Monthly Archives: April 2015

Clear Creek – 04/28/2015

Time: 2:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: Mile Marker 266.5 in Clear Creek Canyon

Fish Landed: 8

Clear Creek 04/28/2015 Photo Album

I was concerned that the steady rain of all day Sunday continuing into Monday morning raised the streams to levels that were not conducive for fishing. Another possibility was snow accumulations in the higher elevations that was now creating early run off, but when I checked the flows on the department of water resources web site, most of the local streams seemed to be at manageable levels.

Tuesday morning remained cool, but the forecast called for gradual clearing during the afternoon with the temperature rising to the low 60’s. I was very anxious to maximize my fishing time before snow melt became a significant factor, so I decided to make the short drive to Clear Creek Canyon in the afternoon. Jane and I biked to Coors Field to exchange our rain check from Sunday’s postponed baseball game for a future Rockie’s game and then stopped at Snarf’s for a delicious sandwich, so I was able to depart by 12:45, and I found myself on the stream fishing by 2PM near mile marker 266.5. I like this stretch of water because it runs on the north side of route 6 and, therefore, enjoys more sun than some of the narrower areas.

Near Starting Point – Quite Murky

When I looked down at the water I discovered that it was quite stained. The color approximated that of split pea soup, but the water level was a reasonable 66 CFS. For some reason dirty water always creates the illusion of higher flows in my mind, and I’m also somewhat intimidated by murkiness. I began fishing with a royal tarantula since it performed well for me on an earlier trip to Clear Creek, but on Tuesday it was not popular.

I decided to switch to a black Chernobyl ant, and I theorized that the black color would contrast nicely with the dense olive green color of the water. Since the Chernobyl was more buoyant than the tarantula, I added a 3.5 foot tippet to the bend and then attached a size 16 beadhead prince nymph. For the first 1.5 hours I worked these flies with the only change being an exchange of the prince for an emerald caddis pupa half way through the early time period. I succeeded in generating attention, but the five fish I landed were all foul hooked. It seemed that the fish were looking at the Chernobyl but not taking it, and when the fish appeared from the murky depths to inspect my fly , I set prematurely and dragged the fly into the fish.

I grew weary of the refusal and foul hook game, so I began switching flies. I tried a Cathy’s super beetle, a tan pool toy, and an olive size 14 stimulator, but I quickly realized that these flies were not even able to generate a refusal. I actually gave some thought to quitting, and I planned to blame my skunking on the dirty water, but for some reason I decided to try a different Chernobyl ant. The Chernobyl was creating interest, but it was not exactly what the fish were looking for, so why not try a different version? The first ant was relatively small, and the black rubber legs were short, so I found a size 10 foam imitation in my fly box that had longer brown rubber legs. These legs would be much more visible to a trout with the added advantage of offering more wiggle action.

Big Fly for Small Fish

I knotted the fly to my leader and decided to forego a dropper since that approach was simply increasing the odds of entanglement. My other significant change in strategy was to focus almost entirely on deep pockets bordered by large boulders along the bank. It seemed fruitless to cast to the faster runs away from the bank, and I did not see any competing fishermen so I could afford to cover a significant amount of real estate.

Slow Edge Pockets Were Productive

Success. Over the last two hours I rapidly worked my way upstream along the steep rocky left bank and plopped the Chernobyl ant into all the likely locations that matched my criteria. I landed eight trout using this approach, and I missed at least half this many as well. The fish were quite small and averaged 6-8 inches, but catching fish of any size was preferable to just exercising my arm and climbing over rocks. I was actually quite pleased that I persisted and solved the riddle enough to dupe fish in fairly adverse stream conditions.

Keeping ‘Em Wet

South Boulder Creek – 04/25/2015

Time: 9:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Just below rock slide area and then up to above the picnic area.

Fish Landed: 8

South Boulder Creek 04/25/2015 Photo Album

I was admittedly a bit disappointed after a slow day on the Arkansas River on Friday, so when my fishing pal Danny Ryan texted me with the idea of fishing on Saturday, I jumped on the opportunity. I did not wish to make back to back long drives, so we agreed to make a short trip to South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. I picked Danny up at 8AM on Saturday morning, and we were on our way and arrived at the parking lot below the dam by 9AM. There were three cars in the parking lot and two young fishermen were suiting up next to us.

We quickly got our things organized and then descended the steep winding path to the creek below us. I suggested that we hike for 30 minutes to get to the lower section which I believe is less pressured than the water close to the parking lot; however, Danny spotted a nice deep pool and asked if he could sample it on our way to the more distant destination. I acquiesced, and while he fished the deep pool behind a large boulder, I walked farther downstream and found some small pockets to prospect. The flows were at 114 cfs, and this level is decent for fishing, but a bit higher than ideal which does limit fish holding locations to mostly pockets and pools behind current breaks.

I found a nice spot with a run behind some exposed boulders and decided to make this my testing ground. I elected to tie on a Charlie Boy hopper as my top fly for buoyancy and to support two beadhead nymphs; an emerald caddis pupa and an ultra zug bug. I lobbed the three flies into the nice run and almost immediately the hopper dipped, and I hooked a fish. The streaking object on the end of my line went immediately downstream into some heavy current and shed my fly. I was excited to experience action early in my fishing venture, but disappointed that I was unable to land my first hook up.

Perhaps the Largest Brown I’ve Landed from South Boulder Creek

I moved upstream a bit over some logs and positioned myself to toss the flies to a deeper area behind a large boulder. The Charlie Boy drifted slowly back toward me, and as I looked on, a large nose appeared and slurped in the hopper! It was simply supposed to be an indicator, and surprisingly the Charlie Boy produced my first fish. In addition it was a brown trout and perhaps the largest brown that I ever harvested from South Boulder Creek.

Emerald Caddis Pupa in the Mouth of This Nice Rainbow

As I photographed and release my prize, Danny reappeared, and we resumed our hike down the path along the north side of the creek. As we encountered the long attractive pool forty yards above the foot bridge, Danny suggested we give it a try, but then we realized a fisherman occupied the lower end of the pool, so we politely moved on. Eventually we split off from the Walker Loop and arrived at a point just downstream from the rock slide area. I decided to cross to the far side of the creek, so I could advance in parallel to Danny who was on the north side next to the path. Danny converted to a nymphing set up while I stayed with the dry/dropper arrangement.

The weather was also worth mentioning. It was quite chilly with overcast skies and periodic wind. Occasionally the sun broke through the thick clouds, but cool and overcast was the norm for most of the day until early afternoon when some light rain materialized.

Flows at 114 CFS

For most of the day the fishing followed the pattern of Danny working nymphs up along the north side of the stream while I advanced with the Charlie Boy hopper, emerald caddis pupa, and a variety of third flies. For much of the day I used a RS2, but I also allocated some time to the ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear. By the time we rested for lunch, I had landed five fish including the surprising brown trout. The other four fish consumed the emerald caddis, and Danny and I did spot a few caddis fluttering above the stream.

After lunch we resumed our progress, but we encountered a pair of fishermen and leap -frogged them once which took us to the picnic area where we resumed. The afternoon fishing was slower than the morning despite the overcast skies. The weather seemed ideal for a blue winged olive hatch, but I never observed any mayflies on the water. In fact the fishing was only marginally better than my Friday experience on the Arkansas River in terms of catch rate.

Danny Works on His Line

The two hours of fishing in the afternoon yielded three additional trout with two snatching the hares ear and one rising to the Charlie Boy. By 2PM some dark clouds rolled in, and a light rain began to fall. Neither Danny nor I enjoyed any action for quite some time, so we decided to call it a day and hiked back along the path. Danny paused to fish some attractive water at the base of the steep path while I made the climb and reached the car.

South Boulder Creek

The fishing was a bit slow on Saturday, but I did manage to land eight including two on the hopper and averaged two fish per hour which tends to be my norm over long periods. It was another fun spring day of fishing, and I caught up on the latest news from Danny.

Arkansas River – 04/24/2015

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Lunch Rock and Chafee-Fremont Country Line

Fish Landed: 5

Arkansas River 04/24/2015 Photo Album

Overcast skies, dense blue winged olive hatches, and a caddis emergence were in my dreams as I anticipated my planned fishing trip to the Arkansas River on Friday. I read the Royal Gorge Angler reports as well as ArkAnglers, and I was convinced that the stars were aligned for some fantastic fishing.

Jane decided to join me for this cool spring day, and we departed from Denver at 7AM. I planned to fish from the lease stretch west of Vallie Bridge, so we followed the route through Colorado Springs instead of route 285 that I usually choose for trips to the Salida area. During my fishing trip to Wyoming, I realized that I needed a spool of 3X tippet and a pack of tapered leaders, so we stopped at Royal Gorge Anglers along the way and made that purchase.

By the time we drove west through Big Horn Sheep canyon, we arrived at the Vallie Bridge lease by 10:30, and I began to prepare to fish. There were two cars in the parking lot, and as I pulled on my waders two additional vehicles arrived with a total of seven fishermen. I was quite concerned about the availability of open water given the number of fishermen in the parking lot, so Jane suggested we move to another spot, and I readily agreed with her proposal.

We continued west on route 50 until we reached Lunch Rock just beyond the Wellsville Bridge. A small RV was parked in front of us, but when I walked out on Lunch Rock, I could not find any other fishermen in the area. After I assembled my Sage One five weight and attached a new tapered leader, I began fishing in front of the large rock and continued up the river along the south bank. I began with a strike indicator, split shot, emerald caddis pupa, and RS2; and after fifteen minutes of fruitless prospecting, I managed to hook and land a twelve inch brown trout. Since it was the first fish of the day, I paused for a few minutes to snap a photograph.

First Fish Landed on the Arkansas on a RS2

Unfortunately the brown trout represented my total action in the morning before I paused for lunch at noon. I returned to the car and found Jane exploring the stone beach next to the huge eddy and pool below Lunch Rock. We both grabbed our lunches and munched them next to the river. Large high slate gray clouds covered the sky, and a constant breeze kept me on the edge of being uncomfortable, so after lunch I pulled on a fleece layer and my New Zealand hat with ear flaps.

Overcast Day Did Not Deliver a BWO Hatch

I did not see any fishermen downstream from Lunch Rock, so I decided to explore that area after lunch. I walked along the shoulder of the highway for .3 mile until I found a spot where I could climb over the barbed wire fence that blocked my access to the river. Once I was next to the river, I traversed a path along the top of a steep bank until I found an angled path that allowed me to easily descend to the edge of the river. Almost immediately I encountered a long pool with a slight riffle as the river flowed over a moderate depth. This water was extremely attractive, and I judged it to be a prime spot to occupy should a hatch evolve.

Nice Section of Slow Riffles Over Moderate Depth

At this point I had a beadhead prince nymph with a RS2, and I made some great drifts with no results. I exchanged the prince nymph for a bright green caddis, and still I was thwarted in my attempts to harvest the gorgeous pool. As I was changing flies and prospecting the water the sky darkened, and a breeze kicked up, and I spotted a couple caddis skittering across the surface. Shortly after making this observation, some sporadic splashy rises commenced. I maintained my methodical wet fly approach and attempted to impart some lifting action near the spots where I observed rises, but all these ploys were to no avail.

I could not believe that the beautiful stretch of water in front of me held no fish, so I decided to jettison the nymph rig and convert to a single dry fly. My fly of choice was a size 16 deer hair caddis with a dark olive-brown body. This fly proved to be a great choice, as I landed three fine twelve inch brown trout on the caddis imitation. I spent quite a bit of time in the area, but the rises were very spaced out and sporadic, and prospecting the tiny caddis dry fly without the benefit of a rise seemed quite futile. After fifteen minutes without any rises, I decided to explore new water upstream. The next attractive area consisted of a nice deep run that fanned out from a large vertical rock along the left bank.

Note Deer Hair Caddis in Mouth

Again I spotted two or three random rises and began drifting my deer hair caddis in the vicinity of the riseforms. Eventually after quite a bit of casting, I induced a small brown to slurp my dry fly. The fly actually dragged a bit at the end of the drift, and this provoked a savage attack.

The sparse caddis hatch only lasted an hour or even less, and once the rises ceased to expose fish, I grew impatient with trying to follow the tiny caddis. I added a gray stimulator in front of the caddis and fished a pair of dries for awhile, but this ploy did not yield any results.

A pair of fishermen appeared above me, so I circled around them and then skipped some marginal water and arrived at Jane’s sand bar. I had pretty much exhausted the possibilities around Lunch Rock, so Jane and I jumped in the car and drove west to the Fremont – Chafee county line. Here I descended the path to a perch high above the river and a large pool, and I began probing the depths with an emerald caddis pupa and RS2. These flies attracted no response so I moved upstream and cast to all the likely deep runs and pockets for another fifty yards, but the river was devoid of fish as far as I was concerned.

I was about to return to the car to call it quits when I remembered that I had a five weight sinking tip line in my backpack, so I removed my floating line and replaced it with the sinking tip and attached a peanut envy to the end of the tippet. I worked the articulated streamer for another twenty minutes and saw one small trout follow the fly and also felt a bump in the large pool next to the high rock where I began. It was fun to work the pulsing streamer, but unfortunately it did not reward me with a fish.

I have to admit that Friday was a disappointment. Five fish in four hours is a subpar catch rate, and the average size of the fish was below average. The weather was chilly and blustery, but I believe I determined that the main caddis hatch has not yet migrated to upper Big Horn Sheep canyon, so I will look for future opportunities to meet the 2015 caddis emergence.

North Platte River – 04/22/2015

Time: 9:30AM – 11:30AM

Location: The after bay above the town of Alcova

Fish Landed: 3

North Platte River 04/22/2015 Photo Album

In some ways Wednesday morning was more rewarding than the Tuesday float trip despite landing only three fish in two hours of fishing. The difference was that Steve and I were on our own wade fishing in unknown waters with flows rushing down the river bed at 2,400 cfs.

On Tuesday we asked Greg, our guide, for suggestions on where we could enjoy some success by wade fishing on Wednesday morning before we made the four hour drive back to Denver. He suggested the after bay above Alcova and gave us fairly specific directions. Steve and I remembered turning at a church and parking after crossing a wooden bridge from his description. After breakfast at the Hampton Inn on Wednesday morning, we made the drive west to Alcova and followed Greg’s directions. The town was quite small, and we could see the after bay from the highway, so we were able to locate his recommendation.

Just as he described, we found a wooden bridge and crossed to the southern side and parked in an open area on the eastern side of the road. Several vehicles preceded us, and in fact a fisherman already locked up the prime spot just below the bridge on the east side of the river. Before preparing to fish, Steve and I strolled across the bridge and stopped to gaze down river at the area occupied by the fisherman. Sure enough we felt an adrenalin rush as we observed at least 25 large trout spread out in the shallow flow between the main current and the bank. We both suspected that many of these fish were in spawning mode, but the size and density was enough to raise the heartbeat of any red blooded fisherman.

We continued to the north side of the bridge, and once again we observed a pod of generous sized fish in a smaller narrow space between the current and the bank. Unfortunately this area was much smaller than the occupied space, and it presented the adversity of numerous overhanging branches and required back hand casts from right handed fishermen.

We hustled back to the car, as several additional vehicles arrived during our surveillance mission. The prime spot on the south bank and downstream side of the bridge was occupied, and Steve was prepared to fish much earlier than me, so he chose to fish to the pod on the north bank below the bridge. When I finally rigged my rod, I crossed the bridge and descended a steep path to a spot above the bridge. The water here was rather deep, but moved fairly slowly, so I hoped I could tempt fish that were not visible due to the depth. I began fishing with a butterscotch egg and red rock worm that Greg gave us, but after standing in the waist deep water for 15 to 20 minutes and making numerous backhand casts, I became frustrated with the lack of action and the relative difficulty of my position.

I retreated back to the Santa Fe and pulled on a fleece top, as I discovered that standing in the water created quite a chill despite the relatively warm air temperature. The only option I now had was to walk downstream along a dirt path on the south side of the river. This path ran along the border of an elementary school, but the lack of lights and activity suggested that the school was not in session or perhaps not currently being used. I hiked downstream approximately a hundred yards and found a place to clamber down the steep bank over some large rocks.

When I reached the river’s edge I discovered a wide swath of smooth featureless slow moving water. The only positive to this section was the fact that the water was fairly deep. Surely there had to be fish in this deeper version of the water just below the bridge that was stacked with at least 25 large finned creatures. I began to methodically cover the water and worked my way upstream while cautiously hugging the steep rocky bank. Typically I made three casts with each one fanning out farther toward the middle of the river. In this way I covered lanes separated by 8-10 foot spaces. After each series of casts I moved upstream three or four steps and repeated the process.

After fifteen minutes of fruitless casting and methodical movement, I fell into a bit of a daze, and I was startled when I saw a slight dip in my indicator at the tail of the drift. I pulled myself out of my trance and executed a swift hook set, but I only managed to prick the fish as the hook came free in an instant. This did give me a ray of hope, so I continued my game of river coverage for another ten minutes when once again a twitch at the tail of the drift provoked an intuitive hook set. This time I felt the weight of a substantial fish and I played it to the point where I could see the stripe of a rainbow, but then once again the fish executed an escape maneuver, and I stood motionless feeling waves of regret.

Fat Rainbow Landed from Afterbay Area

Now I was certain that my method could yield results, so with renewed optimism I continued along the bank. I had probably covered one-third of the distance to the bridge at this point, but it wasn’t long before the process played out a third time, but in this case I managed to play a strong fighting fish that raced up and down the river until I finally exerted side pressure and brought it to my net. What a thrill and relief it was to finally have a broad seventeen inch rainbow nestled in my net! I was not certain I could repeat this success, so I snapped several photos and then gently released the noble silver and pink bullet back to its aquatic home. I contrived a method, persevered, and found success using one of the red rock worms that I tied prior to the 2014 trip. This was quite gratifying.

Proud to Land This Fish While Wade Fishing

On I went resuming my pattern of casting and moving until I once again hooked a feisty rainbow. The indicator only hesitated slightly on this fish, so I was quite pleased that I reacted and landed number two. This rainbow was around 14 inches, but it also appeared to be quite healthy and well fed.

Lack of Speckles on This One

The last fish was the smallest of the three landed in the morning and registered around 13 inches. It’s amazing how ones standards of size adjust when fishing a river that holds a pool of larger fish.

The gentleman below the bridge finally exited, and I could see Steve sandwiched between the bridge and the departing fisherman’s previous position. I methodically worked my way up the river to thirty feet below Steve, and here I could finally see the pods of fish spread out across the river bed just as they appeared from the bridge. I was skeptical that I could tempt these lunkers preoccupied with spawning, but decided to give it a half-hearted try. I lobbed several casts above the pod of three or four fish, and on the third drift I saw one of the fish move slightly to the side so I set the hook. Much to my amazement, the fish reacted, and it appeared that I hooked the trout in the mouth with the egg fly. Off the fish streaked, but as I maintained tension, I could feel a small give and then a reconnect. From past experience I knew that this indicated that the hook released from the mouth of the trout, and then the trailing hook found a home in the body. Sure enough when I finally skimmed the fifteen inch rainbow across the surface into the net, I could see that the trailing worm was embedded in the tail. I gently removed the intrusion and released the fine coldwater fish to its freedom.

A Drift Boat in the Afterbay

By now it was approaching 11:30, and Steve and I needed to return to Denver by 4:30, so we climbed the bank to the car and shed our gear and prepared for the return trip. I enjoyed the two hours of fishing on Wednesday morning because I proved to myself that I could catch fish in new water by developing a strategy and sticking to it. The North Platte River was fun, but I’m now ready for more aquatic insect hatches and hopefully some dry fly action. Stay tuned.

North Platte River – 04/21/2015

Time: 8:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Boat launch below Grey Reef to Government Bridge take out.

Fish Landed: 15

North Platte River 04/21/2015 Photo Album

On Tuesday Steve Supple and I drifted the same water with the same guide that we used at the end of March in 2014 and 2013. The variables that were different were warmer air temperatures, significantly higher flows, and a three week lag on the calendar. Also the flows were running at 2,400 cfs 24/7; whereas, during previous visits the authorities were releasing flush surges intermittently each day. How would these variables impact our fishing success? This was the question that Steve and I debated prior to our scheduled float on Tuesday.

The Drift Boat on the Left Is Ours

Danielle at the Wyoming Fly Fishing shop instructed us to be ready by 7:30 on Tuesday, and Steve and I followed her directions precisely. We each gave our rods and reels to our guide Greg Mueller so he could configure them while we climbed into our waders. Once we were ready, we climbed into his truck, and he drove west on route 220 and turned into the parking lot next to the boat ramp below Grey Reef. When Steve and I asked Greg how the river was fishing in the post-flush time period, he responded with his typically optimistic answer that the river fishes well all year round.

Tall Grass on the South Bank Not Far from Launch

It was bright and sunny at the launch site, but the ever present wind made its presence known, so I wore my down vest over my Adidas windbreaker pullover. Greg added an electric motor to his Adipose drift boat since our last visit, and he used this aid to power us downstream and ahead of the other guides and boats stacked up at the launch site.

Steve Grins as Guide Greg Operates the Electric Motor

Once we were sufficiently clear of competing boat traffic, Steve and I flicked our lines into the river. Steve’s rig sported a purple worm and midge pupa while mine featured a butterscotch egg and red rock worm. In a short amount of time my thingamabobber dipped, and I set the hook and discovered that I was attached to a streaking rainbow trout. After a spirited run, I gained some control, but I was disappointed to realize that the fish was foul hooked. The fish did not add to my fish count, but I was optimistic that I made contact with a nice fish early in the float.

Big Old Owl Looks at Us From Perch

We began the day with me in the bow and Steve in the rear, and then we swapped locations at lunch time. Steve fished from the back position all day during our 2014 float, so I felt it would only be fair if I shared that position. Typically the front is preferred, as that fisherman’s flies are seen first by fish, although I do not believe that the position is as critical when fishing subsurface eggs, worms and nymphs.

I spent the morning in the bow and followed the pattern of casting fifteen to twenty feet to the side and forward of the boat. Greg was very precise in his instruction and quick to reprimand deviations, as he expertly managed the drift and switched from the north to south bank depending on where the best fish holding water existed. In particularly juicy stretches he strained at the oars to row us back upstream against the current and wind, making an extra effort to provide us a second pass.

Dave Displays One of His Nicer Rainbows

During the morning I landed eight rainbows ranging between thirteen and seventeen inches. All the fish were robust chunky fish with bright coloration, and most of them inhaled the red rock worm with one or two preferring the egg.

At 11:30AM Greg pulled the boat into a small bay that was somewhat sheltered from the wind, and we enjoyed our lunch consisting of a sandwich, chips, fruit salad, and cookie. Another Wyoming Fly Fishing guide, Kray, joined us along with his two clients, and Kray and Greg attempted to chum some rainbows to the surface by flicking some of their bread and tortilla into the eddy next to the boats. It would have been fun to witness, but no fish responded to the generous handout.

A Companion Guide and Clients Join Us for Lunch

After lunch Steve and I switched positions, and we also elected to shed layers as the sun was high in the sky, and the air temperature climbed into the low 60’s. Some large clouds continued to block the sun periodically, and when this occurred small mayflies appeared on the surface of the river. These were baetis, also referred to as blue winged olives, but we only spotted occasional sporadic surface rises. Apparently the fish tune into the subsurface nymph form of the baetis, and in response Greg reconfigured our lines with BWO nymph imitations. My line now featured a red rock worm with an RS2 next in the lineup and then a small flashback nymph at the point.

For the next couple hours Steve and I landed fish at a decent rate, and the small blue winged olive nymphs were the most effective, although in my case the fish continued to show interest in the worm. Apparently Grey Reef rainbows do not feed selectively on baetis and respond positively to significant chunks of protein such as worms and eggs.

Greg Shows a Steve and Dave Double

Over the remainder of the day we covered more water compared to the morning, and I added seven more fish to my count. The catch rate for me was fairly even over the course of the day except for the last hour when I was unable to interest any fish. Steve, on the other hand, experienced a hot streak just before lunch and then an even more productive run in the final hour before we landed at Government Bridge.

Loaded and Ready to Depart

The fishing in 2015 was excellent with fifteen fat healthy rainbows landed in the 13 – 17 inch range. The weather was nearly ideal with mostly sunny skies and intermittent clouds to promote hatching mayflies. It was very comfortable for fishermen without the need for handwarmers and excessive layers of clothing. Unfortunately my catch rate was only half of my 2014 and 2013 experience, but I’ve now learned how ridiculously superb the fishing was in my prior trips. Steve and I both agreed that we would attempt to return during the flush period in 2016.

North Platte River – 04/20/2015

Time: 3:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Tailwater below Grey Reef

Fish Landed: 1

North Platte River 04/20/2015 Photo Album

For the last two years Steve Supple and I made an annual pilgrimage to the North Platte River below Grey Reef Dam just west of Caspar, WY. We scheduled the trip near the end of March to take advantage of discounted rates on guided float trips from the Wyoming Fly Fishing outfitters. The reduced rates were available to customers who booked a trip prior to 1 April. These trips occurred during the annual flush on the North Platte River when the department of wildlife in conjunction with the dam operators released a slug of water in the morning and then cut back the flows. We were able to fish during the flush by beginning our float from the dam behind the wave of flush water. The flush cleansed the stream bottom of sediments for better spawning while also kicking loose eggs, worms and leeches from the stream bottom. Needless to say we experienced fantastic fishing as we each averaged thirty or more fish landed on our two previous trips, and the size of the fish averaged in the 15 – 20 inch range.

Unfortunately Jane and I scheduled our trip to Carlsbad Caverns and Big Bend National Park during the last full week of March, and thus I was unable to join Steve for a third annual North Platte River excursion. When I returned from Big Bend, I contacted Steve, and we agreed to make the trip in April. The price was higher, but what is an extra $100 when stellar fishing is at stake?

We originally booked the float trip for April 15, but an adverse weather forecast made us reconsider, so we delayed our date to April 21. We were able to retain the same guide, but we avoided a day with snow, rain, 25 MPH wind, and high temperatures in the low 40’s.

The plan was set, and Steve arrived at my house on Monday morning at 9AM. We made the four hour drive without incident and checked in at the Wyoming Fly Fishing shop along route 220 just outside of Caspar, WY. Steve and I purchased three day non-resident fishing licenses and proceeded on our way farther west to the parking lot next to the outlet of Grey Reef Dam. The wind was strong as usual as we pulled on our layers and warm hats and prepared to fish. We took a a quick glance at the river and realized that the flows were considerably higher than during our previous visits, Our guide on Tuesday informed us that indeed the flows were running at 2400 cfs compared to post-flush velocity of 500 cfs.

Steve Begins His Quest for Trout

Given the high flows and the wind, I decided to break out my Scott S4S six weight nine foot fly rod. I rigged it using the Alaska set-up taught to me by Taylor Edrington since I knew I’d be drifting eggs, worms and nymphs the entire time. I looped an eight inch section of 0X to the end of my line and then tied a thingamabobber to the other end with an improved clinch knot. Next I clipped a five foot section of 3X from my spool and knotted it to the thingamabobber as well. My next step was to use a surgeon’s knot to tie a 12 inch section of 4X to the 3X, and then I knotted an orange egg to my line. Below the egg I tied a conehead pine squirrel leech, and finally I crimped a split shot above the junction of the 3X and 4X.

Steve and I hiked through the parking lot to the boat launch and approached the water. Steve elected to begin below the boat ramp, and I moved up to some slower moving edge water above the launch. I began drifting the rig along the current seam and eventually foul hooked a nice rainbow. Steve meanwhile moved above me, and he let me know that he experienced a hook up but failed to land the fish.

I leap-frogged Steve and swapped the egg for a red San Juan worm, and after quite a bit of movement and casting, I once again hooked a fish that rocketed downstream at warp speed. Much to my chagrin, this fish was also foul hooked, and the hook was in the tail so the fish was not hindered in its ability to swim. I followed the fish downstream until I could guide it to the bank and release it from the inconvenience of a pointed hook in its tail.

After an hour of fishing I reached a point where a huge 30 yard pool existed between the flume rushing from the dam and the bank next to some campsites and the parking lot. The water was quite deep and slow moving, so I suggested to Steve that we cross the dam and fish from the south bank. Steve decided to remain near the parking lot, so I advanced to the steep bank and ascended to the walkway that crossed the dam. On my way however I paused and gazed down at the slow deep back eddy on the north side of the dam outlet. Here I spotted six or seven decent trout hovering in the deep water and facing back toward the north bank.

Only Trout Landed on Monday

I decided to give these sighted fish a try, and I carefully scrambled down the steep bank over some large rocks. I had lost my conehead pine squirrel leech, so my rig now included a hot red thread head leech and a red San Juan worm. I cast the combination to my left toward the bank and allowed it to slowly drift back toward me with the current formed by the eddy. On the third such presentation, the flies seemed to pause, and I thought I hooked bottom so I slowly lifted my rod, and much to my amazement, I felt weight. I gave the rod tip a quick hook set, and sure enough I was attached to an angry trout. I worked it back and forth a few times, and I was pleased to sense that it was hooked in the mouth. Eventually a bright crimson-colored rainbow slid into my net, and I had my first fish from the North Platte River in 2015. This particular hungry finned creature preferred the pine squirrel leech.

The View from Near the Dam

I made some more casts, but I assumed that I had disturbed the pool, and the remaining fish were wise to my approach, so I climbed the bank and crossed to the south shore. I discovered three other fishermen ahead of me, but I managed to find a short stretch of attractive water where I made some drifts. I worked upstream for twenty yards before I encountered one of the other fishermen, and at this point I decided to call it quits. Steve and I agreed to meet at 5PM, and it was already 4:45, so I began the long return hike across the bridge.

I was pleased to land one powerful bright rainbow trout on Monday afternoon, and now I looked forward to our scheduled float trip on Tuesday.

Arkansas River – 04/14/2015

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Fremont – Chafee County line and upstream

Fish Landed: 13

Arkansas River 04/14/2015 Photo Album

Five years ago I began tracking my calorie consumption and burn using an iPad app called FatSecret. I am certain that the calories burned under the activity labeled fishing presume the sedentary version of the sport such as sitting in a boat or relaxing in a chair by a lake. My fishing outing on Tuesday on the Arkansas River is testament to fly fishing representing a far different FatSecret exercise category.

Amazingly when I arrived at the pullout along route 50 at the Fremont-Chafee county line below Salida, the air was relatively calm compared to my previous April fishing experiences. The temperature was in the low fifties, so I pulled on my gray fleece cardigan and prepared to fish. I packed my lunch and water in my backpack, as I planned to cross the river and not return until the end of the day. The flows were around 300 cfs, and this level allows crossing the river safely assuming one has a wading staff and is reasonably cautious with foot placement.

Upstream From Site of Two Landed Fish

Once I crossed the wide tail out below my parking location, I decided to work my way upstream. I selected my new Sage One 9′, 5 weight rod, and seeing no insect activity at 10:30AM, I decided to set up the standard nymph configuration with a strike indicator, split shot, ultra zug bug and hares ear nymph. This set up would serve me for the remainder of my time on the Arkansas River. I switched flies infrequently, but I never deviated from the deep nymphing approach for prospecting the clear river.

Second Brown Was Nicest Fish of the Day

The first half hour failed to yield a fish, and I began to see a handful of small caddis flitting about near the surface, so I exchanged the ultra zug bug for an emerald caddis pupa and swapped the hares ear for a beadhead RS2. This change seemed to do the trick, and shortly after 11 I landed two gorgeous brown trout in the 13 to 14 inch range. Unlike most of the fish that I landed so far in 2015, these trout carried more girth. Before breaking for lunch at 12:15, I landed three additional brown trout, and my long drive to the Arkansas was beginning to pay dividends.

Nice Specimen

RS2 Also Produced Some Fish

After lunch I continued fishing the caddis pupa and RS2 with similar results to the morning. I landed an additional eight fish in the next 3.5 hours, so the catch rate was down a bit, but steady enough to prevent my thoughts from straying to baseball or food. Normally if I find myself thinking more about topics other than fishing, I view that as a sign to quit.

Lunch Spot View

My approach for Tuesday was consistent throughout the day. I lobbed the nymphing rig upstream and allowed it to drift back toward me while quickly stripping in the slack. Deep holes did not produce, and the best places tended to be the tail of long riffles and runs where the river rushed over a rocky bottom at a moderate pace with a depth of three to four feet. Not all locations with this type of structure produced, but enough yielded fish to keep my interest focused. Several of the fish grabbed the flies upon the lift to make another cast, but when I simulated the lift by jigging or bouncing my flies as they drifted toward me, I never found success.

Fine Afternoon Brown Trout

In short I covered a huge amount of water, and this entailed climbing over numerous rocks in the streambed and along the bank. In addition my shoulder endured its heaviest test of the season with repeated casting of the nymphs upstream and into the wind which kicked up in the afternoon. I’m certain that all this effort far exceeded the calorie burn incorporated into the FatSecret application.

Attractive Edge Water

From 11AM until 2PM I spotted an occasional blue winged olive, and the RS2 produced four fish during this time frame. I went through a slow spell after 2, so I tested a bright green caddis pupa and size 20 soft hackle emerger, and the bright green caddis produced two fish. Eventually I concluded that the emerald pupa was more effective than the bright green version, so I reverted, and the BWO hatch seemed to end, so I returned to the ultra zug bug. These flies produced the last two browns in the late afternoon.

I had the entire Arkansas River to myself and the weather developed into a beautiful spring day with the high temperature reaching the low seventies. I managed to land thirteen fish on my new rod, and the average size exceeded my previous 2015 efforts. It was a great day to be retired in Colorado.

Cache la Poudre – 04/12/2015

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Above Mountain Park Campground and a picnic area downstream of the narrows area

Fish Landed: 7

Cache la Poudre 04/12/2015 Photo Album

Jane and I joined Debbie and Lonnie Maddox on a fun bike ride in Fort Collins on Friday, and the route included a brief stretch along the Cache la Poudre River. On Sunday Jane and I decided to undertake a fishing trip, and as I surveyed the stream options, I remembered that the Poudre looked clear and inviting as a destination. It had been many years since I fished the Poudre, but on Friday I realized that the distance from our house on the north side of Denver to the Poudre was actually shorter than trips to the South Platte River and Arkansas River. I checked out the St. Peter’s Fly Shop report on the internet, and this favorable piece of information clinched my decision.

Sunday turned out to be a nearly perfect day from a weather perspective. I inserted the word nearly because I did face my spring nemesis – strong wind. As Jane and I drove west along route 14 into the canyon, we noticed the limbs of the evergreens bending eastward as a result of the strong air currents. Sure enough when we parked along the highway just above the Mountain Park Campground, and I opened the car door, a blast of chilly air created a wind tunnel in the Kia Forte.

We had made the drive, so I resolved to make the best of the situation, and pulled on a fleece and windbreaker along with my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps. I chose my Sage four weight rod, and decided to walk downstream along the shoulder for fifty yards and then dropped down to the river. The flow was around 120 cfs and this seemed to be nearly ideal to someone who does not have much experience on this northern Colorado waterway. The clarity of the water could not have been better, and in fact dictated stealth and caution when approaching pools.

Because of the strong headwind, I did not even consider a dry/dropper or dry fly approach and instead opted immediately for a nymphing rig. I attached a bright red indicator and then knotted a beadhead ultra zug bug to my line in the upper position, and below that I added a beadhead hares ear. I fished a nice deep run along the north bank with these nymphs and before long I hooked and landed a brown trout and then a small rainbow. I continued moving upstream looking for depth as the river had many wide shallow spots. I covered some juicy deep holes with no results, and then I spotted a couple small baetis tumbling along the surface of the stream. This observation prompted me to remove the hares ear and replace with a beadhead RS2. Over the next hour I covered quite a bit of river and managed to hook up with two more brown trout.

Long and Thin Brown Trout

The third fish came from a short pocket in front of a large vertical boulder on the north side of the river. I had pretty much given up on the spot when I allowed my flies to drift deep under the rock; a risky move that exposed my flies to snagging. It paid off however as a twelve inch brown grabbed the RS2, and I brought the hungry native to my net.

Nice Water Ahead

As I continued wading the south bank I reached Jane who was bundled in a blanket and multiple layers behind a large rock. She did not seem to be enjoying herself excessively, so I resolved to quit at 3PM. I prospected the subsurface flies farther upstream and added the fourth trout, but just before 3 I retreated to a point where the stream fanned out enough to offer a safe crossing point. When I reached Jane, we decided to drive back downstream so I could give one more spot a try.

Our second location was a nice picnic area just east of the narrows section. A gate blocked our ability to drive to the picnic area parking lot, so we parked in a small pull out just beyond the entrance. We walked down the paved road to the last picnic table where Jane prepared to read, and I walked down along the south bank for another fifty yards until I found a beautiful wide run and pool with a depth of four to five feet. The sparse blue winged olive hatch seemed to end, so I reverted to the ultra zug bug and hares ear combination and added a split shot in order to get my flies deeper in the beautiful run in front of me.

Ultra Zug Bug in Corner of Mouth

The strategy paid dividends as I landed  two browns from the best stretch of water of the day. I continued upstream to some deep slots below protruding boulders, and here I managed to land a third fish from the picnic area location. At this point I reached Jane, and fifteen minutes remained in my allotted hour of fishing time, so I moved to the slow deep pool next to the main portion of the picnic grounds. A tall bearded fly fisherman was at the top of the run that entered the pool, and this is the water I craved. I made some halfhearted casts to the slow section at the tail and midsection of the pool, but as I expected nothing materialized. The water above the long pool was wide and shallow and quite marginal, so I returned to Jane and called it quits.

Despite the stiff wind I managed seven trout in three hours and thoroughly enjoyed rediscovering a stream that escaped my interest for twenty years. I will certainly return to this northern Front Range gem to do additional exploration during 2015.

Arkansas River – 04/07/2015

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Salt Lick boat launch and then the area upstream of Pinnacle Rock with multiple channels

Fish Landed: 13

Arkansas River 04/07/2015 Photo Album

After two days on Front Range streams catching small trout, I was quite anxious to visit a larger river with the possibility of larger fish. However several additional reasons existed for my desire to undertake a fishing trip. A wider more open body of water would allow me to try out my new Sage One 9′ 5 weight rod that was presented to me as a retirement gift by my friends at Saddleback Design. In addition the weather forecast predicted highs in the low seventies, and this temperature range sparked feelings of spring fever.

I contacted my friend Steve Supple toward the end of the previous week and invited him to join me on a trip to the Arkansas River, and he readily accepted. The reports from ArkAnglers and Royal Gorge Anglers highlighted ideal stream flows, clear water and consistent blue winged olive hatch activities.

I picked Steve up at 7:30 at his house in Lone Tree, and we arrived at the pull out at the Salt Lick access in Big Horn Sheep Canyon between 9:30 and 10:00AM. When Steve and I opened the car doors to stretch and prepare to fish we were blown away…literally. Apparently our conversation was so engaging that we paid no attention to the blowing vegetation and bending trees along our route. The wind was continually gusting, and a cold bite made it even more unpleasant.

Near Starting Point at Salt Lick

We made the two plus hour drive so we were committed to spending some time on the river, but I have to admit that I was skeptical that we would have a productive day in the wind tunnel commonly known as Big Horn Sheep Canyon. In addition, casting into a gale force wind with a strike indicator and split shot was not exactly a true test of the casting qualities of my new Sage rod.

We tossed aside the adversity served up by Mother Nature and rigged our rods and descended the steps at the boat launch to the river. Steve claimed the nice deep run in front of the steps while I walked upstream a bit and tied on a 20 incher and pine squirrel leech. These are two large weighted flies, so I skipped adding split shot, but did loop a thingamabobber to my line just below the junction of the fly line and tapered leader.

I began casting my subsurface offerings to some attractive water with plenty of subsurface boulders, but the fish were not cooperating. Much of my time was spent turning my back to the raging wind currents to wait for conditions more suited to casting a fly. Even when the wind died back a bit, I was forced to over power my forward cast and this involved extending my stroke so that the tip almost touched the water.

An Early Brown Trout

A half hour went by with no action, so I clipped off the pine squirrel leech and replaced it with an ultra zug bug. Finally I saw the indicator dive and fought an eleven inch brown trout to my net only to discover that it was foul hooked. I wanted to count this fish as my first on the new rod, but I complied with my rule to exclude fish hooked in places other than the mouth. I released the brown and continued upstream and finally landed two fish that snatched the ultra zug bug from the swirling currents near the bank among rocky structure. At this point my upstream progression was blocked by a high vertical rock wall. I surveyed the situation and considered climbing the steep bank to circle above the structure, but then I thought better of it, and returned to the area that Steve was fishing below me.

By now it was 11 o’clock, so I told Steve that I would walk downstream along the shoulder of the highway and then fish back along the south bank and meet back with him by noon for lunch. Steve agreed with the plan, and I eagerly marched down the road for the distance of two football fields and carefully scrambled down a steep bank to the river. The next hour was the best of the day, as I moved along the bank and prospected nymphs in a series of deep slower moving side pockets where the fish could find refuge from the heavier current of the main river. I spotted two tiny BWO’s being swept from the surface of the river by the rushing wind, so I reconfigured my line to include the ultra zug bug as the top fly and added a RS2 as my point offering. Because I removed the weighted 20 incher, I crimped a split shot above the ultra zug bug.

Another Brown in the Net

The wind remained a constant adversary, but I found a bit of shelter behind boulders and made short 8-10 foot casts to the deep side pockets, and this resulted in six landed fish including one rainbow and five brown trout. All the fish were in the 9-12 inch size range, and two were fooled by the ultra zug bug with the other four snatching the RS2. I spotted several of the fish and managed to induce takes by providing movement to my flies before they reached the holding position of the fish.

This Guy a Bit Chunkier

Some juicy water remained between me and Steve at noon, but I honored my commitment and slowly negotiated the rocky bank until I reached the beach area below the parking lot. Steve and I grabbed our lunches and munched them on some large boulders that served as a barrier along the edge of the parking area along the top of the bank. We decided to move to new water after lunch, so we threw all our gear in the Kia, and drove along route 50 until we reached a pullout .5 mile above Pinnacle Rock The river in this area braids into four or five channels, and I had some success in this area in the past.

We experienced a bit of good fortune as the wind died back to a constant breeze and the air temperature was now in the low seventies. This was actually the weather I envisioned when I made plans for the trip. Steve began fishing some nice deep runs in the channel next to the highway while I hiked back along the shoulder to a spot fifty yards below the confluence of all the many branches. I began working my way along the rocky bank just below the shoulder of the highway convinced that my ultra zug bug and RS2 combination would continue to attract fish, but as is usually the case, my optimism was unfounded. I managed one brown that was actually visible as it snatched something from the surface. I had one remaining deep pool that fanned out below an overhanging tree next to the bank when Steve arrived and observed from the shoulder above me. Unfortunately this tasty stretch of Arkansas water did not produce, so I climbed the bank and joined Steve and we strode back to the car.

Steve was feeling quite tired due to some new medication, but it was 1:30, and I was still energized and anxious to try the north channel before we made the long drive back to Denver. I gave Steve the keys so he could access his water, and I set out to cross the closest channels to reach the northernmost branch of the river. Within a few minutes I reached the bottom segment of my destination, and I began to loft the tandem nymphs to some nice deep runs. The first attacker of the ultra zug bug was a ten inch brown, and then I ran the nymphs along a current seam on the north side of the river, and a feisty rainbow hammered the RS2 as it began to sweep at the end of the drift. These two fish put my fish count at ten, and I was quite pleased to reach this milestone in spite of the adverse windy conditions.

Nice Rainbow

I continued upstream working the nymphs and added another brown trout, and then I reached a stretch where there was a steady riffle over moderate depth that extended for forty to fifty feet. I noticed a few sipping rises and this caused me to speculate that this water was perfect for a dry/dropper approach. I was aching to cast dry flies with my new rod, so I made the switch. I removed the split shot and indicator and tied on a tan Charlie Boy hopper and then reattached the ultra zug bug and RS2. Guess what happened? The rod cast beautifully as the wind subsided to an occasional breeze, but the trout were not impressed. I covered the entire riffle area with no fish and no refusals.

One of the Four Braids

I decided to recognize this as a failed experiment, and took the time to return to my nymph set up, and the method once again proved itself as the superior technique for April 7. I landed two more fish including the best fish of the day, a fat thirteen inch rainbow, before quitting at 3PM. Both of these fish gulped the ultra zug bug, and the afternoon fish seemed to prefer the zug bug over the RS2. I found Steve waiting by the car, so I quickly removed my waders and stowed my gear, and we were on the highway headed for Denver.

Despite the frustrating gale force wind, I had a fine day and enjoyed breaking in my new rod and landed thirteen fish. I was able to cast a dry/dropper combination for fifteen minutes in the afternoon, and I was pleased with the performance of the new rod. It was a pleasant Tuesday in April, and I’m now addicted to retirement and week day fishing.

Clear Creek – 04/05/2015

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Mayhem Gulch

Fish Landed: 5

Clear Creek 04/05/2015 Photo Album

Seventy-two degrees on April 5, Easter, is rather balmy. With no Easter egg hunts on the calendar Jane and I decided to enjoy the spring weather with a trip to Clear Creek Canyon. We arrived at the Mayhem Gulch parking lot at 10:30AM, and Jane prepared to do the hike that looped to Cathedral Dome, while Dave prepared to fish in Clear Creek. The fishing destination was not extraordinarily appealing as earth moving equipment and orange cones adorned the stream. Apparently a bike path is being constructed on the south side of Clear Creek.

No Traffic in This Photo

With the temperatures in the upper 50’s or low 60’s, I decided to forego any layers and descended to the slightly discolored Clear Creek with just a fishing shirt. Since the pine squirrel leech produced on the murky Eagle River, I opted to begin with a nymphing set up including the leech and an ultra zug bug. I fished this combination aggressively for a half hour with no results before switching the ultra zug bug for a red San Juan worm. This combination did not improve my results, so I exchanged the worm for a prince nymph. Again no fish, so another change was in order, and this time I clipped off the San Juan worm and tied on a bright green Go2 caddis.

After an hour of fishing I was skunked and frustrated, so I found a safe spot to exit the stream and climbed the steep bank to highway six and hiked back to the Mayhem Gulch parking lot. Jane was still in the midst of her hike, so I unlocked the car and enjoyed my lunch. I was a bit chilled during my one hour morning fishing experience, so I added my Adidas pullover and returned to the stream at the point where I exited. A significant head wind and canyon shadows made the air temperature feel five to ten degrees colder than the temperature reading.

Just before lunch I observed the first fish of the day as a shadowy form rose to inspect my bright pink-red strike indicator! While back at the car for lunch, I added a royal turk’s tarantula and royal stimulator to my front pack. I did not resort to these weapons immediately after lunch, but instead tested a tan pool toy trailing the ultra zug bug and subsequently a copper john. Neither of these offerings produced, so I swapped the pool toy for a Chernobyl ant, and I was still without a fish touching my net.

Large Fly for Small Brown Trout

I was pretty much resigned to a zero fish day and considered returning to the car to see if Jane returned, but in a final effort to break the slump, I tied the royal turk’s tarantula to my line and added a beadhead hare’s ear below it. I was positioned across from a slow moving side pool with numerous submerged boulders, so I lofted the huge attractor dry to the middle of the area. I was shocked to see a slender undernourished brown trout rise to the surface and suck in the tarantula. Apparently these trout were serious about looking for a touch of red in their meal.

Second Trout Came from This Area

Since this initial catch was on the far side of the creek, I found a place to wade across and worked my way up along the left (south) bank. The tarantula enticed two additional trout to the surface including a ten inch rainbow trout. The fish catching improved significantly over the morning doldrums, but it remained relatively slow with significant wading and casting between takes.

Rainbow Gulped Large Royal Turk’s Tarantula

After landing three fish, the large cumbersome attractor absorbed water and began behaving like a submarine with only the white poly tuft remaining above the surface. I grew weary of drying the waterlogged fly and clipped it and replaced with the royal stimulator. This move paid off with another small brown trout, and then I continued through another unproductive period until this fly also exhibited sinking tendencies.

One last change was in order, and this time I elected to tie on a dark olive size 14 stimulator. I approached a very attractive deep run, and fluttered the hackled stimulator to the top of the run. As it danced over the riffles and settled in the slower moving water near the tail, a small brown trout rose and gulped it. I was encouraged by this turn of events, but as I moved upstream and covered quite a bit of new water, I was unable to create any additional interest.

At 2:30 I reeled up my line and clipped the stimulator to my rod guide and made the long hike along the highway shoulder back to the car where I found Jane reading in her camp rocking chair. Five small fish over three plus hours was a bit disappointing, however, it was a pleasant Easter Sunday, and I enjoyed the outdoors in Colorado.