South Platte River – 03/14/2023

Time: 11:15AM – 3:15PM

Location: Deckers

South Platte River 03/14/2023 Photo Album

How can a river be crowded, yet not allow me to catch a single fish? Did the other anglers experience more success?

The weather forecast predicted another brief temperature spike in the sixties in Denver, so I made plans for a second day of fishing in the 2023 season. I considered the Arkansas River, the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon and the South Platte River at Deckers. Because Deckers represented a shorter drive, and the air temperatures were moderately higher than Eleven Mile, I made Deckers my choice.

With the time change on Sunday, the temperature took longer to rise to comfortable levels, so I took my time on Tuesday morning and did not depart until 9:30AM. This enabled me to arrive at my chosen destination by 11AM, and I was on the river fishing by 11:15AM. I was surprised at the number of vehicles occupying the pullouts along the river, and fishermen were spaced out for the entire distance, before I stopped.


The air temperature was in the low fifties when I began, so I wore my light down coat, my raincoat, and my billed hat with ear flaps. The river was flowing along at 182 CFS, and the clarity was perfect. I began below the downstream border of the special regulation section, but I encountered two fishermen near the ninety degree bend, and circled around them, until I was in the section, where the river flowed from east to west. I explored a short thirty yard length, before another young angler cut in above me. I glanced at my watch and noted that it was nearly noon, so I climbed the bank and returned to my car for lunch.

Angler Cut in Right Above Me

During the forty-five minute morning fishing session, I deployed an indicator and split shot rig. Initially I used an apricot otter egg and zebra midge, and after a lack of success I switched to a San Juan worm and salad spinner. None of these flies provoked action, and I spotted only one twelve inch fish, as it darted from cover along the bank, as I approached the river.

After lunch I moved downstream to three sections outside the special regulation area, and I failed to land a single fish. I stuck with the indicator and split shot at the first and second spots, but I swapped the San Juan worm for a salvation nymph, and I modified the end fly from the midge pupa to a classic RS2. This combination was ignored as consistently as the first two pairings.

Nice Deep Run

The third afternoon stop featured a series of nice pockets that bordered the western bank, so I elected to change my approach to a dry/dropper method. I removed the indicator and split shot and substituted a size 8 yellow fat Albert, but I retained the salvation nymph and RS2. I hoped that the three fly combination would attract interest in the small bankside pools and runs of moderate depth. The strategy never attracted so much as a look or refusal, but I persisted with it at my last stop.

Fourth Spot

My confidence in the last two hours of fishing was rock bottom, and I rarely feel as futile, as I did on Tuesday. I saw no insects nor was I able to spot a single trout in spite of nearly ideal visibility. Several times I paused on the high bank along the road to scan deep troughs and pools, but I never spotted the outline or shadow of a fish.

A Favorite Pool Failed Me

By 3:15PM I could no longer contain my boredom, so I stripped in my line and returned to the car. I never saw another angler landing a fish, although I was focused primarily on my own pursuit of trout and did not pay much attention to others. Some adverse weather is predicted for Wednesday, so I will pause my fly fishing for a bit, until more spring-like weather returns. I suspect I made the wrong choice for my destination on Tuesday in favor of mild temperatures and a shorter drive. In spite of the lack of fish, the weather was delightful, and I was present in a beautiful locale.

Fish Landed: 0


North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 03/10/2023

Time: 11:15AM – 2:30PM

Location: Buttonrock Preserve

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 03/10/2023 Photo Album

January, February and March have been consistently cold months during the winter of 2023, and I anxiously awaited a break that would enable me to visit a local stream to kick off the new season. When I checked the high temperatures in Denver for Friday, March 10, I noted sixty-one degrees, so I immediately checked some towns near Front Range streams. This process led me to Lyons, CO with a high of 59, so I decided to initiate my season on the North Fork of the St. Vrain northwest of Lyons. A quick check of the flows revealed 20 CFS, and although this was on the low side, I decided to give it a go. My history with opening days was not good, so I set my expectations low for Friday.

I arrived at the nearly vacant and muddy parking lot at 10AM, and the temperature on the dashboard registered thirty-two degrees. I was skeptical that 59 was attainable, but even more problematic was the gusting wind that sent chills down my spine, as I exited the car to gear up for my first day of fly fishing. I quickly pulled on my fleece hoodie and North Fork light down and then added my raincoat as a windbreaker. My bag yielded a New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps, and I searched through the fishing bag for my woolen fingerless gloves. This was evidently winter fishing and not the warm spring outing that I anticipated. My new Redington waders barely slid over my bulky layers, and when I slipped on my new backpack and front pack, I realized that the straps needed significant adjustment. By the time I had everything tuned up, my hands were stinging from the cold and wind, so I jumped back in the car and turned on the engine and listened to some sports talk for ten minutes.

Deep Pool

Finally my hands were back to normal, so I tugged on my fingerless gloves and snapped on my front pack and backpack and assembled my newly repaired Sage four weight and began my hike on the dirt road that follows the creek. By 11:15 I arrived at my favorite starting point, and I was sheltered to some degree in the canyon, although the wind remained a nuisance throughout the day. I began with a size 8 yellow fat Albert and added a three foot dropper with a beadhead hares ear nymph, and these were my flies of choice for the 45 minute morning session prior to breaking for lunch at noon. The late morning creek exploration failed to yield a single landed trout, although a fairly nice fish crushed the fat Albert and immediately cleared the surface, before it shed the hook and escaped to freedom.

Looks Promising

After lunch I exchanged the hares ear for a green and black Pat’s rubberleg in order to gain more depth, but the stonefly imitation was not on the menu. In the 45 minutes after lunch I prospected with the rubberlegs, bright green go2 caddis pupa, and ultra zug bug, but the subsurface offerings failed to interest the stream residents. I did, however, manage to hook and land a ravenous nine inch rainbow that slurped the yellow fat Albert, and I celebrated my first fish of the year. Unfortunately the little fighter wrapped the trailing rubberlegs and caddis pupa in an ugly snarl, and I spent five minutes untangling the mess.

First Trout of 2023

By 1:30PM I approached a gorgeous long smooth pool with several swirling current seams, and before I could make a cast with the dry/dropper, I noticed a series of sipping rises. What could be bringing these trout to the surface? I decided to take advantage of the unexpected early season surface feeding, and I removed the nymphs and fat Albert and tied a size 24 CDC BWO to my leader. I spent ten minutes spraying casts to all the locales that revealed sipping trout, but the tiny mayfly imitation was soundly ignored. Were the fish eating small black stoneflies? I encountered them previously on this section of stream, so I knotted a size22 black bug to my line with a swept back poly wing. The move did not pay off. The flurry of rises seemed to follow strong gusts of wind, so I guessed that perhaps ants were blown from the trees into the creek. I stripped in my line and replaced the black stonefly with an olive size 16 deer hair caddis and then added a parachute black ant on an eight inch dropper. Some excellent drifts with the visible double dries were met with total disregard, so I returned to the dry/dropper that produced my only trout.

Nice Pool

For the next hour until I quit at 2:30PM I prospected upstream with a size 14 peacock body hippie stomper, ultra zug bug and size 20 BWO soft hackle emerger. After a reasonable trial period the emerger got stuck in my frontpack mesh, and I bent it in the process of removing, so I replaced it with a size 20 sparkle wing RS2. One refusal to the hippie stomper was the extent of my action on the dry/dropper combination, so I hooked the RS2 to the rod guide at 2:30PM and retreated to the car. The sky was partly cloudy, and the wind continued to howl, as I tramped back along the road to the mud bound Santa Fe.

One fish in nearly three hours of fishing was not a stellar outing, but I was, nonetheless, pleased to land a rainbow in order to initiate the fish count for 2023. The cold and wind provided significant hurdles to success on Friday, although I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a brief hatch. I also broke in and adjusted new equipment, and that should prepare me for future fly fishing ventures. I am rooting for you, spring.

Fish Landed: 1

Jake’s Gulp Beetle – 01/17/2023

Jake’s Gulp Beetle 01/17/2023 Photo Album

For some reason my success with the beetle has waned in the last several years, and this circumstance may be attributable to my tendency to favor a hippie stomper over the beetle. If fish refuse the hippie stomper, my next succession in downsizing is the beetle. My post of 01/16/2021 provides quite a bit of background on the beetle and my application to fishing situations.

Angled for More Depth

When I counted my supply of beetles in sizes 10 – 14, I concluded that I was adequately stocked, but I uncovered five foam and deer hair beetles that were damaged and unraveling. I stripped these down the the bare hook and supplemented my backup supply with five refurbished flies. I suspect that I will once again find myself in a situation where the beetle delivers on its promise, and 2023 could be the year.

Batch of Five

Hippie Stomper – 01/11/2023

Hippie Stomper 01/11/2023 Photo Album

Should I categorize the hippie stomper as a terrestrial or an attractor? Guess what? It is irrelevant. The beauty of the hippie stomper is that it consistently catches fish regardless of the time of day, season of the year or type of water. The hippie stomper is simply my number one dry fly, as it delivers time after time. I encourage you to click on this link, Hippie Stomper – 01/30/2022, to gain access to all the background on the hippie stomper, or you can just sit down at your vise and tie a large quantity of these flies. If you are not a tier, hippie stompers are abundantly available at western fly shops, and purchasing a batch will help out my buddy, Andrew Grillos.

Left Side

Olive and Peacock Body Clump

Quite often I begin my dry/dropper fishing with a hopper and trail one or two beadhead nymphs as droppers, and frequently the fish ignore the droppers and refuse the large hopper. I adopted the strategy of downsizing from the size eight hopper to a smaller foam fly, and that approach often results in a hippie stomper as my top fly. The stomper is lighter than the larger foam flies, yet it is capable of supporting two beadhead nymphs up to size 14. Another frequent technique that incorporates the hippie stomper is casting a double dry arrangement. The hippie stomper is typically the front fly, and I attach another smaller dry fly that matches the naturals on a six to eight inch dropper. In many instances the hippie stomper out-fishes the more imitative second fly.

Red Version

My overwhelming favorite body color is peacock dubbing. Nine times out of ten the peacock hippie stomper resides on my line, although I did manage some success this summer with some constructed with red flashabou bodies. For this reason I tied both peacock and red hippie stompers for the 2023 season. The trout do not have a chance.

2022 Top Ten – 01/09/2023

During 2022 I landed 928 trout during 63 days of fly fishing. I go into every year with the goal of landing one thousand fish, and I came up short, so that aspect of the year is somewhat disappointing. Despite this shortcoming I landed fish at a higher rate per hour, so my fly fishing time became more efficient. Despite my proclivity for counting fish, the real reason for my passion for this sport is discovering new places, solving problems, and continuing to evolve as a fly angler, and I feel that I accomplished those objectives in 2022. Below I offer my take on my top ten fly fishing outings of 2022.

Lunch Pool and Eddy

10. South Fork of the Rio Grande River – 06/21/2022 –  This was my first visit to the South Fork, and discovering a new and productive stream always counts for a lot, when I do these rankings. I landed twenty fish in five hours of fishing on a gorgeous first day of summer. A pale morning dun spinner fall was a highlight of the day, and it motivated me to cut short my lunch. A light winter snow pack in the Rio Grande drainage enabled nearly perfect stream conditions during the second half of June. The size of the fish was average with the largest measuring thirteen inches, but discovering a new stream counted for a lot in my assessment.

9. Arkansas River – 07/12/2022 – This was my second float trip of the summer, and the results were excellent. We drifted the Arkansas River in the area below Brown’s Canyon, and the action was steady all day. Most of my landed trout came to a rusty dun/spinner or a pheasant tail nymph, as pale morning duns were apparently the main food source in early July. The trout were nearly all browns, and from a size perspective, quite a few fell in the thirteen to fourteen inch range.

Oversized Tail

8. Elk River – 08/09/2022 – A hippie stomper and beadhead hares ear nymph did the heavy lifting on this venture to a high country stream in Colorado. I expected colorful, wild cutthroats, and I was not disappointed, but I was surprised by a strong population of brown trout displaying larger than anticipated size in this small stream environment. I started early and quit early due to high air temperatures, and this allowed me to land 25 trout, before the stream temperatures elevated.

7. South Boulder Creek – 08/03/2022 – This was my first outing with my new Sage R8 four weight, and I had my license checked in the parking lot, but these were secondary events compared to the wonderful day of fly fishing. I fished a green drake dry fly from 10:15AM until 4:00PM, and this tactic rewarded me with 48 trout landed! I also discovered that the trout of South Boulder Creek prefer parachute green drakes with poly wings and moose mane tails. This will be good to remember for 2023; however, I also need to remind myself that change is constant in the fly fishing world.

6. Roaring Fork River – 06/29/2022 – I love the Roaring Fork River, and a day like 06/29/2022 reinforced that sentiment. This was my first guided float trip of the 2022 season, and it was well worth the commitment. High but clear river flows and cool overcast weather provided favorable conditions for a float trip, and the cooperative fish made the entire adventure a significant win. We tossed double dries all day long, and I landed 22 mostly bank feeders during our time on the river. The purple haze was the star of the show, and many of the trout were heavyweight fighters in the fourteen to eighteen inch range. Very rewarding.

Wow. Great Stripe and Speckles

5. Arkansas River – 06/27/2022 – It had been a long time since I experienced a banner day on the Arkansas River, but this day proved to be such an outing. The flows were 1100 CFS and the river was murky, but these conditions proved to be ideal for duping strong and physical trout from the Arkansas River. This was also the best day I ever logged using Pat’s rubber legs, as the trout gobbled the black and olive chenille, as it tumbled along in my dry/dropper rig. Twenty-nine trout visited my net, and many were in the twelve to fifteen inch range.

4. South Platte River – 04/27/2022 – A long lasting blue winged olive hatch elevated this day to the number four in 2022. The olives came in waves, as the skies darkened periodically. The conditions for blue winged olives were perfect. I landed twenty-five fine trout, and twenty-three sipped my blue winged olive dry flies. I landed six picky feeders at the shallow tail of a major pool at the end of the day, and these fish were all robust wild fish in the thirteen to sixteen inch range. What a way to end a successful day!


3. Elk Creek – 09/02/2022 – This was a particularly gratifying day. This creek was a relatively small high country gem that my daughter and I scouted with a hike during the previous day. During our hike the creek bubbled along at a low level, and it was extremely clear. I never spotted a fish during our entire walk, so I was fairly intimidated, as I approached the waterway once again the next day. Stealth, long casts and light flies paid dividends, and I managed to catch and release thirty-four trout, mostly browns, before I called it quits. Some larger than expected fish were in the mix, and the peacock hippie stomper and salvation nymph accounted for most of the fish.

No Fish, But a Great Swimming Hole

2. South Boulder Creek – 08/12/2022 – How could a fifty-two fish day end up ranked number two? You will need to read number one to answer this question. The reader will note that South Boulder Creek already checked in at number seven, so a second top ten ranking is quite impressive for the small Front Range tailwater. The poly wing parachute green drake with a moose mane tail was irresistible, and nearly all the landed fish fell to its attraction. The largest fish was probably thirteen inches, but the quantity of fish more than made up for size. It is hard to beat a day spent casting a large solitary dry fly to likely fish holding spots resulting in positive responses a significant proportion of the time.

First Poly Wing Parachute Green Drake

1.North Fork of the White River – 09/14/2022 – This day in the Flattops represented the highest number of fish landed in one day in my entire career of fly fishing, sixty-three. It would be easy to cite this fact as the reason for the number one ranking, but the experience goes beyond numbers.  The beauty of these fish was nearly indescribable. The brook trout displayed brilliant orange bellies, while the cutbows and cutthroats exhibited dense speckles and pastel background hues accented by vivid scarlet stripes and slashes. All the fish were wild, and quite a few exceeded expectations for the small size of the North Fork. The larger cutbows and cutthroats were terrific pound for pound battlers. When can I go back?

Fat and Orange Like a Pumpkin

Proud Release



Olive Mini Leech – 01/09/2023

Olive Mini Leech 01/09/2023 Photo Album

The story behind the olive mini leech follows the same script as the black version. It represents a new fly in my repertoire, and last year I made only black leeches. Landon Mayer is a proponent of mainly black and olive, so I took the plunge and produced a batch of olive with no bead. The color of these could allow a reasonable imitation of damsel flies, so I will keep that in mind during prime damsel fly emergence season on Colorado lakes and streams.

Left Side

Ten Olive Mini Leeches

Black Mini Leech – 01/08/2023

Black Mini Leech 01/08/2023 Photo Album

I follow Landon Mayer on Instagram, and he is the creator of the mini leech fly. He actually suggests that anglers deploy both a non-bead version and a balanced mini leech. The balanced mini leech is tied on a jig hook with a bead, and this provides a jigging action; whereas, the non-weighted leech is designed to be fished near the surface. I made some of each; however, lacking jig hooks, I tied the balanced mini leeches on a scud hook. At the very end of my tying season in 2022 I produced some black mini leeches, but my supply was fairly minimal. Fortunately I never incorporated leech fishing into my normal sequence of approaches, and I did not lose any, as far as I know. I reviewed my posts and discovered that I experimented with a black mini leech on three separate occasions on the South Platte River and once on Clear Creek, but I never connected with a fish.

With Bead

Nice Focus

Given the Instagram hype around this fly, I decided to plunge deeper into the mini leech culture, I tied five with no bead and five with a gold brass bead. At the Fly Fishing Show I attended a presentation on stillwater fly fishing, and I concluded that I should resort to the mini leech as a first or second choice during my brief foray into lake fishing during snow melt. I am now prepared for leech fishing success.

A Batch of Ten Beaded Black

Sunk Ant – 01/03/2023

Sunk Ant 01/03/2023 Photo Album

I set a goal last winter to use sunk ants even more than in the past, and I actually followed through on this pledge during the 2022 season. I experimented with them on some large rivers during higher flows, and they were not extremely productive. However, when I knotted one to my line in a dry/dropper arrangement and tossed it to likely trout holding spots on small mountain streams, there was no mistaking the love affair between trout and ants. The sunk ant performed in admirable fashion.

Zoomed on a Black Sunk Ant

As one would expect, I lost a few along the way, and increased usage translated to more lost flies. I counted my stock of carry over ants, and I decided to replenish my inventory with size 14 and size 16 black sunk ants. I followed the pattern demonstrated by Kelly Galloup in his excellent YouTube video, although I substituted a black plastic bead for the rear bump instead of winding thread forever. Even Kelly remarks on the mind numbing exercise of forming the rear bump with thread. The feature of this fly that I admire the most is the method that he demonstrates to form the legs. If you are interested in tying some of these, definitely check out his video. Also, if you are interested in learning more about my experience with the sunk ant check out my post of 01/22/2022.

Lots of Ants

Crystal Stone – 01/03/2023

Crystal Stone 01/03/2023 Photo Album

For some reason I continue to avoid this fly, yet I am convinced that it would be quite productive, if I gave it a chance. Click on this link for my 01/18/2022 post to browse background information on why I developed this fly. There may be another version out there, but I like the usage of black crystal flash for the tail, wingcase and legs. The ice dub peacock black only enhances the flash and attraction of this small nymph.

Black Crystal Hair

I tied five additional crystal stones to add to my existing supply, and I am committing to deploying this little black stonefly in 2023. I expect to use it frequently in the early spring season, when small black stoneflies are prevalent on local rivers.

Pat’s Rubber Legs – 12/22/2022

Pat’s Rubber Legs 12/22/2022 Photo Album

During a 06/27/2022 trip to the Arkansas River the local brown trout and rainbow trout displayed a strong preference for Pat’s rubber legs. The river remained high from run off at 1100 CFS, and heavy rains several days earlier created turbid conditions with visibility to three feet along the edges. This suited my style perfectly, as I lobbed my dry/dropper featuring an olive and black Pat’s rubber legs as the upper nymph in a tandem nymph dry/dropper arrangement. I was frankly stunned by the effectiveness of the simple chenille and rubber leg fly.

Facing Down and Left

Overhead from the Front

I began tying these in recent years when my friend, Dave G, raved about their effectiveness on the Eagle River and Colorado River on guided float trips with Cutthroat Anglers. I must admit that I gave them scarce time on my line, so I was probably overlooking a very productive fly. After my outing on the Arkansas River in June, however, the days of disregarding Pat’s rubber legs are history. My post of 12/19/2020 provides additional background information on this popular fly.

Molting Stonefly

I follow the tying method of Tim Flagler, and if you want to attempt tying these tricky nymphs, you should search it out on YouTube. The most difficult aspect of tying this fly is the unruly nature of the rubber legs, and Tim devised a solution that keeps the legs under reasonable control. For my tying sessions in December I manufactured three different colors; olive and black, coffee and black, and orange-green-yellow. I use the latter in March to match molting stoneflies in the Arkansas River, although I’m sure they would work just as well on other western rivers that hold a strong population of stoneflies.

Three Colors