Monthly Archives: March 2017

Boulder Creek – 03/30/2017

Time: 2:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 03/30/2017 Photo Album

After three days in Wyoming, I anxiously looked forward to some rest and relaxation upon my return to Denver, CO. However, when I reviewed the weather forecast, I noticed that a winter storm was expected to enter the state on Friday and continue into Saturday with colder and seasonal temperatures following. I could not resist the temptation to take advantage of a beautiful spring day on Thursday with temperatures spiking in the low sixties, so I made a spur of the moment decision and packed the car for a quick trip to Boulder Creek in Boulder, CO.

Jane decided to accompany, so she could complete her walk on the nice trail along the creek, and we managed to depart by 1:30 after a brief lunch. After making the drive and assembling my Orvis four weight, I completed a short hike on the Boulder Creek trail until I was at least .5 mile below my parking space. The temperature was indeed 64 degrees, but a huge gray cloud moved over Boulder and blocked the sun for much of my time on the water. It created one of those illusions, where the gray sky and slight breeze made it seem colder than the actual air temperature. The creek meanwhile was extremely low and flowing at approximately 10 CFS. I correctly surmised that the shallow water and extreme clarity would translate to challenging fishing conditions.

Where I Began

In deference to my accurate assessment I began my fishing venture with a size 12 olive stimulator and trailed a beadhead hares ear nymph. During the first hour I moved upstream cautiously, observed several rare riseforms in slow smooth pools, and scattered several fish. The day was evolving much differently than my previous visit on March 18. Deploying a light stimulator as my top fly was a departure from my standard operating procedure, which dictated a foam attractor, but even this light offering seemed to be spooking the fish in the clear pond-like pools. Actually the splashy entry of the trailing beadhead was most likely the offending culprit, so I made an adjustment and tied a small size 16 gray adult caddis to my line. I was certain that this unobtrusive earth toned fly would turn the tide, but it was ignored by the picky stream residents.

The caddis was difficult to follow in the glare created by the partial sun, and I reached a nice deep run that carved a path along some large bank side boulders, so I replaced the single fly with a size 10 Jake’s gulp beetle and once again trailed the beadhead hares ear. Nothing. I added the dropper because I was casting to a short section where the current velocity masked the splashy entry of the nymph, but when I moved to the next pool, I made the mistake of retaining the invasive hares ear.

Finally I arrived at a very sweet pool with a nice deep angled run at the top that flowed against the south bank of the stream. I paused to observe, and I was rewarded with a view of two or three rises on the left side of the deep center current. I was not certain what the object of affection was for these surface feeding fish, but I guessed that a sparse blue winged olive hatch was in progress. The significant clue was the overcast sky, as BWO’s seem to prefer low light to make their grand entrance into the adult stage of life. Sure enough as I gazed at the pool, I spotted two tiny mayflies, as they slowly fluttered up from the water surface.

I was reluctant to convert to a single CDC blue winged olive given the riffled surface and frustrating glare, so I compromised by knotting a size 14 gray stimulator to my line, and then I added a size 18 beadhead soft hackle emerger to imitate the active blue winged olive nymphs. The move partially worked. On two consecutive early casts I spotted rings near the vicinity of my stimulator, so I set the hook and momentarily connected with a pair of fish. But the Boulder Creek trout were simply teasing me, as the fish escaped after a brief tussle. I suspected that the trout were refusing my large top fly and ignoring the trailing emerger which was intended to match their food source, but I persisted with a few more casts, and finally a drift right down the heart of the main current rewarded me. I quickly fought the eleven inch brown trout and determined that it struck the stimulator, before it bounced free, just as I raised its head to the rim of my net.

Surely the two long distance releases and the thrashing of a hooked fish must have locked the jaws of any remaining inhabitants, but I noted another stray rise, so I lofted another cast to the top of the riffles. Again a rise occurred where I estimated my fly to be, so I reacted with a hook set. Needless to say I was quite disappointed, when I learned that the brown trout in my net was foul hooked by the soft hackle emerger. This was confirmation that the first two fish likely exhibited the same last minute rejection resulting in being foul hooked by the trailer.

The fifteen minute mayfly emergence ended, and I concluded that I disturbed the hot spot beyond repair, so I continued on my path upstream. During the remaining hour I covered quite a bit of water, but I mostly repeated the experience of the first hour. I limited my casting to deep faster water and skipped the smooth pools, but even this fishing selectivity failed to yield another fish. Toward the end a pair of ducks paddled ahead of me, and each time I drew close they flapped their wings and moved upstream to the next pool. This repeated disturbance was certainly not helping my cause given the challenging low water conditions.

Nice Angled Pool

I reeled up my line at 4:30 and made a brief hike back to the car, where I found Jane huddled in the passenger seat. She agreed with my assessment that the gray sky made it seem colder than 64 degrees. After I pulled off my waders and tucked my rod in the case, we drove to the Celestial Seasonings tea room, where we stocked up on mountain chai, which has become extremely scarce in the Denver supermarkets. Next we searched the maps app for local brew pubs, and we settled on Upslope, as it was merely 2.7 miles away from Celestial Seasonings. I ordered an ozo coffee brown ale for Jane and a citra pale ale for myself, and we quaffed our brews inside in front of a huge wall diagram that depicted the evolution of various beer types.

One trout landed in two hours of fishing was certainly a slow catch rate, however, I enjoyed the experience and the challenge of overcoming the difficult conditions. The mountain chai and Upslope pale ale were a nice conclusion to a fun afternoon.

Fish Landed: 1

North Platte River – 03/29/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 12:00PM

Location: Alcova Afterbay

North Platte River 03/29/2017 Photo Album

Steve and I relaxed and took our time on Wednesday morning after our extended brush with adverse weather on Tuesday. The forecast projected snow over night, but the full extent of frozen water was the thin layer of ice on Steve’s windshield. After a quick breakfast at the Hampton Inn, we checked out and drove thirty miles to the Alcova afterbay, where we ended our fishing adventure on Tuesday. The last hour on Tuesday was the highlight of our day, so it did not take much to persuade us to return for some wade fishing prior to returning to Denver, CO.

The sky was once again blue, and the temperature hovered around forty degrees, when we climbed into our waders at the crude boat launch at the afterbay. Both Steve and I kept our rods in a rigged state, since they were fitted with Greg’s two egg set up. On Tuesday Greg pointed toward a large post protruding from the river forty yards above our parking spot as a place we should check out, so that was our eventual target destination. Initially however an attractive deep run near the boat launch beckoned us, so we waded into the river and covered the current seam before we migrated to the post area.

I used my steelhead approach, as I fanned casts close and then progressively farther out until I covered a section of attractive water. If fish did not materialize, I took three steps downstream and repeated the exercise. I duplicated this cycle five or six times with no positive results, and then I moved close to the space of a fisherman who arrived after Steve and I. This was my clue to change locations, so I circled above Steve and descended a steep bank, until I was directly across from the thick protruding post.

A nice deep trough curled between me and the post, so I lobbed some casts to the top and allowed the eggs to tumble through the deep area, but again I was shutout in my attempt to log a fish on the tally sheet. I contemplated a move, and I waded out below the post and then upriver, until I was across from a nice deep riffle. I was now casting toward the north, and I avoided the annoying sun glare that affected me when casting from the bank. I made five or six nice drifts through the moderately deep riffles, and on the seventh pass, just as the eggs began to lift at the end, I felt a jolt and instantly set the hook. Imagine my state of shock, when I witnessed a large silver missile, as it shrugged and charged about in the water surrounding me. I was quite pleased to be using a six weight rod and a 2X tippet.

Gorgeous Rainbow from the Afterbay on Wednesday

After a brief but spirited battle I lifted the head of the rainbow trout and nudged it into my under sized net. The fish was longer than the opening of my net and created a significant sag. I estimated my catch to be an eighteen inch rainbow, but more impressively it was well fed and exhibited a large girth. I captured a few photos and then smiled as the aquatic beast swam off to resume its life in the Alcova afterbay.

By now Steve moved up to the tail of a long slow moving pool above the riffles in front of me. He was casting from the bank, so I progressed directly upstream until I was above his position, and I cast back toward the bank. I covered the slow deep water in a manner similar to the faster run at the start of my day. I fanned casts of increasing length, and then after I covered a section, I moved up the river three or four steps and repeated. I made one full cycle of casts and added some steps, and then once again as the eggs reached the end of their drift and began to lift ever so slightly, I felt a hard grab and instinctively reacted with a hook set. Again I was thrilled feel the throb of a live stream resident on the end of my line, and the new combatant fought nearly as valiantly as its larger cousin.

Unable to Grip Around the Large Body

Eventually I lifted the rainbow into my net, and I obtained a good look at my prize. This trout was around fourteen inches long, but it displayed the shape of a bluegill. The huge wide body behind the head prevented me from wrapping my hand to gain a grip. I was amazed at the steep upward and downward taper of the body, as it moved away from the small head.

By now the sun was higher in the sky, and the temperature crept upward, and Wednesday evolved into a very nice day. Steve continued prospecting the tail of the deep pool, while I waded back downstream and circled around the post, and then I hiked along the north bank toward the bridge and dam upstream. I prospected some marginal areas, but I was not able to spot any fish, so after some unproductive exploration, I returned and stood on the high bank above Steve. I sighted quite a few large trout across and below him, but they were hovering over some light colored round gravel openings in the river bed, so I assumed they were spawning and not interested in Steve’s offerings.

Steve Focused

Steve landed one nineteen inch rainbow, while I was exploring upstream, and then he hooked and played another beauty that escaped, before he maneuvered it within a rod’s length of his net. He endured a lengthy period with no response to his flies, so he was ready to try something different. We decided to walk back down river to a position across from the bottom tip of the gravel island. When we arrived, we discovered one of the two fishermen that were below me initially. She was waded into the river waist deep, so we debated moving to the deep run below her, but the river dropped off rapidly in that area, and we were not certain we could fish it effectively.

Pretty View

I glanced at my watch and noted it was nearly noon, so we decided to call it a day and returned to the Subaru. We quickly removed our waders and restored our rods to their rod cases and began the four hour return drive to Denver. Although two fish in three hours did not represent scintillating action, I was quite pleased to land two very nice rainbow trout while wade fishing. Our wade fishing experience on Monday resulted in a shutout, so two large hard fighting rainbow trout on Wednesday was a pleasant surprise.

Fish Landed: 2

North Platte Wednesday: 2013, 2014, 2015

North Platte River – 03/28/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: From Red Butte Ranch to the western edge of Casper; the Alcova Afterbay.

North Platte River 03/28/2017 Photo Album

As usual Steve and I awoke on Tuesday morning in a state of anxious anticipation. The river float with guide Greg was the apex of our North Platte trip, and we were on the verge of completing another day of drifting over thousands of hungry rainbow trout per stream mile. Two pieces of negative news, however, clouded our optimism. The first was the weather forecast described in my previous post. Casper weather projected to be a high of 41 degrees with a 90% chance of rain over the entire day and then converting to snow in the evening. We also learned that the much anticipated flush took place earlier than usual and ended a week ago. Despite these discouraging factors we pinned our hopes on the vast experience and knowledge of our guide Greg. He did not disappoint us in any of our previous float adventures (2013, 2014, and 2015) with Wyoming Fly Fishing.

After a continental breakfast at the Hampton Inn Steve and I completed the twenty minute drive to the small shop operated by Wyoming Fly Fishing. We met Greg and paid our fee for the day trip, while Greg assembled our rods and configured our lines with the traditional egg and worm arrangement. Steve’s line displayed two eggs, while mine was adorned with a butterscotch egg and a purple leech. We jumped in Greg’s truck, and he proceeded west to the Red Butte Ranch (where he lives), and we launched from there.

Gray Grey Reef

In a bow to meteorological accuracy, the sky was an imposing slate gray, and low hanging clouds shrouded the mountain range to the south. The dashboard thermometer registered 39 degrees and small water droplets pelted the windshield on a fairly frequent basis. I wore a warm UnderArmour layer, a fishing shirt, a fleece cardigan, a heavy down parka, and my raincoat. I felt like the Michelin man stuffed in a rain shell. My head gear of choice was the New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and I capped off my aversion to cold with my down ski mittens filled with hand warmers. Sadly even with this massive compilation of fleece, down and warmth generating technology, I suffered through various stages of near hypothermia. The worst factor over the course of the day was the famous Wyoming wind, which howled up the river and into our faces for nearly the entire eight hours.


Avoiding the Wind

We launched and our fishing approach followed a consistent formula over the course of the day. I began in the bow of the boat, and then Steve and I switched positions after lunch. The water was somewhat colored, and this enabled us to cast a fairly short distance from the boat; rarely more than fifteen to twenty feet. The rules were simple. Both fishermen were required to cast to the same side of the boat, Greg directed our casts, and we set at the slightest sign of pause or dip in the indicator. 90% of the time the set was initiated by the flies snagging into aquatic vegetation or rocks, but often enough to maintain focus, the hook set resulted in a throbbing angry fish.

During the morning I landed two rainbow trout, while Steve demonstrated his boat fishing prowess by netting 8-10 fish. Greg exchanged the leech for a second neon green egg part way through the morning, but the change did not seem to improve my fortunes. I also registered a couple foul hooked fish and three or four momentary connections. During the morning I suffered through several periods of exceptional chill, when the wind gusted in my face and shivers emanated from all levels of my spine. At noon Greg pulled the drift boat into a small nook at the top of an island, where we benefited from the shelter of a high bank while we gobbled our lunch.

My Fishing Mates

Between 12:30 and 4PM we covered the remaining portion of the river, and I added two more rainbows to my straggling fish count. The thirty fish days of 2013 and 2014 were distant memories, and all I could contemplate was a hot shower and delicious dinner. Steve meanwhile fared better than me in the afternoon, as he moved the fish count to twelve, but even this elevated level of action was insufficient to take his mind of the ridiculous Wyoming wind chill. Greg did his best to find high banks that could shelter us from the fierce wind, but the river only offered a few of these natural wind breaks.

As we approached 4 o’clock, Greg kicked in the outboard motor and made fast work of the remaining slow moving unending pools. He then suggested that we move to the afterbay, and after loading the boat on the trailer, he drove us both to the Wyoming Fly Fishing headquarters. We jumped in Steve’s car and followed Greg to the end of the lane at Red Butte Ranch, where we parked the car and rejoined Greg in his truck. From there we drove another ten miles to the Alcova afterbay, and Greg launched the Adipose drift boat at a crude boat ramp. Initially Steve and I were fearful that Greg planned to drift from the Grey Reef launch back to Red Butte, a float of easily two hours, but then we realized what he was up to. The thought of another two hours in the icy cold weather was enough to crush our spirits.

Number 5 Was This Beauty

Ultimately the last hour at Alcova was the best of the day. We embarked on the repetitive practice of drifting seventy-five yards on either side of a long narrow island across from the boat launch. 75% of the passes were on the side closest to the crude parking area, and the remainder were in the slow shallow channel on the south side. During this time I experienced another foul hooked fish and several long distance releases, but more importantly I landed two impressive rainbows that perhaps represented the largest fish of any of my visits to the North Platte. The first was a fat seventeen inch rainbow that displayed bright spawning colors, and my last fish of the day was a trophy to remember. The red-sided slab was in the twenty-two inch range, but the weight was even more impressive, as Greg estimated 4-5 pounds. Clearly this fish was not counting its calories.

22″ Beast at the End of the Day

The time at Alcova salvaged an otherwise disappointing day for me, although Steve reached double digits and registered a respectable outing. For some reason the weather also improved during the last hour, and this only served to enhance my positive experience. Six fish in eight hours of fishing is certainly a sub-par catch rate, however, it is hard to overlook a twenty-two inch lunker to cap off a bitterly cold and windy adventure. Needless to say a hot shower was a welcome conclusion to a frigid day on a Wyoming river.

Fish Landed: 6

North Platte River – 03/27/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Grey Reef

North Platte River 03/27/2017 Photo Album

We skipped 2016, but my friend Steve and I made a trip to the Grey Reef stretch of the North Platte River in each of the previous three years. In 2013 and 2014 we took advantage of a deal offered by Wyoming Fly Fishing at the Fly Fishing Show in Denver. We enjoyed a one day guided float trip on the North Platte for a reduced price, if we scheduled the trip before the end of March. We gambled on tolerable weather and completed both trips on days when the high temperature climbed into the fifties. During the first two years our visit to Grey Reef coincided with the annual flush, when the reservoir managers released a huge slug of water for three or four hours each morning. The surge of water cleansed the gravel and rocks on the riverbed to enhance the spawning habitat for the rainbow trout. In addition the rush of high water dislodged worms and eggs from the sediment and bank, and this created a natural buffet for the resident trout. Our numbers during both years reflected the impact of the flush, as we each landed in excess of thirty fish.

During 2015 we were unable to schedule a trip for the end of March, so we made an appearance around the middle of April. Compared to any normal standard of fishing, we experienced superlative success, but our fish counts dwindled from 30 to the 15-20 range, and we attributed this circumstance to the absence of the flush.

For 2017 we once again exploited the show discount and booked our float for March 28. When we made this commitment, we hoped that it would once again coincide with the cleansing phenomenon referred to as the flush. Every early season North Platte River trip followed a similar calendar. We drove to Casper, WY on Monday morning, checked into our lodging, and then fished the Grey Reef tailwater on Monday afternoon. Tuesday was the highlight of our adventure, as we drifted the river below the dam with our guide Greg. On Wednesday morning we wade fished various segments of the North Platte River in the area, and typically we called it quits and made the return drive during the afternoon.

Grey Reef from Parking Lot Side

2017 would not be an exception to our historical practice. Steve picked me up at 7AM on Monday morning, and we made the four hour trek to Casper, where we checked into the Hampton Inn. After a small lunch we continued west, until we pulled into the parking lot next to the Grey Reef tailwater between the dam and boat launch. Monday was a pleasant day with the temperature in the fifties and a clear blue sky, although the weather gods threw a bit of adversity our way with the ever present Wyoming wind. Quite a few fishermen were already casting on both sides of the river, but we found some space between the parking lot and the boat launch and began our quest for explosive North Platte rainbow trout.

Pine Squirrel Leech

I began my search for a red striped bullet with an apricot otter egg and a pine squirrel leech, but after a reasonable test, I remained without a fish. I exchanged the leech for a red San Juan worm, and this move failed to improve my fortunes. Steve experienced similar luck, so we decided to change our scenery, and we hiked across the dam to the opposite side of the river. I staked out some very inviting runs on the other side of the narrow island below the dam, but once again my egg and worm offering was totally ignored.

Apricot Egg

After another half hour elapsed I exchanged the San Juan worm for a vanilla woolly bugger, but again the change was ignored. In a final act of desperation I removed both flies and knotted a sparkle minnow to my line below a split shot. The shiny synthetic bait imitation looked amazing to me, but the fish in the river had other thoughts. I manipulated the minnow with a variety of retrieves, but the river trout population was absent as far as I was concerned.

South Bank on the Opposite Side of the Narrow Island

By 4PM we ran out of real estate on the south side of the river, so Steve and I returned to the north bank next to the parking lot. We dabbled a bit in the runs above the boat launch, but by now we were both bored with the lack of action, so we called it quits and returned to the car and ultimately to our hotel room.

Monday was an inauspicious start to our North Platte River trip, but we were confident that our guide Greg would know the secret to attracting the wild rainbows to our offerings on Tuesday. Our main concern became the foreboding weather forecast that stared back at me from my weather app. Tuesday’s high was projected to be forty-one degrees with a 90% chance of rain or snow over the entire day. My priorities shifted from fish count to survival, as I rolled into bed on Monday night.

Fish Landed: 0

Clear Creek – 03/23/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 03/23/2017 Photo Album

I am beginning to understand that early spring fishing on freestone drainages such as Clear Creek is vastly different from tailwaters such as South Boulder Creek and the North Fork of the St. Vrain. Even on small streams a dam holds back ice cold snow melt and moderates the stream temperatures below, thus creating an artificially more conducive environment for fishing for cold water residents.

After a spectacular day on South Boulder Creek on Wednesday, I scrolled through a series of photos of decent trout posted by flyhunter333 on Instagram. Flyhunter333 indicated that he enjoyed excellent results fishing in Clear Creek within the town of Idaho Springs. I was reluctant to make a trip to Clear Creek after my last visit yielded only a couple fish. On that visit I tossed my flies among small icebergs and carefully negotiated around ice shelves, as I waded upstream. I concluded that the narrow canyon and freestone nature of the stream made it a poor early spring choice. Flyhunter’s evidence of success, however, convinced me to give it another try.

Fish Number One

I arrived in Idaho Springs at 10:45, and after I assembled my Loomis four weight, I was on the water by 11AM. I began my quest for Clear Creek trout with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a beadhead hares ear nymph. Early in my outing I covered some very attractive deep pockets and runs, but I was unable to interest any resident fish in my offerings. I observed a couple refusals to the fat Albert, and I considered this a bad sign. Eventually a small rainbow latched on to the trailing hares ear, and shortly thereafter a small brown trout darted to the surface and mauled the fat Albert. The brown created a huge snarl, when it twisted the trailing nymph around its body, so I relaxed on a rock and unraveled the monofilament mess.

What a Snarl

I was dissatisfied with the slow amount of action, so I added a salad spinner as a third fly on a dropper tied to the eye of the hares ear. This move seemed to increase the interest of the trout, but unproductive drifts were replaced by several momentary connections to the small size 20 salad spinner. The wind became a significant factor, but I persisted and moved the fish counter to five, before I climbed the bank and sat at a picnic table in the park to consume my small lunch. Two of fish three through five snatched the hares ear from the drift, and another small brown crushed the fat Albert.

Downstream Look

After lunch I approached a very attractive riffle of moderate depth, and I was able to spot at least three relatively large trout by Clear Creek standards. I flicked a cast with the three fly arrangement above a visible trout, but it totally ignored the fake food, as it tumbled by. I could not resist the temptation to focus on these fish, since my success utilizing the prospecting method was not paying huge dividends. I snipped off the flies and tied an olive stimulator to my line and then reconnected the beadhead hares ear. Certainly this deadly combination would create interest. On the first cast a small brown trout surfaced and refused the size 14 stimulator, and on subsequent drifts the visible fish paid no attention to my intruding offerings.

I eventually surrendered to the sighted fish, and continued my upstream progression. The stimulator was not attracting interest, so I exchanged it for a size 10 Chernobyl ant, and I added a small baetis nymph with a green glass bead below the hares ear. Again I was frustrated to note two refusals to the Chenobyl. During this time frame I made another inconsequential change, as I swapped the glass bead baetis for an ultra zug bug.

I was now above a bridge, and the creek was narrowing, and I concluded there was limited decent water before I would be forced to reverse my direction. The sky began to display large gray clouds, and the wind morphed from a nuisance to a significant negative factor. I pondered my situation, and I decided to experiment with an indicator nymph configuration. The rainbow trout seemed to be hugging the bottom, and I hoped to gain a deeper drift with the split shot added to the beadheads. The indicator set up also offered no distracting surface fly to induce refusals and fisherman frustration. I selected a beadhead hares ear and an emerald caddis pupa as my deep nymph offerings.

Another Feisty Rainbow Trout

The move paid off, as I landed two additional rainbow trout, as I worked my way back downstream. I was very selective and cast only to deep slow moving water next to the faster current. In addition to the two landed fish, I connected briefly with another pair, and one of these felt a bit heavier than the previous fish on my line. The emerald caddis pupa produced one of the two fish landed on the indicator set up. Based on my final forty-five minutes of fishing, I concluded that fishing deep with a nymphing rig was a better approach on an icy cold freestone stream such as Clear Creek. Seven small fish in 2.5 hours did not measure up to Wednesday on South Boulder Creek, but I achieved a moderate amount of success, discovered that an indicator nymphing approach was preferred, and explored a new section of the creek. Most importantly I was fishing on a stream on March 23.

Fish Landed: 7

South Boulder Creek – 03/22/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 03/22/2017 Photo Album

The summer-like weather was expected to continue through Thursday, March 23, and I was quite anxious to take advantage before winter and snow returned. The DWR website indicated that the water managers increased the flows from Gross Reservoir from 14 CFS to 21 CFS, so I selected South Boulder Creek as my destination on Wednesday, March 22. Wednesday proved to be a great choice for fishing, as another beautiful spring day unfolded with mostly sunny skies. The temperature when I began descending the trail at the parking lot was 48 degrees, and when I returned at 3PM, it peaked around 70 degrees. This is very ideal for March 22 in Colorado.

Low Flows Expose Numerous Boulders

When I caught a glimpse of the stream it was obviously fairly low, but at least it displayed uninterrupted flows. At 14 CFS the stream looks like a rock garden separated by intermittent puddles. An advantage of the lower flows is the ability to move through narrow canyon areas unimpeded by vertical rock walls, and for this reason I chose to hike away from the parking lot a good distance.

Juicy Deep Run

During my Wednesday fishing venture I landed twenty-seven trout, although the largest fish was only 12 inches. Despite the small size of my catch, I experienced great fun, as I moved frequently and plopped the dry/dropper in every enticing spot. Initially I focused on deep pockets and runs, but I was later surprised to learn that the fish were spread out in the riffles of moderate depth as well. All the landed fish were brown trout except for two small rainbows, and this ratio was unusual compared to my past experience in South Boulder Creek. I speculated that the rainbows were in a spawning mindset, and food was not a priority.

Sparkling Hares Ear Was Irresistible

I began my search for trout with an olive stimulator trailing a beadhead hares ear, and I landed four small browns between 11AM and 11:45, at which point I took a lunch break. After lunch I learned that I mistakenly focused on the deep pools in the morning. I swapped the stimulator for a yellow fat Albert, retained the hares ear, and added a second dropper the the form of a salad spinner. In the next half hour I boosted the fish count from four to thirteen, as I fished the three fly combination in the riffles of moderate depth, while I was cautious to stay back so as not to startle the fish.

Zoomed in on the Fat Albert

Amazingly fish materialized from nowhere to snatch the hares ear and the salad spinner. During this time the salad spinner accounted for three fish and several momentary hookups, but then it unraveled. I was forced to replace it, and I recently spied several small gray stoneflies fluttering about, so I chose a size 18 soft hackle emerger. The next period of fishing suggested that I over analyzed the situation, as the soft hackle emerger failed to produce. In retrospect I should have continued with the salad spinner, since it yielded three trout and several momentary hookups.

Very Nice

Between 12:30 and 3:00 I covered a large amount of water and built the fish count from thirteen to 27. During the afternoon the fish began to look to the surface more as evidenced by three browns that crushed the fat Albert. Early in the afternoon I replaced the soft hackle emerger with a mercury flashback black beauty, and this diminutive fly yielded one brown trout. Later I replaced the black beauty with an ultra zug bug, and two fish embraced that move by snatching the peacock imitation from the drift.

Quite a Pool

The final fish of the day was a small rainbow that rose to the surface and sipped a gray caddis. Just prior to this dry fly success, I broke off the three flies on a backcast, so I replaced the dry/dropper rig with the gray caddis. Fortunately I recovered the three flies that broke off, when I spotted the large foam attractor peeking up from a gap in two large boulders.

In summary I landed three fish on the salad spinner, one on a black beauty, two on the ultra zug bug, three on the fat Albert and one on a caddis adult. My workhorse fly, the beadhead hares ear delivered seventeen trout to my net, and it substantiated its position as my favorite all season fly. It was a fabulous early spring day. The temperature was in the sixties, the fish were hungry, and I did not encounter another soul while I fished. I am not about to quibble over the size of the fish.

Fish Landed: 27


Boulder Creek – 03/18/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Within the City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 03/18/2017 Photo Album

After a fantastic day on Tuesday that featured five landed trout in three hours including four rainbows in the fifteen to sixteen inch range, I was quite anxious to return to a stream. Originally I planned to make a trip to a local creek on Thursday, but then I discovered that my Bucknell Bison were playing West Virginia University in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. I concluded that many additional days of fishing were ahead of me, but the opportunities to see Bucknell in the tournament were infrequent. I spent Thursday afternoon in front of the TV set in spite of spectacular weather. Unfortunately Bucknell lost by six points, but it was a great game, and I was proud of the effort put forth by my alma mater. Bucknell is much smaller than WVU, and it does not compromise its academic standards for sports, so hanging tough with the Mountaineers was quite an achievement.

My calendar displayed commitments for Friday, so the next viable weekday available for a fishing trip was Wednesday, March 22. Normally I spurn weekend fishing, but eight days was too long to wait for another chance to wet a line, and the summer weather in March was too spectacular to bypass. I considered my options for a Saturday trip. Clear Creek flows were spiking in the afternoon, and this reflected the impact of low level snow melt. My success fishing among ice chunks and run off was limited. I consider South Boulder Creek my home stream, but flows were trickling through the canyon at 14 CFS. The combination of low flows and potential crowds at the popular tailwater made visiting South Boulder Creek a risky proposition. The Big Thompson flows were reasonable, but this is another fishery that receives above average pressure on weekends. The North Fork of the St. Vrain remained an option, and I experienced decent success there on two earlier trips. The last option that I reviewed was Boulder Creek. The stream gauge at Orodell at the bottom of the canyon was not displaying a reading, but then I remembered that my new friend, Trevor, suggested Boulder Creek within the city.

I decided to explore new water once again. Trevor would not devote trips and hours to Boulder Creek, if it did not contain trout, and the trendy place to fish on a balmy late winter day in March was more than likely the mountains. I gambled that most fishermen would rush to the higher elevations and ignore the more mundane flows within the City of Boulder.

Starting Point on Boulder Creek in City of Boulder, CO

I arrived at a parking space near Boulder Creek at 11AM on Saturday morning, and after rigging my Orvis Access four weight, I hiked .5 mile downstream from a bridge and paused to assess the water. Boulder Creek within the city limits is much more placid than the tumbling mountain torrent that passes through the canyon to the west. My starting point was just below a gorgeous deep pool that contained a deep center current and shelf pools on either side. I tied a size 14 medium olive body stimulator to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear on a two foot dropper, and I warmed my arm up by casting to some marginal runs, while I progressed toward the aforementioned pool.

Nice Early Catch

On the third cast to the center of the pool, a small brown trout darted from its holding lie and snatched the hares ear near the lip. I was excited to break the ice early, and cautious optimism flushed my thoughts. I continued with some additional unproductive casts, and as I was doing this, I observed quite a few large midges hovering near the water. I judged them to be size 20, and for the midge species in flowing water they bordered on giants. One rise is not enough to suggest a switch to a dry fly, but it did prompt me to add another length of tippet to the hares ear, and I knotted a mercury flashback size 20 black beauty to the end of my line.

As I began casting to the left shelf pool, a cluster of midges appeared and shortly thereafter I witnessed a couple more rises. Surely these feeding fish could not ignore my three fly offering, could they?. I did not wait long for the answer. Within the next forty-five minutes my net felt the weight of five additional brown trout. The largest was eleven inches, and all except one nabbed the hares ear, but I enjoyed the fast action in the small stream on a warm weekend in March despite the small size of the fish. The black beauty produced the brown trout that ignored the hares ear.

Another Nice Wild Fish

Before I paused for lunch at 12:30 I continued upstream and added two additional brown trout to the fish count. Another nipped the black beauty, and the other fell for the hares ear nymph. Each fish emerged from the tail of nice deep slow moving pools. Boulder Creek exhibited a nice mix of small deep pools next to undercut banks and logs, as well as deep runs that fed the pools and some narrow fast moving chutes.

After lunch I progressed upstream, as I prospected the likely spots, and I landed two more small browns on the hares ear. The slowing catch rate correlated with the rising temperature, but I was thrilled to reach the double digit milestone. Meanwhile the bike path was buzzing with all manner of traffic, as the summer weather brought out the walkers, skateboarders, inline skaters, dog walkers, joggers and cyclists in abundant quantities. For the most part the outdoor enthusiasts did not bother my fishing other than the occasional splashing dog.

Hares Ear Victim

By 1:30 I approached a deep pool that represented the most attractive fishing structure of the day. As I paused to assess my approach, I spotted a decent fish resting along the inside edge of the shelf pool created by the main current. The fish appeared to be actively feeding, as it made occasional sudden moves to intercept items from the underwater drift. I made five or six passes with my dry/dropper configuration, and each was ignored by my sighted target. I decided to change tactics, and I swapped the stimulator for a yellow fat Albert to support two size 14 beadhead nymphs. I retained the beadhead hares ear and added a beadhead ultra zug bug to the end of my line, but this change in strategy had no impact on the trout eight feet in front of me.

After ten drifts along the current seam and through the short pool I moved on, and I managed to fool a small brown trout that snatched the ultra zug bug during the next thirty minutes. The sun was now high in the sky, and the air temperature climbed toward the eighty degree mark. The bare limbs of the numerous streamside trees afforded scant shade, although the narrow shadows from the branches and limbs caused my top fly to alternate between sunlight and darkness. On several drifts I reacted to the illusory disappearance of the top fly, when it transitioned from sun to shade.

Pink Wing Post

Near the end of my day I encountered a long slow moving pool, and I was excited to notice a series of dimpling rises in the flats twenty-five feet above me. I quickly concluded that the splash down of the fat Albert would scatter the feeding fish, so I undertook the time consuming task of removing the three fly dry/dropper set up. I surmised that the fish were consuming tiny midges, but I was not ready to resort to a size 24 griffiths gnat, so I opted instead for a size 18 black parachute ant with a pink wing post. I stripped out sufficient line to shoot a longer than normal cast, and on the second attempt I checked my rod tip high and allowed the fly and leader to flutter down above the position of one of the risers. Sip. A quick reflex enabled me to lift my rod, and a spunky ten inch brown trout frolicked on the end of my four weight. I quickly brought it to my net and snapped a photo and released it back to its natural environment. I ended my day with a wild brown trout that sipped an ant in a smooth slow flowing pool. It was a fitting conclusion to a warm late winter day on Boulder Creek.

Fish Landed: 12

Ant in Corner of Lip

Brush Creek – 03/14/2017

Time: 2:30PM – 5:30PM

Location: Tributary to the Eagle River.

Brush Creek 03/14/2017 Photo Album

Our friends the Gabourys invited us to join them for a few days at their beautiful home in Eagle Ranch, CO; and Jane and I quickly accepted. Jane made plans to ski with Dave on Wednesday, and I looked forward to fly fishing with Dave after our arrival on Tuesday afternoon. Jane and I had doctor appointments on Tuesday morning, so we packed our bags ahead of time, and this enabled us to depart as soon as we returned from our medical obligations.

We arrived in Eagle a bit later than expected, and after we exchanged greetings, Dave G. and I prepared to fish in nearby Brush Creek. The weather was nearly ideal for March 14 with high temperatures reaching the middle sixties. Not to be outdone the stream was crystal clear with flows slightly below perfect. Snow remained in the shaded areas, but the warm temperatures and subsequent melt did not appear to affect the creek.

Looks Very Fishy

Dave G. and I agreed to cover a lot of water and focus only on the most attractive spots. These juicy locations were characterized by depth and slower current velocity, and we held to our plan fairly rigorously. Particularly enticing sections were deep holes that bordered banks, logs and tree root systems.

I began my day with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a beadhead hares and followed that with an ultra zug bug. Dave G. selected a Chernboyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and beadhead pheasant tail. Almost immediately Dave G. connected with four fish near our starting point, and several were quite nice rainbow trout in the fifteen inch range. This flurry of early action caused my heart rate to elevate in anticipation of similar success.

Dave Gaboury’s Rod Is Bent

Unfortunately I plugged along for twenty minutes with nothing to show for my efforts. Finally Dave G. graciously offered me first rights to a long pool, and I began at the slow moving tail section. My success rate ticked upward slightly, as I experienced two momentary hook ups, but this merely served to whet my appetite for a netted fish. My frustration was building, but I contained it, as it was an absolutely spectacular late winter day.

In Better Light

We continued moving at a rapid pace, as we cherry picked only the most inviting areas, until we approached an absolutely surefire trout haven. Dave once again gave me first dibs, and I finally connected on a twelve inch brown trout. This apparently was the icebreaker, because over the remainder of the afternoon I landed four additional rainbow trout. All were chunky fish in the fifteen to sixteen inch range, and every fish that I landed on Tuesday succumbed to the ultra zug bug. During the first thirty minutes I was close to abandoning the ultra zug bug, but I patiently persisted, and I was rewarded for not making a change.

Another Gorgeous Rainbow Trout

Quite a few of the rainbows were visible in the low flows, and it was exciting, although challenging to place casts above the sighted fish, and then watch intently for a sign of the fish taking the subsurface offering. In one noteworthy case I approached a deep shelf pool on the left side of the center current. I placed a cast along the current seam, and the fat Albert drifted off to the side and into the slow water, until the surface fly nearly came to a standstill. I decided to lift the fat Albert to check for a snag, and I was pleasantly surprised to feel the throbbing weight of a fat fifteen inch rainbow trout. Several of the takes were quite subtle, and success required extreme concentration.

One of Four Fine Rainbows

Tuesday was a fun day on Brush Creek, and the effort resulted in four of my best fish of 2017. Only the seventeen inch surprise from the Cache la Poudre in Ft. Collins surpassed the afternoon rainbows on March 14. The Colorado weather is improving, and my excitement for the coming season is escalating at a comparable rate.

Fish Landed: 5

Parachute Green Drake – 03/11/2017

Parachute Green Drake 03/11/2017 Photo Album

The parachute green drake is a staple among the corner of my fly box that contains green drake imitations. Trout can be quite discerning during a western green drake hatch; therefore, I stock two different sizes and three styles during the period when I am most likely to encounter the large western mayfly. A previous post documented the Harrop hair wing style, and the comparadun green drake is highly effective on certain streams as well. When I counted my green drakes, I ascertained that five parachute green drakes remained from 2016 in size 14.

Near Perfection

During the past five years I learned that a parachute pattern is often preferred when trout shy away from the bushier hair wing version. It projects a silhouette that is more robust than a comparadun but not as bulky as a hair wing. I may be wrong about this, but I also sense that the size 14 2XL matches naturals more frequently than size 12. The size 12 version of the western green drake seems to fool trout early in the season, but it is ignored during later hatches on the Frying Pan River and South Boulder Creek.

Perched on Calf Body Hair

During 2016 my best action on a size 14 parachute green drake occurred on the Frying Pan River on July 26. My friend John and I were about to quit for the day, but then we agreed to make one more last ditch effort during the late afternoon. John was the first to discover that the Frying Pan trout were tuned into the green drake, so I borrowed from his knowledge and knotted a size 14 parachute green drake to my line. The move paid huge dividends, as I landed six additional trout over the remaining 1.5 hours on the river.

Hopefully Irresistible

Periods like this linger in my memory, and therefore, I tied five additional size 14’s to increment my total to ten. Hopefully my fly fishing travels will intersect with numerous green drake hatches during 2017, and the parachute green drake will be a favorite of western trout.

Cache la Poudre River – 03/09/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Lee Martinez Park

Cache la Poudre River 03/09/2017 Photo Album

Meeting a new friend and discovering unfamiliar water were the goals for Thursday, March 9, and I can report with great enthusiasm that both objectives were met. I departed from Stapleton at 8:05 and arrived at new friend Trevor’s house by 9AM, and that was the time we set for our meeting. I transferred my gear into Trevor’s vehicle which sported a rod vault on the roof, and we were on our way to Ft. Collins to fish the Cache la Poudre River.

I connected with Trevor, AKA @rockymtnangler, through Instagram; and we quickly realized that we frequented many of the same front range streams, thus our rendezvous on Thursday. Trevor is a pharmacist, and he has been fly fishing for five years, and he is an accomplished adventurer in Rocky Mountain National Park. I hope to learn a lot from this young man about fishing high mountain lakes during the summer of 2017, although he quickly informed me that accessing the trailheads in RMNP during the prime summer season requires arrival at sunrise. On another level Trevor was a successful lefthanded pitcher at Longmont High School, and since I also carry a baseball pedigree, we possessed another experience in common.

Trevor Works a Tough but Attractive Trout Lair

After a short drive north on I25 Trevor pulled into a parking space at Lee Martinez Park on the northern edge of thriving Ft. Collins, CO. Trevor extracted his already strung rod from the rod vault, and I was quite jealous, as I struggled to match his head start. I chose my Sage four weight, as it is light enough for a small stream, but the fast action performs reasonably well in windy conditions. The air temperature was already at sixty degrees as we embarked on the bike path to the river, and a breeze rustled the trees as a harbinger of what was in our future. Trevor fished the Cache la Poudre within the town limits once before, so he led the way.

We crossed a narrow pedestrian bridge to the north side of the river and then circled to a huge smooth pool that extended fifty yards through the natural park. Immediately Trevor spotted a pod of rises, and our expectations soared. On Trevor’s previous visit he encountered a blue winged olive hatch at 10AM, so we crossed our fingers that history would repeat itself. Trevor cautiously waded into the pool between some large overhanging trees and in front of a log jam that extend from the opposite bank. I meanwhile circled above and entered at the top of the pool below a long gravel bar. Several fish were rising thirty feet below me, and I surmised that a downstream approach was in order, so that the feeding fish would see the fly before the leader and fly line.

Given Trevor’s encounter with small mayflies I  assumed that the fish were feeding on blue winged olives, so I knotted a size 24 to my line and paused to observe the water and plan a strategy. It was nearly impossible to take a small step without sending small ripples across the pool. Before I could attempt my first cast Trevor shouted that he had a take but pulled the fly from the fish’s mouth. A few minutes later he checked his line and learned that he actually broke the fly off in the trout’s mouth. Needless to say this elevated my heart rate. If I was lucky enough to induce a take, I pledged to pause before executing a hook set, since downstream drifts are more prone to stripping the fly upstream and out of a fish’s mouth.

Finally I was ready, and I launched a long cast, and I checked it high to allow a large amount of slack to fall to the water. The slack slowly uncoiled as the fly drifted down the center of the pool, and my pulse raced when a fish sipped a natural within inches of my fly. Not a good sign. Two fish were rising within reach of my casts, and I managed to make ten drifts with no assault on my flies, before the wind gusted with relentless force down the river. This sudden rush of air placed a significant chop on the surface, but then when the blast subsided a flurry of feeding rises ensued. This series of events happened a second time, and this made me suspect that perhaps ants were deposited in the stream by the wind, and the fish were reacting.

I replaced the BWO with a parachute ant and covered the area of rising fish with ten more casts, but my theory did not explain the feeding habits of the fish, and I remained a frustrated fisherman. Trevor meanwhile registered another refusal or momentary hookup. After a half hour next to a pool with at least ten rising fish, the feeding halted, and we decided to explore the upstream sections of the river.

Four Feet Above the Indention Was the Rainbow Home

The next area was characterized be several long deep pools along the south bank, but as we moved away from the large pool, we realized that the flows were extremely low, and this foreshadowed challenging fishing. Wind and low flows are a difficult combination. After another half hour of futile casting we approached a place where a concrete wall bordered the river on the north side, and as I paused, I noticed a pair of subtle rises within six inches of the bank. By now I converted to a dry/dropper configuration with a size 16 gray stimulator as the surface fly, and a beadhead hares ear that dangled eighteen inches below. I was skeptical that the rising fish would show any interest in the stimulator, but perhaps a drifting hares ear might represent a tasty temptation.

17″ Rainbow Surprise

I executed a few casts eight feet above the rise, but they were not close enough to the bank, so I picked up the line and delivered another shot closer. I was fearful of lodging the trailing hares ear in the vegetation, but the stimulator rested a foot from the bank, and I managed to avoid a snag. I carefully watched the dry fly bob with the current for a few feet, and then before it reached the target area where a fish previously rose, the bushy imitation dipped, and I instantly set the hook. Imagine my shock and state of euphoria when a seventeen inch rainbow flashed near the surface. How could my fortunes turn in such an abrupt manner during these challenging early March conditions?


I shouted to Trevor and carefully maintained tension until I elevated the glistening prize over the lip of my net. The fish caused a huge sag, and in the same instant that it slid over the rim, the hares ear released. The timing of the hook release was amazingly advantageous. Trevor kindly halted his efforts and quickly crossed the stream and snapped off a barrage of photos. Even now I am amazed at the stroke of good fortune that enabled me to land the largest fish of the season under difficult low water conditions within the town of Ft. Collins. By the end of my fishing day I would discover that the rainbow catch was a significant aberration.

Once the excitement of the fortuitous catch wore off, we gathered our senses and proceeded farther west. The river at this point consisted of long stretches of shallow riffles through medium sized rounded boulders, but intermittently we encountered a section with some depth that suggested the possibility of fish. Twenty minutes after the catch of the day, I approached one such location where two braids of the river merged below a small island and formed a slow moving pool that was thirty yards long. I waded to the bottom of the deep section, and as I prepared to cast the dry/dropper combination, a fish showed itself on the left side with a subtle rise. I shot several casts above the scene of the surface feed, but this failed to generate a response, so I progressed with additional casts, as I moved from left to right. Once again failing to interest any fish I shot a cast back toward the left, and after an eight foot drift, the dry fly submerged, and I rapidly raised the four weight and found myself attached to a chunky eleven inch brown trout. My confidence in the hares ear surged, as I flicked it from the wild brown trout lip, and my expectations for the remainder of the day elevated.

Hello Mr. Brown Trout

Alas, the renewed confidence was unfounded, as Trevor and I pressed on upstream. In truth the quality of the water deteriorated, and our advance required longer and longer intervals to skip uninteresting shallow riffles. In addition the wind announced an upgrade in ferocity that compromised accuracy greatly. By 2PM we decided to reverse our direction and hit some of the prime spots on the return. In a nice angled run 15 yards above the scene of my rainbow conquest, Trevor managed a temporary connection. We made a final curtain call in the large pool above the bridge, as I spotted a couple sipping rises. Not wishing to disturb the water with a beadhead dropper, I replaced the hares ear with a parachute ant, but after two upstream casts to the scene of the rises, the surface show ended.

Some Man Made Pools

We called it quits at 2:30 and hoofed the short distance back to the parking lot and car. Trevor and I agreed it was a slow day, but fun nonetheless to be outdoors in early March. For me the two trout and especially the rainbow were a bonus. I met a new fishing partner face to face, and he introduced me to a stretch of water that suggests future opportunities at higher flows. It was all good.

Fish Landed: 2