Monthly Archives: June 2015

Yampa River – 06/23/2015

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Upstream from the park next to the library in Steamboat Springs until I almost reached the bridge that crosses to the ice rink.

Fish Landed: 12

Yampa River 06/23/2015 Photo Album

There is light at the end of the tunnel, and river fishing in Colorado is no longer a distant event. Once again I experienced the elation that comes from fishing to a hatch, catching nice hard fighting trout, and enjoying the surprise that comes with prospecting a dry/dropper combination to likely trout holding water.

After my lack of success on Monday on Steamboat Lake, Jane agreed to accompany me to Steamboat Springs so that I could enjoy a day of river fishing in the Yampa. Based on the stream reports from the Steamboat Flyfisher I envisioned fishing either the tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir or the Yampa River within the town of Steamboat Springs. We attached Jane’s bike to the rack so she could explore the trails while I fished. In addition we packed a change of clothes so we could end the day with a fine dinner in town to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary.

Our first stop was the previously mentioned Steamboat Flyfisher where I purchased a three pack of tapered leaders and then asked the sales clerk where he would fish if given a day to fish in the area. He never paused before replying that he would choose the section of water that runs through town. He explained that it was fishing well, and said that a trail parallels the stream and any stretch of water should be productive. I also noticed a blackboard on the wall with fishing reports, and the information suggested PMD patterns for the Yampa in town. The fishing information also noted that flows were 959 CFS.

We left the store and headed west to the area of the library where we found a parking spot that was good for eight hours. I put on my waders and assembled my Sage five weight, and I was prepared to fish. Jane and I agreed to meet at the car at 12:30 after she purchased ice and explored town on her bicycle. By 11AM I approached the water and noted that it was quite high although also clear. I typically enjoy these conditions as the trout are forced to seek relief along the banks where boulders and logs block the current and create eddies and slower moving currents. This situation means that I can virtually ignore the entire river except for the five to ten feet of edge water next to the bank.

I’ve had success in high post-runoff conditions with a Letort hopper, so I elected to tie one on as my surface fly, and then I added a beadhead hares ear beneath it on a long three foot dropper. I prospected the edge water for fifteen minutes or so with no success, so I swapped the hares ear for a beadhead salvation nymph. This also failed to attract interest, so I exchanged the Letort hopper for a Chernobyl ant, but after a half hour of fishing I remained without so much as a look.

Fortunately it was about this time that I began to see pale morning duns fluttering up from the surface. They were a light yellow in color and some were size 18 and others were size 16. They all seemed to emerge from the very fringe of the river right next to the bank. Despite this sudden abundance of food, no trout appeared on the surface, so I decided to go deep with PMD subsurface imitations. I looped a thingamabobber to my line and crimped on a split shot and then tied on a salvation nymph as my top fly followed by a juju emerger at the point. This would be my first test of the juju emergers that I tied over the winter.

Nice Speckles

My modification resulted in a sudden change in fortune as I landed a thirteen inch brown on the juju emerger as the fly began to swing at the end of the drift. After moving up the river a bit, I felt the throb of a thirteen inch rainbow that inhaled the salvation nymph. I was especially thrilled to discover that both my offerings were of interest to the trout during the early stages of the pale morning dun hatch. I was gaining confidence as I covered a few more attractive spots along the bank with no luck, but then I made an exception to my casting regimen and lobbed a cast to a deep slot behind a submerged boulder more than ten feet out from the bank. As the flies drifted toward the end of the deep run, the indicator paused, and I lifted and set the hook on another nice thirteen inch brown trout. This fish also chomped the salvation nymph, and this would be the only fish on the day that did not come from the ten foot corridor along the north bank.

No Two Was This Rainbow

Next I approached a sweet deep run below some overhanging tree limbs, and I was excited to spot a pair of rises from two different fish. I was tempted to switch to dries, but I patiently stuck with my nymphs. This turned out to be a wise move, and I was rewarded with another thirteen inch brown that also found the salvation nymph to its liking. I cast the nymphs back to the fishy area, and once again hooked a fish on the lift, but this proved to be only a momentary success as the fish freed itself after a short run. I also sensed that this fish may have been foul hooked.

Once again I scanned the target area below the tree limbs, and much to my surprise the two risers were now feeding with increased regularity. I was reluctant to take the time to switch from my nymph rig since it produced four fish in a short amount of time, but these fish were paying no attention to my subsurface offering and were instead focused on the abundant food supply on top of the water. I relented and removed all the nymphing gear and tied on a light gray size 14 comparadun, also known as the money fly.

Best Fish of the Day Was This Fat Brown

I made a couple conservative casts short of the top riser, and then made a third and checked my forward stroke high allowing the small dun imitation to flutter down to the swirly water where the top fish was working five feet below the menacing branches. Slurp! The dry fly disappeared, and I set the hook and felt a strong active heavy weight on my new Sage rod. Quite early in the battle I obtained a glimpse of my foe and realized I was dealing with a more substantial fish. I played the fish cautiously always prepared to yield line at the first sign of a strong run or change in direction. Luck was with me on this day, and I finally played the fish to my net and discovered a brown trout in excess of fifteen inches. It was a beauty and would be the best fish of the day.

Site of Brown Trout Chow Down

I gently released the prize brown and returned my attention to the area below the branches, and I was surprised to see that the lower fish continued to rise despite the commotion that I just created. I dried the comparadun and placed a cast above the second riser. It took a few drifts to get the timing right, but eventually a fourteen inch rainbow fell for the money fly as well. Did I really just land six gorgeous fish between 13 and 16 inches in the space of an hour on the Yampa River when it was flowing at 959 cfs? I pinched myself and moved along the bank to the next juicy spot. The fishing gods were looking down on me with favor as I once again spotted a rise just below some faster water at the top of a long run. I carefully worked the tail with no results and then positioned myself and dropped a nice cast to the spot where the fish rose. Slurp! Another 13-14 inch brown mistook my imitation for a real PMD and fell victim to my fly.

By now it was nearly 12:30 so I quickly exited the stream just before reaching the tubing rental shop, and I discovered that I was nearly across from the Santa Fe. Jane was waiting, and although I felt the hatch was waning, I asked if we could meet in another hour, as I desired to continue fishing while the hatch was still in progress. Jane was amenable because she was not very hungry, but she requested that we meet at some picnic tables near baseball fields on the opposite side of the river. She planned to move the car there, and she scoped it out on her bike ride and suggested it was a much nicer place to have lunch. I quickly agreed and returned to the river where I exited, but there were very few remaining mayflies on the surface, and I soon felt that prospecting with the small size 16 comparadun was futile with no sighted fish to cast to.

I converted to a Chernobyl ant with a salvation nymph and used up half of my hour exploring water with this combination to no avail. I encountered a place where low hanging branches prevented me from wading along the edge, so I climbed to the bike path, and as I began to walk upstream, an approaching couple flagged me down to ask questions. I learned that they were from Harrisburg, Pa., and they asked quite a few questions about my level of success, what I was using, and what technique I was employing. They seemed quite surprised that I had already fished to a hatch and that I was having success despite the high water level. This conversation used up another fifteen minutes of my time, so when I resumed fishing, I only covered a small amount of water until I reached the tubing shop. I used this as an excuse to quit and hustled across the pedestrian bridge to the Howelsen Hill ski jump parking lot where I discovered Jane at a large picnic table under a massive gazebo.

The Middle of Town

16″ at Least

We enjoyed a one hour lunch and agreed to reunite at 4PM. I returned to the river where I ended before lunch and skipped the tubing shop area until I reached a nice section of water with no interfering vegetation. There was a boulder wall on the left bank, and I landed three more nice rainbows in the next hour while continuing with the dry/dropper approach of the Chernobyl ant and salvation nymph. All three gobbled the salvation as the Chernobyl served merely as a strike indicator. During this time the river exploded with all manner of traffic…tubes, kayaks, and rafts drifted by with jubilant water enthusiasts. As I fought and landed one of the three rainbows, a raft passed by, and I received a strong ovation from the occupants.

Evening Tubers on the Yampa

After the three early afternoon rainbows I weathered a dry spell, so I changed to a Charlie Boy hopper, salvation nymph and iron sally. I observed a handful of yellow sallies in the air, so I theorized that the iron sally nymph imitation might create some interest. It paid off, as I landed two more rainbows of thirteen and fourteen inches in the last hour on the iridescent attractor nymph, although I covered a lot of water and worked hard to get around bank obstacles to land these fish.

Last Fish of the Day

I’m still in a euphoric state as I write this blog. I never expected to have a double digit day on June 23 on the Yampa River with flows still high. Even more surprising was the 1.5 hour long hatch of pale morning duns and my ability to land three nice fish on a comparadun. As the reader might expect, I’m already yearning for another day on the Yampa River as I not so patiently wait for the other rivers to fall into tolerable fishing conditions.

Steamboat Lake – 06/22/2015

Time: 5:30PM – 6:30PM; 8:00PM – 9:00PM

Location: Meadow Point

Fish Landed: 0

Steamboat Lake 06/22/2015 Photo Album

I love the long hours of daylight that accompany the summer solstice in June. Unfortunately this generally coincides with the time when rivers and streams in Colorado are bloated with high discolored water from melting snow in the high elevations. In 2015 I decided to take advantage of ideal camping conditions and to ignore the lack of fishing options, and with this pledge in mind Jane and I made plans to travel to Steamboat Lake State Park from June 21-24.

The reports on fishing conditions at Steamboat Lake were favorable, and as an added bonus the Yampa River that flows through Steamboat Springs was running at 1000 CFS and dropping rapidly. Also the tailwater below Stagecoach Reservoir was flowing at 135 cfs, and that is also within a manageable fishing level. Jane and I camped at Steamboat Lake State Park in 2002, and we both remembered having a pleasant stay. Warm temperatures and dry conditions were forecast for the time period of our camping stay, so all factors seemed to be converging for an enjoyable outdoor adventure.

Jane and I made the four hour drive on Sunday afternoon and arrived at the Dutch Hill Campground at 7PM.  Dutch Hill Campground is actually located on a large island that protrudes into the middle of Steamboat Lake, and it is comprised of two camping loops. The first loop has conventional car camping pullouts, but the second loop consists of parking spaces and ten to fifteen walk-in campsites. When we visited Steamboat Lake State Park in 2002 we camped in one of the walk-in sites, but as we cruised the loop and stopped at the parking area, we did not possess the energy to carry all our bins and gear to the dispersed camping area. We did note that site number 181 was reasonably close to the parking spaces, but the early evening wind intimidated us, so we continued around the first loop and claimed site number 178 with a convenient pull through parking space and a two tiered layout. The first level contained a picnic table and fire pit, and the lower level featured a tent pad. We quickly assembled the tent and ate a delicious meal of shrimp stir fry before taking a short walk around the loops and then crawled into our sleeping bags.

I planned to devote Monday to spending time with Jane at Steamboat Lake, but I was also hopeful that I could squeeze in some fishing. After a tasty lunch of eggs and sourdough toast, I assembled my fly rod and made a short hike to the small bay next to the bridge that connects the mainland to our campground island. The surface of the lake remained quite calm, and I observed numerous sporadic dimples in the glassy smooth lake as I began to make casts. I tied on a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis and fired some thirty foot casts to the vicinity of rising fish. There were no obvious food sources on the surface, but the entire area was a breeding ground for midges, as clouds of these tiny insects were visible nearly everywhere one looked. The small caddis dry fly has produced for me on many similar occasions while prospecting lakes in Colorado.

Mirror Smooth Steamboat Lake

After fifteen minutes of fruitless casting the wind kicked up, and I decided to abandon my efforts to land a Steamboat Lake trout until later in the day. As I was reeling up my line, another fisherman appeared, and he busied himself with loading his inflatable raft with fishing gear. He paused to chat, and he seemed to be a very knowledgeable angler who fished Steamboat Lake quite frequently. The affable fisherman was quite open with advice, and he suggested that I try Rainbow Ridge and Meadow Point as they both bordered long inlets with deep drop offs. He assured me that these narrow bays harbored a strong population of trout including large cutthroats. He also suggested that it would be easier to reach the dense fish populations while fly casting in these areas. I filed this useful information in my brain and decided to explore Meadow Point later in the day.

Willow Trail

I returned to the campsite, and Jane and I decided to begin our day with a bike ride. Jane remembered a trail that connected the campground to the visitor center, so I consulted with the state park map that I printed prior to departing from Denver. Sure enough the Willow Trail began at the marina and skirted the lake before terminating at the visitor center. Our plan was locked in, and we filled our hydration bladders with water and departed for the Willow Trail. The trail was perfect as it rolled up and down small hills and offered just the right degree of difficulty for two aging mountain bikers. The challenge was perfect, but the surrounding environment was a visual delight. All the fields were covered with dense waves of bright yellow wildflowers. The background was even more stunning with tall snow capped peaks and the lovely blue water of the lake providing a vivid back drop.

Jane Loving the Environment

We turned around at the visitor center and covered the trail in reverse, and when we reached the marina, I convinced Jane to continue biking the access road until we reached Meadow Point. She was enthusiastic about this proposal, and so we exited the Dutch Hill Campground and turned left and followed the gravel road until we reached the turn off for Meadow Point. A half mile ride down the state park road brought us to a rough parking area where several cars suggested fishermen were present. We paused and looked more closely and sure enough several fishermen and fisherwomen occupied chairs along the shoreline. Jane suggested that I should wear my waders and cross the small inlet stream and thus position myself across the cove and away from the other fishermen. I liked this idea and filed the plan for later in the day.

Jane Demonstrates Kayaking

After we returned to our campsite we prepared lunch and then departed for our next adventure. We drove to the marina and inquired about canoe and kayak rentals. The young man behind the counter informed us that we could rent a double kayak for $36 for two hours, so this was our choice. He accepted our payment and handed us a purple slip to hand to the attendants at the boat house. We walked a short distance to the dock, and once we provided our payment slip, the young dock assistants lowered a kayak into the lake. Jane and I climbed in and powered our way from the dock and rounded the point at the end of our camping island.

Since it was now early afternoon, the wind kicked up and provided significant resistance to our amateur strokes, but we somehow managed to acquire enough skill to move in a moderately straight line toward our destination. Once again we set the goal of reaching Meadow Point, but this time by water. I soon discovered that paddling a kayak into the wind is a tiring proposition and also hard on one’s lower back. Jane was steady however, and she pulled me along until we finally reached the Meadow Point cove where the most exciting event of our voyage occurred. Three large pelicans cruised from the cove just as we approached, and when they spotted us, they exploded into the air. It was amazing to see the power of the large white birds as they spread their wings and took flight.

Pelicans Ahead

After 1.5 hours we reached the narrow passage that separates the Dutch Hill island campground from the mainland, so we decided to take a risk and paddled into the small connecting stream. Two bridges were ahead of us, and we both had to slouch backward to a nearly horizontal position to avoid a beheading. Once we cleared the second bridge, we decided to cease paddling and allowed the wind to gently blow us toward the take out dock. Finally at 3:50PM we paddled next to the dock and cautiously pulled ourselves from the kayak while the attendants steadied the craft. It was another fun adventure on Monday at Steamboat Lake.

Lupines, a Canoe and Hahns Peak

We were both quite weary from our two activities, so we returned to the campsite for happy hour. We each sipped a craft beer and munched a favorite snack, and then I decided to embark on a brief fishing adventure to finish the day. Jane declined my offer to ride along, but suggested that she would bike over later. When I pulled into the Meadow Point lot there were several cars ahead of me, and when I reached the inlet, I could see two sets of fishermen in chairs along the shoreline. As suggested by Jane, I found a place to cross the narrow cove and positioned myself near the end on the western side.

I decided to begin with a damsel wiggle nymph since I did not see anything working the surface, and it was the time of the year when damsel flies typically emerge. Unfortunately the damsel nymph did not produce, as I worked my way slowly along the shoreline by casting the nymph to the middle of the bay, and then I executed a hand twist retrieve. After covering half the shoreline with no success, I decided to use a different approach. I clipped off the damsel nymph and added a split shot, thingamabobber and a bright green caddis pupa along with a beadhead ultra zug bug. The nymphs were tossed as far as I could reach, and the indicator bobbed on the surface as the wind created riffles. The three step and cast routine continued until I was near the point of the land and across from another fishing person.

Dave Fishes Meadow Point

Nothing seemed to be working, so I reversed my steps and crossed the small inlet stream, and as I was walking up the hill toward the parking lot, Jane appeared on her bike, so I greeted her and told her of my lack of success. Next I scrambled down a small bank to a spot along the lake between two other fishermen. I removed the nymphs and tied on a size 16 deer hair caddis and began to cast, but again I saw no response. Meanwhile a gentleman who was talking on his mobile phone finally approached the water with his float tube and splashed into action above me. He kicked his way to the opposite shoreline and then headed for the mouth of the cove. As he passed me, he stated that the magic time was still 1.5 hours away. I asked him what worked, and ironically he replied that he had some success with a damsel nymph. Perhaps my damsel wiggle nymph choice was correct but a bit early?

Since I was 1.5 hours ahead of magic time, and I had not eaten yet, I ambled back to the car, removed my waders, and drove back to the campground where Jane waited for me before preparing dinner. As usual the outdoor environment enhanced the flavor of some delicious bratwursts smothered with sauteed onions and peppers. Jane volunteered to clean up after dinner, and this allowed me to head back to Meadow Point for magic time.

Once again I pulled into a parking space next to the inlet and climbed into my waders. The float tube gentleman by now was fifty yards below me beyond the mouth of the small bay. I headed straight down the gradual bank to the water between a woman in a chair and two male fishermen with spinning rods. A few small scattered rises were visible, but I concluded that these were largely tiny minnows, so I followed the advice of the float tube expert and reverted to the damsel fly with a split shot on my floating line. Sure enough within fifteen minutes as the clock moved past 8PM, the frequency of dimples on the smooth surface intensified.

I was quite optimistic that I was now in the right place with the right approach, and I felt confident I would break through with some Steamboat Lake trout. Alas, it was not to be. I was focused and fanned casts out in all directions while experimenting with slow hand twist retrieves and fast long strips. Nothing seemed to work. Next I began trying different flies, and this included a peanut envy and olive woolly bugger. Nothing. Since I was seeing more rises, I began to question the advice of the float tuber and clipped off my streamer and substituted a size 16 gray deer hair caddis. Surely this proven lake producer would entice one small trout to the surface.

The sun finally disappeared in the western sky and left a warm orange pink glow on the horizon. Immediately the temperature plunged, and I was near the point of shivering in the twilight magic hour. I cast relentlessly to the spots of recent rises, and I tried allowing the fly to sit for what seemed like minutes. This did not catch the attention of the fish, so I began stripping which caused the dry fly to create a small wake on the surface. Surely these fish would react to an escaping tasty morsel. Nothing could fool these educated Steamboat Lake trout, so I reeled up my line and called it a night at 9PM. As I did so, my friend the float tuber returned to the bank just below me and proclaimed he had a wonderful boat trip. Unfortunately catching fish was not part of the experience, and he admitted to joining me in an evening skunking.



Spearfish Creek – 06/15/2015

Time: 9:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Above diversion dam in morning and upstream from parking lot at the end of the Spearfish bike trail in the afternoon.

Fish Landed: 3

Spearfish Creek 06/15/2015 Photo Album

On Saturday night at Deerfield Reservoir Jane and I experienced two intense thunderstorms while attempting to sleep in our tent at the Whitetail Campground. In addition we apparently set our shelter up on top of a mouse nest, and Jane’s sleep was continuously interrupted by the rustling sound of active rodents. Dave managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep before and after the bookend storms, but for some reason water leaked on his side of the tent causing his sleeping pad and clothing duffle to absorb moisture.

Hail from Saturday Night

After making breakfast and spreading out wet items to dry on Sunday morning, we decided to drive north to Spearfish, check out campsites for Monday night, continue west to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, and then book a room at a hotel in Spearfish for Sunday night. Jane insisted she needed a rodent-free night of sleep and a hot shower.

We followed this plan and drove north on 14A through Spearfish Canyon as we progressed to Devil’s Tower. The canyon was beautiful with numerous tall wide vertical rock walls bordering the stream on the east and west sides. The stream was also quite attractive, although it was running quite high but with excellent clarity. The streams that we crossed on our drive north through the central section of the Black Hills were rushing muddy torrents, so I was pleased that Spearfish was spared this condition.

When we reached the small town of Savoy, SD, we made a left turn and detoured along  Little Spearfish Creek past Roughlock Falls and checked out two small USFS campgrounds, Timon and Rod and Gun. Both were tucked against the tall vertical rock walls, and each appeared to be mostly vacant, so we felt confident we could snag a site on Monday. Little Spearfish Creek was a magnet to the fisherman in the passenger’s seat as it meandered through a meadow and exhibited crystal clear flows. The small tributary was roughly one-fourth of the volume of the main creek.

From the East Entrance

We reversed direction and continued north along the canyon until we reached the town of Spearfish, and here we stopped a the visitor center and gathered information about hikes and bike rides in the area. Next we continued north and west into Wyoming until we reached Devil’s Tower National Monument. We learned that this was the first national monument in the United States, and it was designated that status in the early 1900’s by Theodore Roosevelt. We could not resist stopping outside the entrance to snap photos of the impressive towering rock formation above us.

Judging from the number of cars parked along the road, the prairie dog village was a major attraction, but since we have several within a mile of our house, we passed by and turned into the picnic area. We found a vacant picnic table under some shade trees, and since we had our cooler and food from camping, we quickly made sandwiches and enjoyed lunch in the shadow of the tower. After lunch we crossed to the smoke ring sculpture and took the obligatory photo of the tower in the middle of the ring. The information at the sculpture informed us that Devil’s Tower is a sacred spot for numerous native American people.

Through the Smoke Ring Sculpture

We continued on to the main parking lot at the base of Devil’s Tower, and we were surprised by the number of visitors to this small park in the northeast corner of Wyoming quite removed from any large population center. A 1.3 mile paved path beckoned us, so we made the casual hike around the base of the tall rock formation. Of course we snapped photos of Devil’s Tower from many different directions.

Dave and Devil’s Tower

We saw all there was to see at Devil’s Tower, so we returned to Spearfish and found a room at the Hampton Inn. Jane finally enjoyed the restful night she craved in the dry air conditioned room with hot water and laundered sheets. We took advantage of the continental breakfast on Monday morning and then packed our clothes and stopped at the nearby Wal-Mart for some necessary supplies. When we woke up on Monday we discovered that it was raining, and dark clouds to the south and west suggested that the worst had yet to arrive.

Despite the predicted adverse weather, I steadfastly clung to my plan to fish in Spearfish Creek on Monday. We drove south along the stream for roughly half the distance until we reached a wide parking lot that we observed during our northbound travels on Sunday.The canyon was wider at this point, and this enabled the swift flows to spread out. This was more appealing to me than the narrow chute sections that I observed farther to the south. Of course as soon as we pulled into the parking lot, the skies opened and a steady downpour pounded against the windshield. It was 9:00AM, so I waited for ten minutes until the rains subsided a bit, and then I quickly pulled on my Marmot raincoat and waders for protection against the elements.

Rain Cannot Stop Dave

I grabbed my Sage four weight rod, and Jane accompanied me as we walked north along the shoulder until we reached an area where the stream backed up behind a small dam. Jane offered to snap some photos, so I posed next to the small lake and pretended to fish along the edge. Upon completion of my modeling responsibilities, I approached the inlet and rigged my line with a Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and ultra zug bug. I made some drifts along the current seam where it entered the small lake, but nothing showed so I proceeded to work my way upstream.

A Smile for the Photographer

Running High but Clear

The stream in this section was quite clear, but the velocity was quite high which offered infrequent spots where trout could hold without expending excessive energy. For this reason I covered quite a bit of stream real estate in between casts. In the first hour I did manage two momentary hookups, but the action was quite slow so I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a salvation nymph. Finally midway through the morning I hooked and landed a pretty rainbow trout on the salvation, and since I was not confident I would land more fish, I paused to snap a couple photos.

Ultra Zug Bug Eater

The light rain continued and the ground was saturated, so I considered the effectiveness of worms in these wet conditions. Surely these trout were used to seeing fat juicy worms that washed into the creek. I clipped off the ultra zug bug and reconfigured my line so that the salvation was now my top fly with the light pink San Juan worm was at the point. This combination did not catch fire, but I did manage to land a six inch brown trout on the worm. As I moved upstream the long straight sections with rapids and fast water became longer, and the locations with slack water that might hold fish became more infrequent. This meant I spent more time circling away from the stream and then fighting back through thick brush to inspect new water. It was a lot of work for minimal return.

Through the Blossoms

In one area I discovered there was some slack water between the far bank and the main current, so I attempted to make some drifts by reaching out my rod over the main current. I succeeded in executing some reasonable passes through the slow water, but then I made a cast that hooked a submerged branch. The high fast water created enough fear that I wisely decided not to wade in the water. Instead I exerted direct pressure on the flies and broke off all three. It was now close to twelve o’clock, and I spotted a wooden bridge above me, so I used the broken flies as an excuse to quit for lunch. I followed the dirt road from the bridge to highway 14A and then hiked along the shoulder for a mile until I found Jane staying dry in the car.

I planned to return to the creek to fish and I did not want to spend time removing my waders and then putting them on again, so I asked if Jane would mind driving. In addition heavy clouds predicted more rain so we were not in a position to unpack the cooler and food bin to make sandwiches, so we returned to a Subway in Spearfish to buy lunch. As we drove north I noticed that the stream was much lower and concluded that the small dam below where we parked was a diversion dam. In fact the stream level appeared to be much closer to ideal and the clarity was quite good. Several miles before town we passed a large parking lot that was situated at the end of a bike trail. We noted this as a possible destination for afternoon fishing.

Originally I planned on driving to one of the two campsites along Little Spearfish Creek to make lunch and set up camp, and then it would be convenient to visit the lower meandering section near Roughlock Falls to fish. I checked the weather app on my phone, and now it appeared that the adverse weather would hang around until 6PM. Neither of us relished putting the tent up in the rain, so we decided to fish until 3 or 4PM, and then drive south to Wyoming or even Denver to escape the storm.

I also read that Spearfish Creek was a quality brown trout fishery where it passed through town. Now that I noted that the flows were lower below the diversion dam, this became another option, although I was lacking information on access points. After we bought our sandwiches, I made the decision to try the water upstream from the parking lot at the end of the bike trail. If there was a break in the weather, Jane could enjoy a bike ride, and this spot was conveniently located along our South Dakota inclement weather escape route. Of course as we pulled into the parking lot and began eating our lunches, the rain once again intensified. I finished my lunch and then relaxed in the dry comfort of the car for another ten minutes until the rain slowed to a reasonably tolerable level.

I was already dressed in my waders and raincoat, so after the let up, I grabbed my rod and strode down the well worn path to the stream. Since I lost all my flies before quitting for lunch, I reconfigured with a tan pool toy followed by a bright green caddis pupa and a beadhead hares ear. I had 1.5 hours to fish so I fished efficiently by making 3-5 casts in likely areas and then moving on. Unfortunately I was seeing no fish or signs of fish such as refusals or scattering shadows that usually reveal themselves as I wade upstream. In addition the sky once again darkened and the rain once again fell from the sky in a steady sheet.

The Brown Was Along the Right Edge

After 45 minutes I approached a very attractive pool where the stream spilled over some large boulders and carved out a deep hole with a large boulder forming the border along the left side. If this pool did not produce, then perhaps this section of Spearfish Creek was devoid of fish. My first casts probed the edge of the center current next to the rock and also on my side, but again I was chagrined to discover no sign of a fish. I took a couple steps forward and made a backhand cast to the spot where the water spilled over a rock. The pool toy held for a moment in the small eddy and then began to drift slowly to the slow shelf next to the right bank.

Best Fish From South Dakota

Much to my amazement the pool toy darted sideways, and I set the hook and felt the weight of a decent fish on my nine foot Sage. The fish initially dove toward the deepest part of the pool and then made a move toward the tail, but I applied side pressure and prevented further downstream progress. One more valiant power move toward the top of the pool depleted the energy stores, and I slid my net beneath a gorgeous wild brown trout with distinct black spots and a buttery gold background. This fish snatched the bright green caddis, and it was approximately thirteen inches in length. I gently released the brown to the depths of the pool and once again focused on fishing with renewed enthusiasm.

Unfortunately the rain remained steady and the stream straightened so that despite the reduced flow compared to the morning section, the number of holding spots diminished. I pressed on, but by 3PM I once again failed to see another sign of a fish, so I fought my way through some thick woods and bushes and found the highway. I crossed the road and hiked along the left shoulder until I arrived at the parking lot. Jane had taken a brief hike down the bicycle path, so I approached an informational sign next to the parking area where I learned that Spearfish Creek disappears underground during the summer at the north end of the canyon. Was I fishing in water the dries up in the summer, and did this explain the apparent lack of fish density?

After a few minutes Jane returned from her walk, and I removed all my fishing gear and changed into dry clothes for the return trip. We traveled south for three hours and found a nice campsite at Fish Canyon Campground in Guernsey State Park in Wyoming. The sky was nearly clear and the ground was dry, and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening away from the rain moving through South Dakota.

Spearfish Creek was a beautiful setting, and I would certainly consider another visit at a future date. I feel that I merely scraped the surface of this high gradient stream in the northern part of the Black Hills. Monday made me realize how lucky I am to have excellent fly shops in Colorado that provide accurate information on fishing conditions, river access and hatches and suggested flies. I would attempt to learn more about the diversion and fishing in town before another visit.


Deerfield Reservoir – 06/13/2015

Time: 5:30PM – 6:30PM, 8:00PM – 9:00PM

Location: Point across from Whitetail CG lower loop; picnic area 1 mile from Whitetail CG.

Fish Landed: 2

Deerfield Reservoir 06/13/2015 Photo Album

After Jane and I finished dinner and cleaned up on Friday evening, we decided to take a walk. Initially we followed a path from the Whitetail Campground lower loop to the lake, and then we walked along the gravel road until we reached a day use picnic area where we scouted the shore of the reservoir. The weather was extremely calm between 8 and 9 PM, and I spotted quite a few dimples on the surface of the lake.

Happy Hour at the Campsite

After returning from Castle Creek on Saturday afternoon, Jane and I enjoyed a happy hour, and then I decided to take my fly rod down to the lake where I spotted quite a few rises the previous evening. I should add that the campground hostess warned us that the lake had trout, but it was also over populated with small rock bass, which she referred to as red eyes. The weather on Saturday was quite different from the calm that we witnessed on Friday with overcast skies and strong winds that created a small chop on the portions of the lake that were not protected.

Fish Rising By the Dead Branch

I tied a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis to my Sage five weight and tossed out a twenty foot cast to the area where a dead branch had fallen along the edge of the impoundment. It wasn’t long before a small fish gulped the imitation, and I stripped in a tiny two inch rock bass. Apparently the campground hostess was not spinning tales to discourage me from fishing. This same scene played out over and over as I landed at least ten miniature rock bass over the next half hour. In a state of frustration I hiked across the small peninsula to test the water on the south side of the point. The wind was blowing from the north, so this protected area at least offered some smooth water. I was hoping I could distinguish the quick little rock bass rise from the slower measured gulp of a trout.

A Rainbow from Deerfield Reservoir

Finally after much casting and the release of more nuisance rock bass, I coaxed a rise from a chunky twelve inch rainbow trout that found the deer hair caddis to its liking. I was somewhat encouraged by this auspicious turn of events, however I was unable to replicate the trout interest. Perhaps a streamer would be too large for the rock bass and only of interest to the trout? I found a beadhead black woolly bugger in my fleece pocket and tied it to my line and began to make twenty foot casts and then stripped the bugger.

The change to a woolly bugger made no difference, and the voracious rock bass attacked the large black fly with as much gusto as the deer hair caddis. I promised Jane I would return for dinner by 6-6:30, so I said goodbye to the nuisance red eyes and climbed back up the path to our camp site where I helped Jane prepare shrimp stir fry.

After dinner and clean up I knew I had an hour of daylight based on Friday night’s experience, so I grabbed my gear, stashed it in the car and drove down the road to the picnic area. I parked just beyond the southern corner of the day use lot and began fishing there. Similar to my earlier session, the lake was riffled by the wind, but the air movement quickly died back, and once again fish began to smack the surface. In fact the reservoir became alive with numerous rises and splashes including fish that leaped high above the surface for a meal. Unfortunately nearly all of this activity was beyond my casting range.

Smooth Water

I fired casts out as far as I could and began to cover the water by making several steps to my left after each cast until I reached a strip of shore where a steep fifteen foot bank was behind me. In this area I managed to hook and land another twelve inch rainbow trout on the deer hair caddis, but I also caught a bunch of tiny rock bass similar to the earlier session. As darkness approached I generated two additional momentary hook ups, but I failed to maintain contact more than a brief second or two.


As the darkness closed in around me, I looked back toward the picnic area and noticed Jane above me in the parking lot. I did not want to keep her waiting, and it was growing impossible to see my fly, so I adjourned to the car. Two trout in two hours of fishing was fair, but frequently releasing midget rock bass certainly created frustration. I regretted not wearing my waders, as that would have enabled me to wade into the water ten feet or so, and this would have extended my casts deeper into the lake where I suspect the trout were rising.

Castle Creek – 06/13/2015

Time: 2:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: .5 mile from parking lot off of route 188

Fish Landed: 6

Castle Creek 06/13/2015 Photo Album

After our challenging single track bike ride on Saturday morning, Jane and I returned to the campground and recharged our batteries with a tasty lunch. After a bit of relaxation, I suggested that we explore Castle Creek below Deerfield Reservoir. The trail map indicated that there was a fisherman parking lot with walk-in fishing in Kinney Canyon, so we decided to explore this area.

We drove around the north side of the reservoir and arrived at the designated parking lot by 1:30PM. Four vehicles already occupied the lot, and Castle Creek meandered through a meadow next to the parking area. The sky clouded up and a slight breeze ruffled the grass in the fields nearby. Jane planned to hike to the dam and back, so initially I grabbed only my backpack, frontpack, net, rod and reel. The stream appeared to be small albeit running bank high, so I assumed I could fish without wearing waders.

Flows Were High but Clear

We hiked through a gate and proceeded another .5 miles until we reached a point where the bank between the road and the stream was manageable for a safe descent. As I stood on the road overlooking the scene, I realized that the stream was quite high and over the banks in many places creating a marshy environment. I knew I would regret not having waders, so I reversed direction and returned to the car while Jane continued her hike to the dam. As I climbed into my waders, the sky darkened and a few raindrops fell, so I pulled my Marmot raincoat on for warmth and protection. I retraced my steps to the point where the stream curved near the road, and this time I descended to a large bend. The first half mile section of Castle Creek from the parking lot was characterized by many twists and bends as apparently some stream improvement work had been completed.

Finally I arrived at the edge of the creek with my Orvis four piece four weight rod, and I began my venture with a Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear nymph. Because of the the deep water conditions I used a three foot long dropper off the Chernobyl. I progressed upstream for a bit around several large bends and finally hooked and landed a brightly colored but small brook trout on the hares ear. Despite this success I was dissatisfied with the results, so I converted to a copper john and ultra zug bug below the ant. This did the trick, and I landed five additional trout over the remaining 1.5 hours on Castle Creek. Three of the landed trout were browns, and two more brookies nestled in my net.

A Pretty Native Brown Trout

At 2PM the sky grew even darker and the wind picked up, so I switched the Chernobyl ant for a pool toy for better visibility in the low light. Around this same time period I observed a wave of little yellow stoneflies in the air, and I read that a hares ear is a reasonable imitation of the yellow sally nymph, so I swapped the copper john for a hares ear. Despite this astute analysis, the last five fish all inhaled the ultra zug bug. So much for matching the hatch.

The most productive locations were at the bends in the creek. The banks blocked the rushing water enough to create slower deep spots where the fish could avoid the heavy current. Toward the end of my upstream movement, the creek grew much straighter, and this resulted in many fewer fish holding spots. A fisherman was forced to hike much farther between probable holding locations.

Another Brown

I did not want to over extend my fishing time on the first day, so at four o’clock I returned to the car and found Jane trying to stay warm and avoid the wind by huddling in the passenger seat in the car. Six fish in two hours on a small stream with high water was certainly encouraging, and this was accomplished without having any local knowledge of insect activity. Perhaps the Black Hills escape would pay off.

Lake Loop Trail, Deerfield Reservoir, SD – 06/13/2015

Lake Loop Trail Photo Album

At what age should a human being cease venturing on to single track trails with a mountain bike? I actually pledged to avoid this situation five years ago, so how did I find myself in the midst of a moderately difficult Lake Loop Trail in South Dakota?

During June in most years I hunker down and wait out the run off that bloats the streams and rivers in Colorado from the middle of May until the end of June or even sometimes the middle of July. Occasionally I searched out a cold water lake, but when I was working, it was an opportunity to get caught up so that I could fish frequently once the streams dropped to prime levels. But now I was retired, and I had more time, so why not travel to a part of the country that is not subject to high mountain snow melt?

The Black Hills of South Dakota stood out as a viable option that met my criteria. The terrain is referred to as hills and not mountains, right? With this solid reasoning swirling through my brain, I reserved a USFS campsite for Whitetail Campground at Deerfield Reservoir in the Black Hills of South Dakota for June 12 and 13. Jane and I felt it was prudent to reserve a campsite since the dates coincided with a weekend, and we noticed that most of the sites were reserved at Custer State Park.

We packed the Santa Fe on Thursday evening and got off to a reasonably early start on Friday. We were anxious to test out our new Coleman propane camp stove and 50 gallon cooler. We arrived at our reserved campsite by 6PM on Friday evening without any significant incident, making the trip in seven hours including thirty minutes of stoppage time for bathroom breaks and switching drivers. Our camp site was tucked at the farthest end of the upper loop away from the lake and next to the campground hosts.  After we erected the tent and appeared to be reasonably situated in our new home, the campground hostess approached us and provided some information. I took advantage of the local source of information and asked if she had any maps of the area that showed hiking and biking trails.

Ready for Action

Pam’s eyes lit up, and she returned from her RV after a few moments with a map of the Deerfield Reservoir national forest area. The hiking and biking options consisted of an eleven mile lake loop and a long trail that began below Deerfield Reservoir and continued to Pactola Reservoir. Pam’s husband, Jim, an employee of the national forest service joined us and warned that there were numerous fallen trees on the Lake Loop Trail that had not yet been cleared.

On Saturday morning after a breakfast of blueberry pancakes, Jane and I decided to undertake a bike ride on one of the trails on the map. Our campground was along the Lake Loop, and eleven miles seemed like a nice moderate distance so that became our choice. We applied sunscreen and filled our hydration bladders and set out on the dirt road that skirted the southern shore of the lake. This was a pleasant one mile, and then we turned right on to paved route 17, but after less than a mile we reached the inlet where Castle Creek flowed into the lake. Just above the inlet a small bridge spanned Castle Creek which was probably double its normal size.

Could this be the Lake Loop? I pulled out the map and studied it and concluded that this was in fact the Lake Loop. The path on the opposite side of the creek was covered with grass and not worn like we expected. In fact we did not even anticipate that the Lake Loop was a single track. After a quick conference, Jane and I decided to press on. The first sign that we were in for an adventure beyond our naive assumption was the large number of small evergreen trees that leaned over the path. We managed to avoid them, but this involved frequent turns from one side of the path to the other, and in some cases ducking and taking advantage of the protection provided by our helmets.

Jane Attacks the Trail

The first mile was fairly flat, but then we encountered a sharp uphill section of single track. I mustered my best single track adrenaline rush and managed to complete the first climb, but the up and down terrain would continue for another two or three miles. Eventually we surrendered our pride and pushed our bikes up the steep inclines over the numerous rocks and roots that attempted to block our progress. Of course, as mentioned by the campground hosts, we also dismounted on several occasions and lifted our bikes over large fallen trees.

We thought we were conquering the unanticipated technical single track when we found ourselves on a double track path that had been driven on by a vehicle within the last year. This stretch was less technical, but it did challenge us with a steep climb. As we crested the hill, we found ourselves on a maintained gravel road, and we could not find a trail on the other side of the road. Once again we consulted the map and determined that we were on the road that accessed the North Shore trail head, and we had somehow missed a turn that allowed us to remain on the Lake Loop. No problem, we made a right and continued down the gravel road until we found signs for the Lake Loop and resumed our progress on the rolling single track.

Back Near the Lake

We had already dodged small evergreens, climbed over logs, climbed steep wooded hills and gotten lost. What else could this trail throw at us? Water. After more steep up and down roller coaster terrain, we reached a crude log crossing of a small stream. Two or three logs were placed side by side across the stream which was also flowing at a volume two to three times normal. I went first and began to try and carry my bike while attempting to balance on the slippery wet logs. Fortunately Jane suggested that I roll the bike through the water and mud and use it as a crutch to lean on. I came to my senses and accepted her suggestion and made the crossing without drenching my only pair of sneakers. Jane followed me and accomplished the crossing without incident as well.

Yikes, a Stream Crossing

A Pretty Spot on the Lake Loop

Unfortunately as we continued and cautiously descended a steep downhill through some tall grass, Jane’s front tire skidded on an angled log, and she collapsed in a heap. I heard her calls of distress and quickly returned to find her sprawled on top of her bike shrieking in pain. At this point I had visions of biking ahead for assistance, but the pain subsided and being the tough outdoor trooper that she is, she managed to stand and continue on. We would discover on Sunday that she acquired two large bruises on her inner thighs as reminders of the incident.

Once again we could see a small tributary stream ahead, and we assumed another stream crossing would be necessary. This was in fact true, but before we reached the crossing we were forced to negotiate a muddy bog that represented more evidence of the heavy rain received by the area within the previous week.

Finally we crossed the tiny brook and ascended a meadow until we reached a fence. The trail followed the fence line and then descended to another improved gravel road. The map indicated that this was the access road to Custer Trailhead, and Jane and I paused to consider our options. When we studied the map, we concluded that we completed 1/3 of the lake loop, and there was no indication that the nature of the trail would change for the next third. We came to our senses and decided to bail. Bailing was not a cushy ride, however, as we completed a long sustained climb of the Custer access road and then turned on to route 17 for some additional uphill exercise.

So Green

Eventually we reached the paved section and coasted downhill to the inlet and then returned on the dirt road to our campground. What an ordeal! We felt quite fortunate to escape our two hour ride with two large bruises on Jane’s legs, and truth be told we were quite proud of our accomplishment. Jane calculated that we rode for ten miles, although three miles consisted of the difficult technical single track. It was quite a kick off to our road trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Parvin Lake – 06/09/2015

Time: 12:15PM – 3:15PM

Location: Parvin Lake State Wildlife Area along the dam area

Fish Landed: 3, Dan 1

Parvin Lake 06/09/2015 photo album

Heavy rains during May along with high temperatures in the 80’s converted Colorado rivers and streams into whitewater adventure parks. My son Dan returned from a backpacking trip to the San Juan national forest, and he was interested in spending a day fishing, but the question of where gnawed at my brain. I had a bit of success in Cheesman Canyon on May 26, and the flows there continued to hover in the 1100 cfs range, but the drive and hike to the South Platte was probably a greater commitment than Dan desired.

I began scanning the department of water resources flow data and actually found four drainages that represented viable options. The Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir was running at 145cfs and Bear River southwest of Yampa, CO was registering 65 cfs. These were both manageable, but they represented drives in excess of three hours. The Dolores River below McPhee Reservoir in the southwest corner of Colorado was running at 58 cfs. This actually represents very low conditions, and driving to Durango and beyond is an even greater time commitment. The last viable river opportunity was the Taylor River below Taylor Reservoir, and this fine fishery was listed at 455 cfs, I have fished at this level before, and it is doable, but even the Taylor requires a four hour drive.

We decided to abandon our efforts to find a stream during peak run off season, so instead we studied the map for a lake. The lake needed to be ice free yet cold enough to maintain a trout population, as we preferred coldwater fish over warmwater species. We identified several lakes in the Loveland and Ft. Collins area of the state and then quickly settled on Parvin Lake in the Red Feather Lakes area after soliciting some input from an Instagram acquaintance.

Tuesday morning we packed the Santa Fe with the critical fly fishing gear and made the two hour drive to Parvin Lake. The weather was quite nice with mostly blue skies, and high temperatures at Parvin Lake reached the high seventies and low eighties. Dan forgot to purchase a fishing license, but fortunately there was a sign at the check in cabin that provided a number to call to purchase a license over the phone. Dan took advantage and bought a one day license for $9.00. Meanwhile I began to chat with Seth, another fisherman who returned to his car after fishing during the morning. Seth suggested some places to fish, and he mentioned that there were several rising feeders.

We decided to eat our lunches at the car before hiking to the lake, and by 12:15 we were on our way. We signed the fishing log at the cabin and wrote down the time we entered. A two lane path led to a fishing research area, and we made a left turn at the cluster of buildings and followed the shoreline for .3 miles until we reached an earthen embankment that served as a dam. Here we stopped and prepared to fish. Dan tied on a parachute hopper, and I elected to begin with a peacock stimulator. We both spotted some sporadic rises and tossed out our dry flies to the vicinity of the observed fish.

Parvin Lake View

Dan Gets Ready to Fly Fish

It only took fifteen minutes before Dan’s rod displayed a sharp bend, and he expertly played a thirteen inch rainbow to his net. This quick action gave both of us a boost of optimism at the start of our exploratory lake fishing adventure.

I turned my attention back to the area where I was stationed and noticed that several rises followed each occurrence of increased wind. This typically suggests that terrestrials splashed into the lake, so I added a dropper to my stimulator and tied on a black fur ant. I was now covering two possible food sources on Parvin Lake. As I was changing my line configuration, I observed two rises within a couple feet of the bank to my right, so I tossed a cast to that area. On the third cast I was shocked to see a fish emerge from the lake to engulf the stimulator, but I retained enough presence to set the hook and land a ten inch brown trout. I was on the scoreboard with my first lake fish of the year, and a skunking was in my rear view mirror.

Dave’s First Parvin Lake Trout

The cycle of wind, riffled surface and a few rises continued for the next hour, but I was unable to entice any additional movement to my two fly combination. Dan was experiencing a similar lack of success, although he was progressing through a series of fly changes. From my position I could see a small point to the south and then another small indentation in the shoreline, so I decided to explore new water. When I circled around the point I encountered the outlet of the lake, but fortunately the water was low enough that I could wade to the other side.

Dan Wades Along the Edge

I continued fishing the stimulator and ant in the smooth water on the south side of the outlet with no success, and then as I returned to the accelerating flow above the outlet, I spotted a subtle surface rise. I began drifting my flies in the moving current and on the tenth pass, a small six inch brown trout dashed to the surface and nabbed the stimulator. I was happy to land a second fish, but the size was lacking.

Again I moved on, and when I rounded the point, I found Dan in the southern end of the first small inlet that we fished. Since the dry fly fishing was quite slow, I decided to experiment with a streamer. I sat down on a rock and swapped my floating line for a sinking line, and then I tied on a peanut envy. In retrospect, I probably should have stayed with the floating line, as the the lake was relatively shallow, and the fast sinking line probably caused my streamer to sink too fast and too deep. I worked out some nice casts from the side of the point, but the fish did not appear to envy the peanut envy, so I exchanged it for a damsel wiggle nymph.

Snow Capped Ridge and Cool Reflections

I tried different retrieves with the damsel nymph, but again the fish were close mouthed. In one last ditch effort to induce some streamer action, I knotted a Cathy’s super bugger to my line and then added a trailing bright green caddis pupa. Perhaps the bugger would attract fish, and then they would react to the smaller caddis. These were all great strategies, but the fish did not agree.

I returned with the bugger and caddis combination to the area where I began fishing after lunch. At least I knew there were fish in this area, but the streamer approach did not succeed. The wind riffled the surface, and a few random rises followed within casting distance, so I once again swapped the spool on my reel, and this time I tied a size 16 olive brown deer hair caddis to my line. I applied some floatant and flicked a cast to my right in the vicinity of one of the earlier rises. On the fifth such cast a mouth suddenly appeared and engulfed my small offering. I set the hook, and a silver missile streaked across the lake from right to left. I applied some side pressure and turned it back toward the bank, and after several more brief runs, I slipped the net under a chunky thirteen inch rainbow.

Dave’s Rainbow with a Caddis in the Lip

I was encouraged by this surface success, but the number of rising fish really dwindled and the air temperature rose, so after another twenty minutes of fruitless casting we decided to call it quits. Dan and I hiked back to the parking lot and stashed our gear and made the drive back to Denver. Along the way we detoured to the O’Dell Brewing Company tap room in Ft. Collins where I quaffed a tasty 90 Shilling. It was fun to explore a new area, and I enjoyed the company of my son while catching a few fish while the rivers and streams raged unrelentingly elsewhere in the state of Colorado.