Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM
Location: Furthest downstream point I could go. The path ended.
Fish Landed: 11
It’s rare in Colorado that I observe an aquatic insect that provokes surface feeding for which I do not have a decent imitation mainly because there are only a handful of significant hatches on the local streams. As documented on Sunday’s post I encountered a decent hatch of small black stoneflies on Sunday afternoon and I struggled to find a reasonable imitation among my inventory. On Sunday night I found myself with some spare time so I sat down at my fly tying desk and created my little black stonefly imitation. I placed a size 18 dry fly hook in the vice and began with some medium olive thread. I dubbed an abdomen of dark brown olive and then added a dark gray wing made from coastal deer hair. Finally I wound two or three turns of dark dun hackle to imitate the legs. I created five of these little black stoneflies, and I was anxious to test them.
Meanwhile the weather forecast looked pretty bleak for Thursday and Friday with the possibility of rain and snow and high temperatures in Denver only in the forties. Tuesday on the other hand was expected to be gorgeous with a high in the mid-70’s, so I shuffled my work schedule to take a day off on Tuesday and then work the remainder of the week. Of course I chose to visit South Boulder Creek so I could test my new stonefly creations on the resident fish, and I was certain they would give me a passing or failing grade.
I took my time getting ready on Tuesday morning to allow for the air temperature to warm and departed the garage at 9AM and arrived at the parking lot by 10AM. I decided to rig my line for nymphing using the newly learned technique, so I sat down at the picnic table in the parking lot and tied all the connections except for the flies. I began hiking down the trail at 10:20 and decided to continue further than any previous ventures. This resulted in a 40 minute hike and ended where the path disappeared just above a stretch where the stream was too rapid to cross and my path was blocked by a huge vertical rock cliff. In order to continue I would have needed to scale the rocky hill to approximately 150 feet above the creek, so I decided to keep this little adventure for a future trip when I have a fishing partner; and therefore, entered the stream where the path ended.
I tied on a salvation nymph as the top fly and beneath that added a beadhead RS2 and began working some deep pockets in a narrow fast section. The third or fourth such pocket produced a small brown that plucked the drifting salvation nymph, but that was the extent of the action on the nymphs as I progressed upstream and eventually crossed to the opposite side.
At noon I found a nice grassy spot on the south bank and decided to munch my lunch as I’d packed it in my backpack. After lunch I removed all the nymph components and reconnected my tapered leader and tied on a Chernobyl ant with a trailing beadhead hares ear. I worked this for a bit with no interest indicated by the resident trout, so I switched the Chernobyl for a stimulator and then eventually swapped the hares ear for a salvation and then a beadhead pheasant tail. None of these offerings worked as I now approached a beautiful long run below an exposed boulder near the north edge. I noticed a couple small dimples indicating that fish were beginning to feed on the surface and I’d also spotted a couple stoneflies flitting about so I tied on the new imitation I’d created for exactly this purpose. I clipped off the two flies and tied on the size 18 dark stonefly and flicked it to the riffled water at the top of the run. Guess what happened? A small fish rose toward my fly and turned away at the last instant, and then adding insult to injury, this happened a couple more times, but the action was initiated by different fish. I was pretty disappointed with my hatch matching capabilities as I removed the stonefly and noticed a larger mayfly, perhaps a PMD, steadily float up from the stream. I couldn’t find anything on the water so I decided to try a light gray comparadun as I usually do when fishing to a PMD hatch. Much to my surprise in short order a fish rose and sipped in the comparadun for my second catch of the day. By now three of four additional fish were rising sporadically in the current seam, but the comparadun was not to their liking.
Could they be eating the stoneflies, but the color of mine wasn’t what they were seeking? I decided to try a size 16 light gray caddis and on the first or second cast a fish slammed the caddis, but slipped free as I played it. Again, however, when I cast the caddis to the location of the rising trout, I was severely disappointed as they ignored it just like the previous flies and continued to feed. As a last resort I tied on a different light gray comparadun, but this made no difference and I decided to tip my hat to the fish and move on. Perhaps other segments of the stream held less educated fish.
Playing off of that thought, I slid to the south side of the stream again and continued prospecting with the comparadun. It was difficult to see and fish were not showing themselves until I approached a nice deep pool created by a dead horizontal log. I paused to observe the pool and spotted a rise and as I did this I was standing beneath a tree with some branches that extended over my head. It was around 2PM and all of a sudden the stoneflies got quite active as they swarmed around my face and several actually landed on my skin. Could the rise indicate that the stoneflies were finally touching down on the water? I once again tied on one of the flies I created for this occasion and flicked a cast into the lower end of the pool. Wham! A nice brown tipped its nose out of the water and confidently slurped in my fly. It worked! My observation and efforts to match the stonefly hatch finally paid dividends.
Over the next hour I worked my way up along the south bank and picked off six additional fish on my dark stonefly. This was quite gratifying as the fish were taking the drifting fly without hesitation. By three o’clock the stonefly event had dwindled, and it was fortunate for me, as I lost my second size 18 stonefly on an errant high backcast to a pine bough. I had one more in my front pack, but decided to switch back to a Chernobyl ant with a trailing Craven soft hackle emerger. Between 3 and 4PM I landed number ten and eleven, and they were the nicest fish of the day. Number ten was a twelve inch brown that grabbed the emerger as I lifted the flies near the end of a drift tight to the bank.
Number eleven was a gorgeous chunky rainbow that also grabbed the soft hackle emerger. I cast the two fly combination to some still water behind an exposed rock, and since the top fly was barely moving, I decided to lift and recast, but just as I began to lift the rod tip, I noticed through my polarized glasses a quick subsurface flash as the rainbow darted to intercept the rising emerger. I set the hook and the bow dashed toward the main current and downstream a bit, but I applied side pressure and kept the head up to avoid the fish going beneath any branches or rocks.
I kept waiting for a late afternoon BWO emergence, and catching two nice fish on the emerger indicated that the fish were tuned into BWO nymphs, but by 4PM it had not happened, and my two fly offering was no longer generating any interest. Perhaps a deep nymphing set up would work? I decided to place an indicator, split shot and two flies on the tapered leader and experiment with nymphs. I selected a salvation nymph as my top fly and added a beadhead hares ear as the point, but unfortunately this did not produce any action in the final half hour before I called it a day and hiked back to the car.
I was rather pleased to land eleven trout on a beautiful late fall day. The temperature probably hit 70 degrees, and the dark stoneflies produced seven fish. I observed the stoneflies on Sunday, created a match, and used it effectively on Tuesday. Isn’t this what fly fishing is all about?