Monthly Archives: August 2017

Frying Pan River – 08/31/2017

Time: 12:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Upper river below Reudi Dam

Frying Pan River 08/31/2017 Photo Album

I declared 2016 the year of the green drake, and I made a concerted effort to find green drake hatches. Unfortunately I only met green drakes a few times, and I never made a trip to the Frying Pan River. The Pan is one of my favorite rivers in Colorado, and it produces one of the best green drake hatches, with the added bonus that the emergence spans from July until October. Although I never set a goal to encounter green drake hatches in 2017, good fortune blessed me with a large number of western green drake experiences.

We returned from Canada on Sunday August 27, and various commitments prevented me from resuming my fly fishing wanderings in Colorado. As I reviewed the calendar, I noted a gap on Thursday and Friday just before the Labor Day weekend, so I decided to squeeze in a two day and one night trip to the Frying Pan River. The fishing report on the Taylor Creek website noted that the crowds were down because of the detour around the route 82 bridge in Glenwood Springs. I was skeptical that this annoyance would have an impact on the avid fly fishermen who visit the Frying Pan, but it gave me another reason to commit to the drive.

I left the house at 6:50 on Thursday morning, and in spite of the roundabout detour in Glenwood, I arrived at the Little Maud Campground by 10:30. I cruised the loop and noted that quite a few sites were unoccupied for Thursday night, and I eventually secured site number 5. I removed my water container and deposited it at the campsite, and then I reversed my direction and drove below the dam to a spot in the upper five miles of public water.

Downstream View of the Frying Pan River

Thursday was a hot day, and the temperature was in the upper seventies when I began fishing at noon. Fortunately a nice cloud cover moved in by 1:30, and this maintained comfortable conditions for the remainder of the afternoon. The flows were 267 CFS, and this proved to be nearly ideal, although crossing the river was a challenge. The number of cars parked along the river, as I drove from the campground to my starting point was lighter than normal, so perhaps the detour was impacting the angler visits to the Frying Pan River.

After I parked, I assembled my Sage One five weight, and then I hiked downstream along the road for .3 mile, until I was just above a no trespassing sign. I entered the river here and began casting with a size eight Chernobyl ant that trailed a salvation nymph and a beadhead pheasant tail. I persisted with this combination for thirty minutes, until I returned to the car for lunch, and the only result of my efforts were a couple empty looks at the Chernobyl.

At the end of lunch I noticed a green drake, so I tried a parachute and ribbed comparadun for a short amount of time with no positive results. Since several fish looked at the Chernobyl earlier, I tested a Jake’s gulp beetle, and this fly placed me on the scoreboard, when a small brown trout in a tiny pocket along the bank snatched it. A couple arrived while I ate lunch, and the male member began fishing one-third of the way between the parking space and the private boundary. Rather than hiking back to the area just above the private water, I cut down to the bank twenty yards below a small island. After the beetle ceased to be productive, I returned to the dry/dropper with a tan pool toy, beadhead salvation, and a beadhead hares ear. These flies began to produce, albeit small fish.

Between 12:30 and 1:30 I tallied eight additional fish to increment the fish counter to nine. A couple ten inch browns crushed the pool toy, and the remainder grabbed the nymphs. Two of the eight fell for the salvation, and the remainder favored the hares ear. The largest of this group was an eleven inch brown that snatched the hares ear, as I began to lift at the end of a deep narrow slot. As usual the elevation of the nymphs at the lip of pockets and the end of deep runs and slots proved to be effective.

Nice Early Catch

At 1:30 I approached the wide riffle with pockets across from the Santa Fe. This was the position I desired to reach in case green drakes became a factor. Right on cue I spotted two large mayflies, as they floated up from the river. Prior to the Frying Pan trip I loaded my fly box with some size 12 ribbed parachute drakes as well as some Catskill style ties, and I now elected to attach one of the parachutes to my line. Bingo! I began landing fish in rapid fire succession. Initially the small pockets produced small fish, but as I migrated upstream to the prime deep pools and pockets along the right bank, the size increased. Over the course of Thursday I added another twenty-five trout to the fish count to end up at thirty-four.

Cutbow or Rainbow?

Chunky Specimen

Between 2:00 and 4:00 I was on fire, as nearly every likely spot produced a fish or two. The parachute took me to nineteen, and then I snapped it off on a tree branch. A second parachute continued the streak, until it broke off in a fish. At this point I decided to try a Catskill style, but it produced refusals and a couple foul hooked fish, so I returned to a size 14 parachute. The last parachute was not as effective as the first two, although the hatch waned, and that may have been a contributing factor. The green drake victims included a spunky fourteen inch rainbow and a deeply colored fourteen inch brown trout. A fair number of twelve and thirteen inch browns comprised the afternoon count, but only one additional rainbow rested in my net.

One of the Better Fish on Thursday

Downstream casts were far and away the most productive approach. The trout inhaled the first two parachutes with a great amount of confidence as evidenced by the lack of refusals, temporary hook ups, and foul hooked fish. I was a bit disappointed to not encounter a fifteen inch or greater fish, but it is hard to complain about a thirty-four fish day on the Frying Pan River with nearly constant action on large visible green drakes. Hopefully my boat box contains enough parachute green drakes to get me through tomorrow. The year of the green drake continues into September.

Fish Landed: 34

Beer Making



Clear Creek – 08/29/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Tunnel 3 and Mayhem Gulch

Clear Creek 08/29/2017 Photo Album

The contrast between the Bow River in Alberta and Clear Creek along Interstate 70 is stark. The Bow River contains wide sweeping runs and glides over a white cobble bottom with an abundant quantity of trout in the fifteen to twenty inch range. Clear Creek tumbles along a high gradient path over large angular rocks right next to a busy highway, and it contains primarily brown trout in the six to eleven inch range. On Tuesday August 29 I chose to shock my system back to reality by fishing in Clear Creek.

Still Higher Than Normal at 93 CFS

Flows finally dropped to 93 CFS, but even that level remains high for this late juncture in the fly fishing season in Colorado. I had a few tasks to complete in the morning, so by the time I pulled into a wide pullout along Clear Creek, the clock displayed 11:50. I decided to eat my lunch, and then I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and found a well used path to descend the steep bank. The air temperature was in the upper eighties, and the sun was brilliant in the solid blue sky. For some reason I wore my waders, when Tuesday was probably the best day of the summer for wet wading.

For some reason I always expect Clear Creek to offer easy mindless fly fishing, but Tuesday reminded me to cleanse that idea from my thought process. I began the day with a size 12 Chernobyl ant, but it possessed a tiny yellow indicator spot, and I had great difficulty tracking it in the swirling currents. I could have overlooked this shortcoming, if it generated action, but it did not; so I swapped it for a size 10 Chernobyl with a much larger yellow indicator. The change did not yield results instantly, but after some persistence, I landed two ten inch brown trout. In both cases I utilized a downstream drift along the narrow band of slow water on the opposite shoreline. This was the only way I could manage a decent drag free drift due to the surge of fast tumbling current in the middle of the creek.

Yummy Chernobyl Ant Snack

The larger Chernobyl generated quite a few refusals, so despite netting two fish in the first hour, I decided to experiment with a different fly. In recent years Jake’s gulp beetle outproduced most of the other flies in my box, so I knotted one with a peacock dubbed body to my line. This move once again proved to be effective, and I upped the fish count from two to ten over the remainder of the afternoon. The pace of the action improved, but it never approached a state that I would describe as hot. I cast to a huge number of pools, pockets and runs without even a look; however, the fish responded often enough to maintain my interest.

First Victim of Jake’s Gulp Beetle

At roughly 2:30 some small blue winged olives made an appearance, as a few clouds blocked the sun for short periods off and on. Initially I ignored them since they were quite small, but by 3:00 I added a 2.5 foot dropper and a size 20 RS2. The addition of the nymph was a positive, and two of the eight fish landed in the afternoon nipped the small nymph. In addition two fish nabbed the trailing baetis nymph imitation, as it began to swing, but I failed to bring these to the net. It was quite apparent that the trout were accustomed to blue winged olive nymphs showing fairly rapid movement. The other six afternoon trout responded to the foam beetle. All the fish landed on the day were brown trout except for one early rainbow that gulped the beetle.

Beauty Among the Rocks

Given the hot sunny conditions and the time of the year, I was quite pleased to land ten small fish on Clear Creek on August 29. Historically fishing from the middle of August until the first week of September is very challenging on freestone streams in Colorado. The major hatches are over, and the weather is hot and clear. Once again Clear Creek was not the pushover stream that many fly shops tout. I worked hard to scramble over large rocks while executing a huge number of casts, but persistence rewarded me with a double digit day.

Fish Landed: 10

Bow River – 08/25/2017

Time: 10:00AM – 7:00PM

Location: Downstream from Calgary

Bow River 08/25/2017 Photo Album

I began fishing in my early thirties, and my passion for this wonderful sport endured for over thirty years. In the early years I read everything I could, and I subscribed to numerous periodicals. Even now I receive six magazines, and although I struggle to keep pace with their arrival, I continue to read and educate myself. As with technology, I fear becoming outdated, and reading is an excellent means to stay current.

Over the years I devoured numerous articles that described fishing in the Bow River in Alberta. The descriptions sounded almost mythical to my eager ears, and the thought of visiting Alberta to cast a line in the blue hued river that tumbles from its source in Banff National Park struck me as a vague fantasy. Yet here I was at the Out Fly Fishing shop in Calgary on Friday morning, August 25, 2017.

When I decided to book a day of guided fishing on the Bow River, I contacted one of my Instagram connections and asked for a recommendation. She suggested a guide who also worked for Out Fly Fishing; however, he was already booked on August 25, so he suggested that I contact the shop and seek another guide.

Jane graciously allotted me a day of fishing on our return trip to Colorado from Jasper, and I stood at the counter and purchased my one day non-resident fishing license. Once this necessary detail was completed, I met my guide for the day, Mike, and he ushered me to his SUV and drift boat. Mike and I exchanged initial greetings, and I was admittedly a bit concerned over my assigned mentor, as Mike was obviously older than me. Could this elderly gentleman handle the physical requirements of rowing a drift boat while at the same time knotting my flies and directing my casts? I decided to trust the shop and defer any judgments.

Trico Cloud Hovers Over the River

We drove south from Calgary for thirty minutes, until we reached a nice gradually sloping boat launch site, and while I waited, Mike backed his trailer in the water and shoved the boat into the river. Huge swarms of tricos hovered over the edge of the river right in front of me, and I walked among them to inspect their size. They were tiny. I estimated that an exact imitation would require a size 26 or 28 hook. When I pointed them out to Mike, he informed me that in all likelihood we would not attempt to match the trico hatch.

I was equipped with my Sage One five weight rod, and before we launched, Mike tied a size 10 foam hopper to my line along with a bright red annelid worm as a dropper. I expected a terrestrial on top, but I was surprised by the worm. According to Mike the river was quite low for late August, although it struck me as a very substantial river compared to my usual destinations in Colorado. Unlike the upper Bow, the color of the river was greenish blue as it rushed over round white river rocks. The terrain along the river was mostly flat prairie farmland, although the gradient dropped enough to create a nice mix of pools and long flowing runs and glides.

The Drift Boat Anchored

By the time we drove to the river, launched the boat and rigged the rod it was ten o’clock, and now my day began in earnest. The first hour was a period of adjustment, as I followed Mike’s guidance, and I gradually grew to understand his verbal commands. This in turn enabled me to cast to the places that Mike knew, through many years of experience, would most likely produce trout. The first hour did not produce any fish, although I felt as if I made some expert casts and executed long drag free drifts.

In hour number two the fishing began to heat up. Mike and I began to work as a more cohesive team. We moved farther from the launch point, and the air temperature warmed the water. Fish began to rise in the slow moving pools, and I suspected they picked off tricos, but the feeding was not the regular gulping, that I associated with trico hatches. It quickly became clear that the trico eaters were tiny fish, and I did not commit my time and money to a day of casting for dinks on the Bow River.

We drifted through a nice run of moderate depth, where several currents merged below some gravel bars, and here I connected with three small rainbow trout in the nine to eleven inch range. At least I was catching fish, but the size was obviously disappointing. These fish relished the bright red worm, and this discovery relaxed my concerns about fishing a red worm in low late summer water conditions. I usually associate worm fishing with the high discolored conditions of spring.

The Beauty Came from This Slow Pool

Nice Bend on a Late Spurt

My trust of Mike was gradually increasing, but then he pulled the boat up on a gradual bank and instructed me to walk the grassy slope with him. We proceeded to take a few steps, and then we paused to gaze into the slow moving band of water ten to fifteen feet beyond our positions. We repeated this over and over until we spooked two substantial rainbows that responded by slowly swimming out of view to the deeper current. I began to question whether this slow process was wasting my valuable guide trip time, but after covering thirty yards, we spotted another sizable trout, as it slowly cruised downstream above us. We froze instantly, and the fish made a one hundred and eighty degree turn and faced upstream. This was what Mike was looking for, and he instructed me to step down from the three foot bank and cast.

What a Beauty

I stripped out line and began to cast and lengthened the distance with each forward thrust. I was feeling quite a bit of self inflicted pressure, and I was certain that I would flub this unexpected sight fishing opportunity. Finally I judged that my distance was sufficient, so I released the line and allowed it to glide through the rod guides, while I held my breath. The hopper shot out straight and then plunked down in the river, and the worm dropper followed with a small splash, but I now realized that my cast came up short. I was admonishing myself for failing my first significant casting test of the day, when the large underwater form turned around. Apparently the sound of the hopper caught its attention, and it slowly swam toward the terrestrial, and after traveling two feet it turned its head. Mike shouted, “hit it”, and I did so and felt a strong connection with the targeted fish. I was shocked to realize, that the trout snatched the trailing annelid!

The rainbow trout instantly went into escape mode, and I allowed it complete three or four high speed dashes, while line peeled off my new Battenkill disk drag reel. I was quite pleased over my decision to upgrade the reel that held my five weight line prior to the trip. Eventually the rainbow began to tire, and at this point I realized that Mike left the net back in the boat. This fact did not faze Mike, as he waded into the river, and instructed me on how to guide the fish within his reach, whereupon he confidently grasped it and positioned it for a few photos. Mike estimated that the rainbow trout measured twenty inches, and it exhibited a fine width. The entire episode was extremely visual, and a state of euphoria settled over me, until we were back in the boat.

We continued our journey down the Bow River, and after another thirty minutes elapsed, we drifted through an area where a nice deep run cascaded within  five feet of the north bank. I made a cast to the bank and allowed the hopper to bob along the seam next to the rocky shoreline. Suddenly a large form emerged, and the back of a rainbow trout humped above the surface, and then the mouth of the hungry stream dweller crashed down on the grasshopper. I was attentive and instantly raised my rod, and I was excited to feel a connection with another substantial fish.

Another Beauty

Once again a battle ensued, and fortunately I withstood the various escape antics and guided another twenty inch rainbow trout into Mike’s waiting net. I pinched myself to make sure that landing two twenty inch rainbow trout on the Bow River within one hour was not a delirious dream. The first significant trout was a textbook sight fishing scenario, and now I witnessed an aggressive take of a large surface hopper imitation. Although rainbow number two equaled the earlier prize in length, it did not possess the same bulk. Mike and I exchanged high fives and continued our journey down the Bow River.

Number Two Not As Fat

I wish I could report that twenty inch fish continued to nestle in Mike’s net during the remainder of our float, but that was not the case. I was not disappointed, however, as the catch rate continued at a reasonable rate, and my focus was sustained by the expectation of connecting with another large fish. We paused and ate our lunches at 1:30, and between two o’clock and seven o’clock I managed to steer eleven more rainbow trout into the large long handled net. Three of these fish were powerful rainbows in the fourteen to fifteen inch range, and they acquitted themselves well with leaps, dives and sudden bursts in their attempts to shed my hook. Another fish measured in the seventeen inch range, but it was lean and undernourished, and Mike speculated that it was diseased in some way.

The remainder of the catch were spunky rainbows in the nine to twelve inch range, and I lifted these to the boat quickly in order to pursue bigger targets. Of course success was not always a given, and I also hooked and lost four or five trout that in all likelihood fell into the fifteen to twenty inch size slot. A twenty plus fish day was a possibility, but long distance releases are an expected part of the game.

Over the course of the day I learned that the best water was characterized by the seams and deep runs where multiple currents merged. Also productive were stretches of moderate current and depth along rocky shorelines. In these places I cast ahead of the boat within a few feet of the bank, and Mike matched the drift of the boat with the speed of the fly enabling very long drifts. Slow moving deep pools were unproductive, and by the afternoon we rowed through them quickly to seek the locations that matched the productive areas described above.

Keeping It Wet

What a fun day! I landed seventeen trout including two twenty inch fish and four in the fourteen to seventeen inch range. All the larger fish were persistent fighters, and they forced me to employ my best fish fighting skills. The catch rate subsided during the last hour or two, but between 11AM and 5PM it was relatively steady.

My Guide Mike Prepares to Launch the Drift Boat

And what about my concerns with Mike? He took longer to knot fluorocarbon than the average guide, and his hearing was a bit impaired, but he more than compensated through his vast knowledge of the river. I developed an understanding of Mike’s verbal directions, and my confidence in his guidance blossomed. He clearly knew the river and how to maneuver the boat and positioned me for my best chance for success. After thirty years of dreaming about the Bow River of Alberta, I actually spent a day drifting along its spectacular waters and managed to land some quality fish. What a day.

Fish Landed: 17

Elk River – 08/18/2017

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Olsen Rest Area

Elk River 08/18/2017 Photo Album

I visited the Elk River in British Columbia on 8/8/2015 and 8/9/2015. That trip was my introduction to the beautiful blue tinged crystal clear river in the southeastern corner of the western province, and when Jane and I discussed a road trip to Banff and Jasper, I made sure to include a day for fly fishing on the Elk River in our itinerary. In August of 2015 I was a guest of Montana Fly Company, and this translated to floating the river in a drift boat both days. Friday August 18, 2017 was scheduled to be a self guided wade fishing experience. How would the two experiences compare?

Jane and I arrived in Fernie, BC on Thursday August 17, and we checked into our hotel and enjoyed a delightful dinner at the Curry Bowl a few blocks down the street. Knowing that the Canadian trip was in my future prompted me to exchange direct mail comments and emails with an Instagram acquaintance, Cliff Razzo, who lives in Fernie. He recommended lodging and most importantly suggested a wade fishing section for me to explore. His kind advice was utilized, and I was grateful for his assistance. Cliff also urged me to carry bear spray several times in his informative email, so I purchased a canister at Bass Pro Shop prior to departing on the trip.

On Friday morning Jane and I walked from our lodging to the Elk River Fly Shop, and I purchased the requisite license and permit for one day of fishing on the Elk River. After the transaction was completed, I asked the young lady behind the counter about the turn off from the highway into the Olsen Rest Stop, since Cliff was very explicit in directing me not to make a left turn from the northbound lane. She suggested turning right into the toilet area and then crossing both lanes of the highway to avoid making a left across traffic. Once she explained the traffic nuance, she offered some unsolicited advice. “Be alert because that is where they dump roadkill.” Whoa! This caught my attention. Apparently bears were attracted to the area I chose to fish by deer, elk, and a variety of carcasses. I was instantly on high alert, and when I returned to the hotel, I immediately opened our recent purchase of bear spray in preparation for my day on the water.

Bear Spray at the Ready and on My Hip

I departed the hotel at 9AM, and by the time I drove past the Olsen Rest Area to Sparwood and returned south, it was 9:30 as I pulled into the parking lot. As it turned out, the toilets described by the Elk River salesperson were across from the Olsen Pit Road, and I was searching for the Olsen Rest Area. Much to my relief I was a mile or two below the Olsen Pit, the apparent repository of roadkill carcasses.

I assembled my gear as usual and elected to use my Sage One five weight with the expectation of some larger fish. The temperature was in the mid-fifties, but I wore no extra layers, as the high for the day was predicted to reach the mid-eighties. I dutifully slid the holster over my wader belt and inserted a can of bear spray, and then I followed the five hundred meter path to the river. The riverbed displayed a significant amount of exposed round rock, and initially I assumed that flows were low, and they may have been, but the strong current remained fast enough to dissuade me from any attempt to cross.

Absolutely Stunning

In 2015 a Jake’s gulp beetle was magical, so I began my 2017 adventure with the same fly. Unfortunately fly selection was not that easy, as the foam beetle was not desired by the west slope cutthroats on August 18, at least not in the morning time period. Following the small orange indicator on the back of the beetle was difficult in the morning shade created by the high bank, so I converted to a yellow fat Albert with a beadhead hares ear and a copper john. The fat Albert attracted two refusals, but after covering an hours worth of water, I switched to a Chernobyl ant, and this provoked no response from the fish. At least the fat Albert generated a few looks.

I opted for another change and knotted a tan pool toy to my line, and this foam terrestrial once again produced a pair of tentative looks. I also briefly tested a parachute green drake, since Cliff mentioned it as a productive fly. The looks and refusals described might suggest that I was having a fair amount of activity, but it transpired over a 3.5 hour period, and by 1:30PM my net failed to feel the weight of a fish. I was rather frustrated and snapped a series of landscape photos to make sure I had some remembrance of the day.

So Blue

Although the fish count was locked on zero, the 3.5 hours did provide some clues. All the refusals occurred in deep slow moving areas within ten feet of the bank. I invested a significant amount of time casting to moderate riffles, long glides and deep pools with no discernible benefit from my effort. I pondered this observation and vowed to cover more of the river and focus on the slow bank side spots. Unfortunately these locations tended to exist next to high dirt banks. In fact they were so high, that it was impossible to lower oneself from the top to the water. I adopted the tactic of entering the river where the drop off was mild, and then I carefully waded along the base of the steep bank to access the band of slow water. For the most part this worked, but several times the water bordering the bank was too deep or too fast, and this circumstance forced me to retreat.

My Two Best Fish Came from This Area with Deadfalls in Abundance

By 1:30 I approached a nice area that met my productive water criteria. I flicked a backhand cast below a log and above a smaller branch that extended from the high bank. I reverted to a Jake’s gulp beetle with a peacock dubbed body, and suddenly after the beetle crept only six inches, a shadowy form emerged from the depths and moved a couple feet to chomp on the foam bug. I could not believe my eyes. I instinctively reacted with a hook set, and once I felt resistance, I realized I was attached to a decent cutthroat trout. This was the action I sought, and I carefully maintained pressure, until I scooped the fifteen inch prize into my net. I was finally on the scoreboard, and the native cutthroat was a very pretty fish to behold.

I Love the Color of These Cutthroats

The ten foot ribbon of water continued, but in order to fish it, I was required to climb the bank and circle around a large log. I complied and carefully lowered myself back to the river. Once I was positioned, I gazed upstream, and I noticed a deep depression where the river displayed a brilliant aqua color, as it flowed over a white bottom. As a result of the extreme clarity I was skeptical that a fish was present, but I flicked an obligatory backhand cast to the top of the trough. I retain a vivid image of what happened next. A large cutthroat materialized from the aqua depression, and it actually launched out of the water and descended on the beetle from above. In a state of shock I lifted the rod and set the hook. This Elk River inhabitant displayed its power and endurance, as a prolonged tussle ensued, but eventually I scooped the seventeen inch wild fish into my net. The stunning cutthroat was very wide and possessed a light tan body with vivid fine speckles. I was shaking from the excitement for several minutes after this episode.

After Lens Cleaning

I continued upstream at a rapid clip for another 1.5 hours, and I managed to land a small eight inch cutty along with two momentary connections with likely substantial fish. By 3:30 I was quite weary, and I knew a decent hike was in my future, and I could see the highway, so I reeled up the beetle and made my exit. Friday was a challenging day on the Elk River, and I gained an appreciation for the advantages of a drift boat. Traveling on foot limits the number of prime cutthroat holding spots that can be accessed in a day of fishing. Despite this handicap I managed five refusals, three temporary hook ups, and three landed fish. Two of the netted trout were absolutely stunning wild westslope cutthroat trout of fifteen and seventeen inches. The landscape was spectacular, and I never encountered an angry bear. It was a success in my book, and that is all that matters.

Fish Landed: 3


South Boulder Creek – 08/14/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Dam.

South Boulder Creek 08/14/2017 Photo Album

Monday was the last day available for local fishing, before Jane and I depart on a trip to Canada. On Sunday we hiked the Peak to Plains Trail in Clear Creek Canyon, and I viewed this as a scouting mission. It was obvious that Clear Creek continued to run above the ideal range at 150 CFS, but I noted numerous nice pockets and slower moving pools along the edge that offered viable targets for my flies. As I drifted off to sleep on Sunday night, I was fairly certain that I would give Clear Creek a try on Monday.

The drive to Clear Creek from my house in Denver is a mere 45 minutes, so I completed my normal morning exercise routine. Part way through the morning I took a break and checked the DWR stream flow web site, and I noticed that Clear Creek was in the 140 CFS range and declining. I was curious to see how Denver Water was managing South Boulder Creek, so I scrolled up to that tailwater, and I was pleased to note that South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir was down to 144 CFS. This new information prodded me to reconsider my destination choice. I knew from Friday’s experience that green drakes were emerging on South Boulder Creek, and flows were now 20 CFS lower than the level that I endured on Friday. I surmised that green drakes would be absent by the time I returned from Alberta, so I modified my plan and targeted South Boulder Creek for Monday, August 14. Clear Creek could wait until late August.

Lots of Options Here

I packed the Santa Fe and departed by 11AM, and this allowed me to arrive at the upper parking lot by noon. In order to avoid packing my lunch into the canyon, I devoured my sandwich, carrots and yogurt in the parking lot; and then I gathered my gear and assembled my Orvis Access four weight. Seven other vehicles were present in addition to mine, so I knew there would be some company on the stream. The air temperature was quite warm, as the dashboard thermometer registered in the low eighties.

Since I started late, I decided to shorten my hike, but I did cross the stream at the pedestrian bridge. Tools and supplies were present at the bridge, but workers were absent and probably on their lunch break. I continued along the Walker Loop trail for a decent distance, and then I found a relatively easy path down to the creek. I chose South Boulder Creek because of the possibility of fishing to a green drake hatch, so I tied a size 14 2XL parachute green drake to my line and began to spray searching casts to the likely trout holding habitat.

Impressionistic Parachute Green Drake

The first four trout interactions were refusals, but these fish appeared to be tiny, so I persisted with the parachute. After the dose of rejection, I hooked and landed two decent brown trout, and this affirmed the parachute green drake selection. Over the next 1.5 hours I built the fish count to six, as the parachute style green drake attracted enough attention to retain its position on my line. I estimate that I observed three refusals or temporary connections for each fish that landed in my net, but I suspected that the fish that ate the fly were larger than those that rejected it. In many cases I could see the side of very small fish, as they flashed toward the surface and then turned away.

Nice Start

At approximately 2:30 I reacted to one of the aforementioned flashes and executed an overzealous hook set. Unfortunately the trout never grabbed the fly, and it catapulted towad a tree branch behind me. I attempted to avoid the snag and quickly thrust my arm forward, but it was too late, and I snapped the parachute green drake off in the tree branch. In a futile effort to recover my fly, I bent down the small branches and inspected the leaves, and I found some flies lost by other fishermen, but I could not locate the coveted green drake. I declared it a write off and used the break off as an excuse to test a different green drake.

The parachute fly was very waterlogged and difficult to follow in the dim light that resulted from the heavy cloud cover and intermittent rain. I decided to try one of the ribbed size 14 comparaduns, as it possessed a large full upright deer hair wing. The choice was sound, and I increased the fish count to from six to fourteen with the comparadun on the end of my leader. During this late afternoon period rainbow trout became the predominant species. I am not sure if this was attributable to the different style of fly, the type of water, or the time of day. The afternoon section of South Boulder Creek was characterized by faster water, and rainbow trout generally tolerate more current than brown trout.

Glistening Brown Trout

The first four landed fish after the fly change emerged from the stretch below the bridge, and the last four lived in the stream above the bridge. On my return hike I stopped at a nice series of pockets just above the pedestrian crossing, and I fooled a brown and rainbow in that area. Interestingly the final two fish came from some pockets in the wide relatively shallow area, that I normally use simply as a stream crossing point.

A Very Defined Pink Stripe

I was pleased with my decision to revisit South Boulder Creek, as I landed fourteen fish in three hours. Although it was quite warm during my hike down to the stream, storm clouds quickly moved in, and the mostly cloudy skies kept the air temperature quite cool for most of my time on the water. I never saw a green drake, but it was obvious that the local stream residents recognized my imitations. I suspect that the cool overcast conditions did not create an environment conducive to  a green drake emergence, but the cause was irrelevant, because the trout ate my imitations. I endured a significant number of refusals and a few temporary hook ups, and the glare and low light made following the dark olive fly a challenge at times; but the action was steady, and the size of the fish was typical for South Boulder Creek.

Landed Fish: 14

South Boulder Creek – 08/11/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/11/2017 Photo Album

After a stellar day on Tuesday on South Boulder Creek, I was eager to visit the small tailwater again, and Friday, August 11 was that day. I was convinced that I fished South Boulder Creek on Tuesday amid flows of 144 CFS; however, when I reviewed the DWR website prior to making the trip on Friday, I checked the graph and discovered that the water managers reduced the output on Tuesday morning to 90 CFS. No wonder the conditions seemed so ideal! Unfortunately the graph also revealed that Denver Water was performing its usual yoyo stream management, as the level dropped to 50 CFS from 90 CFS, and then on Friday morning the valves were opened again to 164 CFS. The reading actually displayed 126 at 8AM on Friday morning, but the graph was spiking, and I suspected that it was on an upward trajectory. When I returned home after fishing, I determined the actual outflow.

Tuesday was a spectacular day, and I did not expect to replicate it. I landed nearly forty fish, and all except the first two devoured a dry fly, and large size 14 green drakes were the food of choice. That type of good fortune is rare, and given the increase in flows, I ratcheted down my expectations. Would I be able to wade and cross the creek, or would I be locked into one side? Did the frequent adjustments to flows impact the feeding routines of the resident trout? What impact did the change in flows have on the insect hatches, and most importantly would green drakes attract the attention of the South Boulder Creek trout? All these questions bounced through my brain, as I drove to the upper parking lot on Friday morning.

When I arrived at the parking area, I noted that five vehicles preceded me. Two anglers quickly appeared at the top of the trailhead, and they quickly stashed their gear in two separate cars, and their departure reduced the competitive population of fishermen to three cars. I quickly assembled my Loomis five weight, as I enjoy using it to cast large dry flies, and it also gave me an excuse to utilize my new disc drag reel. The air temperature was in the upper fifties, and the sky was partly cloudy with some large puffy gray clouds building in the southwest. I quickly descended the steep path to the stream, and I crossed below the small island just below my convergence with the creek. The water was indeed running high, but the wide riffle section was manageable for a stream crossing.

My next concern was the repair work on the pedestrian bridge, but apparently work was not scheduled for Friday, and I crossed without any delay. I passed one solo fisherman in the long deep pool that is perpetually occupied, and a second fisherman in wet wading attire appeared from below the bridge. This accounted for two of the three remaining cars in the parking lot. The gentleman by the bridge hiked ahead of me, and he disappeared after we turned right off the Walker Loop on to the fisherman path. A family was gathered by the single picnic table just before the fisherman path turn off, and I was fairly certain they were the occupants of the final car in the parking lot.

High Flows Made Me Search for This Type of Water

I now had the remainder of the stream to myself, so I hiked a fair distance below the fellow who emerged from below the bridge, and then I cut down to the stream. The high flows dictated that I could only fish on the north side of the stream, and they forced me to focus on the protected pockets and shelf pools where the water velocity was favorable for the local trout. By the time I initiated my first cast it was approaching 11AM, so I decided to go directly to a green drake imitation. I tied a parachute green drake to my line and began to prospect the shelf pools and edges. Some downstream casts to a nice pocket next to a vertical rock wall failed to yield any action, so I pivoted and launched some casts to a gorgeous deep shelf pool just upstream from my starting point. Success. A small brown trout darted to the surface and chomped on the parachute green drake. This was an auspicious sign, but I was not convinced it would be easy.

My Starting Fly After Being Rescued from a Bush

Within minutes I discovered that various obstacles would test my patience on Friday. In order to angle a cast to the current seam along the shelf pool, I initiated a high backcast, and I was shocked to discover that I hooked a scraggly bush growing from the huge vertical rock wall behind me. I only packed four size 14 parachute green drakes, so I was very reluctant to lose one this early in the game. I waded in both directions to ascertain whether I could do some amateur rock climbing, but I wisely concluded that a fly was not worth the undue risk associated with this plan. Only one option remained, and that was to tug directly on my line. I grabbed the tapered leader so that I would not put excessive stress on my rod tip, and I pulled directly toward the stream. Sometimes miracles do happen, and the line released and caught on branches twice, before it recoiled in my direction. I stripped up the line assuming that my valuable green drake was absent, but much to my surprise it was still attached! Unfortunately the force of tugging it free somehow stressed the parachute hackle, and it climbed up the wing post. I pressed it back against the base by pinching my fingers around it, but I could see that the thread wraps were unraveling, and it was just a matter of time until the fly joined my handicapped fly pile.

Light Gray Caddis in Corner of the Mouth

I finally advanced upstream and quickly determined that the green drake was not a morning favorite, so I tested a medium olive size 12 stimulator. The heavily hackled dry fly enabled me to add another small brown trout to my tally, but then it attracted attention in the form of refusals. After the fourth snub, I swapped it for a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis, and the fish that rebuffed the stimulator fell for the caddis. I persisted with the diminutive deer hair dry for a decent amount of time, and it allowed me to move the fish count to five, before I encountered one of my favorite pools on the river. I knew from prior visits that quite a few trout called this location home, so when I gained no action with the caddis, I removed it and reverted to the parachute green drake. The change worked, and I landed a small brown, but as expected the hackle unraveled, and I replaced it with another size 14 parachute. This fly generated several refusals, so I cycled through a comparadun style with no rib and a Harrop hair wing version. All were rejected by the pool dwellers.

Several large boulders bordered the quality pool, so I elected to rest the water and make this my lunch spot. After lunch I spotted a couple natural green drakes, and this reinforced my commitment to green drake dry fly fishing. The naturals from a distance seemed larger than the parachute and comparadun imitations that got refused, so I examined my box and extracted a nice comparadun with maroon ribbing. The deer hair wing on this fly was quite large, and I speculated that the high wing might be a major triggering characteristic. It worked, sort of. I landed a few fish, but then several rejections dampened my spirits.

It was about this time that a fisherman who had been thirty yards above me walked by along the path. We exchanged greetings, and since I noticed he was casting downstream, I asked if he was fishing with wet flies. He replied negative and showed me a green drake cripple that he was drifting over fish. He said he hooked one, but invited me to fish the spot he just vacated, since he observed quite a few fish there. This gentleman also told me that the flows were increased to 166 CFS.

Proud of This One

I moved upstream at a moderate pace and continued prospecting with the ribbed comparadun, and this fly allowed me to net a few more fish. Unfortunately I never found a fly that totally eliminated the refusals and temporary hook ups. At some point I switched from the ribbed comparadun to a different size 14 parachute. The first parachute seemed undersized to me, and the second one possessed a fatter body and a longer bundle of moose mane hair for a tail. The fly actually tilted forward a bit due to the large tail, but it was more productive than its predecessors. The fish count climbed to twelve on the performance of the second parachute, but then it grew waterlogged, and my frustration with frequent drying caused me to make yet another change. This time I dug out a different ribbed comparadun with a high full wing and a slender body.

Helicopter View

The ribbed comparadun became my last fly choice, and it boosted the fish count to twenty. It was not perfect, as I witnessed a huge number of refusals and hook ups that lasted only a fraction of a second, but it performed better than any of the other flies that spent time on my line. The sun finally gained dominance, and the added warmth seemed to prompt more green drake hatching activity, although the emergence was very sporadic at best. My best success coincided with the time period when I spotted the most naturals. It also seemed that the rainbow trout were far less discriminating than brown trout, as brown trout exhibited a much more wary behavior with a preponderance of last minute twists and turns to avoid my tempting fly.

Scarlet Is Best Description

Friday was not Tuesday by any means, but a twenty fish day at high flows was certainly satisfactory. I cycled through an array of flies, and I settled on a parachute and comparadun that delivered a level of success. Persistence was the name of the game, and again I was thankful for my fly tying capability, since this allowed me to stock a variety of green drake styles. I tested nearly every variation, and two produced most of my success.

Fish Landed: 20


Piney River – 08/10/2017

Time: 9:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Along the Piney River Trail

Piney River 08/10/2017 Photo Album

The alarm beeped at 5:30, and I left the house by 6AM. I packed the car with all the essentials the night before, so after a quick bite to eat, I packed my lunch and quietly departed. The planning and early start enabled me to pull into the parking area at the Piney River Trailhead by 8:30.  It rained heavily from the Eisenhower Tunnel, until I reached Vail, but the sky was blue, as I turned on to Red Sandstone Road. The dirt road was extremely muddy, and the Santa Fe was covered with red caked mud by the time I parked at the trailhead. After putting on my waders, I gathered my gear and assembled my Orvis Access four weight, and finally I was on the trail by 9:00. I hiked for thirty minutes, and then I cut down to the stream and began my day.

The air temperature was in the upper forties, but I knew I would be too warm, if I hiked with an extra layer, so I stuffed my raincoat in my backpack for extra warmth if necessary. When I waded into the stream, it was evident that flows were down compared to my previous visit on 7/25/2017.

A Dense Stand of Fireweed

On the 7/25/2017 trip I fished a gray stimulator nearly the entire time, so on Thursday I began with a peacock body stimulator. My supply of gray versions was dwindling, so I hoped to learn that the fish were not discriminating regarding body color. I fished with this fly for ten minutes through some slow moving smooth pools, and then I also tested it in some faster pockets, but it failed to encourage even a look. I concluded that the body color was important, so I swapped the peacock for a gray body, since that was a proven producer on the earlier trip. On Thursday gray was not in favor. Maybe yellow was a winner, since I saw a few yellow sallies in the air? Nope. After a decent trial period it became obvious that the yellow stimulator was avoided like the plague.

I continued moving upstream, and I was certain that I advanced to water that was rarely fished, once I vacated the slow pools where I began. Tamped down grass and weeds were obvious clues that other fishermen visited the starting area, but the banks appeared to be untouched, once I progressed one hundred yards upstream. Where were the fish? Even looks and refusals were absent, and that was very unusual for Piney River.

Better Lighting

I decided to try a nymph approach, so I tied on a size 10 Chernobyl ant and trailed a beadhead pheasant tail. Finally I registered two small brook trout and breathed a sigh of relief. A small brown grabbed the pheasant tail in a fast run almost immediately after the nymph entered the water, and I reached three fish for the first hour of fishing. I continued on with the two fly offering, but once again quality pools and pockets failed to deliver any looks. In another desperate attempt to solve the code, I abandoned the dry/dropper and returned to a medium olive body stimulator, and this fly enabled me to land two small brown trout to improve my fish count to five.

Lunch Log

I remained locked on five for quite a while, and I sat down to eat my lunch at noon on a nice flat rock with the fish counter stable at five. After lunch I decided to experiment with a green drake. I spotted a few on July 25, so perhaps the local trout had long memories. First I tried the Harrop hair wing version, because it floats high and is easier to follow in the turbulent currents compared to the comparadun and parachute styles. Two brown trout crushed the Harrop hair wing, and I cautiously raised my expectations, but my optimism was fleeting, as the Harrop floated through a series of attractive spots without inducing even a look.

Another Gem

When this occurred on Tuesday I switched to a parachute green drake, and I copied the move on Thursday. I tied the very same parachute green drake to my line that produced nearly twenty fish on Tuesday, and surprisingly it delivered three, and the fish count climbed to double digits. I was now perched on ten fish in a couple hours of fishing, but I was not pleased with my Piney River experience. The fish were very small and consistently in the 6-9 inch range, and they were all brown trout with two or three small brook trout in the mix. Where were the gorgeous cutbows, cutthroats, and rainbows that served as eye candy on my previous trip? In order to land the first ten fish I covered an enormous amount of stream real estate, and quite a few prime pools failed to yield even a look or refusal. I could not get into a rhythm, and consequently I spent an inordinate amount of time changing flies.

Pool and Foam Equals Fish

Because the parachute green drake delivered three small trout from marginal shallow pockets, I relied on it for a fairly long window of time, but empty casts became the norm, and several fish elevated and looked and then returned to the bottom of the stream. In addition the body was waterlogged and required constant dabbing and drying. Finally the fly got snagged on a stick, and when I yanked it free, the parachute hackle climbed up the wing post. This was a definite hint that I needed to retire the parachute green drake.

Nice Colors

I paused and pondered my options. I tried the dry/dropper with the large Chernobyl, but perhaps a more realistic terrestrial would be a more enticing option. I knotted a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and added a salvation nymph as a dropper, and I began plunking the foam beetle in likely holding spots. Early in this game a brook trout smashed the beetle, and once again I convinced myself that I solved the riddle. Again I was mistaken. I cycled through quite a few changes to the dropper including a beadhead hares ear, ultra zug bug and emerald caddis pupa; but none of these generated interest. Meanwhile a couple fish snubbed the foam beetle, and I my frustration level once again surged.

The beetle/dropper episode convinced me that nymphs were a waste of time, and the small stream residents were clearly focused on food morsels floating in the surface film. Perhaps the low clear water dictated going to a small realistic fly? I considered a parachute ant, but I was reluctant to engage in an eye exam in the shaded light of the narrow canyon. Instead I plucked a light gray size 16 deer hair caddis from my fly box. Success. After I embraced the caddis as my Piney River fly of choice, the fish counter improved from eleven to twenty-five. Most of these landed fish favored the light gray version, but I also netted a few using a size 16 dark olive deer hair caddis, and in addition a size 14 dark olive muggly caddis duped three. The muggly caddis eaters were actually a bit larger than the average fish landed on the day.

Caddis Favored by This Brookie

Looks Like a Muggly Caddis in the Lip

I lost two of the light gray caddis to hemlock branches, and I harbored concern over the adequacy of my size 16 light gray supply, so I tried a dark olive body for awhile. It did produce a couple fish, but then the hackle unraveled, and I elected to experiment with the muggly caddis. The muggly yielded three or four fish, but then the dry fly without hackle became partially waterlogged, so I exchanged it for another muggly with a light gray body and a light tan snowshoe rabbit fur underwing and an elk hair wing. This fly was very visible, and it fooled one trout, but then trout grew disinterested.

During the last thirty minutes of fishing I reverted to one of the remaining light gray size 16’s, and it once again delivered several netted fish. How can a 25 fish day be disappointing? It took place over six hours, and I covered in excess of .5 miles of water including some very high quality deep pools and pockets. The size of the fish was generally in the six to nine inch range with a couple that extended to ten or eleven inches. On July 25 I also landed a few small fish barely over the six inch cutoff, but the average size was more like 9-11 inches with a few big boys in the twelve and thirteen inch range. On Thursday I landed one rainbow and one small cutbow, and all the other fish were brown trout or brook trout. I loved the variety of fish species on the earlier trip, and the lack of diversity was the most disappointing aspect of the August 10 outing. Of course I endured the requisite quantity of long distance releases, and several seemed to be some of the larger fish on the day. I learned over time that this frustration is a necessary part of small stream fishing.

I Love the Look of Ledge Rocks

I covered new water, and aside from the fishing, the landscape was spectacular. I passed through high moss covered rock walls and climbed over and around numerous beautiful waterfalls. At ten o’clock as I stood in the stream changing flies, an elk cow and calf suddenly appeared from behind a huge boulder on the left side of the stream. I immediately grabbed my camera case, but once they splashed into the stream, the cow saw me, and they quickly jogged up the hillside on the south side of the creek.

Best Waterfall of the Day

In summary I enjoyed another fine day on Piney River. The lower flows and clear water increased the challenge, but I eventually made the adjustment and downsized to a small caddis and experienced some success. I pretty much had the place to myself, and that is always a positive for me. I discovered that hiking the extra miles from the parking lot pays off in terms of fish numbers, size and diversity. I will keep this in mind, when I make my next excursion to Piney River.

Fish Landed: 25

Spectacular Color on This Little Guy

South Boulder Creek – 08/08/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/08/2017 Photo Album

Readers cannot see me, but I am still smiling from my day on South Boulder Creek. Today was a strong affirmation of the value of these blog posts, so let me explain.

I noticed last week that Denver Water finally lowered the releases from Gross Dam to 144 CFS, so I committed to making the trip in the near term. Today, Tuesday August 8 was that day. Knowing that South Boulder Creek was my destination prompted me to search my blog for all the log reports that detailed my fishing trips to the small tailwater northwest of Golden. The common thread on nearly all the August visits was green drakes. Green drakes hatch in the freestone rivers and streams in Colorado from the middle of July until the end of July, but their emergence seems to be delayed in tailwaters such as the Frying Pan River and South Boulder Creek. I suspect this circumstance is related to the cold bottom releases from the upstream dams.

Before I departed on Tuesday morning I checked my fly box and reviewed my selection of green drake imitations. I carry three styles, and I never know which one will fool the wild trout. I counted my comparaduns ribbed and not ribbed, parachute green drakes and Harrop hair wing green drakes; and I concluded that I possessed adequate quantities of each. With this inventory task completed I set out on the short drive to the parking lot above the stream near the outflow from the dam. I followed the directions on my map application on my iPhone, and this route reduced my driving time to 58 minutes. I generally allotted 75 minutes for my previous route that tracked on I70, CO 58, and CO 93.

Needless to say I anxiously anticipated my day on South Boulder Creek; however, my spirits sank a bit when I pulled into the parking lot and realized I would have significant company on Tuesday, a weekday no less. Eight vehicles were parked in the small lot, and I snagged a spot on the northern edge, a rarity for me on a weekday. As I pulled on my waders and strung my Loomis five weight rod, the fishermen on either side of me met with another angler who appeared to be the leader of the threesome. The head guy was alarmed by the number of cars in the lot, and he proposed that they move and “fish the inlet”. I could only assume that he was proposing a drive to the Gross Reservoir parking area accompanied by a one mile hike to the inlet where South Boulder Creek enters the reservoir. The two followers agreed, although it seemed to me they were reluctant to do so. That eliminated two cars, and now I had six remaining vehicles to be concerned about.

I proceeded with my preparation and decided that I would hike as far as the higher flows would allow in order to escape the unexpected crowd of fishermen. The air temperature was in the upper fifties, and the sky was mostly clear, as I began my descent of the steep trail to the creek. A large yellow sign at the top of the trailhead notified of bridge construction and warned to expect delays. I thought this was odd, as the only bridges were two pedestrian spans over South Boulder Creek.

When I reached the edge of the creek, I was pleased to learn that 144 cfs (I later learned when I returned home that the flows were actually reduced to 90 cfs on Tuesday morning) was very manageable for wading, and my expectations surged a bit. I crossed the stream below the small island near the beginning, and as I forded the wide relatively shallow area, I spotted a truck on the lane on the other side. I generally climb on to the bank in the area posted as private, but because of the activity, I waded along the edge until I reached the gate that signifies public access. I glanced back at the truck, and it was backing down the lane, and I assumed that it was transporting materials to be used in the bridge repair. This raised my concern that I should not have crossed, since I now needed to cross the pedestrian bridge to reach the downstream areas that I targeted for my day of fishing.

Fortunately when I approached the bridge, it was apparent that the work had not yet begun, and I breathed a sigh of relief, as I was on my way to farther penetration of the Walker Loop. I passed three solo fishermen on the upper water, so that accounted for three of the cars in the parking lot. Another fisherman waded into the creek in the boulder section downstream from the bridge, and eventually I ran into a man and woman together not far below the place where the fisherman path diverges from the Walker Loop trail. As near as I could tell, these were the last anglers that originated from the parking lot.

A Good Place to Start

When I created a decent distance from the last anglers encountered, I cut down to the water and began my day with a tan pool toy, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. The water before me was exceptional with an abundance of pockets and runs of moderate depth. I managed to land a couple small brown trout on the salvation nymph, but I was not satisfied with the start of my fishing day. Aside from the landed fish, the pool toy hopper attracted significant attention in the form of refusals, and this distracted from the subsurface offerings.

I decided to rectify the situation, and I moved to a size 14 medium olive stimulator. Initially this enticed a couple of small brown trout as well, but then it became an object to be inspected but not eaten. The fish count stood at four, albeit small fish, when I spotted two green drakes, as they fluttered skyward from the stream. The combination of this observation and my review of the blog posts, which documented green drake success in August, convinced me to attach a Harrop hair wing to my line.

A Pretty Rainbow

Once again the change initiated some initial success, as two trout slashed the bushy mayfly imitation, but then the refusal cycle reappeared. In hindsight I believe that the fish that chose to eat, were in faster riffles; whereas, those that rejected the fly occupied slow moving pools. I was convinced that the green drakes were favored by the South Boulder Creek trout, but the Harrop version did not meet their specifications. I scanned the green drake section of my fly box and plucked a size 14 comparadun with no rib. This fly was effective on the Cache la Poudre River in July, so I tied it to my line and took a deep breath. The comparadun presented a more slender profile, and several fish liked the lean look allowing me to build the fish count to ten. However, fish that ate the large mayfly imitation were fewer than those that refused or elevated to look with no follow through. In addition to the irregular performance of the the fly, it became saturated with water, and even my best efforts to dry it were increasingly futile.

Quality Pockets Ahead

I decided to sit on a log to eat my lunch. I pondered my next move, while I observed the quality deep pool and run next to my dining area. I landed ten fish in my first hour, and yet I was dissatisfied with the production of my fly choices. How could this be? An experienced fly fisherman would know the feeling of fishing through high quality water that assuredly contains decent fish, yet somehow coming up empty, or the takes are accompanied by an overabundance of refusals and brief hook ups. That sentence accurately described my state of mind.

I remembered the blog entries, that I read the night before, and I recalled the documented success of the parachute green drake imitations that eventually unraveled. After lunch I followed through on my recollection and replaced the comparadun style with a size 14 parachute green drake. This version contained a white wing post that enhanced visibility and a maroon thread rib on the abdomen. I tested the fresh dry fly in the deep pool, and after a small fish rejected it in the fast center section, I lobbed it to the shelf pool on the far side. Success! A decent brown trout streaked to the surface and crushed the fake. Similar success greeted my fly changes earlier in the day, so I resisted a celebration.

Escape Is Not an Option

The celebratory restraint was unnecessary. I moved upstream, and over the next 2.5 hours I experienced some exceptional dry fly fishing. The fish counter clicked frequently and moved from ten to thirty-six, and all the fish were fooled by the parachute green drake. In fact two flies produced all the fish, and the first one accounted for 75%. During this time I noticed additional naturals, but the hatch was not obvious, and I spotted very few rising trout. Western green drake hatches are notoriously sparse, but the size of the meal makes up for the reduced quantity of insects. The trout were definitely tuned into green drakes.

My Main Producer

It did not seem to matter what type of water I cast to. Riffles were absolute producers, and the seams of deep runs were also worth exploring. I was stunned to see several fish flash downstream for several feet to intercept the large dry fly before it tumbled over the lip of the pocket. In one case a brown trout bumped the fly twice and then finally grabbed it before it escaped. At the point where it inhaled the drake, it was five feet downstream from its initial inspection. That is due diligence although not very effective, if the goal is to avoid getting hooked in the mouth. Four or five times I lost sight of the fly, as it got tugged under by the currents, so I lifted and felt the weight of a fish. These subsurface takes resulted in some of the larger trout on the day, and it seemed like the rainbows were more likely to nab drowned green drakes than brown trout.

So Pretty

Parachute Green Drake Snack

By 2:30 some dark clouds appeared overhead accompanied by the sound of distant thunder. I pulled on my raincoat during lunch for added warmth, so I was prepared for precipitation, and I continued fishing as light rain commenced. Suddenly a flash of light brightened the sky, and a clap of thunder followed shortly thereafter. This meant the lightning was close by, so I quickly climbed some rocks and found a refuge next to a tall rock wall that leaned toward the north and provided a slice of protection from the rain. I waited impatiently for fifteen minutes until three o’clock, and then the sky brightened in the west, and the sounds of thunder faded.

My Storm Refuge

I returned to the creek and resumed casting the parachute green drake, but my second imitation also became waterlogged, and the fish were not responsive. The rain eventually stopped, and the sun emerged briefly, and this stimulated a wave of insect activity. I observed a couple green drakes, but an abundance of smaller mayflies now took center stage. I continued prospecting with the waterlogged parachute green drake and added a few more fish, but I began to wonder if perhaps this was a time when trout might favor the active nymph stage of the pale morning dun. I quickly converted to a two fly dry/dropper with a yellow fat Albert on top and a salvation nymph as the dropper. The theory was not correct. The fish ignored this approach, so after twenty minutes of flailing the water with no reward for my efforts, I reverted to a green drake.

A Closer Look

During my 2016 green drake interaction, I used the comparadun with success after the parachute versions unraveled, so I gave this ploy another try. It did not pan out, and my watch indicated that it was 4PM, so I decided to begin the long forty minute hike back to the parking lot. As I was trudging along on the trail, I stopped at several favorite pools to make some last ditch casts. At the first prime pool I encountered, I noticed a few rises along the right side. I floated the green drake comparadun in the vicinity, but this merely encouraged an inspection. I suspected that pale morning duns were prevalent, so I converted to a size 16 light gray comparadun. The third drift of the slender PMD imitation prompted a subtle take, and I hooked and landed a pretty ten inch rainbow.

I turned my attention to the shelf pool on the other side of the strong center current. A small fish showed itself with several splashy rises at the tail, but some downstream drifts failed to entice another rise to my fly. It was at this time that a swarm of mayfly spinners hovered over the pool and the area I was casting to. They did not appear to be touching the water, but several fish rose while this mating event developed. Maybe some strays touched down ahead of the main orgy? I replaced the light gray comparadun with a cinnamon version and mashed down the deer hair wing so that some deer hair spread to the side of the thorax. This was my attempt to match a pale morning dun spinner, but it did not succeed. While executing casts in this same pool, I spotted another pair of green drakes. Perhaps I abandoned the big boy too soon? I tied the green drake comparadun back on my line, but they shunned it as well, and I surrendered to the pool and moved on.

Light Gray Comparadun Victim

My last stop was the long deep pool between the pedestrian bridge (which now displayed signs on both ends warning of delays) and the path that ascends to the parking lot. I was shocked to see this perpetually occupied location vacant, so I stopped to make a few exploratory casts. I once again knotted the size 16 light gray comparadun to my line, and it rewarded me with two rainbow trout in the ten and eleven inch size range. I ended my day with three rainbow trout that sipped the comparadun to reach thirty-nine fish.

What a wonderful day on South Boulder Creek! All but the first two fish ate dry flies, and the action on the parachute green drake was superb. Tuesday was a testament to my commitment to my blog and to tying my own flies. In all likelihood had I not read about my success with green drakes on August 4, 2016, I would not have converted to the parachute green drake. Tying my own flies allowed me to capitalize on my experience and many prior interactions with green drake hatches to produce three different styles, and the parachute version became the favorite on Tuesday. I foresee a return trip to South Boulder Creek in my near future. In fact after chronicling my day, I am ready to return right now.

Fish Landed: 39

Boulder Creek – 08/07/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 08/07/2017 Photo Album

I was weary of driving long distances to fish as was the case in the previous week, so I decided to go local on Monday. Flows on Boulder Creek recently dropped to 74 CFS, and the small stream west of Boulder, CO was absent from my 2017 itinerary, so I planned to give it a try. Unfortunately when I woke up on Monday morning, I heard the constant trickle of rain, as it drained down the spouting. When I looked outside, the picture was even worse with low gray clouds shrouding the Denver area. I checked the weather report for Boulder, and it indicated rain and thunderstorms off and on for the remainder of the day. This was not encouraging, and I debated devoting Monday to some procrastinated indoor chores.

It was only misting, when I departed on my daily run, but halfway through the jog the mist transformed to drizzle, and by the time I returned to the house the precipitation was classified as steady rain. I took my time showering and then prepared my lunch, and when I looked to the west, I noticed the sky remained gray, but it was definitely brighter, so I took the plunge and made the drive to Boulder. My best case scenario was getting in some fly fishing. My worst case outcome was a picnic lunch in the car next to Boulder Creek.

I drove up the canyon a good ways, and parked at a wide pullout with a sign about a historical wildfire. It was noon when I arrived, so I sat in the car protected from the misting rain and devoured my light lunch. After lunch I grabbed my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my waders and fishing backpack and front pack, and I was prepared to fish. I wore my fleece and raincoat and pulled my hood up over my New Zealand billed cap, and I was as waterproof as I could be.

Just as I began walking down the highway, two fishermen returned from the creek and climbed into a Subaru Outback parked at the western end of the parking area. I was concerned that I would be fishing in the wake of these recent waders, but I concluded that I was headed downstream, and by the time I returned to the area they vacated, the fish would be back to their normal habits.

Boulder Creek on a Rainy Day

After walking a short distance along the shoulder of the road, I angled down a steep bank and tied a Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph to my line. I began casting these flies to likely holding spots, and in the early going I accumulated temporary hook ups, refusals and looks but not landed fish. These fish were supposed to be gullible, so what was going on? Eventually I landed a couple fish on the hares ear, but this was after covering a significant number of promising holes. The fish seemed to be ignoring the nymphs, as they focused on the Chernobyl, but they were unwilling to close their mouths on the fake foam terrestrial.

I finally conceded that my initial fly choices were not desired table fare for the Boulder Creek trout, and I replaced the three flies with a medium olive body size 12 stimulator. This fly enabled me to land a couple more small brown trout, but then it also became a thing of interest but not something to eat. I considered going back to the Chernobyl ant, but then I recalled my success on Friday with Jake’s gulp beetle. Why not give it another trial? I tied on a size 12 beetle and added a beadhead hares ear dropper, and my optimism soared. Early on the beetle attracted two refusals, and then I suffered through another lull with no action.

Needless to say I was rather frustrated. It was raining lightly with heavy cloud cover, and these sort of cool overcast conditions generally portend excellent fishing. The flows remained above average, and generally the trout are not as skittish and remain opportunistic after enduring the high flows of run off. I must mention, however, that the water was quite clear, and I spooked numerous fish, when I approached a pool or pocket too quickly or clumsily.

My best run of near action consisted of some momentary hook ups on the Chernboyl at the outset, and two of these fish appeared to be a bit larger than the small fish that I landed. I returned to the dry/dropper approach with a size 10 Chernobyl ant, beadhead emerald caddis pupa, and beadhead pheasant tail. The caddis pupa and pheasant tail produced on St. Louis Creek, so why not test them on relatively small Boulder Creek?

Crashing Water

I allotted a decent amount of time to these flies, but they failed me. Once again I noted a couple refusals to the Chernobyl, and the nymphs were totally shunned. Something had to change, but what should I try next? The clouds were growing darker and the wind kicked up a bit, and I was fairly certain that more rain was a near term reality. I decided to make my last stand with a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. Fish were looking to the surface, and caddis are generally always present, and the light gray deer hair caddis is a solid general pattern that covers a lot of bases.

Little Guy

Well it worked. In the remaining half hour I landed three small brown trout on the caddis. A few refusals were in the mix, but the imitation was apparently close enough to convince three fish to eat. I considered replacing the caddis with a light gray size 16 comparadun, in case the trout were tuned into pale morning duns, even though I did not see any, but the density of the rain increased, and I decided to call it quits and seek the shelter of the Santa Fe. I seemed to recall a mention on the Front Range Anglers web site of pale morning duns emerging in the late afternoon. I suppose this theory will need to be tested on another day.

Caddis Lover

Seven small brown trout in 2.5 hours of fishing is not a stellar outing. I was admittedly expecting better fishing in the rainy overcast conditions on a stream that historically produced relatively easy action. I suppose I should celebrate being able to fish in adverse weather conditions, and landing seven fish was actually icing on the cake. Hopefully the weather clears, and I can return to more typical summer conditions for the remainder of the week.

Fish Landed: 7

St. Louis Creek – 08/04/2017

Time: 2:30PM – 5:00PM

Location: Just above the Fraser Experimental Forest headquarters.

St. Louis Creek 08/04/2017 Photo Album

What now? I had a few hours available to salvage my fishing trip of Friday, August 4. I surrendered to the Colorado River near Parshall, and I considered options for the remainder of the day. The upper Williams Fork above the reservoir was relatively close, although that choice required a longer return drive. I fished Willow Creek along CO 125 briefly while camping at Denver Creek quite a few years ago, and I recalled landing some brook trout, but my fishing skills were weaker then than now. Two possibilities along the return drive were St. Louis Creek west of Fraser, CO and the North Fork of Clear Creek west of Empire, CO. St. Louis Creek appealed to me because I never fished there, and it was more distant from a main road than Willow Creek or the North Fork of Clear Creek. More distance equals less pressured in my book.

I entered Fraser Experimental Forest in my maps app, and my iPhone directed me to the headquarters located across from St. Louis Creek. The directions were accurate, and I backed into a narrow space between two trees, and I quickly prepared to optimize my remaining time on August 4. I remained in my waders, but I broke down my Sage five weight, and now I chose my Loomis two piece five weight, since it was a shorter rod and better suited to the narrow creek surrounded by trees and bushes. These actions allowed me to wade into the water by 2:30.

So Pretty

The sky was now cloudy, and consequently the air temperature dropped, although I remained comfortable in my long sleeved Columbia fishing shirt. The flow was strong although not excessively high, but excellent clarity prompted me to begin my day with a medium olive body size 12 stimulator. This fly was light and fluttered down on the surface without creating much disturbance, yet it was buoyant and easy to see. I began prospecting all the likely refuges for trout, and immediately encountered two long distance releases and a couple refusals. I persisted, however, and after ten minutes I landed a tiny four inch brook trout. This scenario unfolded for twenty minutes, and I eventually landed a couple char that were barely over the six inch mark required to increment the fish counter. Every countable fish was matched by twice as many momentary hook ups or fish too small to count.

Began with an Olive Stimulator

Another Jewel

After another series of refusals I decided to downsize, and I tied a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis to my line. This proved to be a solid move, and I landed more fish, although the size of the brookies remained modest. The caddis was quite popular with the fish, however, and the fish tally climbed to seven. I hoped that the larger deeper pools would yield bigger fish, but fantasy did not become reality. By four o’clock some light rain descended, but not enough to get out my raincoat, and I pondered my next move. I was very curious to experiment with a dry/dropper in this small creek, so that is what I did. For the top fly I knotted a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line, and as a single dropper I attached a beadhead pheasant tail.

Best Pool on the Creek

The experiment was a success, and I landed eight more brook trout to push the count to fifteen before I retired at 5PM. The last hour was a blast, as I splatted the beetle and pheasant tail in all likely trout holding nooks of St. Louis Creek. Three aggressive brook trout attacked the beetle, and the rest snatched the pheasant tail from the drift. The size of the fish actually improved a tad, as I landed an eight inch battler and a couple seven inch jewels. And they were indeed gems, as the colors sparkled in the sun, and they displayed bright orange blotches along their underside.

Best Fish of the Day

2.5 hours on St. Louis Creek was just what the doctor ordered after a tough outing on the much larger Colorado River. Each cast offered the chance of a pretty surprise. My greatest difficulty was staging the brookies for photos without the aid of a net, as the holes in the my net were too large for the tiny fish.

Fish Landed: 15