Time: 10:30AM – 5:00PM
Location: Tailwater below Gross Reservoir; 25 minute hike down path
Fish Landed: 13
With my work totally caught up Thursday and Friday were available for fishing. Originally I considered biking up Waterton Canyon to fish in the South Platte River southwest of Denver, but I checked the flows and they were only in the 60’s out of Strontia Springs Reservoir. This seemed to be quite low so I looked at other options. I wanted a tailwater that wasn’t too long of a drive so this left South Boulder Creek and the South Platte River below Cheesman Canyon. I also considered setting up camp at Spruce Grove Campground along Tarryall Creek and this would position me to hike into Wildcat Canyon again or fish the South Platte in Elevenmile Canyon. The possibility of Dan and I backpacking in Wildcat Canyon was discussed so I didn’t want to do this solo if the two of us would undertake the trip over the weekend.
The flows at South Boulder Creek were just over 100. I am not as familiar with what is ideal on South Boulder Creek, but on my previous trip there the flows were 150+, and I felt that level was a bit challenging so 100 seemed about right. I chose South Boulder Creek as my destination. I packed my gear and left the house by 8:30 and arrived at the trailhead by 9:40 or so. After I put on my waders and gathered up my gear, I hiked down the trail for 25 minutes. On my previous visit I stayed above the first bridge, so I wanted to explore further downstream. My starting point was a bit beyond a picnic table situated next to the stream.
I began the day with a parachute hopper and beadhead hares ear, and in the very first small pool a trout rose and rejected the hopper at the tail and this trend unfortunately continued as I moved out in the middle and tried several more attractive spots. I clipped off the hopper and replaced it with a Chernobyl ant and the same result followed. Next I moved to a yellow Letort hopper as my indicator fly and that didn’t even create refusals. The fish were looking up and paying no attention to the nymph, so I elected to remove both flies and try a size 16 light gray caddis. This finally got me on the scoreboard as I landed two small rainbows on the caddis.
However, after the initial success, the gray caddis also started producing refusals and I was contemplating another change as I approached a nice pool and noticed two sporadic rises. There weren’t any insects on the water so I surmised that perhaps the rises were for wind blown terrestrials in the water. I tied on a parachute black ant and miraculously a fine 13″ rainbow rose and sipped in the ant. Perhaps I had solved the riddle. I used the ant as a searching fly for quite a time after catching the rainbow, but it didn’t produce anymore. I abandoned the ant and cycled through a trial and error period with 100% error using an elk hair caddis, yellow sally, and lime green trude. I noticed a few midges buzzing about so I added a midge larva dropper and eventually gave up on the tiny midge larva and tried a beadhead pheasant tail. The pheasant tail finally worked and I added a small rainbow to my count by the time I ate lunch at noon. I packed my lunch in my fishing backpack, so I sat on a rock by the side of the stream and ate while I observed the water.
After lunch I began to see some green drakes and perhaps 8-10 were observed over the course of the early afternoon. The South Boulder Creek green drakes were quite small compared to those I’ve observed in other drainages. One landed on my hand and I attempted to photograph it, but a gust of wind came along and it flew off before I could get my camera in place. Based on the hand held green drake I’d estimate they are a size 14 2XL. I tried two of my comparadun green drakes, and they generated a couple refusals, and then in a nice long wide slot I experienced a momentary hook up while executing a long downstream drift. After this excitement my hopes soared that I’d unlocked the secret of South Boulder Creek, but those thoughts were quickly dashed as I couldn’t create any more action on the green drakes. My green drakes also don’t float very well, and I may tie parachute green drakes this winter with perhaps some white calf body hair for the wing.
With the green drake failing to produce, I returned to the Chernobyl ant and beadhead pheasant tail and in a nice long riffle over moderate depth a rainbow grabbed the pheasant tail. I thought this was perhaps the precursor to fast action on the pheasant tail prior to a pale morning dun hatch, but once again my hopes were premature.
As I worked my up the stream I spotted some rises so I reverted to the light gray caddis as that produced my first two fish and once again it produced as I landed a small rainbow and my first and only brown trout of the day. I approached a nice stretch with three quality runs of moderate depth, and I was disappointed to experience three consecutive refusals from selective fish that appeared to be decent size for South Boulder Creek. What should I do now? At about this time I began to see some pale morning duns and a few more rises. The light gray caddis has the same body color as the money fly that I use as a pale morning dun imitation, so perhaps I had the right color but the wrong wing configuration. I tied on a light gray comparadun money fly and it turned out to be a stroke of genius. Between 3:30 and 5:00 PM I landed six more fish and two were nice feisty brilliantly colored rainbows in the twelve inch range. The rainbows were taking the money fly with confidence, and I was regretting not trying it sooner.
During this late afternoon time period I experienced the best situation of the day along with the ant working its magic. I was above the foot bridge and there was a short deep pocket in front of a boulder that was sticking above the water near the bank. Two small tree branches were trapped in front of the boulder and angled out into the current. I flicked the comparadun from the bank while above the boulder and let it drift downstream. Just as the fly was about to get sucked under the leading branch a fine rainbow emerged from below and inhaled the pale morning dun imitation.
In a nice long run and pool above the bridge I picked up three or four rainbows that also sipped the comparadun with confidence. I fished this area on my previous visit, and discovered that these fish are quite choosy, so this was additional proof that the light gray comparadun was the fly to have.
At five o’clock I clipped my fly to the rod guide and hiked up the path and then climbed the steep trail to the parking lot and the car. I had my best day so far on the newly discovered South Boulder Creek. It was pretty exciting to find the right fly and also to witness green drakes hatching in early September in a location so close to home.