Time: 11:00AM – 5:00PM
Location: Below Gross Reservoir
How many superlatives can I heap on South Boulder Creek? Quite a few apparently. Tuesday developed into another perfect fall day in the Colorado Rockies, and I took advantage of the mild autumn weather with another fishing trip to South Boulder Creek. In retrospect it was a no-brainer, but when I scanned the streamflows and noted that the tailwater below Gross Reservoir was running at 10.8 CFS, I had second thoughts. I fished the small stream northwest of Golden on September 19 at 15 CFS and again on September 21 at 13 CFS with positive results, but for some reason 10.8 CFS struck me as chancy. I finally decided to give it a try. In a worst case it would be an enjoyable hike on a pleasant fall day, and that was not a bad outcome.
I arrived at the Kayak parking lot at 10AM on Tuesday morning, and I joined two vehicles that preceded me. While I pulled on my waders and assembled my Orvis Access four weight another fisherman arrived and parked next to the trailhead. The occupants of one car were absent, and I concluded they were already on the stream. The gentlemen next to me were in the process of getting ready, and they descended the path five minutes ahead of me. I began my hike at 10:15, and I encountered a man and woman in the first section, after I reached the stream, and they completed my accounting for all the occupants of the cars in the Kayak lot.
I hiked for a decent distance, and by the time I tied a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and made my first cast, it was close to 11AM. In a brief amount of time I landed three small brown trout on the beetle, but the number of refusals exceeded takes, and as I approached a gorgeous smooth pool, I paused to ponder my options. The wide smooth area was mostly in sunlight, and a second slow moving section was visible just upstream. I concluded that this stream sequence was perfect for an ant, and visibility would not be an issue, so I removed the beetle and attached a size 18 black parachute ant. It was a fortunate choice.
Before I paused for lunch, I landed five additional trout, and their size exceeded the three small brown trout that slurped the beetle earlier. These trout surged to the surface and sipped the ant confidently despite the challenging slow clear conditions. I adopted the appropriate amount of caution and launched long casts to the pool, and I checked the rod tip high, thus enabling the ant to flutter down to the light current for a soft landing. The setting, the unseasonable warmth, and the unexpected success elevated my state of mind to euphoria, as I sat on an unblemished sand beach and munched my sandwich, carrots and yogurt.
After my last sip of water I returned to the tumbling creek next to me. I continued with the ant for a bit, but then the character of the stream shifted to shorter pockets and deep runs. The ant was difficult to follow, and I decided to give Jake’s gulp beetle a second chance. The foam beetle was a mainstay in my arsenal over September and October, and I was reluctant to abandon it. With the size 12 beetle on my 5X tippet I shifted into prospecting mode, and I plopped the beetle in all the likely locales, and I was rewarded with five additional trout. My depth of experience with prospecting pocket water, however, told me that the beetle was not the best option on October 17. In addition to frequent refusals, I endured quite a few split second hook ups, and this suggested that the trout were very tentative about the fake terrestrial.
The parachute ant on the other hand generated bold strikes, and many takes yielded large bulges, as the trout lunged at an apparently preferred food source. It was early afternoon, and the sun was at its peak thus reducing the shadows to the extreme left portion of the stream. I concluded that I could track the size 18 ant in the sunlight, and I once again tied the black parachute ant with an orange poly wing post to my line. Between one o’clock and three o’clock my line featured several ants, and the fish count surged to thirty-five. I used the plural of ant because the hackle on the first one unraveled due to frequent attacks, and the second one with a bright green wing post was hard to follow, so I replaced it with a pink winged version. The latter remained intact although the rear hump began to loosen and slide down around the bend of the hook. Needless to say the two hours between 1PM and 3PM were extremely enjoyable with non-stop intense action throughout.
Throughout my time on South Boulder Creek I observed an occasional little black stonefly, as they fluttered over the river and dipped sporadically to the surface. Several years ago in late October, I encountered a denser hatch of little black stoneflies, and this prompted me to tie a small supply of size 18 imitations. They displayed an olive-brown body, a small clump of sculpin wool for a wing, and a couple wraps of dark dun hackle for legs. I decided to give these a test given the presence of small stoneflies in the environment. The choice was a winner, as an eleven inch brown trout and a twelve inch rainbow smacked the little stonefly to boost the fish count to thirty-seven. I was quite pleased to identify a natural insect and then successfully offer one of my own creations to fool wild trout.
The shadows were lengthening as the sun began to sink behind the ridge to the south, and the small earth toned stonefly was very difficult to track in the dim light. I approached a nice deep pool, and suddenly a flurry of larger mayflies made an appearance. Flurry is probably a stretch, as I spotted only two or three, but my observation coincided with a couple rises. I was certain that the stream residents had a residual appetite for size sixteen pale morning duns, so I plucked a size 16 cinnamon comparadun from my fly box and knotted it to my line. Bingo! A size 10 brown trout attacked the slender mayfly imitation from a shelf pool below a large exposed boulder, and then I backhanded a cast into a narrow but deep gap between two large rectangular shaped rocks. My cast was more of an effort to tuck the fly in a holding position while I moved, but before I could plant my wading staff, an aggressive brown trout slashed the comparadun. What a surprise and thrill! The deeply colored brown measured in excess of thirteen inches and represented the largest brown of the day. I pinched myself to make sure that I was not dreaming.
I was perched at thirty-nine trout, and for some ridiculous reason, I felt compelled to make it an even forty. I moved through a couple nice pools with no action, and I began to doubt the effectiveness of the comparadun. The air temperature dropped a bit, and the shadows lengthened, and a size 16 natural caddis perched on my shirt sleeve. I pinched it with my thumb and fingers and tilted it to look at the underside. My inspection revealed a dark gray and olive body, so I responded to this windfall knowledge by knotting a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis to my line. Voila!
An upstream flutter cast in the next pool duped a nine inch brown trout, and a forty fish day was in the books. It was four o’clock as I exhaled and allowed the small brown trout to slip into the pool, so I waded to the bank and climbed the jumble of large boulders to the quasi-path above the creek. I vowed to hike directly to the car, however, my best intentions were derailed, when I passed exceptionally attractive pools on my return journey. By the time I reached the pedestrian bridge, the fish count crept to forty-six, and each of the bonus trout over forty succumbed to the olive-brown deer hair caddis.
What else can I say? A forty plus fish day in the peak of the season is grounds for rejoicing, but to accomplish the feat in the middle of October when insect activity is diminished and trout metabolism is reduced due to colder temperatures or spawning desires, is cause for celebration. Lacking a companion to high five, I sipped a Red Bull and crunched a couple of servings of Utz’s Sourdough Specials on my return drive. Needless to say, I am already plotting a return to South Boulder Creek before the weather returns to normal for October. Concerns about 10.8 CFS were greatly exaggerated.
Fish Landed: 46