Monthly Archives: October 2015

Clear Creek – 10/29/2015

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon between mile markers 263.5 and 263.0.

Fish Landed: 21

Clear Creek 10/29/2015 Photo Album

Back to back days on Clear Creek? Why? The weather forecast for Thursday was a mirror image of Wednesday, so I concluded that I could experience a replica fishing day. I felt a bit unfulfilled on Wednesday mainly because I fished over the same unproductive water twice and thus wasted a chunk of my time. I theorized that I could have landed more fish, and with a similar temperature day on Thursday, I had an opportunity to test my assumption.

I enjoyed my normal morning exercise routine, as I now realized that the best fishing was from noon until 3PM, so there was no need to rush to the cold shadow-covered stream in the narrow canyon. I arrived at a pullout near mile marker 263.5 by eleven o’clock, and by the time I assembled my Loomis five weight and climbed into my waders, it was 11:30. Even though I arrived later than Wednesday, the temperature remained colder and registered 48 degrees on my dashboard just before I turned off the engine. This prompted me to dress with an Adidas pullover and fleece layer on top, and I wore my New Zealand hat with ear flaps.

On the Scoreboard

I found a rock strewn route down the steep bank near the exact location where I stopped fishing on Wednesday, and I started my day with flies similar to how I ended the previous day. My top fly was a pink pool toy, and the dropper was the ever popular ultra zug bug. I chose the pink pool toy since I desired a very buoyant and visible top fly, and foam and pink satisfied these requirements. I began prospecting my way upstream just as I had on my previous trip, and I landed three small brown trout by 12:15. This was a reasonable catch rate, however, I was not enjoying the experience to the same degree as one would expect because my hands were curled and burning. They needed to get wet in order to release my catches, and the brisk wind and cold temperatures combined with evaporation to create a numbing ache.

Without the Sounds of Vehicles, It Looks Like a Remote Setting

I decided to take a break and eat my lunch while the sun had an opportunity to warm the air a bit. In the past I discovered that my body chills when I am hungry, so hopefully devouring lunch would help to overcome the cold extremities. The lunch break strategy seemed to work, as I did not suffer aching hands during the remainder of my day on Clear Creek. I climbed back down the steep bank and resumed my upstream progression. I continued to land fish, but I also sensed that I was passing through productive water with no looks, so I paused and added a third fly to my line. Of course I chose my workhorse salvation nymph. This proved to be a great move, and during the remainder of my time I landed an additional eighteen fish to bring my October 29 tally to twenty-one. I estimate that half the fish ate the ultra zug bug, and the others chomped the salvation nymph. It seemed that the ultra zug bug performed on the dead drift while the salvation excelled in situations where I lifted the flies or allowed them to swing.

A Rare Clear Creek Rainbow Trout

The fish were mostly small, but a twelve inch aberration surprised me, and a few slender but feisty eleven inch browns joined the mix. Three or four were small rainbow trout, and I cannot remember the last time I caught a rainbow in Clear Creek. My fishing consisted of my preferred approach with mainly short rapid fire casts to attractive deep pockets and runs. I moved quickly and limited my drifts to three to five depending on my assessment of the quality of the location.

Decent Fish

Between one and three it seemed that the fish peaked in aggressiveness. During this time I discovered that I could cast to shelf pools and slow moving areas on the opposite side of the stream with great success. I held my rod high to keep the fly line off the water and allowed the dry/dropper to slowly creep through the slow pool next to a fast deep run. Quite often the drift of the subsurface nymphs was interrupted by a flash and erratic movement of the hopper, and this prompted a swift hook set from yours truly. This tactic was particularly welcome during a period when the sun was shining directly downstream, and this caused a glare on the water along the right bank directly above me.

Head Shot with Fly

By 3:30 I landed my nineteenth fish, and I now decided to target twenty fish for the day. I cast to a small moderate depth pocket, and as the hopper drifted to the tail, a fish appeared and put its nose against the foam fake. I overreacted and set the hook causing my flies to rocket over my left shoulder. I knew this could not be a positive event, and it was not. I turned around and discovered the hopper and two nymphs wrapped around a branch on a tree on the bank. There was a slender rock in the water beneath the tree, so I balanced myself on it, and pulled the branch down to inspect. Unfortunately this act caused the dropper flies to break free from the pool toy. I systematically stared at all the branches above in an attempt to spot the ultra zug bug and salvation, but my treasure hunt failed.

I shrugged my shoulders and muttered to myself that it was time to quit, and I hooked the pool toy to my rod guide and reeled up the slack line. The tippet section that was knotted to the bend of the grasshopper remained, so apparently the flies broke at the knot that attached the ultra zug bug. As I walked toward the bank, I decided to take one more look at the branch from a different angle, and much to my amazement I spotted the small ultra zug bug dangling an inch below one of the branches. I made a mental note of the location, and climbed the slender perch a second time and managed to break the twig and unraveled my two treasured flies.

Pretty Ending Point

With this good fortune behind me, I knotted the ultra zug bug back in its previous position, and I returned to the small pocket that instigated the whole episode in the first place. I tossed a cast to the top of the pocket, and as I lifted the flies to cast again at the tail, I felt the weight of resistance. I stripped the line and held tight and landed an eight inch brown. It was likely the culprit that refused the pool toy fifteen minutes ago and caused the fly retrieval adventure. I closed the loop, gained vengeance on my tiny tormentor, and registered fish number twenty.

I continued a bit longer with my lost and found flies and managed one more small trout. It was now close to four o’clock and the velocity of the wind increased while the shadows lengthened across the water. My hands reminded me that the temperature was dropping as darkness lurked around the corner, so I once again hooked my flies to the guide and climbed the steep bank to the shoulder of the highway. I discovered that I was at mile marker 263.0, and I fished roughly .5 mile from my starting point over a four hour period.

Once again the fish were relatively small, but the afternoon was totally entertaining as the trout attacked my flies, and my mind rarely wandered to other topics. I now know that the prime fishing period is noon until three o’clock, although this will shift to 11-2 after we turn the clocks back on Sunday morning. The 2015 fishing season continues, and I suspect I have a few more adventures in front of me.


Clear Creek – 10/28/2015

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Downstream from mile marker 263.5.

Fish Landed: 11

Clear Creek 10/28/2015 Photo Album

High temperatures in Denver were forecast to be in the mid-60’s for the last week of October, and Wednesday was expected to be the best day with less wind and no precipitation, so I decided to designate October 28 as my fishing day. My last two visits to Clear Creek produced double digit fish counts, so why not give it another try since it only required a 45 minute drive to the canyon area.

Jane decided to accompany me, and we targeted the parking lot at Mayhem Gulch so that Jane could hike the trail, while I fished in the creek that was across the highway. Unfortunately we discovered that excavation work was in progress on a bike trail along Clear Creek in this area, and we were uncertain whether fishing was allowed. Rather than risking encroachment on a temporarily closed construction zone, we jumped back in the car and drove east to a pullout just beyond mile marker 263.5. I agreed to return to the drop off spot by 12:30, so Jane could use the car to revisit Mayhem Gulch and complete a hike, while I tested the waters of Clear Creek two miles downstream.

Nice Deep Runs Like This Produced

I began my fishing outing by walking east on the shoulder a bit until I found a place where the slope of the bank was manageable for a safe descent to the stream. Clear Creek was flowing at 40 cfs, and the water was tinged with some sedimentation perhaps from the excavation work taking place upstream. The clarity however was adequate for my purposes, and in fact the murkiness probably helped shield me from the resident trout. The air temperature at 10:30 was in the low fifties and the sky was overcast with some high clouds.

I tied one of my new red bottom Jake’s gulp beetles to my line, and embarked on a late season fishing adventure. I plopped the beetle in a host of likely spots for fifteen minutes and only managed to land a tiny brown trout that was four inches long. I concluded that red was not a popular color with the local trout, so I swapped the size 10 beetle for a size twelve version with a peacock dubbed body. Another fifteen minutes through promising trout water failed to deliver any results, so I paused and reevaluated my approach. The water was quite cold and the cloudy sky allowed minimal solar warming, so I decided to offer some subsurface candy to the Clear Creek fish.

I tied a hares ear parachute hopper to my line and then added a beadhead ultra zug bug on a 2.5 foot dropper and resumed prospecting the pockets and runs on the right side of the creek. A short amount of time passed before I landed an eight inch brown that snatched the ultra zug bug on the lift. I heaved a sigh of relief knowing that I was on the scoreboard and a skunking was no longer a possibility. Although I was pleased by this advancement in my fortunes, it seemed I continued to cover a lot of attractive spots with no action, and I considered ending my fishing day at 12:30.

Parachute Hopper to the Liking of This Fish

Another ten minutes transpired, and then I approached a nice deep pool where the main current angled against the bank and then curved back toward the center of the creek where I was standing. I made five or six nice drifts along the current seam with no evidence of fish, and then before I moved on, I lobbed a short cast to some still water next to a large midstream boulder. Suddenly a flash appeared from a location deep in the pool right next to the boulder, and I quickly set the hook and stripped in a nine inch brown trout that crushed the hopper. My outlook was improving.

Hopper Snacker

Pretty View

Onward I moved, but I should add here that movement was not effortless. The stream bed was populated with numerous smooth boulders and the upstream construction deposited a thin film of brown sediment everywhere. Each step was a cautious experiment in traction. Despite this adversity, I began to connect with small brown trout with greater frequency. By the time my digital watch displayed 12:25, I registered seven fish landed in 1.5 hours, and I was brimming with confidence that the hopper and ultra zug bug combination could deliver more fish in the afternoon. The last five fish chomped the zug bug, and all were browns except for one six inch rainbow.

Nice Spots

I scrambled up the steep embankment and found Jane parked just east of the 263.5 mile marker sign. We executed a U-turn and drove west to the Mayhem Gulch parking lot, where I enjoyed a brief lunch with my lovely wife. We sat next to our car in the parking lot using our camp chair and stool, but the wind kicked up, and the sun was reluctant to appear. A bit of warmth would have added comfort to our lunch setting.

After lunch I added a second top layer and my New Zealand hat with ear flaps, as I felt a slight chill during the morning, and I determined that a windbreaker was required. Jane drove me back to my exit point, or so I thought, and we agreed to rendezvous again at 2:30. This provided me with another 1.5 hours of fishing, and I hoped to double my fish count. Once again I found a reasonably safe place to scramble down the steep slope, and I resumed prospecting with the hopper/dropper technique. Unfortunately 45 minutes elapsed, and I was still affixed to a fish count of seven.

I was baffled by this turn of events, when I reached a nice pool, and as I evaluated my approach, I realized that it was the same place where I landed the second brown trout on the parachute hopper in the morning. Somehow I chose the wrong landmark as my reentry point, and I wasted 45 minutes covering the same barren water that shut me out during the morning. I shrugged and stepped out of the  water and climbed over rocks until I eventually reached my true exit point for lunch.

In the remaining 45 minutes before my committed quit time I landed four more browns, and all consumed the ultra zug bug. The catch rate was slower that my noon time hot streak, but the size of the fish was improved despite less attractive water. The top producers were the riffles at the top of pools and the slow water next to these current seams. Toward the end of my fishing time I began to skip the tail sections and marched directly to the head of the pool with improved results.

Some Color Remains

At 2:30 I hooked the ultra zug bug to the first rod guide and carefully picked a path up the steep bank to the road and then returned to the drop off point where I found Jane. She arrived fifteen minutes early in case I decided to avoid the cold and cutting wind that began to rush down the canyon. The intermittent blasts did in fact become a significant factor in the last thirty minutes, but I persevered until the agreed upon meeting time.

Double digit fish on a cool autumn day in late October was certainly a positive experience, and I now know that the ultra zug bug can fool fish, and that the dry/dropper method is productive late in the season. I suspect that the final chapter of my fishing during 2015 is not yet complete.

South Platte River – 10/25/2015

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: South Platte River

Fish Landed: 13

South Platte River 10/25/2015 Photo Album

It is getting late in the 2015 season, and my opportunities to fish are dwindling. When my friend, Danny, texted me on Saturday to ask what I was up to on Sunday, I leaped at the opportunity to register another fishing day. The weather forecast projected highs in the mid-60’s in Denver and sunny, so this influenced my decision to fish in a positive direction.

I picked up Danny at his new apartment in South Denver at 7AM, and we were off to the South Platte River. By the time we drove to our target destination and hiked the trail, we were positioned to begin fishing by 11AM. The temperature at the trailhead before we departed was 33 degrees, but the warming effects of a vigorous hike enabled me to shed my fleece layer after fifteen minutes. When we arrived at our base camp, I slipped back into my fleece, but this was adequate for my entire day on the river as the temperature probably warmed to the upper fifties.

Danny Reaches the Tenkara

Danny and I agreed to work along both sides of the river in parallel, so I elected the southeast side as it was away from the trail. I tied a tan Charlie boy hopper to my line, and then I added a salvation nymph, and on the third cast I hooked and landed a small brown trout. Danny meanwhile opted for a yellow Charlie boy hopper that supported an egg fly and a small midge larva that he designed. Danny chose to pack in his Tenkara rod, as it collapsed to the size of a very small wand to tote along the trail. I watched with interest as he cast the eleven foot long rod with a single fixed line that probably extended to fifteen feet. The Tenkara method proved to be very effective for Danny, as he could use the length of the rod to flick long casts to all the likely fish holding locations in the river. The extra reach and lack of fly line allowed nice drag free drifts, and with the flows at 73 cfs, being able to stay back and execute long distance casts was a significant advantage.

Ready to Cast

Dave Shows Off an Early Brown Trout

Meanwhile I progressed up the river casting my Sage four weight loaded with a traditional fly line and tapered leader, and I landed seven fish by 12:30 when I perched on a large midstream boulder and devoured my lunch. Seven fish in a hour and a half on October 25 was commendable, and I was quite pleased with my accomplishment, although Danny and his Tenkara wonder stick were playing havoc with the trout of the South Platte River to a much greater extent.

Same Fish, Different View

After lunch the action slowed, but I was pleased to land an additional six fish in the remaining time. The sun was directly above us with no cloud cover, so perhaps this explained the lull in action from 1 until 2:30. Danny and I continued to pick up fish, but the pace was much slower than our earlier experience. We also encountered another fisherman who was fifty yards above us, so this may have had an impact as well. The fly fishing gentleman appeared to carry two fly rods, as he moved quickly and paused only at places that were prime spots. Danny and I both conjectured that his upstream wading and movement produced a negative effect on our fishing success, but there was no way to prove this theory.

By 2:30 he was no longer visible, and we suspected that he either departed or moved a far distance above us. At any rate, the fishing improved in the later afternoon hours. In fact Danny was on fire, and although he did not count his fish, we were both certain that he exceeded twenty fish landed on the day.

I persisted with the Charlie boy and salvation nymph for most of the day, and nearly all my fish chomped the salvation. What a productive fly this attractor nymph has evolved into during 2015! I also experimented with a third fly in the afternoon and cycled through a soft hackle emerger, ultra zug bug, hares ear, and emerald caddis pupa. The ultra zug bug and hares ear delivered one fish each to my net, and the the other flies simply served as decorations on my line.

By 3:30 I reached the huge deep pool that bordered our base camp. I performed a feat of rock climbing in order to circumvent the huge vertical boulders that blocked my upstream migration, and once I was positioned above them, I began to lob short casts to the narrow shelf pool in front of me. This area did not yield any fish, so I decided to waste a couple casts in a short pocket no more than five feet long that was just above the shelf pool. On the first cast a fish rose and smacked the hopper, but I was only able to maintain contact for a split second. I was certain at this point that the only fish in this small area had been pricked, and that I was wasting my time to cast again, but I flicked another cast to the pocket nonetheless.

Held in the Water

The hopper paused, and I instinctively lifted my rod and set the hook on a feisty and chunky brown trout. I carefully maintained pressure on the fighter and guided it to my net and discovered a thirteen inch beauty. This was my largest fish of the day, and a very fine brown trout by South Platte River standards.

Nice Width on This Beauty

I was checking my flies and preparing to resume my quest for trout, when I heard Danny shout from his position at the midsection of the large pool on the base camp side of the river. I pivoted to observe, and saw him using his hand over hand retrieval method to guide a large fish to his net. He motioned me, and I could not hear what he was shouting, but I guessed he hoped I could join him to photograph his prize. I complied and carefully waded across the river and snapped a couple shots of Danny and the fourteen inch wide body rainbow trout. This proved to be the catch of the day, and Danny was quite pleased with his Tenkara prowess.

Fisherman and Fish

My nice brown trout was the eleventh catch of the day, and once my photographic duties were complete, I waded back to the southeast side of the river and resumed my progress. I managed to hook and land another small brown before I approached a nice deep pool with a foam current line seven feet out from the bank. I paused to observe and noticed several splashy rises along the foam. I ran my dry/dropper combination along the entire current line, but the fish were apparently tuned into something different, as they ignored my offering.

Base Camp Pool

I gave up on the area and moved upstream, but the shadows now extended across the river, and following my flies became quite a challenge. I had not seen Danny since the photo session, so I exited the river and hiked back down the path and spotted him in the same large base camp pool. Now that I was reassured that he was nearby, I retraced my steps on the path and entered the river across from the foam line pool. Since the dry/dropper was no longer delivering fish at a reasonable pace, I decided to experiment with a caddis dry fly. I tied an olive-brown deer hair caddis to my tippet and moved closer to the foam. Once I was satisfied with my stance, I fluttered some casts to the current seam and allowed the caddis to float toward the spot where I saw rises earlier. I could not see the caddis, but I clearly observed the three splashy refusals that were associated with my first three drifts.

I rested the area and flicked the caddis farther upstream and along the bank, but then I returned some casts to the area of rejection and elicited one more swat. I was not done yet, however, and I executed one more downstream drift, and on this pass I could clearly follow my fly. Just as it reached the nadir of the current seam, the fish rose and sipped my fly, and this provoked a swift hook set on my part. Alas, I felt weight for only a split second and then it was gone. Although I was frustrated by my inability to land this fish, I was at least pleased that I managed a take.

Smaller Left Channel

Danny was now across from me, and we were near the downstream point of a long narrow island that divided the river into two channels. The sun was still covering the left braid, and I could see a smooth pool near the bottom of the island. I asked Danny if I could work up the left channel, since I felt it was more conducive to my delicate single caddis adult approach. Unfortunately the caddis did not interest the fish despite the fact that I stayed back a good distance and executed some nice long distance casts. I abandoned the shallow smooth pool and moved upstream to a spot where I noticed two or three very subtle rises. The only food source I could see were tiny midges that hovered in sparse clouds over the river, so I decided to try a parachute hopper with a zebra midge dropper.

This tandem offering actually yielded a tiny rainbow trout that was below my six inch minimum, but that was the extent of my success. I quickly migrated upstream and stumbled on one additional spot where the water depth suggested that a fish might be present. Sure enough I flicked a very short cast to the small pocket, and a ten inch brown trout emerged and crushed the parachute hopper. This was my last success on the day, and with the temperature dropping and the shadows lengthening, I quickly waded to the top of the island and then crossed the river to the path and returned to Danny.

I suggested that we should begin our return hike, but Danny asked if he could work some very attractive runs between us. I looked on as Danny expertly maneuvered the Tenkara and landed a couple more brown trout. By now it was nearly 4:30, so Danny finally relented and climbed out of the river and spooled his long line, and then we began a vigorous hike back to the car.

It was a fun day on the South Platte River. I landed double digit trout late in October, and I was able to fish a dry/dropper combination most of the day. Best of all I enjoyed the companionship of my friend, and I introduced him to a new location, and he experienced one of his best days of the year. Hopefully I will register a few more decent days of fishing in 2015 before the winter storms force me to the fly tying bench.

Jake’s Gulp Beetle – 10/22/2015

Jake’s Gulp Beetle 10/22/2015 Photo Album

Jake Chutz is the Sales Manager for Montana Fly Company, and he invited me to join him for a day of fishing on the Elk River near Fernie, BC in August. We floated the river from Hosmer to Fernie on 8/8/2014, and we used a Jake’s gulp beetle nearly the entire time. I landed twenty fish over the course of the day, and all but one or two succumbed to the size 10 foam terrestrial. The west slope cutthroats loved the fake beetle, and quite a few of my landed fish measured fifteen to seventeen inches.

This was my first introduction to Jake’s gulp beetle. My fishing partner, Jake Chutz, was the designer, so he obviously knew it was an effective imitation. During the morning and late afternoon we fished a beetle with a deep purple dubbed body, and during the middle of the day we switched to a version with a red body. Both seemed to produce equally based on my unscientific observation.

A Different Angle

At the end of my trip to British Columbia, Jake allowed me to retain the size 10 gulp beetle with a purple body, so I stuffed it in my front pack. I gave it a try on the East Fork of Brush Creek when I returned to Colorado, but it did not produce any results. I essentially forgot about my gift fly until I visited the Big Thompson River on September 30. The resident trout began to refuse my Chernobyl ant, and I pondered what sort of adjustment to make. Jake’s gulp beetle leaped into my mind, and I knotted my sole size ten to my line. Much to my amazement the Big Thompson trout feasted on my lonely beetle with confidence. Since it was the only one in my possession, and I wanted to use it as a model to tie more, I was extremely protective and checked the line for abrasions frequently. This is something I rarely do, although I probably should.

I landed twenty-eight fish that day on the Big Thompson, and most gulped the beetle. On subsequent trips to Clear Creek, the same scenario played out where fish rejected the large Chernobyl ant but did not waver in their approach to Jake’s beetle. On two separate occasions I sat down at my vice and produced three size 12 gulp beetles, so I was adequately prepared for my remaining fall fishing trips.

Ten Size 12’s Completed

After a long and unseasonably warm fall in Colorado, some cooler temperatures and rain arrived on October 21. This forced me to take a break from fishing, and I used it as an opportunity to kick start my production tying in preparation for the next season. What better way to begin my tying than to crank out twenty Jake’s gulp beetles. I made ten size 12 beetles with a peacock dubbed body, and today I expanded my inventory with ten size tens. Half of the size tens have a peacock dubbed body, and the other five have a red body. The red body worked on the Elk River, so I needed to have some to test in Colorado. I’m also hopeful that the red body will be an answer to the phenomenon of a trout rising to a red strike indicator.

Red Dubbed Underbody

Since I did not have tying instructions, I developed my own through trial and error. Here they are if readers wish to try:

1.  Place a size 12 or 10 Tiemco 2457 hook in your vice. Jake told me to use a heavy nymph hook as it acts as a keel so that the fly lands properly.

2. Attach black thread and wind it a good distance down the bend of the hook. This is important. If the tie down is too far forward, the fly will have too much bare hook shank visible after the foam is folded forward. I also coat the thread with head cement before proceeding.

3. Take a strip of black foam that is cut so that the width equals the hook gap. Create a V in the end that you will tie down.

4. Place the V portion of the foam on top of the thread wraps so that the non-tapered portion lines up with the beginning of your thread wraps on the bend, and then wrap the thread around the V portion of the foam and bind it securely to the hook. When you reach the end of the foam, wrap back to the starting point. I’ve started tying a whip finish knot at this tie down point, but do not cut the thread. Also I coat the entire foam tie down area with head cement. These are all steps that help prevent the foam from twisting around the hook shank after extended use.

5. Dub over the tie down area and the hook shank with a thick clump of dubbing. I use peacock and red, but you can exercise your preference. You want the area from the tie down point to approximately two or three eye lengths back from the eye to be very wide and fat like a natural beetle. Dub a thinner amount over the last three eye lengths and then return to the spot that is three eye lengths behind the eye with your thread.

6. Tie in two sets of fine rubber legs on either side of the hook shank where the thick dubbing tapers to thin.

7. Fold the foam forward over the top of the body and use your scissors to snip a slit on both sides at the point where the legs are tied to the hook shank. Be careful not to snip too deeply as you need a decent amount to remain to securely tie down the foam. I snip the side closest to me, and then fold it back to its original position and snip the opposite side across from my first slit.

8. Once the slits are created, fold the foam back over the top of the body and tie it down through the slits with three or four solid wraps.

9. Carefully cut off excess foam so that it ends just over the hook eye. Make sure your legs are out of harms way when you cut the foam..

10. Carefully create tiny notches where you made slits by cutting out a tiny amount of foam in front of the slit. Again make sure the legs are not in the way.

11. Turn the fly upside down and shape the small foam head by making angled cuts from the end back to the notches. Avoid snipping the legs as you do this.

12. Position the fly right side up, and tie in a narrow section of brightly colored foam as an indicator. I prefer bright orange.

13.  Move the thread underneath and make five wraps between the eye and the point where the foam is tied down underneath the head.

14. Whip finish and coat the thread wraps with head cement.

15. Trim the legs and indicator to the proper length.

Size 10’s

Big Thompson River – 10/20/2015

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Just above the fenced off and heavily signed private section after the first bridge below Noel’s Draw.

Fish Landed: 10

Big Thompson River 10/20/2015 Photo Album

I can feel the fishing season ebbing as the weather cools a bit, and along with the cooler temperatures, the availability of aquatic insects wanes. My thoughts increasingly turn to fly tying and building my inventory for the 2016 season. The weather forecast for the coming week projected rain and cool temperatures with highs in the mid-forties. However, the forecast for Monday and Tuesday suggested a continuation of the warm and dry conditions that blessed those of us who live in Colorado in 2015. I decided to take advantage and made the drive to the Big Thompson River below Lake Estes. My weather app did, however, indicate that rain could begin at 2PM, so I expected to register at least three hours on the river before inclement weather arrived.

Low Clear Flows on the Big Thompson River

On a previous trip I experienced decent success in a boulder strewn segment of the river below the first bridge after passing Noel’s Draw, so I decided to park at the downstream border of public access before encountering a small private stretch that was well marked with warning signs and barbed wire. In preparation for Tuesday’s trip, I reviewed several of my posts from fishing the Big Thompson River in previous years during a similar time frame, and these logs indicated that I enjoyed reasonable success using a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. Another productive fly during an October 23 trip was the beadhead hares ear. This information prompted me to begin my day with a deer hair caddis on my line.

The temperature was in the low fifties as I began, so I pulled on my fleece hoodie. I chose to cast flies with my Orvis four weight, and I quickly scrambled down a short bank to the edge of the river just above the no trespassing signs and barbed wire fence. The river was very conducive to my style of fishing with numerous attractive deep pockets and runs, and I worked my way upstream making quick short drifts with the caddis. Researching my blog posts paid dividends, as I landed four trout in an hour and a half of fishing before I broke for lunch. Three were brown trout and one was a rainbow, and I was surprised by this ratio, as I expected the larger browns to be in spawning mode.

Same Fish Out of the Net

Among these four fish was a memorable scenario. I cast to a small nook tucked behind a huge boulder and within one foot of the far bank. I allowed the caddis to flutter down softly and created a small pile of coiled tippet to counteract drag. The dry fly sat motionless for an instant, and just as it was about to skate down the river, a twelve inch brown materialized and slashed the caddis. It was a fine fish by Big Thompson standards, and I was quite pleased to present my fly to a tough location, and then reap the reward of my efforts.

First Rainbow of the Day

A Nice Pool Ahead

During lunch I moved the car to a position above my exit point, and then I resumed fishing from where I quit. I managed to land one more trout on the caddis, and then for some strange reason, the fish of the Big T began to refuse the slender dry fly. I moved through a series of fly changes including Jake’s gulp beetle and a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear dry/dropper combination. None of these flies produced as well as the caddis, so after I passed under the bridge, I reverted to the fly that brought prosperity in the AM. Unfortunately this move did not resurrect success, so I pondered my options. It was now the time of day when blue winged olives typically get active, and the sky was clouding up in the west, so I elected to go back to the dry/dropper approach.

Parachute Hopper Victim

I tied a parachute hopper with a hares ear body to the end of my line as the top fly, and then beneath it I knotted a beadhead soft hackle emerger. I prospected with these flies from just above the bridge until I was behind the first cabin next to the road at a large bend. Much to my surprise the parahopper yielded three trout and the emerger netted one. I covered quite a bit of water to attract these four fish, and contrary to conventional logic, tiny short pockets along the bank were productive, while juicy deep slow moving pools were fruitless.

When I turned the bend behind the cabin, I was facing west, and the lighting became quite difficult. I tried wading to the opposite bank, but this did not change the glare, and the only way to counteract it was to position myself upstream. The low flows of 34 CFS precluded this action, as the resident fish bolted for cover when anything disrupted their field of view while looking upstream. Given these difficulties, I decided to exit and walk back to the car, but along the way I stopped to observe a long smooth slow moving pool.

Rising Fish in This Pool

I patiently waited along the shoreline near the midsection of the pool, and after a few minutes I saw what I was hoping to notice. A subtle ring appeared adjacent to the current seam that entered the pool in the center twenty feet above me. I crossed to the opposite side of the river and tied on a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. Once more I waited as I scanned the river for a second rise, and after a bit, I spotted one in the riffle of the center current. I lobbed a couple casts, and it was very difficult to follow the lint-like fly in the riffled water and dim light, but on the third pass, a swirl appeared where I approximated my fly to be. I quickly reacted with a hook set and played a nice rainbow trout to my net.

Blue Winged Olive Sipper

I was very thrilled to have induced a trout to take my size 22 fly in very challenging conditions. Could I repeat this scenario? Once again I stood and watched, and sure enough I observed two more rises by separate fish on the opposite side of the main current seam. I carefully negotiated my way back to the bank next to the highway, and when I was properly positioned, I fluttered a cast to the spot where the lower of the two fish revealed itself. Again on the third cast a small fish rose, but before it sipped in my offering, it veered to the side and refused. Needless to say I was disappointed by this rude rejection.

But then I remembered there was a second rise farther upstream. I took a couple steps and then cast to the upstream target. I checked my cast high so the small morsel fluttered down with some slack, and splat, a fish nabbed the CDC BWO! I quickly lifted my rod and set the hook, and the fish streaked toward the center current. At this point I was disappointed to learn that the small rebel made a quick turn and slipped free of my size 22 hook. I was thwarted a second time, but I appreciated that my imitation fooled a second fish.

I rested the pool again for three or four minutes, but the fish were either spooked or no longer interested in feeding on surface naturals. The sky was getting darker and the wind was picking up a bit, and I wondered if perhaps the heaviest blue winged olive emergence was still ahead. I glanced at my watch and noticed it was 3PM, and I debated whether I should wait or begin my drive home. If I waited much longer, I would face heavy rush hour traffic in Denver. In the midst of these considerations, the sun reappeared, and this made my decision. I already increased my fish count by ten, and there were no guarantees of future hatch activity, so I reeled up my fly and returned to the car and prepared for the return trip.

On October 20 I landed ten fish and all of them except one rose to a dry fly. I experienced several memorable situations that involved success under technical circumstances. It was a fun outing late in the 2015 season, and I am thankful for the opportunity.


South Boulder Creek – 10/16/2015

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: The stream above the inlet to Gross Reservoir

Fish Landed: 10

South Boulder Creek 10/16/2015 Photo Album

With increasing frequency I find myself envisioning this scenario while I’m fishing. I wake up and do my exercises and then enjoy an invigorating run followed by a relaxing hot shower. I then see myself sitting at the kitchen counter sipping a hot cup of chai and reading the Wall Street Journal. Each day I can feel the warmth draining from the earth in Colorado, and although 2015 has been an unseasonably warm October, the pace with which the season shifts to autumn and winter seems to be accelerating. As this takes place it seems my ability to catch fish fades, and my physical body also seems to be wearing down. It seems that each morning I feel new twinges in my shoulder, neck, back and legs.

I was frustrated by my lack of action on Thursday on the Colorado River, so I convinced myself to ignore all the nonsense described in the first paragraph and made plans to undertake yet another fishing adventure to new water. Earlier in the summer Jane and I completed a hike to the South Boulder Creek inlet to Gross Reservoir, and I was intrigued by the idea of exploring the stream farther into the western mountains. I suspected that this was more work than most fishermen were willing to commit to, and thus the fish were not heavily pressured.

In addition I guessed that South Boulder Creek above the reservoir was populated predominantly by rainbow trout as is the case in the tailwater, and this fact was relevant since I attributed some of my lack of success on the Arkansas and Colorado to the brown trout population entering spawning mode. Their focus shifted from eating to procreating, and this was bad news for fishermen offering imitations of tasty snacks.

Pretty Little Fish

I got off to a reasonably early start and arrived at the parking area by Gross Reservoir that accesses the Inlet Trail. There was one other car ahead of me, but it did not strike me as a fishing vehicle, so I was fairly certain I had the area to myself. A brisk thirty-five minute hike over several ridges delivered me to the inlet. The level of the lake was much lower than when Jane and I visited earlier, and this caused the stream bed to be visible for an additional one hundred yards. I wondered if the lake contained brown trout, and if so had they begun their spawning migration up South Boulder Creek? I discounted this thought and continued with my original plan to fish up the stream.

The air temperature was fifty degrees when I began hiking, and I could now see that the shadows from the ridge to the southeast were nearly covering the stream. The flow was quite nice as it allowed me to cross at numerous places, yet it was not so low that the fish were ultra skittish. I tied a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line at the car, and I began plopping it in likely pools and pockets, but I was not seeing any response, and it was very difficult to follow in the shade and glare. I was frustrated by the lighting, so I removed the beetle and converted to a dry/dropper configuration. The three flies on my line included a tan pool toy, beadhead ultra zug bug, and a salvation nymph.

Very Nice Pool

These flies remained on my line until noon when I paused for lunch, and I managed to land three or four small trout that nabbed the ultra zug bug. Most of the takes occurred as I lifted the flies to recast. The first fish was a very small brown trout that barely passed my six inch cut off for counting, and the others were gorgeous but small rainbow trout. These fish were between six and eight inches and possessed delicate markings on their sides. All the fish that I landed over the course of the day were small, and I experienced far more frustrating refusals than takes despite my efforts to downsize and try different dry flies. Unfortunately the poor lighting forced me to resort to large visible surface flies, and these were rejected by the small residents of South Boulder Creek.

In addition to shadows and poor lighting, I discovered an additional hindrance to my enjoyment of this new water. Wading was a significant challenge. The stream was in a high gradient area, and this created numerous rapids and cascades around huge boulders. All the rocks were covered in green moss, and I needed to be cautious with each footstep. In many cases I needed to climb over huge boulders and dead tree limbs, and the difficulty of these maneuvers was compounded by the presence of slippery rocks that served as a base for my footing.

Partial Sunshine on the Creek

Shimmering Colors

While eating my lunch I could see a segment of the stream that appeared to be covered by sunlight as the mountain ridge to the south tapered down. I returned to the gulp beetle for a short while, but even my fall of 2015 super fly was inadequate, and the small resident trout inspected and turned away from my foam fraud. I gave up on the beetle tactic and returned to the pool toy, but during the early afternoon I attached only the ultra zug bug in order to avoid tangles. I slowly slipped my way up the tumbling stream, and with persistence I was able to increase my fish count to seven by landing one fish on the ultra zug bug for every five refusals to the pool toy. Between the difficult wading, challenging light, and tiny fish refusals; I was unable to establish any sort of rhythm.

Parachute Hopper Worked

Finally I reached the area of sunlight, and the number of refusals to the pool toy became overwhelming. I gave the situation further consideration and decided to test a more realistic grasshopper pattern. I pulled a parachute hares ear hopper from my cylindrical container and knotted it to my line. This fly generated a hefty quantity of rejections, but it also enabled me to connect with three fish. One of these takes was a perfect dry fly scene, where the seven inch rainbow appeared from the depths of a deep slow moving pool and calmly slurped the parahopper. Despite its small size, these are moments that I wish I could capture on video to view over and over.

By three o’clock the stream was nearly entirely covered in shadows, and I was feeling quite weary and chilled. I was now wearing my fleece plus raincoat for a windbreaker, and yet I was on the edge of being chilled. My thoughts turned to scenes of comfort such as described in the first paragraph, so I decided to call it quits. I found a decent path along the north side of the stream, and used this to hike back to the inlet where I found a wide shallow section to cross. If I return to this portion of South Boulder Creek, I plan to remember this trail and use it to push farther into the backcountry to water that is even less pressured than what I experienced on Friday.

Gorgeous Colors on This Rainbow

Friday was an interesting day. I explored new water, and I discovered a beautiful natural setting not very distant from Denver. As with some of my other favorite haunts, it requires a bit of effort to reach, and this probably minimizes the number of fishermen willing to endure. The fish are quite small, wading is tough, and the tight canyon walls make lighting a challenge. The ten fish landed on Friday took my cumulative fish counter for 2015 to 837, and this represents the second highest tally of my fly fishing life. The season is waning, and I suspect that I will be enjoying the scenario described in the first paragraph much more frequently in the near future.


Colorado River – 10/15/2015

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Upstream from the Pumphouse access area

Fish Landed: 2

Colorado River 10/15/2015 Photo Album

I fished the Colorado River at the Pumphouse access area twice in October a year ago. In both cases, I fished for only two or three hours, and this is roughly half the time I normally devote to a river or stream that is not within an hour of Denver. On my second trip Jane and I hiked the Gore Canyon Trail, and this provided a great overview of the vast amount of water available at this public area along the middle reaches of the Colorado River. I was itching to make another trip with the intent of hiking farther east along the trail to sample water that I never had time to explore in 2014.

I selected Thursday October 15 to be that day. The weather forecast projected clear dry weather in the Pumphouse area with a high temperature in the low 70’s. Balmy summer-like temperatures continued into the middle of October, and I did not intend to waste my good fortune. Jane agreed to accompany me, so we loaded the car and departed by 8AM. This enabled us to arrive at the Pumphouse parking area by 10:45, and I prepared to fish by rigging my Sage One five weight. The air temperature was in the low fifties, so I pulled on my fleece sweater and wore it for my entire time on the water, although I must admit that I was quite warm during the middle of the afternoon. Some thin clouds provided cover for the first couple hours, and this combined with intermittent wind made me appreciate the extra layer.

The Merger of Two Channels Below an Island Is Just Beyond the Fisherman

Jane and I entered the Gore Canyon Trail and hiked for .5 mile until we reached a spot where the river merged after splitting around a long island. Jane spread out her blanket here and designated the area as her base camp. She told me to move ahead, and she planned to hike out the fisherman path along the river and meet me after she got established. Unfortunately I hiked farther than we expected, and we never rendezvoused until I returned to the parking lot at the end of the day.

I was not sure where I would fish, but I started on the trail and hiked until I passed the island. The next section of the river was a wide deep pool, and I was intimidated by such a large featureless body of water, so I continued until I arrived at the first fast segment. Here I configured my tapered leader with a Thingamabobber, split shot, iron sally nymph, and salvation nymph. These flies did not deliver results despite some very attractive deep runs and pockets, so I switched out the salvation for an ultra zug bug. Finally after thirty minutes of fishing, an eleven inch brown snagged the ultra zug bug as I began to lift in a narrow slot along the bank.

Best Catch of the Day

I continued to fish in this manner from 11:30 until 3:00, and the only reward for my efforts was a small brown trout. I changed the ultra zug bug for a beadhead soft hackle emerger after an hour, as I hoped that blue winged olives might be in the drift despite the clear sunny day. I also removed the iron sally and replaced it with a pine squirrel leech part way through my time on the river. I covered a half mile of the river including some gorgeous deep runs, pools and pockets, but I was frustrated in my efforts to catch fish.

By 2:45 I reached a place where a very large rock formed a barrier to my progress. Rather than attempt to scale the steep obstacle to proceed, I decided to turn around. I used this as an opportunity to swap reels, and I switched to my sinking tip line and then knotted a sparkle minnow to the end. For the next forty-five minutes I threw the streamer in all the likely places and aggressively manipulated the minnow imitation in all directions and at various retrieval speeds. The flashy fly looked great as it darted and twitched, but I could not even generate a follow.

A Big River

Eventually I worked my way to the large pool above the island, and at this point I found the path and returned to the confluence area. Jane had already returned to the car, but I paused to strip the sparkle minnow through the delicious pool and eddy just below the confluence of the two channels. I saw and felt nothing, so I began to question whether the sparkle minnow was the correct choice for autumn brown trout. I removed the flashy fly and replaced it with a peanut envy. I tied a batch of these over the winter, but I have yet to connect on a fish with my recent handiwork. The articulated olive streamer looked great in the water, as it exhibited pulsing movement, but the fish did not seem to agree. By 3:10 I gave up on the deep eddy and headed back to the parking lot. I stopped at a couple attractive spots along the path and made five or six casts, but again my efforts to catch a Colorado River trout on a streamer were thwarted.

The scenery was gorgeous, and the weather was more like summer, but the fishing proved to be quite challenging on the Pumphouse section of the Colorado River on October 15. If I return to this location, I will try to time my visit to a different month when more insect activity might spur the trout to become visible feeders. Prospecting such a huge body of water is a daunting proposition, and I learned that it can be unproductive as well.

Arkansas River – 10/13/2015

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: .5 mile below the county line

Fish Landed: 7

Arkansas River 10/13/2015 Photo Album

The summer weather in October continued on Tuesday October 13, and I could not resist the temptation to take advantage. 9:30AM found me standing behind my car at a small pullout along the Arkansas River below Salida, CO. My dashboard informed me that it was 51 degrees, so I wore a fleece top for my morning on the river. I pulled my Sage One five weight out of its case, and proceeded to set it up with the Thingamabobber/level line configuration, since I expected to fish deep with nymphs during the morning session.

Once I was prepared, I walked down a worn path to a huge rock that jutted out into the river. A large deep pool and eddy formed below the jagged rock, so I stealthily walked to the tail and began to probe the depths with a salvation nymph and a zebra midge. I was quite confident that I would pick up some fish in the delicious water in front of me, but the pool did not deliver. After fifteen minutes I vacated the pool and moved above the rock to some deep runs that were very similar to the water that delivered outstanding results on October 2.

Once again my hopeful mindset was misplaced, but I continued to move upstream along the left bank. I was anticipating that as the water warmed up, the fish would become more active. The river structure that I was prospecting was very similar to areas that contained many hungry wild brown trout during previous visits to the Arkansas River. By 10:30 I lost confidence in the tiny zebra midge, so I swapped it for a RS2, and for the remainder of the morning I enjoyed a modicum of success. Five fish spent some time in my net. The first two were small brown trout that snapped up the RS2 in some narrow slack water along the bank.

Salvation Nymph Victim


Number three grabbed the salvation as it began to swing at the tail of a midstream pocket, and the fourth brown trout grabbed the RS2 in a riffle section with moderate depth. The fifth trout was a fifteen inch brown trout that hammered the salvation nymph in a deep trough in front of a large submerged boulder. As I climbed the bank to access the highway to hike back to the car for lunch, I was complimenting myself for managing to land five decent fish in relatively challenging conditions.

The Nice Brown Was In Front of the Exposed Rock

Opportunistic Morning Feeder

After lunch I drove west and parked at the familiar Fremont – Chafee county line. I contemplated crossing the river to fish the north bank as is my custom, but I convinced myself to seek some variety and remained on the south side of the river. I began fishing above the high ledge rock that often serves as my lunch spot. and I continued offering the salvation nymph and RS2. The morning session provided an average amount of action, so why tamper with success?

The afternoon water was even more attractive than that which I covered in the morning, but the fish were totally uncooperative. The sky was bright blue, and the sun was bright and warmed the air temperature to 80 degrees. These were not favorable conditions for a blue winged olive hatch, and in fact I only spotted one small adult during my entire time on the river. When I saw the one tiny mayfly above the river, I exchanged the RS2 for a beadhead soft hackle emerger. I fished with the nymph arrangement from 12:30 until 3:00 and connected with two more brown trout. The two afternoon fish were actually very nice, but I expected to land many more. In fact I was about to abandon the nymphing approach just as the larger of the two hammered the soft hackle emerger at the top of a long deep run. The second fish came from the same area.

Best Fish of the Afternoon

Between 2:30 and 3:00 I approached some juicy deep pockets right next to the rocky shoreline. These places are usually money in the bank, but on Tuesday that was not the case. I was able to spot two fish hovering a couple feet below the surface, but they were oblivious to my nymph and emerger, as I drifted them by the targeted fish repeatedly. I gave up on these fish and moved to the next deep pocket, and once again I sighted two fish. One was hanging out in front of a large submerged boulder, and it appeared to be actively feeding as it shifted from side to side to sip something.

I decided to make the time consuming switch from the thingamabobber/level line system to the conventional tapered leader, so I sat on a flat rock and made the change. I tied a Charlie boy hopper to my line and then knotted the salvation and soft hackle emerger below it. I lobbed the dry/dropper combination five feet above the visible trout that was suspended in front of the boulder, and the fish twitched its tail and made a slight move toward the terrestrial. But that was the extent of its interest, and repeated drifts were totally ignored. I probably should have plopped a beetle, but I did not think of this ploy at the time.

I now continued up the river prospecting the dry/dropper threesome for ten minutes, but shadows were making it difficult to follow the hopper, and my confidence was at a low ebb. It was three o’clock when I approached a nice wide deep riffle and pool, and I was bored with nymphing, and the dry/dropper move was not producing. I sat down on a rock and decided to convert to a sinking tip line and a sparkle minnow. The streamer saved my day earlier in the summer on the Williams Fork, so perhaps it was the answer on October 13. All the fly shop reports mentioned streamers as highly effective on pre-spawn brown trout during October.

Sparkle Minnow Ready for Action

I manipulated the sparkle minnow aggressively through three separate pools with no success. All three areas likely held multiple fish, but none responded to my thorough coverage and varied retrieves. The only response was a follow from a twelve inch brown, when I tossed the streamer directly upstream to some fairly marginal water. This gave me some hope, but it was the zenith of my sparkle minnow experience for the day.

By 3:30 I was feeling quite exhausted, and I lost all confidence in my ability to catch more fish. I found myself thinking more about my return trip and a snack than fishing, so I reeled up the streamer, climbed the bank and returned to the car.

Tuesday was a disappointing day of fishing, as I landed seven fish in 5.5 hours of wading and casting. I did not see a cloud in the sky during my entire stay, and the temperature reached eighty degrees. The flows dropped from 280 cfs to 230, so the combination of low flows, clear water, and high air temperatures caused the brown trout to hunker down and close their jaws. Six hours of driving is a significant commitment for seven fish. I need to take a break before giving the mighty Arkansas another chance.

Clear Creek – 10/12/2015

Time: 12:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: .5 mile before the second tunnel when traveling west through Clear Creek Canyon from Golden.

Fish Landed: 14

Clear Creek 10/12/2015 Photo Album

Although I had a great time fishing with my companion Danny on Sunday October 11, I was aching for more action than what I experienced on the Blue River. I relished my day on Clear Creek on Friday, so I decided to spend another day there on Monday. The tug is the drug, and I was in need of more drugs.

A front moved through Denver on Sunday night, and this caused a fifteen degree drop in the air temperature throughout the day. I was not anxious to begin fishing in the tight heavily shaded canyon early in the day, so I performed my normal exercise routine and finished a four mile run before I departed. I arrived at a pullout .5 mile before the second tunnel at 11:30 and elected to eat my lunch rather than lug it down the steep bank to the river.

It was a bit chilly in the shadows where the car was parked, so I decided to wear my fleece over my fishing shirt for added warmth. I expected to toss terrestrials most of the day, and my slow action Loomis five weight handles this task quite well, so that was the rod that I rigged. Once I was ready, I hiked back down the shoulder of route six until I was at the spot where I quit on Friday. I very carefully scrambled down the steep boulder field and began fishing back upstream on Clear Creek. The stream at this point was bathed in sunshine, and I quickly determined that the extra layer of fleece was excessive, but I did not wish to spend time wrapping it around my waist, so I remained toasty for the first couple hours.

The Tail of a Nice Pool in the Foreground

On Sunday night I refurbished three Jake’s gulp beetles that lost their legs in the heat of action on Friday, and then I tied two new ones from scratch. These beetle versions were produced with peacock dubbed bodies, and I tied one on to the end of my 5X tippet and began to prospect the creek. I covered several decent holes in the first fifteen minutes without any success, but then a small brown zoomed to the surface next to a large rock and sucked in the beetle. This broke the ice, and I moved upstream at a steady pace and picked off eight more creek dwellers that craved Jake’s gulp beetle. It was fast paced action, and I loved every minute of it. If I remained stealthy and plopped the beetle in places where the current was slow enough to allow the trout to expend minimal energy, I generally received a favorable response.

A Nice Early Catch on Jake’s Gulp Beelte

By 1:30 I reached a point where shadows extended across the entire stream due to the extremely tight canyon walls. I attempted to continue my upstream movement and managed to catch a fish or two when I instinctively set the hook despite not seeing my fly. I knew however that the dim light would lead to frustration, so I climbed up the steep bank and walked back to the car. I decided to drive west and stop at the next section of the creek that was bathed in sunlight. This plan led me through two tunnels that were spaced fairly close together, and approximately a mile above the second tunnel I encountered a section of the stream on the left side of the highway that was mostly in sunshine.

A Solid Clear Creek Catch

The bank here was short and less steep, so I scrambled over the boulders and began to cast the gulp beetle along the edge and next to large rocks. The creek in this area was quite turbid, and the water displayed a light brown-olive shade. There was very little visibility, and I was quite disappointed with this turn of events. I carried on for ten minutes by prospecting the very edge of the creek, but it became apparent that the fish were unable to see my fly in the murky flow. I ended in a very nice slow moving deep pool, and when this failed to yield any signs of a fish, I decided to cut my losses and move back downstream. I theorized that some sort of excavation or road construction was causing the silt in the water since there was no sign of rain or precipitation in the western sky. I was now concerned that the muddy water was slowly moving down the creek, and that I would encounter it again in my next fishing spot to the east.

The Gulp Beetle Tastes So Good

I returned to the Santa Fe and turned around and drove east to a nice shaded pullout on the south side of the highway a short distance above the first bridge west of Golden. Once again I scrambled down a rocky bank, and much to my amazement I discovered that the water remained just as clear as it was when I fished closer to the second tunnel after lunch. I remain baffled over how the creek cleared significantly in the two miles between the third tunnel and the first bridge.

Nice Fall Color Arriving

I accepted my good fortune and began to work my way up the stream by plopping the beetle in all the likely locations. I am sure that the stretch of water I was now covering received much more pressure than that fished in the early afternoon, but the stream was bathed in sunshine, and I was able to follow the small orange indicator foam on my beetle.

I fished from 2:00 until 3:30 in this manner and upped my fish count to fourteen. The beetle continued to produce, but the takes were accompanied by many more refusals. I estimate that there was one refusal for every two fish that slurped the fake beetle. Also in the mid-afternoon time period the wind became a significant negative factor. I was having great difficulty punching casts into the headwind, and it became almost impossible to plop the beetle with slack to counteract the drag that was created by the wind.

Despite the negatives related to lighting and wind, I enjoyed another pleasant trip to Clear Creek. Fourteen fish in 3.5 hours represents a decent catch rate, and it is difficult to complain when only a 45 minute drive was required. Jake’s gulp beetle continues to be my hot fly in the fall of 2015.

Blue River – 10/11/2015

Time: 9:30AM – 1:30PM

Location: Behind Cutthroat Anglers and upstream to the outlet mall area

Fish Landed: 1

Blue River 10/11/2015 Photo Album

For some reason the Blue River between Silverthorne, CO and Green Mountain Reservoir has tormented me during my fly fishing life in Colorado. The river is quite pretty with crystal clear water cascading over round light beige and tan river rocks. Every time I drive by, I am tantalized by the inviting appearance of cold pure rushing water and the abundance of trout that I imagine populate this picturesque waterway. Unfortunately on the occasions when I actually wet my fly line in the Blue River currents, I do not experience consistent success.

I contacted my Instagram buddy, Danny Ryan, a week ago, and he informed me that he planned to fish the Blue River on Sunday morning October 11 before continuing to Vail where he taught a class. He invited me to join him, and I agreed since I had not fished with Danny since April. We agreed to meet at the Cutthroat Anglers parking lot between 8AM and 8:30AM.

On Sunday morning I arrived first, and then when Danny joined me, we stopped at the nearby Red Buffalo Cafe for tea and coffee. Once we satisfied our caffeine cravings, we stopped at the Cutthroat Angler and purchased some mysis shrimp flies and small Thingamabobbers. Mysis are a species of freshwater shrimp that populate Dillon Reservoir, and they pass through the dam on a regular basis and become a welcome food source for the hungry trout that dwell downstream in the Blue River. After we put on our waders and rigged our rods, we crossed to the Blue River behind the fly shop. There was a pedestrian bridge that spanned the river, so we crossed and paused to observe some large rainbow trout that were finning in the slow water next to the swift center current.

Danny Changes Flies on the Blue River

We descended to the edge of the river, and I began fishing above the bridge while Danny took a position below. I employed the Thingamabobber/level line system at the start of my day and tied on a salvation nymph and zebra midge. I persisted with these two flies for quite a while, but they did not produce, so I switched the salvation for a mysis shrimp. Again positive results were absent, so I exchanged the zebra midge for a beadhead RS2. While I was making these changes I migrated upstream past two additional pedestrian bridges.

Eventually I reached the area bordered by outlet stores, and I decided to abandon the nymphing approach. My confidence was at a new low, so I removed the 0X connector, thingamabobber, and the level 5X line and replaced them with a tapered leader. To the tapered leader I knotted a Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph, and I resumed fishing through some very attractive runs and pools created by man made rock structures. Once again my efforts were thwarted until I joined Danny, and we walked through a tunnel that enabled us to pass underneath route 9.

Lots of Company Upstream

On the west side we found a nice section that was unoccupied. Two spin fishermen focused on fish that apparently were stationed where the river flowed beneath the highway bridge, and several more fishermen were in the Big Gulp pool above us. Danny agreed to fish the pool across from us that extended to the opposite bank, and I claimed the near pool. I made five drifts, and on the sixth I spotted a decent rainbow trout as it moved from the bottom of the river and hovered just below the Chernobyl. I was encouraged by the first semblance of any interest in my flies since I began futilely flailing the river in the morning.

Despite being snubbed by the rainbow, I continued drifting through the area where the fish appeared, but these repeated casts simply added to my frustration. I concluded that change was in order, so I removed the salvation nymph and replaced it with a soft hackle emerger. Certainly these fish see a frequent supply of blue winged olives, and they would surely jump at the opportunity to eat a food that appears in abundance. It was a nice try, but another ploy that went awry. Suddenly I remembered the ploy of downsizing after a fish refused the large Chernobyl. I utilized this strategy on Clear Creek with resounding success, so perhaps it could work on the Blue River. I removed the three fly dry/dropper arrangement and tied on a Jake’s gulp beetle with a peacock dubbed body.

I plopped the beetle in the middle of the pool, and it slowly drifted toward the tail. After slowly covering four feet, a shape emerged from the depths, and it slowly swam beneath the beetle and tipped up and sipped. Despite hours of inactivity, I remembered what to do in the event of a fish take, and I raised my rod with a solid hook set and shouted to Danny, “Fish on”. The seventeen inch rainbow put up a surprisingly meager fight, and I quickly netted it and celebrated the prevention of a skunking.

Seventeen Inches

Danny waded over and snapped some photos with my camera. I was now confident that I could fool another fish with the beetle, if I could sight one. In short order Danny spotted a large rainbow trout in front of the bridge support below us. This was probably the fish that was drawing the interest of the spin fishermen, who had since departed. I cast to this fish for at least fifteen minutes, as it cruised about in a tight circle, but the best I could accomplish was a moment when the fish drifted toward the fly and inspected it briefly. Danny tried presenting his nymphs to the fish as well, but he was also thwarted.

Finally we called it quits, and  since our upstream path was blocked by several fishermen in the Big Gulp, we reversed our course. Before returning to the car Danny suggested that we walk out on the first pedestrian bridge behind the fly shop and check to see if the large fish observed earlier were still present. Sure enough we spotted two, but one was even larger than any we had seen in the morning. Danny immediately charged to the other end of the bridge and took a position downstream and began to cast to the monster, while I remained on the bridge to guide his casts.

Danny’s first cast came up short, but his second lob was on target and drifted right over the massive finned creature. Suddenly I saw the head of the fish lift, and I exclaimed to Danny that he hooked it! For a split second Danny elevated the leviathan, but then the brute wagged its tail several times and simply broke off Danny’s line. My hands were shaking, and I was not even connected to the fish!

Danny was not as visibly upset over the loss of this trophy fish as I would have been. He shook it off and reveled in the fact that he actually hooked the giant fish. Even more surprising was the fact that he hooked it on a pine squirrel leech, as we had been fishing mostly minute tailwater offerings up until that point. With that excitement behind us, we returned to the car and prepared to go our separate ways.

It was another frustrating day on the Blue River, but I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my pal Danny. The weather was pleasant, and the scenery was splendid, and I managed to outwit a seventeen inch rainbow trout. I saw my friend hook perhaps the largest fish I have ever seen in Colorado. It may be awhile until I return to the Blue, but it was a worthwhile experience for October 2015.