Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM
Location: One mile from the parking lot where there is a huge mass of large boulders extending from the path to the stream
Fish Landed: 4
With work commitments scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, I knew that Tuesday was my best opportunity to enjoy a day of fishing. The high temperatures in Denver were forecast to be in the upper 70’s, so from a weather perspective as well, Tuesday was favorable for fishing.
Now the challenge revolved around finding a stream that was still in reasonable fishing condition, as I had not checked stream flows in a week. I went down the South Platte watershed list on the DWR website which is listed alphabetically. Bear Creek was at 132 cfs so I crossed it off. This is roughly six times ideal flows. Clear Creek swelled from 120 cfs to 251 cfs in the last couple days, so that was not an option. The South Platte River below Cheesman Reservoir jumped from 280 cfs to 400 cfs in a matter of a day. 400 is high, and I don’t like water that increased significantly within the last couple days as the fish haven’t had time to adjust. The South Platte River below Strontia Springs in Waterton Canyon was at 222 cfs, and from previous experience that is high for the narrow canyon stream bed, so that wasn’t a good destination. The Big Thompson skyrocketed from 130 cfs to 330 cfs in five days, so this was another show stopper.
I finally uncovered two options. South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir was listed at 132 cfs, and I fished it earlier in May at 148 cfs, so I knew this was manageable. The South Platte River near Lake George was presented at 75 cfs and actually this projected the best fishing conditions within a day drive of Denver. I had fished the South Platte on Friday and experienced a fine day, but I opted for South Boulder Creek due to its proximity.
I got off to a late start as I had to handle some chores for the workmen delivering sheet rock for the basement finish project, and consequently I pulled into the parking lot above South Boulder Creek at 10:15. By the time I pulled on my waders and prepared my gear for fishing and hiked down to the stream it was approaching 11AM. It was overcast and cool with the temperature in the low 50’s when I began. I had my 5 weight Loomis two piece rod and began with a tan pool toy and below that I added a beadhead hares ear nymph. These flies were not productive and after moving upstream for thirty yards, I swapped the hares ear for an emerald caddis pupa, and added a third fly in the form of a beadhead bright green caddis pupa.
These flies also proved to be out of favor with the South Boulder Creek trout, so after a reasonable test period, I clipped off the bright green caddis pupa and replaced it with a salvation nymph. This finally turned the tide, and I landed two small rainbows on the salvation nymph. By 12:30 I had two fish in my count, and I was feeling hungry and a bit chilled, so I paused for lunch. I removed the fleece that I tied around my waist under my waders and pulled it on, and then I sat next to the stream below a nice pool and ate my lunch while observing the water.
The water was high for the relatively small Boulder Creek stream bed, and there were minimal points where I could safely cross to the bank away from the path so I remained on the more accessible side. Most of the water I was able to fish was in the 5-10 feet of space bordering the bank where the high current velocity was broken by logs and large boulders. After lunch I decided to exchange the salvation nymph for a soft hackle emerger since I spotted one or two blue winged olive mayflies fluttering in the air above the water. I stuck with the pool toy, emerald caddis and soft hackle emerger for a fair amount of time and covered a decent amount of water. For some reason I began to experience fairly frequent refusals to the pool toy and disregard for the trailing subsurface patterns.
The normally productive edge water was not producing, so I began to experiment with fishing some of the deep slots and troughs where currents merged as I took a lesson from my success on Friday on the South Platte River. This actually worked, and I landed a very bright and colorful eleven inch rainbow that attacked the emerald caddis. At the tail of the drift as I gradually lifted my rod to make another cast, the rainbow grabbed the caddis.
The soft hackle emerger had now been on my line for a fair amount of time without generating any interest, so I decided that there was no significant BWO activity in spite of the overcast conditions. I concluded that I might as well offer something larger and with more flash, so I reverted to the salvation nymph as it had at least produced two fish earlier. I began to direct my casts to the deeper slots and troughs and executed swings and lifts at the end of the drift and managed two land a second brightly colored rainbow on the salvation nymph. In addition I felt the temporary weight of two other fish that reacted to the swing and lift approach, however, I was unsuccessful in bringing these fish to my net. The frequency of contact with fish did in fact improve and held my interest until close to 2:30PM.
Despite more action and changing my tactics to prioritize a different type of water and drift, I continued to notice refusals. Once a fish rose to inspect the pool toy but returned to its lie without taking the fly, it no longer responded to repeated drifts. I was bothered by this interest in surface food accompanied by a reluctance to eat the floating morsel, so I removed my three flies and experimented with some dry flies over the final hour. I tried a gray size 16 deer hair caddis and a green size 12 stimulator, but these didn’t even generate a refusal. It was worth a try, but I now reached the pedestrian bridge and decided to cross and cover the same water that I’d cast to on my two hour visit during an earlier evening in May.
I carefully walked along the path on the south bank of the creek and then dropped down the steep slope to the point where several currents merge in a deep run before the main current then deflects off a large vertical wall. I reverted to the dry/dropper technique and deployed the tan pool toy with a beadhead hares ear and then the salvation nymph. I thoroughly covered the attractive water characterized by merging currents and the deep trough, but nothing responded to my careful presentations. I was certain that this area would yield a fish, but I was wrong. I turned around and moved up along the south bank for another twenty yards, but again I was thwarted in my efforts to land a fish.
I was now growing frustrated with the lack of action, and it was approaching 3:30 so I decided to climb back up the steep bank to the path and explore the nice water on the south side above the pedestrian bridge. I angled back to the creek a short distance above the bridge and prospected twenty yards of decent water, but I’d lost confidence, and the fish weren’t doing anything to reverse my mental state. I decided to call it a day and made the return hike and ascent out of the canyon to the Santa Fe.
I enjoyed a beautiful day in a scenic canyon setting a little over an hour from home, and I managed to land four pretty fish. While the catch rate was beneath my usual rate, I was fishing in a stream on May 20, and that in and of itself was quite an accomplishment. My stream fishing days in Colorado appear to be numbered, and I will shortly turn my attention to stillwaters.