Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM
Location: Below Gross Reservoir
After a stellar day on Tuesday on South Boulder Creek, I was eager to visit the small tailwater again, and Friday, August 11 was that day. I was convinced that I fished South Boulder Creek on Tuesday amid flows of 144 CFS; however, when I reviewed the DWR website prior to making the trip on Friday, I checked the graph and discovered that the water managers reduced the output on Tuesday morning to 90 CFS. No wonder the conditions seemed so ideal! Unfortunately the graph also revealed that Denver Water was performing its usual yoyo stream management, as the level dropped to 50 CFS from 90 CFS, and then on Friday morning the valves were opened again to 164 CFS. The reading actually displayed 126 at 8AM on Friday morning, but the graph was spiking, and I suspected that it was on an upward trajectory. When I returned home after fishing, I determined the actual outflow.
Tuesday was a spectacular day, and I did not expect to replicate it. I landed nearly forty fish, and all except the first two devoured a dry fly, and large size 14 green drakes were the food of choice. That type of good fortune is rare, and given the increase in flows, I ratcheted down my expectations. Would I be able to wade and cross the creek, or would I be locked into one side? Did the frequent adjustments to flows impact the feeding routines of the resident trout? What impact did the change in flows have on the insect hatches, and most importantly would green drakes attract the attention of the South Boulder Creek trout? All these questions bounced through my brain, as I drove to the upper parking lot on Friday morning.
When I arrived at the parking area, I noted that five vehicles preceded me. Two anglers quickly appeared at the top of the trailhead, and they quickly stashed their gear in two separate cars, and their departure reduced the competitive population of fishermen to three cars. I quickly assembled my Loomis five weight, as I enjoy using it to cast large dry flies, and it also gave me an excuse to utilize my new disc drag reel. The air temperature was in the upper fifties, and the sky was partly cloudy with some large puffy gray clouds building in the southwest. I quickly descended the steep path to the stream, and I crossed below the small island just below my convergence with the creek. The water was indeed running high, but the wide riffle section was manageable for a stream crossing.
My next concern was the repair work on the pedestrian bridge, but apparently work was not scheduled for Friday, and I crossed without any delay. I passed one solo fisherman in the long deep pool that is perpetually occupied, and a second fisherman in wet wading attire appeared from below the bridge. This accounted for two of the three remaining cars in the parking lot. The gentleman by the bridge hiked ahead of me, and he disappeared after we turned right off the Walker Loop on to the fisherman path. A family was gathered by the single picnic table just before the fisherman path turn off, and I was fairly certain they were the occupants of the final car in the parking lot.
I now had the remainder of the stream to myself, so I hiked a fair distance below the fellow who emerged from below the bridge, and then I cut down to the stream. The high flows dictated that I could only fish on the north side of the stream, and they forced me to focus on the protected pockets and shelf pools where the water velocity was favorable for the local trout. By the time I initiated my first cast it was approaching 11AM, so I decided to go directly to a green drake imitation. I tied a parachute green drake to my line and began to prospect the shelf pools and edges. Some downstream casts to a nice pocket next to a vertical rock wall failed to yield any action, so I pivoted and launched some casts to a gorgeous deep shelf pool just upstream from my starting point. Success. A small brown trout darted to the surface and chomped on the parachute green drake. This was an auspicious sign, but I was not convinced it would be easy.
Within minutes I discovered that various obstacles would test my patience on Friday. In order to angle a cast to the current seam along the shelf pool, I initiated a high backcast, and I was shocked to discover that I hooked a scraggly bush growing from the huge vertical rock wall behind me. I only packed four size 14 parachute green drakes, so I was very reluctant to lose one this early in the game. I waded in both directions to ascertain whether I could do some amateur rock climbing, but I wisely concluded that a fly was not worth the undue risk associated with this plan. Only one option remained, and that was to tug directly on my line. I grabbed the tapered leader so that I would not put excessive stress on my rod tip, and I pulled directly toward the stream. Sometimes miracles do happen, and the line released and caught on branches twice, before it recoiled in my direction. I stripped up the line assuming that my valuable green drake was absent, but much to my surprise it was still attached! Unfortunately the force of tugging it free somehow stressed the parachute hackle, and it climbed up the wing post. I pressed it back against the base by pinching my fingers around it, but I could see that the thread wraps were unraveling, and it was just a matter of time until the fly joined my handicapped fly pile.
I finally advanced upstream and quickly determined that the green drake was not a morning favorite, so I tested a medium olive size 12 stimulator. The heavily hackled dry fly enabled me to add another small brown trout to my tally, but then it attracted attention in the form of refusals. After the fourth snub, I swapped it for a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis, and the fish that rebuffed the stimulator fell for the caddis. I persisted with the diminutive deer hair dry for a decent amount of time, and it allowed me to move the fish count to five, before I encountered one of my favorite pools on the river. I knew from prior visits that quite a few trout called this location home, so when I gained no action with the caddis, I removed it and reverted to the parachute green drake. The change worked, and I landed a small brown, but as expected the hackle unraveled, and I replaced it with another size 14 parachute. This fly generated several refusals, so I cycled through a comparadun style with no rib and a Harrop hair wing version. All were rejected by the pool dwellers.
Several large boulders bordered the quality pool, so I elected to rest the water and make this my lunch spot. After lunch I spotted a couple natural green drakes, and this reinforced my commitment to green drake dry fly fishing. The naturals from a distance seemed larger than the parachute and comparadun imitations that got refused, so I examined my box and extracted a nice comparadun with maroon ribbing. The deer hair wing on this fly was quite large, and I speculated that the high wing might be a major triggering characteristic. It worked, sort of. I landed a few fish, but then several rejections dampened my spirits.
It was about this time that a fisherman who had been thirty yards above me walked by along the path. We exchanged greetings, and since I noticed he was casting downstream, I asked if he was fishing with wet flies. He replied negative and showed me a green drake cripple that he was drifting over fish. He said he hooked one, but invited me to fish the spot he just vacated, since he observed quite a few fish there. This gentleman also told me that the flows were increased to 166 CFS.
I moved upstream at a moderate pace and continued prospecting with the ribbed comparadun, and this fly allowed me to net a few more fish. Unfortunately I never found a fly that totally eliminated the refusals and temporary hook ups. At some point I switched from the ribbed comparadun to a different size 14 parachute. The first parachute seemed undersized to me, and the second one possessed a fatter body and a longer bundle of moose mane hair for a tail. The fly actually tilted forward a bit due to the large tail, but it was more productive than its predecessors. The fish count climbed to twelve on the performance of the second parachute, but then it grew waterlogged, and my frustration with frequent drying caused me to make yet another change. This time I dug out a different ribbed comparadun with a high full wing and a slender body.
The ribbed comparadun became my last fly choice, and it boosted the fish count to twenty. It was not perfect, as I witnessed a huge number of refusals and hook ups that lasted only a fraction of a second, but it performed better than any of the other flies that spent time on my line. The sun finally gained dominance, and the added warmth seemed to prompt more green drake hatching activity, although the emergence was very sporadic at best. My best success coincided with the time period when I spotted the most naturals. It also seemed that the rainbow trout were far less discriminating than brown trout, as brown trout exhibited a much more wary behavior with a preponderance of last minute twists and turns to avoid my tempting fly.
Friday was not Tuesday by any means, but a twenty fish day at high flows was certainly satisfactory. I cycled through an array of flies, and I settled on a parachute and comparadun that delivered a level of success. Persistence was the name of the game, and again I was thankful for my fly tying capability, since this allowed me to stock a variety of green drake styles. I tested nearly every variation, and two produced most of my success.
Fish Landed: 20