Beaver Lake – 06/07/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Western levee

Beaver Lake 06/07/2024 Photo Album

We planned a trip to Carbondale, CO to visit our daughter, Amy, on June 6 – 9. I was excited for the opportunity to fly fish the Frying Pan River tailwater, as it was one of the few moving water options that was not blown out by snow melt.

When we arrived at Amy’s house, I decided to confirm that the flows remained in the 260 CFS range, as this was the level that displayed, when I checked several days prior to our trip. In short, the flows did not remain in that range. Over the previous twenty-four hours the water level climbed to 470 CFS. I was more than disappointed. When I informed Amy of this turn of events, she produced an article from the local online newspaper that outlined the program to implement flushing flows on the Colorado River at Grand Junction to assist in the reproduction of endangered native fish species. Reudi Reservoir was one of the dams participating  in the coordinated releases, and the water manager announced that flows on the Frying Pan River would peak at around 650 CFS before returning to pre-flushing flows in a couple days. My timing could not have been worse.

I was not inclined to sacrifice a day of planned fly fishing on the western slope, so I initiated a web search of local lakes and quickly settled on two options: Reudi Reservoir and Beaver Lake. I was familiar with Reudi, since I fished it a few times while camping at Little Maud Campground. I also visited Beaver Lake several years ago after a hiking expedition near the town of Marble. Beaver Lake is situated on the southern edge of the small town of Marble next to the upper Crystal River. During that visit, the lake was overrun with tubes, SUP’s, kayaks, and pool toys; and Friday was forecast to feature high temperatures in the upper eighties, so a repeat of that experience was a concern.

Nice Conditions Early On

I found another article from the Aspen newspaper online, and it announced the Colorado Department of Wildlife policy of limiting usage of Beaver Lake to hunting and fishing, and it stressed the requirement of a State Wildlife Area license or a hunting or a fishing license. This, and the prospect of fishing a new body of water, sold me on a drive to Marble, CO to fish Beaver Lake.

I arrived at the small parking lot at the Beaver Lake State Wildlife Area at 10:15AM, and several vehicles and fishermen preceded me. The temperature was 72 degrees, but some large gray clouds in the western sky prompted me to slide into my rain shell. The rain protection came in handy during several periods of wind, chill, and light rain. In fact, one small storm forced me to retreat to the car for an angling rain delay. I put together my Sage R8 four weight to facilitate longer casts, and I marched around the northern shoreline to the western levee that separated the lake from the bloated and muddy Crystal River.

Between 11:00AM and 3:00PM I fished a thirty yard stretch of shoreline in an attempt to land a Beaver Lake trout. My efforts were only interrupted by lunch, the rain delay, and a visit from my daughter and wife after their wonderful hike. I deployed three different fly fishing approaches, but none resulted in a flopping fish in my net. Early and late I tossed a double dry fly rig with a hippie stomper and chubby Chernobyl with a variety of trailing dries including a gray stimulator, a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis, a black parachute ant, and a size 20 parachute Adams. I observed very sporadic rises throughout my tenure on the lake, and three or four tentative refusals were highlights.

Damsel Just Emerged

My second method was a dry/dropper with a beadhead hares ear as the dropper. The hippie stomper dove a couple times, but I attributed the action to weed snags. My third approach was a streamer gambit. I spotted and photographed a few damsel nymphs emerging on the shoreline rocks, so I knotted a wiggle nymph to my line. I truly believed that I found the answer, since I read numerous articles about torrid lake fishing during a damsel nymph migration to emergence on shore side weeds and rocks. I utilized a hand twist retrieve with no weight, but there was no response from the fish.

This Damsel Was Further Along in Its Transformation

Perhaps the nymph needed to crawl along the bottom to entice an eat? I added a split shot and a black ghost and trailed the wiggle nymph, and during this phase of my fly fishing day I felt a take and set the hook. I felt the throb of a fish, but after five seconds the fish flopped free, and I was mired in a day of skunking.

Western Shoreline View

By 3 o’clock my confidence plummeted, and I returned to the car to feel sorry for myself. My lake fishing expertise is still in its formative stages. The weather was nice, the scenery was spectacular, and I watched two juvenile eagles circle the lake, so the day was a success in spite of the challenging fishing.

Fish Landed: 0

 

Davis Ponds – 06/03/2024

Time: 10:30AM – 3:45PM

Location: Staunton State Park

Davis Ponds 06/03/2024 Photo Album

After nine days without fly fishing I was anxious to visit a local stream or lake. The incision on my right arm was healing nicely, and I felt confident that the stitches would hold through a day of fly fishing. Several pickleball outings without further damage were a good sign.

I reviewed all the stream flows throughout Colorado, and I concluded that the only options were tailwaters, and I was not interested in a long trip. I visited the Davis Ponds quite a few times over the last several years during snowmelt, so I settled on the fairly local stillwater spots for my day of fly fishing on Monday, June 3, 2024.

When I pulled into the parking lot at the trailhead, the temperature registered 62 degrees, and quite a few dense gray clouds hovered in the western sky. In deference to the one mile inbound hike, I avoided extra layers, but I stuffed my rain shell in my backpack. I removed my Sage R8 four weight from its tube, and I made it my casting tool for Monday. By the end of the day the temperature was in the upper seventies, and I never resorted to the extra rain layer, although heavy cloud cover held the temperature down in the morning hours.

Green Meadow Along the Inbound Hike

I began my day at the lower pond, and I rigged with a peacock hippie stomper and trailed a gray stimulator. The hippie stomper was mostly ignored, and the gray stimulator failed to create interest, so I swapped the stimulator for an olive-brown body deer hair caddis. I used my position on the rocky dam embankment to spray casts in all directions, and by the time I took my lunch break, the fish count rested on three.

My Corner of the Pond for the Morning

Another fly angler arrived along the southeastern shoreline, and he was experiencing decent success, so I observed him for awhile. He had a bright green indicator, and he was casting and allowing the subsurface offerings to hang motionless for long periods. Eventually he executed a slow hand twist retrieve. I was very impressed with his patience, but I was unable to dedicate the same amount of watchful waiting to my own efforts. Since he seemed to be experiencing decent success with something subsurface, I added a long leader to the hippie stomper, and I cycled through an array of nymphs and pupa. The hippie stomper accounted for the first fish of the day; a very small rainbow trout that appeared quite close to the shoreline. The second trout snatched a bright green caddis pupa, as I quickly lifted to make a new cast, and the third rainbow sipped the hippie stomper. In between these landed fish, I experienced a ridiculous quantity of refusals. The fish seemed to approach the hippie stomper and bump their noses against the fly in the ultimate snub. Other nymphs and pupa tried before lunch were the pheasant tail nymph, soft hackle emerger, salad spinner, and black mini leech; but none of these fly choices registered success.

Among the Morning Catch

After lunch I decided to ignore the other angler, and I returned to a double dry fly approach. By 1:30PM I was bored and stuck on three fish, so I decided to explore the upper pond. I hiked along the west side of both of the small bodies of water, and I situated myself along the western shoreline of the north pond. The wind was becoming a significant nuisance, but quite a few rises in the smooth protected area near my position got my juices flowing. For the remainder of the day I fanned casts from the upper half of the western shoreline, and I managed to increment the fish count from three to seven. The conversion rate of cast to landed trout was horrible, but persistence yielded four small stocker rainbow trout. One trout sipped a black parachute ant and another grabbed a size 20 parachute Adams, with the remainder fooled by the hippie stomper. I also tested a Chernobyl ant, size 22 black gnat, an olive-brown body deer hair caddis, and a hippie stomper with a red metallic body.

Inlet and Corner of the Northern Pond

I also experimented with different retrieval methods ranging from sitting motionless to staccato strips to long strips to quick pulses. Sitting motionless and a couple quick strips with pause seemed to garner the most success, although I am not bold enough to suggest that I figured anything out. During the afternoon, refusals once again frustrated me to no end.

One of My Successes in the Afternoon

A dad with two young boys arrived during the afternoon. When the boys noticed I had a fish, they sprinted along the lake to join me. I allowed them to touch the fish, and then I asked the oldest to wait, while I removed the fly, and then I filmed him releasing my rainbow. Apparently their dad was still rigging their rods for action.

Seven fish in five hours of casting is rather slow fishing. How could stocked fish be so choosey already? Quite a few fish remain in the two ponds, but I never solved the puzzle. The hippie stomper produced the most fish, but I probably logged five refusals for every hooked fish. By 3:45PM, I was quite weary and faced a one mile hike back to the parking lot, so I reeled in my line and called it quits. I was very tired by the time I arrived home on Monday evening.

Fish Landed: 7

Pine Valley Ranch Lake – 05/22/2024

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Valley Ranch Lake 05/22/2024 Photo Album

After a very productive day on Monday at Pine Valley Ranch Lake, I decided to return on Wednesday. On Monday I observed a ton of fish, and I logged my highest fish count of the year, so why not launch a repeat? With impending skin surgery to my right arm, my casting and pickleball arm, I expected to be out of action for several weeks, so I was anxious to slip in another day of fly fishing. The weather was forecast to be cooperative with highs in the low sixties near my fishing destination.

I arrived at the lower parking lot in the Jefferson County park by 10:15AM, and this enabled me to be fishing by 10:40 after a short hike to the lake. The temperature was 55 degrees, so I wore my fleece hoodie along with my Columbia long-sleeved undershirt. Once again I selected my Sage R8 four weight. I loved the feel of this rod, as I made an abundant quantity of medium range casts on Monday in windy conditions. I expected the same conditions on Wednesday.

Angled Tree Was Starting Point

I strolled directly to the south shore, and I had sixty yards of shoreline to choose from, so I settled at the spot, where a long tree angled into the lake. I immediately rigged with a peacock hippie stomper and a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. In the morning and early afternoon the lake was mainly smooth and calm under clear blue skies and direct sunshine. In spite of some focused fishing and a variety of retrieval techniques, I was unable to coax a strike from the resident fish. The fish were still there, weren’t they? At 11:30 the wind kicked up a bit, so I converted to a dry dropper with the hippie stomper, beadhead pheasant tail nymph and a zebra midge. I also experimented with a flesh colored San Juan worm and black mini leech, but none of the subsurface offerings created action. I chose the worm because two women and their very young children were catching fish east of me, and I overheard them mention worms numerous times.

Early Catch

As my futile fishing elapsed, I was entertained by two adult osprey. They circled and glided continuously over the lake, and I attempted to capture their graceful moves on a video. As I looked on, the osprey made four dives into the lake in pursuit of food. On one of the dives, it was pretty obvious that their hunt was successful, as I noticed a small fish dangling from the talons. After the catch, they disappeared for a bit, and I surmised that they returned to a nest to feed young ones. With my fly fishing in the doldrums, I was pleased to have an alternative activity to occupy my morning. If you click on the photo album link above, you can view a couple videos of the osprey.

Western End of the Lake

I paused at noon and ate my lunch on a large flat rock, and then I resumed my fruitless casting. I lost confidence in the dry/dropper approach, so I reverted to the double dry with the hippie stomper and a trailing olive stimulator. Once again I was stymied in my efforts to catch a single fish. I removed the stimulator and replaced it with a light gray size 16 comparadun. Why a comparadun? I have no idea other than it seemed like a good buggy surface fly to combine with the stomper.

Decent Fished Guided back to Home

The wind kicked up again, and finally a trout grabbed the comparadun, as it bobbed erratically among the small waves. For the remainder of the afternoon I increased the fish count from one to nine, as I cast thirty to forty feet from shore. In addition to the comparadun I tested a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis, a size 14 light gray deer hair caddis, and a cinnamon body size 16 comparadun. Each of these trailer flies accounted for a fish, but I was unable to identify a consistent producer. The hippie stomper yielded four trout, but it was also the object of many refusals, and that was frustrating. For the last thirty minutes I removed the hippie stomper and replaced it with an olive stimulator while trailing the cinnamon comparadun, and this pair contributed three trout.

Looking Across

Unlike Monday very few of the netted fish responded to my short twitch technique. Nearly all shot to the surface to grab one of the dries, as they sat motionless for twenty to thirty seconds. Yes, it was a day that tested my patience. Between the long waits for action, dealing with the gusting wind that became a significant factor by 2:30, and unraveling several nasty wind aided snarls; I was severely challenged. A few of the landed stocked rainbows measured in the twelve inch range, but similar to Monday, most were ten to eleven inches in length. Although I was unable to match Monday’s success, I landed a decent number of fish, and the surroundings were spectacular along with warmer air temperatures. I rated it a solid day, and hopefully I can recover faster than expected from my skin surgery and return to fly fishing shortly.

Fish Landed: 9

Pine Valley Ranch Lake – 05/20/2024

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Valley Ranch Lake 05/20/2024 Photo Album

After a frustrating day on Saturday in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was eager to atone for a slow day of fishing. The day was useful in that it forced me to conclude that fishing freestones was no longer an option, until Colorado reached the downside of run off in 2024. My short stay at Sprague Lake, which produced a very nice brown trout, did elevate lake fishing to my upper level of consciousness.

I scanned the most recent stocking reports, and I noticed that Pine Valley Ranch Lake was stocked several weeks ago, so this became my destination for Monday, May 20, 2024. I am not a keen chaser of stockers, but a report of stocked trout assures me that the lake is free of ice, and also suggests a decent population of fish to be caught. I fished Pine Valley Ranch Lake numerous times over the past several years during run off, and I have generally experienced decent success.

I arrived at the lower parking lot in the park by 10:00AM, and ten vehicles occupied spots. Some were hikers and bikers, but obviously a number belonged to fishermen. I expected this given the recency of the stocking. The air temperature was 54 degrees, but the sun was bright, so I wore my fishing shirt over my short sleeved quick dry undershirt, and I stuffed my raincoat in my backpack in case I required additional warmth. I carefully fit together my Sage R8 four weight, and I departed for the lake at a brisk pace, I was anxious for a day of lake fishing.

Calm for a Short While at the Start

I skirted the north side of the lake along the North Fork of the South Platte River, and the river was rushing along at high velocity and very muddy. I surveyed the slough at the western end of the lake, but evidently the stockers did not dump fish in that area, as they have in the past, because I spotted no evidence of coldwater residents. I moved on and circled the western end of the lake and then situated myself on the south side with a very large gap between myself and the next group of anglers. I began my day at a gravel beach where a long fallen tree previously angled into the lake. It was no longer there, but I assumed that the area remained a haven for stocked trout.

Early Catch

I began my fly fishing efforts with a peacock body size 14 hippie stomper and a size 16 olive-brown body caddis adult. I spent twenty minutes firing medium range casts, and all I generated was refusals to the hippie stomper. It was attracting a lot of attention, but the fish were reluctant to close the deal. The wind kicked up and ruffled the surface, so I added a beadhead pheasant tail and beadhead hares ear below the hippie stomper. The hares ear never produced, so I replaced it with a supernova baetis and eventually a zebra midge. By 11:30AM I managed to land two rainbow trout on the beadhead pheasant tail along with many refusals and several foul hooked fish, when the trailing nymph connected, as I set the hook on a fake take.

Worthwhile

Some large puffy clouds blocked the sun, and the wind kicked up causing wave action, so I went through the hassle of removing the dry/dropper, and I converted to a streamer approach. I added a split shot above the last knot and then attached a black ghost and a black mini leech. I worked this combination aggressively for thirty minutes, before I paused for lunch, and all I could manage was a couple follows from small stockers near shore.

After lunch I ended my streamer experiment and returned to a single dry; the hippie stomper. Although the stomper was not a surefire answer to the trout feeding puzzle, it worked often enough to remain as the mainstay fly for the remainder of the afternoon. Initially the solo fly duped quite a few fish, but when a bevy of refusals returned, I once again added a caddis. The hippie stomper and caddis double dry offering dominated the afternoon until the last thirty minutes, when I replaced the caddis with a size 16 light gray comparadun.

Looking East from My Shoreline Location

I built the fish count from two to thirty over the four hours of afternoon fishing. The cycle of clouds, chilliness, wind and waves followed by sun and relative calm repeated itself. This iterative process in turn initiated surface feeding off and on, but I was unable to discern a trend of which conditions created the most favorable results for my flies. During the low light and windy periods, I was on the edge of my comfort zone, and I zipped my collar up as far as it would go and pulled my buff up to my ears. Even with this adjustment, I was on the verge of shivering from time to time.

How did I manipulate my flies? For the most part, I cast out thirty to forty feet and allowed the flies to rest for twenty to thirty seconds. I then gave the flies a quick twitch that created a small bulge, and then I paused. This was followed by a second such twitch, and if that failed to generate interest, I began a series of short strips to bring the flies back to my feet. Roughly fifty percent of the eats were slurps on the stationary flies after the cast, and the other half occurred after the first or second short strip.

One of the Better Trout

As I mentioned, two rainbows fell for the beadhead pheasant tail before lunch. After lunch the trailing caddis accounted for a few fish, and the light gray comparadun nabbed three fish in the last half hour, but the hippie stomper was the favored fly for the remainder of the landed fish. Numerous temporary connections and refusals were part of the equation, but foul hooked fish were no longer an issue.

Monday was my best day of 2024 in terms of quantity of fish. Obviously, they were all rainbow stockers with most of them being cookie cutter eleven inch trout. They displayed the silvery sides characteristic of stockers with minimal vivid markings such as one encounters with wild fish. Nevertheless, they required a ton of casting, and experimentation with flies and retrieves were necessary to achieve success. I had fun, and I plan to incorporate many more days of lake fishing in my schedule, as the rivers and streams bloat as a result of snow melt.

Fish Landed: 30

Sprague Lake – 05/18/2024

Time: 12:45PM – 1:45PM

Location: Western and northern shoreline

Sprague Lake 05/18/2024 Photo Album

I made the turn on to the Sprague Lake parking lot access road, and I instantly regretted my decision. The place was jammed with tourists. I crossed the bridge and made a right turn, and immediately I could see that cars were parked along the quasi-shoulder. I headed to the parking lot, but the three cars ahead of me stalled, as they waited for a car to depart from a space; and, thus, provide an open parking spot. I knew I was not going to snag a spot in the lot, so with no cars coming towards me on the one-way loop, I shot straight ahead for twenty yards and made a quick U-Turn and then secured a spot on the shoulder along with the rest of the mob.

I gathered my gear and hiked the short distance to the lake, and I was on the western shoreline. The trail that followed the lake was heavily trafficked, and I grew concerned about my ability to execute backcasts among all the hikers. I strode along the western edge of the lake while heading north, and I finally saw a gap with no trees, where I felt I could toss some casts. This part of the lake was quite shallow, so I decided to wade in a bit to generate clearance and enable shorter casts to deeper water. I was ten feet from shore, and I was now able to discern that the shallow depth continued out for quite a distance, so I decided to move on to the north shore, where I recalled from previous visits that the depth was greater. I attempted to lift my right foot to step backwards, but both my feet were now mired in the muck. The weight of my upper body shifted, but my legs did not follow, and I took a quick fall into the lake. I immediately righted myself, but it was not before some cold water spilled over the top of my waders. My wader belt contained most of the puddle, but some moisture managed to trickle down to my long underwear. Fortunately it got absorbed, before it reached my feet and socks, so I was spared the worst case scenario of sloshing feet. Adding to my state of distress was the pack of tourists who stopped to watch me fish, and they were now treated to a close up view of my pratfall. They kindly asked if I was OK, and I never heard laughter, although that probably commenced, after I departed.

Sprague Lake Under Overcast skies

What should I do now? I paused to assess the damages, and I determined that my right sleeve and right chest were very wet, but the water inside my waders was somewhat contained, so I gritted my teeth and decided to fish on. When I approached a small outlet stream, I paused to wash the mud off my right hand, and then I moved a short distance, until I was beyond the handicapped platform. Of course, by now some dark gray clouds moved in and blocked the sun, and this led to some gusting wind and a riffled lake surface. I carefully waded into the lake for fifteen feet, and I began laying out medium range casts. I was careful to glance backward before each casting action to make sure there were no human beings or bushes to interfere with my efforts. I fanned a series of casts from right to left, but the whole exercise struck me as quite futile. The waves and glare made it extremely difficult to follow the fat Albert, and the wind was causing the moisture in my shirt to evaporate, and this in turn was creating a significant chill in my core.

Brown Trout Was a Big Surprise

I decided to surrender, and I began to strip the hopper back toward me in rapid fire spurts. The hopper was actually skimming the surface, when a fish rose and swatted the imitation. This, of course, sparked some deep thoughts, and I removed the hopper and nymphs and converted to a double dry with a peacock hippie stomper and an olive body deer hair caddis.  When ready, I tossed the double dry in the vicinity of the aggressive follow of the hopper, and whack, a splashy rise consumed the hippie stomper. I was shocked, but I maintained my presence of mind long enough to set the hook. I expected an eight inch brook trout, but this fish was obviously larger than that as evidenced by its feisty effort to break free of my line. After a couple strong runs, I gained the upper hand and slid a wild thirteen inch brown trout into my net. I waded to the shoreline to snap a photo, remove the hook and release the fish; and as I was doing so, a group of Asian hikers approached. They were quite fascinated by my fish, and in broken English asked what type of fish it was. I informed them that it was a brown trout, and as they looked on, I allowed the prize catch to swim away to freedom. I suppose they were horrified to see such a nice piece of meat return to the lake.

Poised to Return

I was now optimistic about my prospects for additional action, so I once again fanned casts from right to left. The sky darkened again, and gusts of wind created mini waves. I allowed the flies to rest, and then I imparted quick strips or long strips, but none of these actions created any interest from resident fish. Once again I was quite chilled and some shivering began, so I decided to call it quits. Dry clothes and the warmth of the car were far more appealing than standing knee deep in a lake in wet clothing with hundreds of park visitors watching my every move.

Of course, when I returned to the car, the sun reappeared, and I questioned my hasty exit, but I returned to my senses and ended my day. After I removed my waders, I jumped in the backseat of the car to change out of my wet underwear, and of course a man was in the truck behind me with his engine running. In addition , a small herd of elk appeared in a little valley on the other side of the road, and a parade of tourists holding cameras and phones joined the proceedings. I exercised quite a bit of caution in my change over, as an arrest for indecent exposure would have punctuated my day with another dose of ill fortune.

The fishing on Saturday was not very exciting, but I encountered quite a few offbeat experiences to provide grist for an interesting report. Lakes and tailwaters are clearly my only options for the next month or more.

Fish Landed: 1

Glacier Creek – 05/18/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 12:30PM

Location: Glacier Creek below Sprague Lake

Glacier Creek 05/18/2024 Photo Album

The starting point for today’s fishing report is Mothers’ Day 2024. Last Sunday Jane and I visited Rocky Mountain National Park with the expectation of doing an auto tour in the rain. We threw rain pants and rain coats in the car, in case we could work in a short hike. On our drive from Denver to RMNP, the clouds parted around Boulder, CO; and we were able to enjoy a 5.6 mile hike along the Big Thompson River from the entry road to The Pool and back. Of course the visit afforded me the opportunity to scout out the streams in the park including Fall River, the Big Thompson and Glacier Creek. The Big T was running a bit high, but Fall River and Glacier Creek looked clear and reasonable for fly fishing.

I planned to leverage my first hand intelligence to repeat the trip on Wednesday, but I was intimidated by a weather forecast that called for high temperatures in the low fifties with rain in the early afternoon. I chose pickleball instead and deferred my trip to RMNP until Saturday. Of course, Thursday and Friday were gorgeous days with highs around eighty degrees, and I was concerned that these temperatures would accelerate run off in the park. I attempted to check fly shop reports, but they were purposefully vague or out of date, so I decided to take the plunge and make the trip. I was able to see flows for the Big T above Estes Lake, and they were significantly elevated from Mothers’ Day, so I targeted Glacier Creek.

I began my journey to Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday morning at 8:20, and I arrived at a fisherman parking lot off of Bear Lake Road by 10:15AM. Along the way I was detained by a long hold up in Estes Park due to road construction and a massive line of traffic waiting at the Beaver Meadows entry point. Needless to say, tourist traffic on the weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park is heavy. Jane and I entered at Fall River on Mothers’ Day, and in retrospect, I should have followed the same route on Saturday.

Two other cars preceded me to the fisherman lot, and one contained two young anglers, who departed for the creek ahead of me. While I was preparing to fish another fisherman arrived, and we compared notes on where we planned to fish. Based on that conversation I decided to fish directly across from the parking lot; while, Chris, the other fisherman, planned to hike upstream a ways to afford me space. The two young men had already headed downstream. The temperature was in the low sixties, so I pulled on my fleece hoodie, and I assembled my old Sage four weight for active duty.

High But Clear Glacier Creek

I ambled to a point along the creek, where a large fallen tree formed a natural dam, and I quickly focused on rigging my line with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear nymph and an ultra zug bug. I was finally ready to cast, and I looked up and spotted the two young men without waders casting to the creek approximately thirty yards upstream. They cut me off, and I uttered a few unkind words to myself and hooked my flies into the rod guides. I decided to explore downstream, but I would soon learn the fallacy of my decision.

First Small Brown Trout Came from This Spot

The Bear Lake Road that I drove to the parking lot was quite steep, and Glacier Creek followed the same topography and thus presented a steep gradient. I hiked for .6 mile along the top of the canyon ridge, and the combination of the high water and steep gradient created a situation that offered few trout holding locations. Finally I found a spot with a steep but negotiable grade to the creek, and I carefully made the descent.

LIttle Guy Was More Than Welcome

For the next hour and fifteen minutes I fished back up the whitewater chute that was named Glacier Creek. Most of the time was spent scrambling over rocks and trees and bashing through branches, as I sought the few slack water locations that might harbor a trout. Toward the beginning a small brown trout locked on to the ultra zug bug, but then my success rate tumbled to nonexistent. By noon I surrendered to the terrain, and I laboriously climbed the steep bank back to the sparse path and returned to the parking lot.

Foam Is Home Produced Number Two

Near the parking lot I spotted a few somewhat promising spots, so I paused to make some casts. By now I had switched the ultra zug bug for an emerald caddis pupa, and another small brown trout grabbed the caddis pupa, when I cast to a foam eddy on the opposite side of the creek.  I congratulated myself on catching two small brown trout in an hour and fifteen minutes of fishing in very adverse circumstances.

Number Two

Since I was back at the car, I pulled out my stool and munched my lunch. The car driven by the young guys was gone, but Chris’s car remained. Initially I planned to begin fishing, where I began the morning, but as I pondered the situation, I decided that the high and cold flows would be an issue along the entire creek, and perhaps a lake would be a stronger option. I returned all my gear to the car and made the short drive to Sprague Lake.

Fish Landed: 2

 

 

South Platte River – 05/13/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 3:15PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/13/2024 Photo Album

As a result of high winds, rain and a visit from my daughter I was unable to visit area streams between May 8 and May 13, 2024, so I was possessed with an abundant quantity of bottled up fly fishing energy. On Mothers’ Day, May 12, Jane expressed a desire to go for a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. We fully expected to remain in the car, while we completed an auto tour with perhaps a short hike in our rain gear, as dark gloomy skies and steady precipitation were present at our home in Denver. Jane’s decision proved to be a huge winner, as the dreary skies parted to reveal blue skies and sunshine, when we drove west of Boulder, CO.

One of the reasons Jane chose RMNP was in order to enter the park without a reservation. The reservation system kicks off on May 24, so we were not restricted in any way. By the time we arrived at the Fall River entrance, the air temperature was in the mid to upper fifties, and the trails and pavement were completely dry. After looping by Sheep Lake and the alluvial fan, we drove on toward Bear Lake, but we detoured through Moraine Park, where we found a parking space in a huge mud puddle. We were surprised at the number of vehicles and park visitors given the adverse weather in Denver, when we departed.

We  completed a 5.6 mile hike along the Big Thompson to The Pool and back, and a byproduct of the entire day was gaining unfiltered intelligence about the stream conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park. I checked out Fall River, the Big Thompson and Glacier Creek; and all three remained relatively low and clear and solid options for fly fishing.

I made plans to test the small streams in Rocky Mountain in the near term, but for Monday I had my eyes on the South Platte River at Eleven Mile Canyon. During my last trip to this fishery, I landed eighteen trout, and this represented my high water mark for 2024. Could I repeat this accomplishment? I was optimistic. The flows remained at roughly 130 CFS, and the weather was reasonable with a high of 61 degrees predicted. My only concern was the clarity of the river, since a fair amount of rain or snow hit Colorado over the weekend.

130 CFS and Slightly Stained

I arrived at my chosen roadside pullout by 10:30AM, and I immediately crossed the road to scan the river. I was a bit disappointed to note stained flows, but I decided to give it a test regardless of the clarity. I wore my light down North Face parka, and I avoided my hat with earflaps. If you follow this blog, you know that this was a major milestone for this 2024 fly fishing season for this avid angler. Once I was prepared, I crossed the road and walked downstream a bit to a crossing point, and by 11AM, I began casting from the bank opposite the road. I rigged my line with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a beadhead black mini leech and a flesh colored San Juan worm. After a fifteen minute trial period with no response, I removed the mini leech and replaced it with a weighted 20 incher to obtain deeper drifts, and a bit later I swapped the San Juan worm for a beadhead pheasant tail. In the half hour between noon and 12:30PM, I finally achieved mild success, as I landed two brown trout and one rainbow trout. These were relatively small trout in the ten inch range; however, I was pleased to finally get on the board. Two trout gobbled the pheasant tail, and one nipped the 20 incher.

First Fish of the DayRainbow Trout Before Lunch

At 12:30PM I paused for lunch on a small island in the middle of the river. After lunch, I continued my progression up the river, until I quit a 3:15PM. At 1:00PM I was stationed next to a long deep run, and a dark cloud obscured the rays of the sun. As expected the low light density initialed some surface feeding, and sporadic rises evolved into fairly regular feeding. I jumped at the opportunity to fish dry flies, and I quickly cut off the fat Albert and nymphs, and I replaced them with a double dry with a peacock hippie stomper in front and a trailing CDC BWO. Five or six trout made their presence known, and I began to lob across and downstream casts with quite a few upstream reaches to keep the line upstream of the flies. Unfortunately my flies were mostly ignored, until one aggressive feeder slurped the hippie stomper! This was number five, and I was quite pleased to guide it into my net.

Rising Trout to Blue Wing Olive Hatch in This Area

While the sky remained darkened by the clouds, I rushed to release the trout, but then I decided to experiment with a soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film. On the fifth cast a trout grabbed the emerger, as it began to swing at the end of the drift, but I was slow to react, and the fish quickly earned its freedom.

Late Afternoon Catch

Within minutes the clouds moved away and revealed the sun, and this weather change put an end to the hatch and the related feeding. I could see that it would be a while until the next significant cloud cover, so I reverted to the dry/dropper, and I rolled with the fat Albert, an ultra zug bug and a soft hackle emerger. The soft hackle emerger duped a small trout, and after a long lull, I replaced the soft hackle emerger with a beadhead hares ear, and the hares ear accounted for my last two trout to push my total fish count to eight.

I Like This Pocket Water Section

The last half hour was extremely slow with bright sunny skies, so I called it quits at 3:15PM and found a safe spot to cross the river to the steep bank on the opposite shoreline. I hoofed it back to the car and removed my gear. Monday was an average day in all aspects of fly fishing. I landed eight trout in four hours or two fish per hour, and this is a fairly average catch rate. The fish were all in the ten and eleven inch range. The weather was comfortable and the scenery was outstanding, so I regarded Monday, May 13 as a success. My next destination will, in all likelihood, be Rocky Mountain National Park, as I plan to take advantage of my scouting trip on Mothers’ Day.

Fish Landed: 8

South Platte River – 05/08/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 3:15PM

Location: Cheesman Canyon

South Platte River 05/08/2024 Photo Album

Four days of wind had me on edge and yearning for a day of fishing. Wednesday weather was not ideal, but at least the wind subsided, although the temperatures were forecast to be on the cold side. When will I ever be able to once again fly fish without wearing a hat with earflaps?

I checked the weather in Cotopaxi and Salida and Lake George, as I searched for a lower elevation fishing destination that might provide warmer temperatures. Lake George forecast highs in the forties, so I quickly eliminated that cold spot. The Arkansas River locales showed promise with temperatures in the low fifties; but I invited my friend, Nate, and he camped and fished the Arkansas over the weekend, so he was burned out on that large river. What about lakes? I scanned my list of lakes at lower elevation that would be ice free in early May, and I settled on Pine Valley Ranch Lake. When I proposed that spot to Nate, he countered with the South Platte River at Deckers or Cheesman Canyon. I pondered this, and came to the realization that the weather in those South Platte destinations would be similar to Pine Valley Ranch due to their proximity, so I agreed on the South Platte River.

I met Nate at a Park and Ride on Wednesday morning, and we continued on to the Cheesman Canyon Trailhead parking lot. Our preference was Cheesman Canyon with Deckers our back up, but we were fortunate to snag a parking space in the Cheesman lot. Fourteen vehicles preceded us, so we knew that we would encounter company on our river trip.

The dashboard thermometer registered 45 degrees, so I pulled on my long sleeved thermal undershirt, fishing shirt, fleece hoodie, and light down parka. For head gear I snugged on my billed cap with earflaps (will it ever be left behind?). I stuffed my fingerless wool gloves in my parka pockets, and then I assembled my Sage One five weight, and I was ready for action. Nate also wore layers, and he decided to carry two rods into the canyon; a light three weight for dry flies and his fast action Douglas four weight for dry/dropper and nymphs.

We completed a 1.5 mile hike and found a spot among the massive rounded boulders to begin our day of fly angling. I rigged up with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, flesh colored San Juan worm and size 18 beadhead pheasant tail. Nate spotted some large fish in a pool a bit downstream from our starting point, so he shuffled over to the river to begin casting his four weight. As I rigged my indicator nymph set up, Nate returned with a frown on his face and held up his fly rod. Instantly I recognized the cause of Nate’s sadness, as one of the sections of the rod was split in two. Nate broke his rod, and he was not even certain how it happened. What can one say to comfort a fellow angler, who encounters such misfortune at the outset of the day? The only positive was the presence of his three weight that he transported into the canyon along with the four weight, so he had the wherewithal to continue fishing albeit with an undersized three weight fly rod.

Gorgeous SpotsAnother Before Lunch Brown Trout

In the hour before lunch we progressed up the river, and I was able to land three quality brown trout. All three grabbed the beadhead pheasant tail, and all sported deep yellow coloring, and the size range was between twelve and thirteen inches. All three were hooked by blind casting, and the trout seemed to materialize from a sandy bottom, where I was unable to observe fish of any kind before casting.

Number Two From Here

After lunch Nate crossed the river, while I remained on the side next to the main trail. In this way we could work upstream in parallel rather than adopt a hopscotch approach. The river at 270 CFS was easy to fish from both sides simultaneously. I suffered through a long fish drought between 12:15 and 2:30PM, as I cast repeatedly to long sweeping runs, deep current seams and moderate riffles, but the fish were averse to approaching my offerings.

Nate Focused After CrossingLooking Down on Nate from High Above in the Canyon

After this long fishless period, I paused and replaced the San Juan worm with an orange scud. Voila! Not long after the transition, my indicator dipped, and I swiftly raised my arm and connected with a burly brown trout. This fifteen inch fighter proved to be the best fish of the day, and upon inspection in my net I realized that it sucked in the orange scud. It was gratifying to experience success so soon after a fly change. The prize catch emerged from a short but deep trough in front of a submerged boulder in an area that frankly looked rather marginal. I thanked the fishing gods and moved farther upstream.

Lemon Butter Brown, Best of the Day

One hundred yards beyond my fourth catch, I approached a long sweeping run that angled away from my bank and then curved straight down the river. I began flicking backhand casts to the top of the run, and allowed the nymphs to tumble through the slower moving deep center trough between two rushing deep runs with current seams. Suddenly the indicator dipped, and I was connected to another head-shaking brown trout that also measured in the fourteen inch range. In this case the fighter displayed the beadhead pheasant tail in its lip.

Last Fish Was a BeautyHome of Number Five Was Straight Ahead

I fished on for another fifteen minutes, but I was unable to repeat my success story, so I hooked my fly to the rod guide and called it a day at 3:15PM. My feet were chilled as was my core, and I was ready for the two plus mile hike back to the parking lot. Meanwhile, Nate was across from me, and he eagerly agreed with the decision to leave. He landed one very nice rainbow on the day, but he was overwhelmed with frustration. The broken four weight forced him to utilize his three weight, and the combination of the weighted dry/dropper, wind and undersized rod led to an abundant quantity of tangles. Nate suggested that he probably spent more time untangling his line than fishing.

Scenic View on Return Hike

Our return hike took one hour and twenty minutes, and the parking lot had thinned considerably. We quickly removed our waders and prepared for our return trip. My expectations for a day in Cheesman Canyon are always tempered by the selectivity and wariness of canyon trout. A five fish day in the canyon is a huge success in my opinion, and the quality of the brown trout was first rate. The weather was definitely chilly, but for much of the time I was shielded from the worst wind. One section that ran east to west between sharp bends challenged me with a headwind, and this in turn led to some significant shoulder fatigue. It had been quite a while since my last visit, and I was reminded of the beauty of the wonderful state that I live in. Spaced out ponderosa pines, massive round boulders, and red sandstone gravel are the signature qualities of the canyon, and I love them all. Five wild trout were icing on the cake.

Fish Landed: 5

Clear Creek – 05/01/2024

Time: 1:30PM – 3:15PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 05/01/2024 Photo Album

In order to set the stage for today’s report, I must begin with a prologue. I am a user of Instagram, and yesterday’s feed from @charliesflybox included a piece by Max about fishing with small streamers on Clear Creek. He suggested the method as an effective tactic for catching fish on small Front Range streams at this time of the year. This caught my attention.

The second part of my prologue involves my other passion, pickleball. Our favorite courts at Charles Whitlock Recreation Center were shutdown yesterday, Tuesday, as a result of an ordinance that requires courts to be more than 350 feet away from residences due to paddle noise. Yesterday was the last day that Whitlock was available, so our fun group held a party after and during pickleball competition. Jane and I transported our charcoal grill and cooked brats and hot dogs, and others chipped in with the usual picnic fare. We had a great time and bid farewell to our old friend, the Whitlock courts.

Of course, the Whitlock crew questioned each other about our new pickleball venue, and many stated that they would shift their playing time to Prospect Park. Wednesday, May 1, was our introduction to Prospect, and I decided to do a combined pickleball and fly fishing day and packed the car accordingly. After I ended my morning pickleball session, I munched my lunch on the lip of the hatchback, and then I drove to my chosen destination; nearby Bear Creek.

I usually check the DWR flows for area streams, before I commit to a destination, but Wednesday was one the few times, when I overlooked my standard practice. My rare lapse proved to be a mistake. When I pulled over in a wide pullout, I immediately strolled over to the bank to survey the stream, and I was disappointed to see high murky flows. I walked along the path for a bit, and due to the high volume of water, I concluded that the number of fish holding lies would be few, thus, requiring excessive walking and bushwhacking. Clarity was also an issue, although I suspect that it would have been acceptable in slow moving protected spots along the bank. I made a quick decision to short circuit my Bear Creek plan, and I departed for home, however, I quickly decided to detour to Clear Creek in the canyon to scout out that nearby stream. When I returned home on Wednesday after fishing, I checked the Bear Creek flows, and they were indeed elevated at 114 CFS. The graph depicted a huge jump on Saturday, which coincides with the timing of a heavy rainstorm, although I suspect that run off explains the continued rise in water three days later.

Jane and I hiked the Peak to Plains Trail on Sunday, and based on that visit, I knew that Clear Creek was flowing high and stained, but I was hopeful that three days allowed the volume to subside and clarity to improve. When I arrived, I immediately scanned the creek only to realize that the flows remained a bit high, and turbidity remained an issue. In spite of this, I decided to give it a go. I recalled the @charliesflybox Instagram piece, and I decided to commit to small streamers. The air temperature was in the low sixties, so I wore only my fishing shirt with no extra layers, and I rigged my old Sage four weight. I searched in my fishing backpack, and I retrieved my sinking tip line and reel, and I attached it to my four weight rod while dropping my four weight floating line in my backpack in case I decided to convert my method later.

Black Ghost Was a Star Performer

Once I was prepared, I crossed the highway and dropped down the steep and rocky bank to the north side of Clear Creek, and I began to fire long casts and roll casts to the slow moving shelf pool on the opposite side of the stream. My initial fly choice was a black ghost, and I trailed a go2 caddis pupa on an eighteen inch tippet from the eye of the streamer. I was unable to generate strikes or follows, but it was difficult to get swings of any depth due to the strong current pulsing down the center of the creek between me and the flies. After ten minutes, I was quite chilled, as a strong cool breeze swept down the canyon, so I retraced my steps to the car, and I added my fleece hoodie and a rain shell. Some gray clouds were building in the western sky, and I deemed it prudent to have rain protection.

Rainbow Home

When I returned to the creek, I crossed the footbridge and followed the Peak to Plains Trail a short distance, until there was a break in the fence, where I could safely descend to the south bank of Clear Creek. I was now perched next to the soft shelf pool, that I was attempting to reach from the other side. I began looping upstream casts, three-quarters casts, and across and down casts; as I concentrated on working the streamer through the slower moving water above and below me. I altered the speed and depth of my retrieve, and I was pleasantly surprised to feel a bump. I persisted and eventually felt a smack and hooked a nice ten inch rainbow trout with a black ghost in its lip.

Head Shot with Black Ghost

Rainbow Stretched Out

For the next 1.5 hours this game continued, and I landed three trout in total. As I just mentioned, the first was a rainbow, and the next two were small brown trout. All three grabbed the black ghost, and I discovered that the most effective offering was to allow the flies to swing below me and then pause and then strip and pause and strip and pause. In addition to the landed trout, I connected briefly with two more fish, and I felt a couple additional bumps.

Brown Trout Like Black Ghosts Too

The last thirty minutes were fruitless, and I feel the lack of decent holding water was the culprit. I encountered a few relatively nice slower moving sections below large bankside rocks, but the problem was the thick willows along the bank. I was forced to wade along the edge, and I suspect that I scared the fish in the lower portions of the targeted areas. My early success came from the lower sections of the shelf pools, when I dangled and stripped the fly back along the stream edge. If I try this approach again, I will fish downstream, and thus avoid the spooking situation.

Remembering Max’s advice saved my day, and I managed to land three trout, but it was definitely a learning experience, and I look forward to more experimentation with streamers in the early run off season.

Fish Landed: 3

South Platte River – 04/29/2024

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/29/2024 Photo Album

I craved a double digit fish count day, as my high point in 2024 rested at eight. Yes, several outings yielded eight high quality fish, but more action offset by smaller fish was perfectly acceptable to this avid angler.

Monday, April 29 produced a weather forecast of high temperatures in the low seventies in Denver, so I assumed that this translated to acceptable temperatures in the mountains and foothills. I quickly reviewed my Weather Underground app for Lake George, and I was pleased to discover highs in the mid to upper fifties with cloudiness prevalent in the afternoon. Flows remained at 137 CFS, and this was encouraging after heavy rain on Saturday.

I made the drive and arrived at my chosen location by 10:00AM. I was disappointed to note that the dashboard thermometer registered 46 degrees, and a stiff breeze greeted me, as I stepped out of my Telluride. I swapped my high tech short-sleeved undershirt for a long sleeve Columbia thermal version, and then I layered up with fleece, light down and a rain shell. Once again I snugged on my billed hat with earflaps. Will winter-like weather ever depart from my fishing trips? For my casting tool I strung my Sage R8 four weight.

Scene of a Couple Rises

I decided to explore some new water, so I walked downstream along a path for .2 mile, and then I crossed and fished from the bank opposite the road. I began with a yellow size 8 fat Albert, a prince nymph and a beadhead hares ear nymph. Early in my venture I spotted two sporadic rises in a nice deep run along the roadside bank, but I was unable to create any interest in my nymphs in spite of imparting movement via lifts and swings. After fifteen minutes with no response to my flies, I swapped the hares ear for a sparkle wing RS2, but that move was a resounding non event. After forty-five minutes of fishing all the likely deep runs and moderate riffles with no action, I removed the prince nymph and replaced it with a 20 incher in an effort to generate deeper drifts along the bottom.

First Trout Was a Brown

Home of the Wild Brown Next to the Log

The move paid dividends, when I landed a very nice wild brown trout in a deep pocket along a fallen log, and the netted fish nabbed the 20 incher. Another fifteen minutes of probing resulted in another lull, and by 11:30AM I approached the parking lot and my car. A couple occupied the pool opposite the parking lot, so I used this as an excuse to warm my hands, and I sat on the tailgate in the sun and ate my lunch.

Type of Water Where I Was Swinging and Lifting

The air remained quite cold and windy, so I made no adjustments to my attire, and I returned to the river an acceptable distance above the fly fishing couple. Within a few minutes I hooked up temporarily with a brown trout, but it quickly evaded my efforts to bring it to the net, and I moved on and fished some very nice deep runs and pockets. I managed to land a couple rainbows that also favored the 20 incher, before I approached a series of long, deep and slow moving glide pools. At this point I was fishing the 20 incher along with a classic RS2, and I began to make casts across the river and allowed the flies to lift and swing at the end of the drift. This tactic worked, as several fish nabbed the 20 incher, and another pair grabbed the RS2, and the fish count mounted to a respectable seven.

Took 20 Incher on the Swing

Area Where I First Noticed the Hatch

I glanced at my watch and noted that it was 1:30PM, and some large puffy clouds skidded across the sky and blocked the sun. Instantly the wind kicked up, and a flurry of rises commenced across the pool. I could not resist the allure of dry fly fishing, so I paused to cut off my dry/dropper configuration and replaced it with a double dry that featured a hippie stomper in front and trailed a soft hackle emerger. Ten casts among the risers convinced me that the soft hackle emerger was not the answer, so I swapped it for a CDC blue wing olive. This did the trick, and for the next twenty minutes I executed across and down reach casts in order to place the tiny dry ahead of the stomper, and this succeeded a number of times, as I boosted the fish count to ten. This was by no means easy pickings, but it worked often enough to satisfy my craving for dry fly action.

An Early Dry Fly Eater

Suddenly the sun reappeared, and the wind subsided, and the fish stopped rising. The next section featured a myriad of fast water, deep runs and pockets; and the double dry did not seem well suited to prospecting without the benefit of visible fish, so I converted back to the dry/dropper. In this instance, however, I attached an emerald caddis pupa as the end fly. The change in strategy failed, and after covering a forty yard section, I arrived at the long bend pool. I paused to observe, and this break once again coincided with dense cloud cover, and the weather change resulted in the resumption of the baetis hatch, as a cluster of trout began to feed. Three or four lined up along the main current seam, and another pod sipped olives, where the main current fanned into moderate riffles.

Most of My Dry Fly Action Was Here

A Fine Wild Brown Trout

Once again I made the conversion to a double dry arrangement, and for the remainder of the afternoon I cast my flies across and allowed them to drift downstream to the greedily feeding trout. I had a blast, as I boosted the fish count from ten to eighteen, I called it quits at 4PM. I cycled through several CDC blue wing olives, as I sought flies with fluffed out dry wings, and after several landed fish the CDC became thin and matted. Eight fish in the net sounds impressive, but this transpired over two hours of fishing and quite a few waves of hatches, heavy cloud cover and increased wind velocity. The CDC puff worked often enough to keep me in the game, but it was also ignored on many drifts. I suspect that there were so many naturals on the water that timing played a large role in determining whether a trout would sip my fly or instead opt for a fluttering natural.

Hatch Feeder

At four o’clock the sun reappeared, and the hatch ended, and I surveyed the western sky. It was obvious that a huge blue sky gap was in progress, and I was unwilling to wait for another wave of low light and emerging mayflies. I clipped my flies to my rod guide and returned to the car satisfied with the knowledge that I reached double digits for the first time in 2024, and I enjoyed an extended BWO hatch and capitalized on it with some steady success.

Eighteen fish in five hours is a decent but not outstanding catch rate, and the largest fish was thirteen inches. Some of the rainbows appeared to be stockers, but several possessed the vivid markings of carryovers. The brown trout were clearly wild, and the two thirteen inchers were the best fish of the day. I look forward to more adventures on the South Platte River before the levels rise as a concession to snow melt.

Fish Landed: 18