Monthly Archives: October 2016

South Boulder Creek – 10/27/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/27/2016 Photo Album

It was a marvelous day for fly fishing. The string of unseasonably warm days in late October continued, so I decided to take advantage, and I embarked on a trip to South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. This small tailwater is a candidate to be my home water; however, the Denver Water managers make it difficult to adopt. I experienced one fine day on September 7, when I was fortunate to catch flows at 84 CFS. That evening Denver Water tightened the valve to 8.4 CFS, and that is a trickle, so I chose other options. After a week or so of minimal flows, the managers increased the releases to 210 CFS. This volume of water is very high for the small stream bed, and I did not wish to fish in spring-like run off conditions.

When I checked the DWR stream flow data after returning from the Taylor River, I noted that the flows were reduced to 90 CFS a week prior, and after another adjustment they were at 64 CFS. The combination of nearly ideal flows and high temperatures of eighty degrees in Denver provided sufficient incentive for me to pack the Santa Fe with fishing gear in preparation for a visit to South Boulder Creek.

I departed Stapleton at 8:45 and arrived at the parking lot high above the creek near the outlet from the dam by 10AM. Three vehicles were already present, as I quickly pulled on my waders and rigged my Loomis five weight for a day on the stream. Since I usually hike quite a distance from the car, I packed my lunch in anticipation of a four or five hour sojourn in the canyon. I descended the steep path, crossed the stream and then hiked for thirty minutes, until I was positioned below a gorgeous deep pool. The main current divided the pool in half, and then the water tailed out into a nice smooth stretch of moderate depth.

Downstream Drift to This Area Produced Fish Number One

Much of the canyon remained in shadows, but this area was bathed in sunshine. I surveyed the scene and decided to begin with Jake’s gulp beetle. I always prefer fishing on the surface, and it was clear that visibility would not be an issue. I knotted a size 12 beetle to my line and moved to the bottom of the pool. Before casting upstream to the delicious moderate riffles along the right bank, I decided to warm up with some across and down drifts to an inviting area that remained in the shadows. What a great choice! On the fourth drift, as I mended to eliminate drag, a nose and bulge appeared, and I set the hook and found myself attached to a thirteen inch brown trout. What a start to my day, and what a thrill to land a large fish by South Boulder Creek standards on the beetle in thin water.

Sideview of the Chunky Brown Trout

Two More Fish Came from This Perfect Riffle

Next I probed the wide twenty foot wide riffle above me, and two more respectable brown trout gulped the floating terrestrial. I pinched myself to make sure I was not in the middle of a dream. Evidently I was not, so I proceeded upstream and landed two more fine South Boulder Creek residents, before I adjourned for lunch at 12:15. The last landed fish in the morning was a deeply colored rainbow trout that emerged from a short pocket along the left bank.

Rainbows Like Beetles Also

Before lunch I encountered a section of the creek that was totally immersed in shadows. The thin neon orange indicator strip on the beetle was very difficult to follow in the poor light and occasional glare, so I converted to a dry/dropper with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear and ultra zug bug. Between 11:45 and 12:15 I prospected some great water with these three flies, but my net remained empty.

Lunch on the Rock

After lunch I entered another area that was covered with sunshine, and the dry/dropper was not producing action, so I returned to the single Jake’s gulp beetle. This proved to be a smart shift in approach, and I added four additional trout by 2:30. The afternoon fish were average in size, but I continued to enjoy the ideal flows, comfortable temperatures and fishing a dry fly successfully in late October.

Best Look

2016 has been a record year for me, so I made a conscious effort to slow my pace and absorb the amazing Colorado environment around me. On Thursday I felt at ease with my surroundings and thoroughly enjoyed my new laid back approach. My fish count was resting on nine when I reached a nice isolated pool along the right bank. A large corrugated pipe sank in the water and angled across the pool, and I decided to flip a few casts in the top section where the current feeds the slow moving main area. On the second drift I noticed a decent fish, as it moved to inspect my fly, but it failed to eat. Given my new attitude toward fishing, I decided to focus on this fish. Normally after a refusal, I limit myself to a few more casts, but then I move on in an effort to maximize my fish count.

What would this fish eat? I cycled through a black ant (another refusal), a CDC BWO, and a size 16 gray caddis, but none of these offerings triggered a take. Finally I conceded to the educated pool dweller and moved on. It is difficult to accept being outsmarted by a fish, but that was my plight on Thursday afternoon.

Buttery Belly

Although I was operating in a new relaxed mental state, I was still cognizant of the fact that I needed one more fish to achieve double digits. The next segment of the creek was forty yards long and contained numerous delightful pockets and deep runs, as the stream tumbled around the many exposed rocks below a rock moraine on the right side. I knew the beetle would be difficult to follow in the dim light and swirly water, so I once again converted to the dry/dropper style. This time I topped off the alignment with a gray pool toy, and next I affixed a salvation nymph and then an ultra zug bug.

The lower third of the turbulent area did not produce a fish, but then I cast to a nice deep slot along the left bank and observed a pause in the pool toy. I raised the rod, and I immediately felt the throb of a thrashing ten inch brown trout. I quickly landed number ten and then released it to continue its life among the swirling currents of South Boulder Creek.

I progressed to the end of the fast water section, and here I encountered another young fisherman. It was approaching 2:30, and I knew I had a fairly long hike to exit the canyon, so I tucked the last fly in the rod guide, crossed the stream, and climbed to the path for the return. After crossing the pedestrian bridge I paused at a couple shelf pools in a last ditch effort to increase my fish count, but these efforts proved unsuccessful. Just after three o’clock I completed the final steep ascent to the parking lot, and I realized that Thursday felt like August in late October.

Stonefly Landed on My Sunglove

South Boulder Creek remains a magical nearby destination. I landed ten quality trout on a gorgeous fall day. If ever there was a definition of Indian summer, October 27 was that day. How long can this perfect autumn weather continue?

Fish Landed: 10

Clear Creek – 10/26/2016

Time: 12:00PM – 3:00PM

Location: Around mile marker 267.5, below first bridge after tunnel 1 heading west.

Clear Creek 10/26/2016 Photo Album

A forecast of high temperatures in the seventies unleashed a strong desire to take advantage of the unseasonably mild weather, so I scheduled another fishing excursion to Clear Creek. A day on the Arkansas River and the Taylor River provided a break from the small local stream, so I felt another short trip was appropriate. I packed my lunch and gear and left Denver a bit after 10:45, and this enabled me to park in the pullout just beyond the first bridge after Tunnel 1 when heading west on US 6 by 11:30. Since it was nearly lunch time, I downed my sandwich, carrots and yogurt before I pulled on my waders and assembled my Loomis five weight.

I crossed the highway and hiked downstream along the south bank until the trail faded, and then I scrambled down some large rocks until I was along the creek. The flow was around 45 cfs and consistent with my experience in October of 2016, and a tinge of color was visible although not enough to impact the fishing. The air temperature was in the sixties in the canyon, so I wore a long sleeved undershirt and fleece for the entire three hours. Normally this many layers would translate to being over dressed, but I remained in the shade of the canyon wall all afternoon.

I began my fishing day with a Jake’s gulp beetle. During my last visit on October 21, the beetle produced six fish, but it was not the popular food source that generated frenzied feeding in early October visits. Nevertheless the air temperature was more favorable on Wednesday, so I gambled that the fish would look to the surface and remember their fondness for beetle snacks. It was a reasonable theory, but apparently the cold nights removed beetles from the trout menu, as I was unable to produce more than a refusal on the size 12 peacock body Jake’s gulp beetle.

After fifteen minutes I ended the beetle experiment and converted to a dry/dropper configuration. I tied a fat Albert with a light yellow floss body to my line for visibility in the shadows, and then I added a beadhead hares ear nymph and an ultra zug bug. Initially these flies were also left undisturbed, but then I landed two small browns in quick succession. Both fish nabbed the hares ear nymph. Once I boosted the fish count to two, my catch rate accelerated. I progressed upstream mainly along the left bank and tossed the fat Albert in all the inviting deep pockets and runs.

Keep Them Wet

Between 12:30 and 2:30 the hares ear and zug bug were magical. I boosted the fish count to fourteen, and one decent brown trout even gobbled the fat Albert. I thoroughly enjoyed prospecting the likely holding lies with rapid fire casts and three to five drifts. Most of the fish emerged from the deep slow moving holes and pockets that bordered the rocky south bank. I tested the opposite bank with downstream drifts, but this ploy did not pay dividends in a manner similar to earlier Clear Creek fishing trips.

Very Nice Clear Creek Brown

Do fish have meal times similar to human beings? The steady feeding came to an abrupt end at 2:30, and I covered a significant distance without so much as a refusal. It seemed odd that the fish suddenly stopped feeding after some fairly aggressive action in the previous two hours. Perhaps a headmaster blew a whistle and ushered them back to their resting spots for the remainder of the day.

A Bit of Sunlight Ahead

By 3:00 the canyon was blanketed with shadows, the air temperature dropped a few degrees, and the fish decided to fast; so I reeled up my flies and climbed the steep bank to the highway. I was a short distance above my car, and as I hiked along the shoulder, I heard voices echoing across the canyon. I gazed upward and saw two rock climbers scaling the vertical canyon wall above me. I was not the only Colorado resident taking advantage of the mild late October weather. Stay tuned as the weather forecast is very favorable through the remainder of the week.

Fish Landed: 14

Sharing My Space

Taylor River – 10/24/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 5:30PM

Location: River’s End and across from Lodgepole Campground

Taylor River 10/24/2016 Photo Album

Danny and I agreed that we would remain on the Arkansas River if the quality of fishing was decent on Sunday, but in the event that the fishing was slow, we would move to another river. Clearly the results of our Sunday exercise in frustration made the decision easy. We agreed to make the drive to the Taylor River on Monday morning, as this offered three options. Option one was to fish the hog trough below Taylor Reservoir, and the second option was the upper Taylor River above the reservoir. Of course the third alternative was to wet our lines in the public canyon area downstream from the hog trough.

We spent the night in the Woodland Hotel in Salida, and for dinner we walked to the Boathouse Cantina that overlooks the Arkansas River near the kayak course. We snagged seating next to the open window, and as we waited for our dinners, we marveled at the regular feeding of ten to fifteen trout next to the restaurant and above the F Street Bridge. We concluded that a small midge hatch was in progress, and several of the trout were feeding quite voraciously. It was entertaining to watch, but were not motivated to retrieve our fishing gear.

Taylor Reservoir

We woke up at 6AM on Monday, and this enabled us to depart before eight o’clock after a small breakfast at one of the local coffee shops. The drive over Cottonwood Pass was uneventful, and we arrived at the hog trough just before 8AM. The dashboard temperature registered 22 degrees, and a crisp wind ruffled the grasses and bushes next to the parking lot. I decided to remain in the car, while Danny braved the elements in an attempt to land a trophy from the tailwater immediately below the dam. I read for an hour and a half, and then I drove to the parking lot overlooking the marina, where I obtained a strong cellular signal. I checked in with Jane and noted that the temperature advanced into the low forties, so I returned to investigate Danny’s success.

While I was by the marina, Danny moved below the bridge, and a huge cluster of ridiculously large fish were visible in the center of the slow moving pool. Most of the fish appeared to be temporarily dormant, but some were moving and occasionally rising to sip something from the surface. Quite a few of the regular risers were at the point where the moderate current fanned out into the pool. Danny asked if I had any griffiths gnats, so I secured one from my fly box and watched as he executed some downstream drifts, but the fish were ignoring his tiny speck of a fly. Next I gave him a size 22 CDC blue winged olive, but again the fish served him frustration. Finally I returned to the car and retrieved a plastic canister that contained various small flies, and Danny selected a minuscule parachute Adams and presented that to the ultra selective residents of the pool. Once again the fish treated Danny’s offering like a tiny speck of inert dust.

The Inlet Where I Began Fishing

Finally by 11AM Danny surrendered, and we returned to the car and drove to River’s End Campground. The gate was closed to the campground, so we parked along the entry lane, and we prepared to fish the smaller upper Taylor River. The campground was located .3 mile above the inlet, so we hoped that spawning brown trout were present.  We hiked along the ridge next to inlet, and then we began fishing our way back to the campground. Danny deployed a dry/dropper approach, while I deviated from my normal habit, as I attached my sinking tip line and opted for a cheech leech streamer. I worked the deep section where the lake backed up into the river channel, and then I moved rapidly along the eastern side of the stream and cherry picked the deepest locations with streamer casts and various forms of retrieval.

The Cheech Leech

Danny and I thoroughly covered the area upstream of the inlet for an hour and never saw even a sign of fish. The water was 43 cfs, but the stream bed was wide, and this yielded long stretches of shallow water. In truth the river was not very attractive at the low fall flows, and we probably wasted too much time in this marginal half mile of river.

Just before noon we acknowledged our poor choice of stream section, and we returned to the car and drove to the canyon section across from Lodgepole Campground. Here we quickly downed our lunches, and then we migrated to the large pool next to the parking lot. My confidence was at a low ebb, but the air temperature warmed nicely to the low forties, so at least my level of comfort was a positive. I selected the very bottom of the pool to probe with my cheech leech, while Danny began to cast his dry/dropper rig in a nice deep run a bit upstream. I generated two follows, when I cast to the far bank and rapidly stripped the leech, but that was the extent of my action. Meanwhile Danny hooked a nice fish on his trailing nymphs, so we were encouraged that the possibility of landing fish was within our grasp.

I circled above Danny to a nice deep run, and after some ineffective streamer retrieves, I took the plunge and converted to a dry/dropper configuration as well. Ironically as I switched to dry/dropper, Danny shifted to an indicator nymph system. I tied a gray pool toy to my line and then added hares ear nymph and salvation nymph droppers. Almost immediately after making the change, I observed a double refusal to the pool toy. A medium sized brown rose to the surface and nosed my fly and then dropped down a foot, drifted back at the same pace as the hopper, and then made a second inspection. I was not encouraged by two refusals on one drift, but at least I attracted the attention of a Taylor River brown trout.

Looking Good at 100 CFS

I waded across the river to the north bank and continued working my way upstream. I managed a temporary hook up on a brown that snatched one of the nymphs, and then frustration once again weighed on my being, as a string of refusals to the pool toy ensued. A top fly that takes attention away from the nymphs, but does not result in takes, is one of my worst nightmares.

Finally I accepted that the pool toy was not going to produce netted fish, so I swapped it for a size 8 Chernobyl ant. In a short amount of time the Chernobyl produced a take, but within seconds the hook pulled free, and I remained fishless on the Taylor River. Fortunately I persisted with the dry/dropper setup, and I finally landed a thirteen inch rainbow that consumed the salvation nymph from a deep run near the north bank. After enduring a long drought from Sunday through Monday afternoon, I paused to snap a photo of my first landed fish on Monday.

Yellow Belly

Onward I advanced using the dry/dropper technique to positive advantage and between 2PM and 5:30PM I incremented the fish count to seven. I persisted with the Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear, but I changed the salvation for a soft hackle emerger and then an ultra zug bug. The zug bug produced two small rainbow trout, but all the other landed fish responded to the hares ear. During this period on Monday afternoon I finally fell into a rhythm, as I moved quickly from deep pocket to deep run and popped the dry/dropper combination in likely holding spots.

During the summer the pace of action generally fades in the late afternoon hours, but on Monday it seemed the opposite was true. This can probably be explained by the very cold overnight temperatures, and the water required a much longer time frame to warm to the optimal feeding range.

At 3:30 Danny and I approached a place where a huge boulder forced the river to churn through a narrow chute, and this effect created a large pool, where the current fanned out into a wider stream bed. The large rock formed the outside anchor for a massive jumble of dead branches and logs that were likely deposited there during run off. Danny worked the deep center portion of the pool with his nymph set up, since we spotted at least three sizable trout hugging the bottom. While he was probing this area, I lobbed a couple casts to a small deep pocket just behind the giant boulder. Much to my amazement as I lifted to  make another cast, a large brown trout grabbed the hares ear nymph. I managed to fight off several dives and head shaking episodes, and then I lifted the beast toward my net, and it shook its body and broke off the two bottom flies. Danny and I both marveled at the bright orange belly of the wild fish, and I named it my pumpkin brown. I was sorely disappointed that I missed the opportunity to capture a photograph.

A Bit Closer

After venting a bit over losing the brown trout so close to my net, I climbed up on top of the log jumble and dropped a cast to the slow eddy above the sticks. The Chernobyl ant slowly crawled along the edge of the branches, and then the top fly dipped, and I set the hook and realized that I was connected to a thirteen inch brown trout. I was standing five feet above the eddy, and I recognized that the fish was large enough to prevent hoisting it to my position high above the water. I sat down on the stick mound, and allowed my body to slide toward the pool, and fortunately I caught myself on some larger branches just above the water. While this was happening, the fish sought shelter under the sticks, but I was able to leverage it out once I settled near the eddy. Unfortunately I broke off a second ultra zug bug in this process. It was worth the effort, however, as I netted the brown and photographed the deep olive-brown wild specimen.

Deep Color on This Brown Trout

By 5:30 I reached a location where the river spread out, and I carefully waded across to the road. Before I did this, however, I made some casts to a nice wide moderate riffle section, and on the fourth drift, a fish smashed the Chernobyl ant. I responded with a swift hook set, and the fish dashed toward the middle of the river, and then the line snapped, and my line fell limp in the current. When I reeled up the line, I realized that the two bottom flies were gone, so I suspect that I foul hooked the fish when it refused the Chernobyl.

After a woeful day on the Arkansas River on Monday, I was pleased to regain my confidence on the Taylor River tailwater. Danny experienced similar success, and we commiserated on the time wasted on the upper Taylor, but we both recognized that sometimes it pays to experiment with new locations, and not all investments pay off. Seven wild fish late in the season is certainly something to savor.

Fish Landed: 7


Arkansas River – 10/23/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Fremont – Chafee County Line

Arkansas River 10/23/2016 Photo Album

I contacted my friend, Danny Ryan, after returning from Pennsylvania, and he indicated an enthusiastic interest in fishing the Arkansas River on October 23 and 24. I was considering a trip to the South Platte River, but Danny informed me that his Facebook sources lamented the crowds and combat fishing on the popular fishery south of Denver. Danny suggested the Arkansas River as an alternative, as he sought a larger river with more elbow room. I quickly agreed to the excursion, and I offered to pay for a hotel room in Salida on Sunday night.

Ominous Start to Day on Arkansas River

I picked Danny up at 6:30, and we arrived at the Fremont – Chafee county line pullout at 10:30. By the time we assembled our gear and waded across the river and hiked downstream, it was 11:00AM when our flies hit the water. I began fishing farther downstream than normal where the main current created a large foam pool. I was certain that a deep nymphing rig would extract some sizable fish, but my 20 incher and ultra zug bug failed to interest the Arkansas River fish. I continued to advance with the nymph offerings, until I reached the downstream tip of the island, but the only evidence of fish was a foul hooked fourteen inch brown trout. This was a beautiful deeply colored fish, but the ultra zug bug was embedded in the belly, and I do not count or photograph snagged fish. I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a salad spinner and a soft hackle emerger along the way, but these flies were equally unproductive.

When I approached the right braid at the bottom of the long narrow island, I switched to a peacock body size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle and retained the soft hackle emerger as a dropper. Given the relatively low flows of autumn, I was cognizant of the clear and technical nature of the small right channel, so I did not wish to scatter the resident fish with a splashy cast of a large fly. I probably over analyzed the situation, as I covered the entire right braid without landing a fish. My only action was a refusal to the beetle in a small pocket at the very bottom of the right branch. Danny, meanwhile, experienced some decent success with several nice brown trout in the fourteen to fifteen inch range.

Danny with a Fine Arkansas River Brown Trout

After finishing the right channel I prospected the right bank through the wide shallow area above the island. This proved to be a futile exercise, so I stopped for lunch at 12:45, and my fish count remained locked on zero. After lunch I converted to a tan Charlie boy hopper trailing an ultra zug bug and soft hackle emerger. Within thirty minutes a thirteen inch brown trout that was located tight to an exposed rock grabbed the soft hackle emerger, and I registered my first and only fish of the day.

I continued my progress through the pockets between the top of the island and our crossing point beneath the long pool, and I managed a couple long distance releases. For some inexplicable reason the fish seemed dormant, and neither Danny nor I could unlock the secret code to the Arkansas River trout. I attempted a modification to my approach by swapping the ultra zug bug for a hares ear, but the variation in offering made no difference to the fish. I observed very little insect activity with only a couple random blue winged olives sighted. The sky was largely devoid of clouds and the temperature peaked at the eighty degree mark. It felt like August in late October.

When I reached our crossing point, I skipped around the long pool and proceeded to the faster water where the river entered the large deep slow moving section. The wind kicked up a bit, and I began to see more BWO’s as they were tumbled and skittered across the river. This observation prompted me to convert back to nymphing. I hoped that the added weight of the indicator and split shot would enable me to more easily punch casts into the wind. In addition I theorized that the split shot would sink my flies deeper and allow me to better mimic a nymph or emerger, as it spurted from the river bottom to the surface. My theory worked, sort of, as I temporarily hooked a brown trout in a deep trough near the middle of the river.

The County Line

Alas that was the extent of the payback on the nymphing ploy. I continued my progress along the north bank, but the remainder of the afternoon evolved into futile casting. At three o’clock I reversed my course and crossed at the bottom of the long pool, and then I walked east along US 50 until I was above Danny. I was rather frustrated and bored at this point, so I experimented with a slumpbuster for the remainder of the afternoon, and surprisingly I connected with a decent fish on an upstream cast and strip during this time period. Typical of my day, however, the deep bend in the rod did not last very long, and my slumpbuster fancier was gone.

Near 4:30 I encountered a place where I had to exit the river in order to circle around some thick bushes where the river ran with strong velocity tight to the bank. As I attempted to battle through some dense shrubs to return to the rivers edge, my rod tip apparently dug into a stiff branch, and I was shocked to discover that I broke three inches off my tip.

Most Rises Seen on October 23 During Dinner

This last unfortunate event ended a frustrating day that was characterized by long distance releases, a near fall, a broken tip and one landed fish. Quite possibly Sunday October 23 was the worst day of fly fishing in my life.

Fish Landed: 1

Clear Creek – 10/21/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Upstream from MM 263.0 to construction area and then downstream from MM 264.0 and back to the car.

Clear Creek 10/21/2016 Photo Album

Could I continue my hot streak of catching trout on Clear Creek with Jake’s gulp beetle? I decided to find out on Friday October 21. After two days of colder day time highs, the weather was shifting with highs in the seventies predicted for Denver.

Rock Climbers Rest High Above Clear Creek

I set out for Clear Creek Canyon at 10AM, and I arrived at a parking space just below the Peak to Plains Trail construction area by 10:45. Once again I assembled my Loomis two piece five weight and proceeded to walk along busy US 6, until I was just above a large rock formation and the mile marker 263.0 pullout. I angled down a worn path and tied a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line. Several deep pockets existed next to my starting position, so I began to probe their depths with my beetle. I tucked myself next to the large boulder, so that I was hidden from any cautious fish. Reassuringly on the fifth cast, as the beetle slowly floated within an inch of the rock face, a twelve inch brown darted up and chomped the foam impostor. What a start!

Twelve Inch Surprise Starts My Day

Although the air temperature reached the low seventies in the canyon in the afternoon, it was in the fifties when I began, and I remained in the shade of the south wall of the canyon nearly the entire time. I wore my long sleeved Under Armour shirt, my fishing shirt and a raincoat, and I was comfortable; although the evaporation effect forced me to remove my sungloves, and my feet morphed into frozen fence posts by the early afternoon. Nevertheless I pursued the trout of Clear Creek with intensity using my beetle.

Slack Water Along the Far Bank Delivered

I applied the knowledge I gained in recent outings, and when I encountered attractive locations on the south side of the creek, I executed casts directly across and deployed a downstream drift with frequent short mends. By noon when I enjoyed a lunch break, I was pleased to record three netted fish including the best fish of the day, the initial twelve incher.

After lunch I continued upstream, and I managed to notch three more trout on my fish counter, but the action was quite a bit slower than my previous visit on Tuesday. Given the lower catch rate, I decided to experiment, and I deviated from the peacock gulp beetle for the first time in quite awhile. I was curious if the body color of the beetle mattered, so I knotted a size 10 beetle with a red body to my line and began to serve this bright morsel to the Clear Creek study group. Early on a rainbow slurped the beetle in a deep swirling junction of two currents, but then the red foam terrestrial began to elicit refusals. In addition for some reason the large red beetle repeatedly landed on its back, so I decided to make another change.

Another Decent Clear Creek Brown Trout

It was at this time that I reached the downstream border of the pathway construction zone, so I exited the canyon, walked back to the car, and drove east toward Golden until I was below mile marker 264.0. Once again I ambled along the highway, and then I dropped down a steep bank, until I was once again positioned along the stream. The canyon was narrower in this area than where I began, so I fished exclusively in the shade in the afternoon.

As I mentioned, I was disappointed with the red beetle and with the fish attracting appeal of Jake’s gulp beetle on Tuesday. I pondered my next move, and I decided to try a dry/dropper. I pulled a trusted fat Albert with a light yellow body from my box, and then I added an ultra zug bug on a three foot dropper. The ultra zug bug was a strong producer during autumn in previous years.

Pools and Canyon Walls

Between 1:30 and 3:00 I landed three more brown trout to bring my cumulative tally to nine. All the trout netted at the mile marker 264 location grabbed the trailing ultra zug bug, as it began to drag away from rock structure in runs and pockets. I also experienced a momentary hook up on the fat Albert as well as a refusal or two. Also in the last thirty minutes I upped my pace and moved quickly between juicy spots in an effort to hit double digits, and during this time I endured two long distance releases. Clearly the catch rate improved while I deployed the dry/dropper configuration, so I am forced to report that the Jake’s gulp beetle hot streak reached an end.

At 2:45 I climbed out of the canyon and returned to the car, and then I drove to Mayhem Gulch, where I met Jane. We completed a thirty-five minute round trip bike ride on the newly completed section of the Peak to Plains Trail, and then we adjourned to the Cannonball Brew Pub in Golden for some liquid refreshments. Friday was a fun day, but the frenzied attacks on Jake’s gulp beetle are likely a thing of the past. Nevertheless, I am not ready to put my fishing gear into storage for 2016.

Fish Landed: 9

Clear Creek – 10/18/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: .4 miles below mile marker 263.0

Clear Creek 10/18/2016 Photo Album

Jake’s gulp beetle rocks, and I am in love with moody Clear Creek. Jane and I returned from a five day trip to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia on Monday; and even if I had time to fish, the blustery wind guaranteed that I would not. Tuesday was forecast to be cooler but less windy, so I made plans to visit Clear Creek. Prior to our trip I enjoyed several very productive days on Clear Creek, and in fact the size of the fish were comparable if not greater than my landed count on the Big Thompson. With winter around the corner I valued the idea of investing only a forty-five minute drive in case the weather was uncooperative.

Nice Yellow Color on the Left

I arrived at a pullout near mile marker 263.0 at 11:15, and I rigged my Loomis five weight and stuffed my lunch in my backpack, before I hiked downstream along the narrow shoulder along US 6. The ever present large trucks and buses whizzed by, and several times I climbed over the guard rail to obtain a margin of safety. After a .4 mile walk I scrambled down a steep bank and used a jumble of large rocks as my stair steps.

Another Decent Rainbow Trout

Jake’s gulp beetle was my workhorse fly on October 9 and 10, so I decided to stick with a winner and knotted a size 12 to my line. Once again the water was crystal clear and the flows were reported to be 42 cfs. The air temperature was 54 degrees, and I bundled up a bit with my long sleeved under layer, and I added my raincoat for a windbreaker. For my head gear I wore my billed New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and this proved to be a solid move.

Pretty Section Ahead

I began flicking the foam beetle to likely locations along the right bank, and I attracted interest almost immediately, but unfortunately the two early beetle eaters escaped the hook after a momentary connection. I was a bit concerned over this ominous start to my day on Clear Creek.

I maintained my optimism and progressed to the next attractive area only twenty-five feet beyond my starting point. Here a relatively wide smooth pool of moderate depth revealed itself on the opposite side of the creek. I recalled my success with downstream casts during my most recent visits, so I positioned myself toward the top of the pool albeit on the side of the stream that bordered the road. I shot a cast across and reached the fly line upstream and then executed several quick mends. This technique paid large dividends, as I landed one rainbow and three brown trout from the target area. The two long distance releases faded from my memory, and a jolt of optimism shot through my brain.

Good View of the Beetle

I broke for lunch at 12:15 and then continued on my way until I quit just short of the Santa Fe at 3PM. I primarily remained on the right bank, since the sunlight made it easier to follow my fly, but when I encountered juicy sections on the south bank, I repeated the across and downstream maneuver, that I described in the previous paragraph, and in most cases it produced. I estimate that the across and down technique delivered sixty percent of the fish that I landed, and the remainder resulted from the more conventional upstream cast. The air temperature never exceeded the sixty degree line, but the wind was not bothersome, and I was reasonably comfortable when in the shade or when clouds blocked the radiant heat from the sun. I did forego wearing my sungloves to avoid the cooling effect caused by evaporation.

Larger Than Average

A Collection Point

When I reached twenty-five on the fish counter, it was 2:45PM, and a man and young boy appeared along the bank above me. At first I was not certain what they were up to, but I did not spot any fishing gear. Eventually as I waded closer, I noted that the man had three large five gallon plastic buckets, and I assumed he was panning for gold. Fortunately the stream was relatively wide at this point, so I moved toward the middle and waded around him, while I prospected the likely holding spots on the south bank. The strategy worked, and I added three more fish to my total during this time period, and then I reeled up my fly and called it a day.

I Love the Clarity of This One

On Tuesday October 18 I had a blast. I landed 28 trout, and they all savored the foam beetle. The only negative was the three peacock body gulp beetles that I left in the mouths of Clear Creek trout. I restocked my fly box, but I fear that I will need to supplement my supply for the few remaining days of the 2016 season. If I continue catching fish during the late fall season, I will not mind producing a few more beetles.

Fish Landed: 28


Big Thompson River – 10/11/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Waltonia Bridge and upstream

Big Thompson River 10/11/2016 Photo Album

How universal is the appeal of Jake’s gulp beetle? I was very curious to determine if it was effective only on Clear Creek, or did the beetle’s popularity extend to other Front Range streams?  On Sunday and Monday I landed 33 trout, and all were attributable to the workhorse beetle. In an effort to discover the answer to this question I planned yet another fishing trip, and this time I chose the Big Thompson River. Adequate stream flows of 49 cfs and solid fishing reports from the various fly shop web sites made this a logical choice. The weather in Estes Park, however, was a bit of a wild card, as morning rain was in the picture, and a 20% chance of showers in the afternoon loomed as a possibility. My new weather checking regimen includes wind velocity, and double digit miles per hour appeared on the Weather Underground chart. I decided to give it a try, since it represented a relatively close one and a half hour drive, and I was uncertain when my next opportunity to fish would arrive.

The Start

I drove downstream from Olympus Dam to Waltonia Bridge, which represents the end of the catch and release water when traveling east. I continue to be cognizant of the impact of the 2013 flooding, and the damage is greater as one moves away from Estes Lake. Clearly the section of river I chose to fish incorporated the risk of reduced fish population due to the flood. As I prepared my Loomis five weight, the sky was bright blue with occasional high white clouds. The pavement was wet from the recent rain, but it seemed apparent that I would enjoy dry conditions for several hours. The wind on the other hand was a concern, as the trees and bushes bent and shimmered in their effort to resist the stiff breeze flowing down the canyon.

I walked down the road and around the bend, until I was twenty yards above the Waltonia Bridge, and at this point I carefully scrambled down some large boulders to the edge of the stream. The experiment was about to begin. I knotted a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and began to plop it into the best trout holding habitat. Within the first half hour I witnessed four refusals to the beetle. Obviously the large foam terrestrial imitation was attracting attention, but the fish were deterred at the last minute. I concluded Big Thompson trout did not respond to Jake’s gulp beetle in the same way as Clear Creek trout. For the first time in three days of fishing I was faced with making a decision about what fly to use.

I elected to switch to a size 10 Chernboyl ant, and to hedge my choice I added a beadhead hares ear on a 2.5 foot dropper. The move allowed me to get on the scoreboard, when I landed a small rainbow trout, but the two flies were attracting less attention than the beetle. Perhaps the fish were hugging bottom in the cold morning water temperatures, and my flies were not getting deep enough? I added another dropper in the form of a salvation nymph, and this fly delivered a second small rainbow. Clearly the day was not evolving in the manner that I envisioned. Adding to my frustration with the slow fishing was the relentless wind that continued to gust down the canyon. It was impossible to deliver the flies accurately and with the soft presentation that I normally strive for.

On the Board with a Small Brown Trout

At 12:15 I was stuck on two small trout, so I took a break and ate my lunch on a large flat rock next to the small river. I pondered my morning, and I concluded that the fish clearly looked toward the surface and largely ignored my subsurface offerings. I tried three large buoyant terrestrials, and they created some inspections, but none resulted in hookups. The three top flies were the Jake’s gulp beetle, the Chernobyl ant, and a hopper Juan. I decided that I would try a non-foam dry fly, and after lunch I inspected my MFC fly box and plucked a size 14 stimulator with a light orange-tan body.

Small but Pretty Rainbow Trout

My analysis proved to be correct, and between 12:30 and 1:30 I moved the fish count from two to nine. The wind played havoc with the light stimulator, and difficult lighting made it a challenge to follow at times, but if I could place my cast in the right kind of water, the fish responded. The right kind of water possessed depth and ran next to cover or along a current seam. At 1:30 I set the hook on a slurp at the tail of a pocket, and I was surprised to learn that the fish was gone as well as my fly. All the fish that I landed on Tuesday were in the six to nine inch range, so I concluded that I once again had an abrasion on my knot. The productive fly was a purchased fly, and it was the only one in my fly box, so I shifted to a size 12 gray stimulator.

Typical Productive Pocket Ahead

At this same point in time some dark clouds rolled in from the west, and the wind kicked up even more than what I battled previously. I paused on the bank and pulled on my raincoat, and this proved to be a prescient move, as a ten minute period of steadily blowing rain arrived. Once the wind and rain subsided I continued my progress upstream with the gray stimulator, and I incremented the fish counter from nine to fourteen. During my last hour of fishing I was much more selective about my targeted casting areas. I skipped large deep pools as well as small marginal pockets, and I searched for nice pockets and shelf pools that displayed three to four feet of depth. Similar to Monday on Clear Creek I coaxed a couple browns to smack the stimulator by using downstream drifts. This approach took advantage of a tailing wind, and the lighting was much more favorable for following my fly.

After the rain ended, the sky partially cleared for twenty minutes, but then a fresh set of dark clouds invaded from the west. This generated a new wave of cold wind, and I decided that I did not wish to ride out another storm. I reeled up my fly and returned to the car and called it a day.

Tuesday was a decent day given the adversity of wind, clouds and rain. I hoped that the cloud cover would initiate a blue winged olive hatch, but I never observed a single baetis mayfly. Perhaps I departed too early. I managed to land fourteen trout in four hours of fishing, but the size was somewhat disappointing. The largest fish to find my net was probably a ten inch brown trout. Once again fighting the wind was frustrating, but at least I was able to cling to a single dry fly approach. This avoided the inevitable tangles that wind and a three fly dry/dropper configuration creates. I am already looking ahead to the weather next week, when I return from a trip to Pennsylvania. 2016 may yield a few more fish before I turn my attention to the vise.

Fish Landed: 14


Clear Creek – 10/10/2016

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: A mile or two downstream from Mayhem Gulch

Clear Creek 10/10/2016 Photo Album

Normally I subscribe to the theory that change is a constant in fly fishing, but today October 10 was nearly a repeat of yesterday on Clear Creek. The high temperature on Monday was in the low seventies and slightly warmer than Sunday, but the wind was a much greater factor, and in fact when I arrived next to the stream, I almost returned home, as the wind whistled by my ears and rustled the streamside vegetation. Fortunately I persisted, and the wind velocity subsided a bit after a rough first thirty minutes. The flows and clarity remained a constant, but I chose to fish a stretch of the creek that was approximately two miles east of the segment that I covered on Sunday.

Perfect Water

Splotchy Pattern on This First Landed Fish

After I assembled my Loomis two piece five weight, I stuffed my lunch in my backpack, and I found a relatively easy path to the edge of the creek. Similar to Sunday I knotted a size 12 peacock Jake’s gulp beetle to my line, and I began casting to the likely fish holding spots along the right bank that bordered US 6. I did not wait long before a small brown trout rocketed to the surface and smashed the impostor beetle. I continued prospecting the edge of the creek from 11:30 until 3PM, and I netted sixteen trout during this time period. The fish count included three small rainbows, and the remainder were feisty brown trout. Similar to Sunday I endured numerous refusals and temporary hook ups, but these frustrations occurred with much less frequency.

The Area in Front of the Log Produced

The significant adverse factors were the wind, tricky lighting and the loss of two gulp beetles over the course of my progression up Clear Creek. The first lost beetle was the victim of an errant backcast that wrapped the fly and leader around a dead tree limb. I initially broke the leader at a surgeon’s knot, and then I actually succeeded in knocking the fly free with the aid of my wading staff, but a gust of wind swept the leader and fly past my head, and I was unable to spot it in the rushing creek. The second beetle duped a decent trout, but then it broke free, and a quick inspection revealed that the knot may have been nicked or abraded.

Pretty Brown Trout

For most of the afternoon the lighting along the right bank made following the beetle very difficult in spite of the small orange indicator strip. I compensated by wading toward the center of the stream a bit and then cast back toward the bank. This worked in some places, but inevitably there were reaches where I was unable to wade into an advantageous position.

Shelf Pool Screams Trout

Amazingly the technique that produced the most fish was utilizing a downstream drift along the opposite bank. When I spotted a section of slow moving slack water of significant depth along the south bank, I positioned myself near the top and across from the target stretch. I cast across and made frequent steady mends to offset drag, and I was shocked how often a nice brown trout would move two or even three feet, as it followed the beetle and eventually snatched it near the lip of the pool. The fish put on quite a show, and I loved the visual effect of a streaking fish following and crushing its victim. My percentage of landed fish using this approach far surpassed my success rate when casting upstream or up and across.

Perhaps Best Ever Clear Creek Catch

At around 2 o’clock on one of these downstream drifts I connected with a larger than average brown trout. This battler put quite a bend in the five weight, and when I finally scooped it in my net, I estimated that it was the largest trout that I ever landed from the small front range stream. I guessed that it measured somewhere between twelve and thirteen inches.

A Relatively Rare Rainbow Trout

Once again I enjoyed a fun action packed day on Clear Creek. Although the fish are relatively small, they are not easily fooled, and I love the challenge of reading the water types. Clear Creek Canyon offers nine or ten miles of public access, and quite a bit of the tumbling creek remains to be explored. A fun day of fishing on October 10 is welcome and highly appreciated.

Fish Landed: 16

Clear Creek – 10/09/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: MM261.5 and then upstream .5 mile

Clear Creek 10/09/2016 Photo Album

Sunday was forecast to be a gorgeous fall day with high temperatures spiking in the seventies in Denver, so I once again felt the itch to exercise my arm and toss some flies. I experienced an enjoyable day on Clear Creek on Wednesday October 5, so I decided to repeat the short drive to the canyon. I purposely avoid fishing on weekends since I reached retirement status, but I made an exception on Sunday, so I could take advantage of the dwindling nice weather.

Pretty Day on Clear Creek

I arrived at the second parking lot along the newly opened Peak to Plains Trail at 10:30AM, and after assembling my Loomis five weight rod, I walked along the shoulder of US 6 until I was .2 miles below the pedestrian bridge and just above mile marker 261.5. The temperature was in the mid to upper fifties as I tied a size 12 peacock dubbed Jake’s gulp beetle to my line. The creek was ideal with flows in the 45 cfs range, and the clarity was perfect. I could see a fisherman hovering near the bridge, but he seemed fairly stationary, and I planned on circling around him if necessary to continue my upstream progression.

I began casting the beetle along the right bank, and in a short amount of time I witnessed several refusals and a momentary hook up. I began to evaluate a fly change and also rued the likely commencement of bad karma, when a small brown trout slashed at and consumed the beetle. This put a momentary halt on my negative thoughts, and I focused anew on the process of plopping the large beetle in the ten foot band along the north edge of the stream.

Deep Coloration on This Slightly Larger Brown Trout

Between 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock I landed twelve small trout on the beetle. At one point the large foam terrestrial broke off, and I caught myself casting a line with no fly on it. I felt rather foolish, but I quickly remedied the situation and knotted a size 14 version of the same beetle to my line and resumed. I am still not sure what caused the fly to separate, but I can only guess that the line acquired an abrasion or the knot was faulty.

New Pedestrian Bridge Ahead

After a few more fish I approached the pedestrian bridge, and while some spectators paused to observe, I landed a pair of small trout. A young lady queried me as to what I caught, and I replied that it was a rainbow trout. Somehow a section of the small narrow foam indicator on the size 14 beetle broke off, and I was struggling to follow the tiny remaining spot, so I exited the creek below the bridge, and returned to the car to pick up three new peacock beetles.

Huge Head Spots on This One

From 1:00 until 2:30 I worked my way upstream from the bridge, until I finally called it a day, so I could catch the second half of the Broncos’ loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The water upstream from the bridge was not as attractive to me, as the creek bed widened, and this created more wide shallow areas and reduced the number of attractive deep pockets and runs along the bank. Clear Creek brown trout love the cover provided by the great quantity of streamside boulders along the bank.

The Productive Jake’s Gulp Beetle

Sunday was a fun day. Indecision over fly choice was never a factor, as I plopped a size 12 or 14 beetle the entire time. The fly was not perfect as evidenced by the many refusals and temporary connections, but it worked often enough to yield seventeen fish, and the anticipation of a rising fish sustained my interest for three and a half hours. If only the Broncos could have generated similar success on their Sunday endeavor on the gridiron.

Fish Landed: 17

Arkansas River – 10/06/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Spike Buck and Five Points

Arkansas River 10/06/2016 Photo Album

The view out of my windshield was miserable as I departed from Stapleton on Thursday morning October 6. I alternated the windshield wipers between intermittent and steady, and the dashboard digital thermometer displayed 38 degrees. Could I really enjoy fishing in the Arkansas River, when the weather in Denver was this adverse? My Weather Underground app forecast a high of 65 degrees in Canon City and only a very slim chance of rain. Was Weather Underground out of date compared to the national weather service?

Miraculously when I reached the Palmer Divide just north of Monument, CO, the steady rain/sleet ceased to slap my windshield, and the sun peeked from behind the clouds in the eastern sky. The thermometer registered its low of 34 degrees, and it gradually climbed through the forties and peaked at 50 degrees, when I pulled into the Arkansas River Headwaters access location at Spike Buck. I was quite relieved to confirm the accuracy of the Weather Underground app, and I prepared to fish.

When I exited the Santa Fe, I detected some air movement, but clearly wind was not the significant negative factor that frustrated me on Monday on the South Platte River. Nevertheless I pulled on my long sleeved Under Armour base layer and then topped it with my fishing shirt and raincoat. I was relatively comfortable during my morning session, although intermittent gusts of wind gave me a slight chill, so I added a fleece layer when I reached the car again in the early afternoon. Although the wind did not impact my fishing as was the case on Monday, it did accelerate in the afternoon and provided several moments of frustration.

Cheech Leech to Begin the Day

I pledged to dedicate thirty minutes to streamer stripping, so I assembled my Sage One five weight and attached the reel that contains my sinking tip line. I was not ready to devote an entire day to streamer fishing, so I dropped my five weight floating line in my backpack, and then I sauntered along the shoulder of US 50 until I was .3 miles below the Spike Buck parking lot. I dropped down to the edge of the river and knotted an articulated cheech leech to my line. The river was rushing along at a bit over 300 cfs, and it was crystal clear, as I began tossing the weighted streamer into the attractive deep pockets. I experimented with upstream casts with a jigging action, up and across slings with fast and slow strips, and downstream dangles. I tried to strip the animated marabou streamer along large boulders and typical brown trout hiding places, but I never detected a bump or follow. After twenty minutes of arm exercise I snipped off the cheech leech and replaced it with a black woolly bugger, but the results mimicked the first twenty minutes.

Looks Fishy

Having fulfilled my streamer commitment, I shifted direction and swapped the sinking tip line for my floating line. I invested twenty minutes to configure my line with the deep nymphing arrangement that Taylor Edrington taught me during a guided trip several years ago. I removed my tapered leader and tied a six inch section of 0X to the end of the fly line, and then connected the other end to a thingamabobber. I fumbled in my frontpack and uncovered a five foot section of 3X, and I knotted this to the thingamabobber as well. The addition of a split shot, 20 incher, and hares ear nymph completed my set up, and I began to lob casts to the deep holes, pockets and runs along the south side of the Arkansas River.

20 Incher in the Mouth

Between eleven o’clock and noon I managed to land two brown trout in the twelve inch range. One snatched the 20 incher, as I raised my rod at the end of the drift, and the other slightly smaller catch selected the hares ear nymph. I was pleased to register a pair of landed fish, but the action was slow, and I covered quite a bit of productive water in order to get on the fish count scoreboard.

Wet and Effective 20 Incher

After lunch I continued the same approach, until I reached the Spike Buck parking lot , and during this time I netted four additional brown trout. All of these landed fish grabbed the 20 incher, and the other fly on the end of my line did not contribute. I replaced the hares ear with a small baetis imitation that I purchased from Royal Gorge Angler in the spring, as I hoped that the trout would be dialed in to active blue winged olive nymphs. Taylor Edrington recommended the fly, since it sported a loop wing case, and he believed that the fat thorax was a key triggering characteristic.

The Edge Was Productive

Unfortunately on Thursday the loop wing feature did not interest the trout, so I once again made a change and replaced the BWO nymph with a Craven soft hackle emerger. I experienced success with this shiny fluoro fiber imitation during past fall blue winged olive hatches, so I decided to give it a try. The Arkansas River trout threw a penalty flag on the soft hackle emerger, and it did not yield any fish during this October 2016 outing.

Lovely Spots

When I reached the car, I decided to move to another location. I drove west on US 50 until I was just above the Salt Lick access point. I remembered this as a productive spot from previous spring ventures, but the descent was steep over some large rocks, and the river bed was narrow and quite swift. I chose the location because I was certain that most fishermen avoid it because of access difficulty, but I only lasted twenty minutes, and then I realized that it was not the right type of water for October 2016. I cautiously scaled the very steep bank, and executed a U-turn and returned to the Five Points location.

Five Points would be my last stand. I continued with the nymph configuration, but I removed the unproductive soft hackle emerger and replaced it with a salvation nymph. The swap yielded a temporary hook up in a moderate run, but just as I felt weight, I saw the side of the ten inch fish flash, and then it was gone. Shortly after this brief connection, I snagged a rock in a place where I could not wade to a position to salvage the flies, and I ended up breaking off the salvation. Salvation nymphs and lost flies seem to be a repeating story.

I decided to replace the salvation nymph with an ultra zug bug, since I recalled success with this simple fly in the autumn in previous years. Similar to the salvation, the zug bug produced a momentary connection, as it began to swing it in the nice bend run next to the island above Five Points. This fish felt a bit larger, but I did not get a glimpse of it. At this point farther progress involved climbing around a large vertical rock or wading to the island in the swift current. Rather than undertaking these challenges, I ambled back to the parking lot, and then I returned to the stream below some picnic tables. While at the bend I observed a flurry of blue winged olives taking flight, so I reverted to the soft hackle emerger, but the gambit proved unsuccessful, and I did not spot any additional mayflies in the air.

By now it was just past 3PM, so I reeled up my line and called it quits. The wind velocity escalated, and I was quite weary from a day of casting the five weight, and a significant hatch did not appear to be in the future. I managed to enjoy a day of fishing when remaining along the Front Range would have likely meant forsaking my beloved pastime, so that was a positive. Six brown trout over four plus hours of fishing is rather mediocre, but as usual, I was in the Colorado outdoors, and I took advantage of the dwindling opportunities to fish in 2016.

Fish Landed: 6