Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM
Location: Beyond the boulder field and then back upstream
Fish Landed: 4
Spring fishing in 2016 is proving to be unusually challenging. This story actually begins on Tuesday, April 5. Flows on South Boulder Creek were listed at 92 CFS, and this is nearly ideal and far more desirable than the low flows posted for the Big Thompson River and the South Platte River. At least that is what I thought. I got off to a late start, but this proved to be irrelevant. As I motored west on Interstate 70 the temperature on the dashboard was 66 degrees. By the time I turned right off of Coal Creek Canyon Road at Crescent Drive, the mercury plummeted to 38 degrees and snow was blowing sideways. I finally accepted that Tuesday was not going to be a fun day to fish, so I executed a U-turn and headed home.
As I drove south on route 93 toward Golden, I decided to scout Clear Creek Canyon since it was along my return route. The temperature returned to the upper fifties as I made a right turn onto route 6 and drove into the canyon, although a foreboding dark cloud was rapidly approaching from the west. I advanced into the canyon for a couple miles and slowly angled into a broad pullout. From my vantage point in the car, I could see that the water was stained, but there was some clarity along the edges, and I was certain that I could edge fish. The murkiness might actually be an advantage, as I would not be readily visible to the fish. Since it was lunch time, I planned to eat my lunch in the car, before climbing into my waders, but when I opened the car door, I was nearly swept off my feet by the powerful blast of wind rushing down the canyon. At this point I threw in the towel and returned to the comfort of my home in Stapleton. I left all my fishing gear in the car, however, as I remembered that the weather forecast for Wednesday was more favorable.
On Wednesday morning I packed a new lunch and repacked the few items that did not remain in the Santa Fe overnight. I departed from the house at 9:30 and arrived at the upper parking lot below Gross Dam at 10:30. By the time I suited up in my waders and hiked down the path along the stream and began fishing it was just after 11AM. The temperature was probably in the upper 40’s when I began, and the wind chill made if feel far worse. I wore my fleece plus my raincoat as a windbreaker layer, and in addition my head was fitted with my long billed hat with ear flaps.
There were no cars in the parking lot when I began my hike, but somehow I encountered three or four fishermen as I walked briskly along the stream on the fisherman path. I am mystified regarding where they parked, but they remained in the upper segment below the dam and did not impact my ability to cover a lot of stream.
When I approached the stream after a thirty minute hike, I observed that the water was very clear and flowing at a higher than ideal level, yet low enough to allow crossing and relatively easy wading. I assessed my options, and decided that a dry/dropper approach could get my nymphs deep enough in the slack water locations where fish were likely to seek shelter from the faster current. I began with a Fat Albert supporting an ultra zug bug, and I began probing the likely fish holding spots. During the first hour I experienced several momentary hook ups, but then I hooked and landed two small rainbows on the ultra zug bug. I felt that I should be generating more interest, so I extended my dry/dropper configuration by adding a salad spinner.
Just before lunch at noon two trout snatched one of the nymphs but spit the flies before I could successfully set the hook. I never saw the top fly pause or dip, but I did notice the flash of the two fish, as they fled after realizing that their meal had a sharp pointy core. After lunch I continued my upstream progression. I approached a place where there was a deep midstream pocket and lofted the three fly offering to the center of the slow area. The Fat Albert drifted only a foot before it darted sideways, and this visual clue enabled me to set the hook and land a healthy twelve inch brown trout. This was one of the larger browns that I hooked on South Boulder Creek.
I did not realize it at the time, but this proved to be the peak moment for my day on South Boulder Creek. I resumed my upstream movement and thoroughly covered the many attractive runs and pockets, but the only reward for my focused efforts was one additional fish landed in the form of a seven inch rainbow trout. At one point I spotted a decent sized fish that refused the Fat Albert, so I swapped it for a size eight Chernobyl ant. The fish never responded to this change in menu. Also in the early afternoon I observed several small gray stoneflies, as they slowly took flight over the water. This reminded me of my day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain in March, so I copied my tactic from that outing. I switched the salad spinner for a gray size 20 soft hackle emerger. Alas none of my strategies reversed my fortunes.
By 3PM my feet felt like stumps and shadows were covering the left side of the stream. I endured a long interval with no action, so I decided to call it quits. I hiked for twenty minutes including the steep climb out of the canyon and prepared for the drive back to Denver. For some reason I was unable to fall into a rhythm today. The fishing pressure was non-existent and the water was clear and close to ideal flows. Perhaps I should have tested a deep nymphing approach with weight given the higher flows and cold water temperatures. The wind was also an annoying factor for the entire time and this added to my discomfort. Hopefully warmer temperatures and increased insect activity cause the fish to become more active, and this combination will yield greater success for this blogging fisherman.