South Boulder Creek – 10/29/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/29/2018 Photo Album

The long range forecast projected rain turning to snow and cold temperatures beginning on Tuesday, October 30. Monday on the other had was expected to be gorgeous with highs in Denver peaking in the upper seventies. This could translate to only one thing; an opportunity to sneak in a day of autumn fly fishing before wintry weather predominated. Perhaps this would be my last day of fly fishing in 2018.

But where should I invest my scarce amount of remaining nice weather equity? I scanned the stream flows, and of course the first drainage that I checked was South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. The water managers were famous for making dramatic shifts in flows on the small tailwater west of Golden, and late October 2018 was not an exception to this tendency. My last visit to South Boulder Creek was on October 19, and I enjoyed an exceptional day, while the flows were a mere 14.4 CFS. The current DWR chart displayed a vertical rock wall for 10/24/2018, when the valve was opened to release 96 CFS. A dramatic change such as this caused me some concern, but it was five days ago, and I concluded that this allowed ample time for the stream residents to acclimate. I decided to give it a go.

Very Productive Run at the Start

I got off to a reasonably early start; and after I arrived at the trailhead, assembled my Orvis Access four weight and hiked down the path, I was in a position on the stream prepared to make my first cast by 10:30. The air temperature was in the mid-fifties, and the stream flow was indeed multiples higher than my previous trip. In fact the places were I was able to cross the creek were limited to wide shallow sections, and these were minimal within the predominantly narrow canyon environment.

A Beauty

Because of the higher flows akin to spring conditions, I opted to begin my day with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and ultra zug bug. The first two pockets did not produce, but then I positioned myself near the middle of the creek and initiated some drifts through a prime deep run along the north bank. On the third pass a respectable South Boulder Creek brown trout pounced on the ultra zug bug, and I was very pleased to score my first fish of the day. I continued to prospect the quality run with across and downstream drifts, and I was pleasantly surprised to land five additional brown trout in the nine to eleven inch range. What a start to my day! Perhaps the elevated flows were not so bad after all, and the preponderance of brown trout relieved my fears of encountering mostly lockjawed spawning fish.

Nice Shelf Pool

I wish I could report that this pace of success continued through my remaining time on the stream, but that was not the case. When I cast to the productive run three successive times with no resulting action, I departed and continued my upstream progression. Between 10:45 and noon I incremented the fish counter from six to ten, so clearly my catch rate declined; however, I remained quite pleased with the 1.5 hours of morning fly fishing. The yellow fat Albert began to distract the trout in the next several pools, and a string of refusals was ample testimony. I concluded that the fly was too large, and I converted to a size 12 peacock hippy stomper. The smaller foam attractor was an improvement, and it accounted for a few fish during the last hour before lunch.

The Run Below the Log Was Prime

After lunch I resumed my quest for South Boulder Creek trout, and I recorded quite a record of success. The fish count zoomed from ten to thirty-six, before I ended my day at 3PM. Although the three fly combination yielded fish at a steady rate after lunch, I sensed that I could improve my success rate, so I experimented with several fly exchanges. I removed the ultra zug bug and replaced it with a size 20 soft hackle emerger. This was an attempt to match a blue winged olive hatch or an emergence of small black stonefles. From past experience I knew that the small stoneflies were present on South Boulder Creek in the late October time frame. While the soft hackle emerger was on the line, it failed to yield a singe fish, but the hares ear became a favorite target.

Twenty minutes of no response to the soft hackle emerger caused me to once again make a change. This time I selected a size 14 iron sally from my fly wallet, and I positioned the heavier fly with the coiled wire body in the top position and moved the hares ear to the point. The hippy stomper, iron sally, and hares ear maintained their place on my line for the remainder of the afternoon, and they generated the most success.

Lovely Rainbow

Unlike my last outing at 14 CFS when upstream casts proved effective, the best approach on Monday was across and downstream drifts. The brown trout could not resist attacking one of the nymphs, as they began to swing at the end of the run, and many of my netted fish were victims of this tactic. Four rainbows joined the mix of catches, and they emerged from faster riffles of moderate depth, and the iron sally was their preferred food source. The hippy stomper was not purely a strike indicator, as it contributed quite a few respectable cold water fighters to the fish count.

By 3PM I reached a section characterized by fast chutes and whitewater, and the south canyon wall blocked the sun thus creating shadows over the entire stream. Tracking the hippy stomper became challenging and the catch rate plummeted, so I called it a day and made my exit hike. The air temperature remained quite comfortable, and climbing the steep path out of the canyon made me wish I had removed a layer or two of clothing.

Nice Curl

In summary I landed thirty-six trout on a gorgeous fall day on South Boulder Creek. Five of the netted fish were rainbow trout, and as usual the rainbows were larger on average than the brown trout. Eight of my catch crushed the hippy stomper, four were duped by the ultra zug bug, six nabbed the iron sally, and the remainder snatched the hares ear. The higher flows made it more difficult to determine fish holding locations, which was a relatively easy exercise at 14 CFS. Counter balancing this factor was the relative ease with which I could approach fish holding lies, and the reduced level of stealth required.

If this was my last outing of 2018, it was a solid final episode. I suspect, however, that I will tally a few more days before my enjoyment of fly fishing is more that offset by the discomfort of cold hands and feet.

Fish Landed: 36

3 thoughts on “South Boulder Creek – 10/29/2018

  1. Hi Dave! I enjoyed reading your last adventure of 2018 and I look forward to next spring when you start fishing and writing again. Good luck with your arm healing during the off-season. Hopefully you wont ever have any effects after a good healing season. Question about South Boulder Creek. My buddy and I went up there the other day. I believe it might have been on or just after the 24th, the day you said the flow was bumped up to 96. I have never fished in this area before and I wanted to try my flies in this river. But I am unsure of the exact place where you fished. We went up towards the reservoir and stayed to the right when we got to the big sign showing the reservoir and directions. We went up the dirt road about 1/4 mile or so to the first pull out on the right, we got out and followed the “stair step” trail all the way down to the river bank. Is this where you also put in??? The flow there looked high and now I think I know why. I gues I should check flows before adventuring out. When we looked to the right we saw a Posted sign so fishing only allowed back up river toward the dam, correct? We didn’t stay any longer as we decided due to my health I probably could only make it back up that trail one more time before being too tired. i am suffering from lung cancer, but i am on the mend thanks to God and Keytruda and the love and prayers of great family and friends. My neighbor and I both follow you closely on your blog and we have really enjoyed reading it each time and discussing your techniques and flys. i am going to attempt to tie your favorites this winter. Thanks so much Dave. keep up the great blog, there isn’t anything like it on the web that I have found. Have a nice winter! Best regards, Dave Henderson

    • Dave – Wow. You give me way too much credit, but I am pleased that you enjoy my writing and adventures. I know, I need to solve the problem about inserting photos. Anyway, I’ll attempt to provide you with some insight on South Boulder Creek. It is my favorite stream within 1.5 hours of Denver. If only the water managers would not treat it like a yoyo. Your comment about checking flows is on the mark especially for South Boulder Creek. They adjust the flows dramatically and often.
      It sounds like you found the parking lot that I favor. I call it kayak lot, because there is a big sign with warnings about kayaking near the trailhead. Your description of a steep stair step trail is right on the money. When you get to the bottom of the steep section stay to the left and follow the more gradual trail down to the edge of the creek. You will follow a small side channel, and after a short walk you will reach where the small braid merges with the bigger flow. You have a choice here. If the flows are manageable, I usually wade to the other side. Technically you are then on private land for a short bit until you come to a gate. I go around the gate and follow the trail downstream from there. If you do not wish to cross the stream or cross private land, you can stay on the same side of the creek that you descended on. This trail has a few places where you need to negotiate some rocks. It can be done, but take it slow. The other side after you cross is a nice wide smooth trail. At any rate both sides deliver you to a footbridge, and this then is the Walker Loop. Fishing is good all along the section between where you meet the creek and the footbridge. If you continue on the left side of the creek beyond the footbridge, you can continue on a nice relatively wide trail that is part of the Walker Loop. You will be high above the creek, and this is also good water for fishing, but the steep rocky bank makes it difficult to access. There are a few worn gradual spots that make the descent a bit easier. After .75 mile or so you will come to a place where the Walker Loop goes to the left and away from the creek, but there is a fisherman path that cuts to the right over some boulders and then across a small tributary. If you are game, you can follow this for quite a long ways. The fishing is great throughout the entire stream. You will encounter more fishermen closer to the dam, and the fish are a bit more pressured. I just checked the flows and they remain at 94 CFS. For me ideal is 50 – 80 cfs, but 94 isn’t too bad. At the current flows you will probably do better with nymphs, but last Monday I did have some sporadic success with a foam attractor. If the flows get above 180, it becomes nearly impossible to fish. I may get out a few more times this year if we get some mild days, but so far November has been much colder than the last two years. I need the temperature to be in the upper 40’s before I will attempt a day of fishing. Dave W.

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