bit higher than the flows that I normally attempt to cross at, but a brief visual inspection yielded a line of attack that suggested success. I carefully negotiated my way halfway across, and at this point I reached the deepest channel with the highest velocity. In a concession to age and good sense, I exercised my better judgment and returned to the shoreline that borders the highway.

Happy With This Brown Trout

With fording the river now eliminated from my plan, I walked down the highway for .5 mile and then descended a gradual path to the edge of the river. Here I began my day, and I fished from 11:30 until 12:15, and I landed a twelve inch brown trout and experienced a temporary hookup with another fish. Since it remained early in the season, and Colorado was experiencing a late spring; I began fishing with an indicator, split shot, iron sally and Craven soft hackle emerger. The single fish landed before lunch inhaled the soft hackle emerger.

Attractive Shelf Pool

After I completed lunch on a nice sandy beach, I progressed along the left bank, until I reached a point where a large rock bordered the river. This impediment to my progress forced me to retreat to a place, where I could scale the bank, and then I walked along the highway, until I dropped back to the river above the vertical rock wall.

A More Distant View of the Arkansas River

During the remainder of the afternoon I landed five additional trout. I continued to present the iron sally and the Craven soft hackle emerger in the afternoon. I used a soft hackle emerger without a bead for much of this time, and a hares ear nymph occupied the position of the iron sally for a brief interval. My landing percentage finished at 60%, as four trout escaped after temporary connections. One of the escapees was a very fine brown trout that probably measured in the fifteen inch range. I cast to the very top of a nice long riffle of moderate depth, and the indicator paused almost immediately.

Prime Deep Runs

In addition to landing six out of ten hook ups, I lost three iron sally flies and four soft hackle emergers. Most of the lost flies snagged on rocks, but one was lost in the mouth of a fish, and I suspect a couple were victimized by a bad knot. A blue winged olive hatch commenced at 1:30, and for a thirty minute period I spotted quite a few naturals lifting off the surface of the river. Unfortunately the emergence never seemed to initiate surface feeding, and this explained my devotion to the deep nymphing game.

Lovely Curl

Two of the landed fish snatched the iron sally, and the other four nabbed the soft hackle emerger. The most productive type of water was moderate depth and medium velocity near the bank. Casting to the deeper holes and faster seams was an unproductive activity. My best fish was a fourteen inch rainbow, and a nice thirteen inch brown was the last fish of the day. Both rested in my net during the final hour of fishing.

Best Brown Trout on the Day

At 3:50 I snagged a stick, that was wedged in a large boulder, and it was too far out and in a fast deep chute, so I chose to apply direct pressure. This resulted in a break off of both flies, so I used this as an excuse to quit for the day. Monday was an average day on the Arkansas River. Nymphing with an indicator is not a favorite method, but it was likely the most productive technique, while the water temperature remained cold and the flows were a bit elevated. I gained first hand knowledge of the status of the blue winged olive hatch, and I managed to land a couple larger trout to satisfy that objective for the day. Hopefully I will schedule another trip within the next two weeks, when the insect activity intensifies.

Fish Landed: 6