Monthly Archives: March 2018

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 03/30/2018

Time: 11:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 03/30/2018

Steve and I returned from our wonderful trip to Wyoming on Thursday, March 22, and the weather returned to typical variable conditions with cool temperatures, a couple small snow accumulations in Denver, and high winds. I was quite anxious to get out on a stream before my scheduled skin procedure on Friday March 30. Jane and I skied on Tuesday, and the highs on Wednesday and Thursday barely reached fifty degrees. This translated to much lower temperatures at higher elevations, where I was likely to fish.

On Thursday I received a surprise call from the dermatology office, and my appointment was rescheduled for April 20. This provided me with a two week reprieve, and Friday now became an option for a day of fishing. The high in Denver was projected to peak in the low sixties, and I chose another trip to the North Fork of the St. Vrain. The forecast high in nearby Lyons was expected to top out at sixty-one, and I concluded that the small tailwater would be a better bet than other freestone options given the possibility of low elevation snow melt from the recent storms.

Pool at Starting Point

I took my time preparing on Friday morning, and I arrived at the parking lot below the gate by 10:45. I hustled to apply sunscreen, pull on my waders, and assembled my Orvis Access four weight; and this enabled me to hit the dirt road by 11AM. A thirty minute hike delivered me to a nice section of the stream, and I scrambled over some rocks and entered the creek. I began my quest for small North Fork brown trout with a size 8 fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. These flies produced quite well on my previous visit to the St. Vrain.

Twenty minutes elapsed before I finally detected a pause in the fat Albert, but I reacted and landed a small brown trout to register my first fish of the day. I continued my progression upstream for another forty-five minutes, until I reached a long deep slow moving pool, and here I paused to eat my lunch behind a large streamside boulder that offered protection from the gusting wind.

Rising Fish in This Long Pool

Fortunately after lunch the catch rate elevated, and I finished the day with seventeen on the fish counter. The wind remained a nuisance throughout the afternoon, and large gray clouds prevented the air temperature from rising to the sixty degree range. In fact, I wore a fleece and light down coat during my entire day, and I was quite  comfortable.

Three of the first five brown trout favored the beadhead hares ear, and two snatched the salvation, but then I somehow snapped off the salvation on a rock or stick. I replaced it with a size 20 soft hackle emerger, since a small gray stonefly landed on my hand, and the soft hackle emerger proved to be a favorable imitation in previous years. I was also covering my bases in case a blue winged olive emergence evolved.

This Guy Liked My Hand

The soft hackle emerger yielded three trout, but then my catch rate slid below my expectations, so I swapped the small fluoro fiber BWO imitation for an ultra zug bug. This fly produced one eater, and then I slipped into another lull. Finally I approached another slow moving deep pool, and small sipping rises were visible in the tail area. I reluctantly removed my dry/dropper configuration and knotted a size 22 CDC BWO to my line. The wind continued to blast down the canyon, and the tiny fluff of CDC was not a fit for casting into the gusts. After ten unsuccessful casts I moved up along the bank a bit and shot a cast across, thus causing a cross wind to blow the fly near my target area. The adjustment worked, when a small brown sucked down the minute olive. It was my first landed trout on a dry fly in North America during 2018.

Having Fun

I continued with the CDC BWO olive a bit longer, but the fierce wind compromised my accuracy, and I reached the head of the pool, so I reverted to the dry/dropper. I assumed that the fish were responding to blue winged olives, even though I never saw a natural, so I combined an RS2 with the hares ear nymph. The move rewarded me with five additional trout, and three grabbed the RS2, as I lifted at the end of a drift. The other two snatched the beadhead hares ear.

Quality Spot

This action coincided with fairly rapid progress through some nice quality water, but eventually I broke off the RS2 on a submerged stick. I covered some juicy spots without results just prior to losing the fly, so I used the separation as an excuse to return to the salvation nymph. The salvation was on fire during the afternoon on March 15, 2018, and I hoped to recapture the magic. To some extent the ploy worked, as I landed two more trout during my remaining time.

Keeping Wet

By 4:30 I was quite chilled, and the wind continued to attack everything in its path, so I hooked my flies to the rod guide and scrambled up the steep bank to the road. Forty-five minutes later I was in the parking lot, and shortly thereafter I was munching on sourdough specials and sipping a Red Bull.

Ears on Alert

Friday was a fun, although challenging, day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain. The fish were small, with the largest perhaps extending to eleven inches. I cycled through an array of flies, and I experienced some success with each. I suspect the trout were hungry, and Friday was more about placing casts in prime areas, and this required patience and persistence given the persistent air movement. Blue winged olives made an appearance, and that event encouraged me to schedule more fishing outings over the next two weeks.

Fish Landed: 17

North Platte River – 03/22/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 1:00PM

Location: Miracle Mile

North Platte River 03/22/2018 Photo Album

Wednesday was a special day, and after our skunking on Tuesday I was very skeptical that Steve and I could produce some action without the aid of a guide and a drift boat on Thursday. When we asked our guide, Greg, for a suggestion on where to wade fish on Thursday morning and early afternoon, he suggested the Miracle Mile. Our expectations were relatively low, but the idea that we needed a miracle was a bit excessive. Or was it? The Miracle Mile is a five mile section (not sure why it is named a mile) of the North Platte River between Seminoe and Pathfinder Reservoirs, and it has the reputation of harboring very large brown and rainbow trout. Our lack of wading success below Grey Reef and in the Alcova Afterbay convinced us to explore a new section of water on Thursday morning.

We checked out of the Hampton Inn in Casper and made the nearly two hour drive to a picnic area below the Seminoe Dam. The temperature on the dashboard was 50 degrees, when we opened our doors to prepare to fish, but a fairly steady breeze made it seem much colder. I opted to wear my heavy down coat, billed New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and two layers of socks under my wading boots. I stuck with this attire during my 2.5 hour stay on the river and never regretted it.

Merging Braids at the Downstream Tip of the Island

As we pulled on our waders and prepared to fish, a group of five fishermen departed from the parking lot, and they headed downstream below the point of a narrow island, where three channels merged. Our rods remained strung from the Wednesday float trip, but my line only contained one apricot egg, so I quickly added a second of the same color. Unfortunately I did not possess one of the light chartreuse varieties that shared space on the leader during our float of the river below Grey Reef. I also added a BB split shot and a thingamabobber and then waited for a short time, while Steve made some adjustments to his line.

Wide Featureless Section Was Windy and Did Not Produce

We decided to explore the upstream river, since this was our first visit to the Miracle Mile, and we had no idea what to expect. We hiked beyond a campsite and crossed a small stream and quickly reached the point, where the main river split into three braids. The combined river above this point was quite wide and featureless, but similar sections of the downstream North Platte produced on Wednesday, so we decided to prospect it a bit. I began spraying casts ranging from twenty feet to forty feet across the river from the bank, and after three or four drifts, I stepped downstream four or five steps and repeated the process. I completed four or five cycles in this manner with no evidence of fish, and then Steve approached me after having similar results.

We decided to reverse our direction to check out the area where the currents merged below the parking lot. After an eight minute hike we reached the aforementioned confluence of braids, and much to our surprise the area was vacant. A fisherman was visible sixty yards upstream, and two fishermen were waded into a nice shelf pool thirty yards below us. The river in front of us was very tantalizing, as the main current rushed by fifty feet from the bank, and the area in between was a nice deep shelf pool. I offered to fish the bottom of the pool, and Steve charged into the top section.

My First and Largest Rainbow Came from This Seam

I began to fire casts toward the midsection and allowed the eggs to drift downstream, but on every third cast the hooks snagged in some sort of aquatic growth. I was using 2X tippet, so in each snag situation I moved upstream and applied direct pressure and pulled the flies free, but the interruptions to my fishing rhythm were frustrating.

Eventually Steve and I swapped places, and I waded in to the very top of the pool. A small V-shaped pocket existed where the river tumbled over some large boulders, and then a quality current seam extended along the fast main current of the river. I began lobbing casts to the V and allowed the egg flies to tumble along the seam. I repeated this maneuver five times with no evidence of fish, but on the sixth drift the indicator dipped, and I set the hook. Instantly my line moved, and I felt significant weight on the end of my line. Fortunately the object attached to my line was a diver and thrasher more than a streaker, and I slowly waded back toward the shoreline while allowing the active fighter to make several brief runs.

I gained the upper hand and applied side pressure and coaxed a spectacular rainbow trout into the shallow water, where I eagerly scooped it into my net. What a fish! The tail flopped over the edge of my undersized net, and I estimated the length at twenty inches. But more amazing was the girth of the brilliantly colored fish, as it seemed to fill all but two inches of space on either side of the net frame. Steve joined me and snapped a photo, while I reached into the net and removed the apricot egg hook. I hoped to snap a few photos, but before I could remove my camera from the case, the football shaped finned creature extended its tail and executed a flop. Before I could react, the wild trout was free and headed back to its underwater home.


My adrenaline was coursing through my arteries, as I returned to my position at the head of the seam, and I began repeating the long drifts, although I concentrated on the area a bit farther downstream from my surprise hook up. Sure enough after quite a few unproductive floats, I spotted a dip in the thingamabobber and once again lifted my rod to embed the hook in the mouth of a hungry subsurface life form. Again the recipient of the hook penetration reacted, and it streaked up and down the pool. This fight lasted much longer than the previous, and I was certain that a trophy was within reach. Alas when I finally leveraged the trout to the surface, I determined that it was a fat rainbow, that I foul hooked in the belly. This fish was shorter than my first one, but nearly as corpulent.

With two euphoria inducing battles under my belt, I invited Steve to return to the top of the pool, and I began to probe the midsection. Unfortunately I was unable to reprise the earlier magic, and after another ten minutes I approached Steve to discuss our next move. As I looked downstream, I could see a long jumble of rocks that angled into the river, and I suspected, that this created some quality rainbow trout structure. We decided that Steve would continue to fish the present pool for another twenty minutes, while I walked downstream to the area described. In the absence of action Steve would drive the car down to the next picnic area, which was just below the section that I targeted, and we would meet there.

Looking North or Downstream

The plan developed as described. The area by the rock bar was indeed quite attractive, as the river tumbled off a steep drop off and created a deep hole with numerous swirling currents. I began to cast to the shallow riffle and allowed the flies to drift off the shelf into the deep pool, and within a short amount of time the indicator dipped, and I once again found myself attached to a pink striped rocket. When I slid it into my net along the bank, I was delighted to learn that this fish displayed an apricot egg in its mouth. It was another beautiful trout in the seventeen inch range, and I snapped a few photos and carefully released it to fight another day.

I Like This Position

I returned to my perch on the shelf and resumed casting to the entering riffle, and once again the thingamabobber dipped. I lifted my rod, but in this case it felt like I was snagged to a stump or rock. I began to curse my ill fortune, when the heretofore stationary object began to move. I exerted increased side pressure, and the slow steady movement accelerated, until there was no doubt that I was once again attached to a fish. This rainbow trout was another tough customer, but once again the cause was disappointing, as I eventually discovered that the hook was embedded in one of the small fins along the belly.

I marveled as the slab slowly swam away, and then I scanned the parking lot by the picnic ramada downstream and noticed that Steve arrived. Once he began hiking toward me along the path, I stepped on to the bank and ambled along a worn path to meet him. I told him of my success and invited him to take my place on the shelf, and he eagerly accepted my suggestion.

Number Three

Once Steve was situated, I circled below him and began firing casts to the pool below the deep hole and eddy. I was running drifts near the current seam and fishing the middle third of the long shelf pool, and much to my surprise another thingamabobber dip initiated a solid hook set. Again a muscular combatant streaked back and forth across the pool, and I maintained tension, while I edged to the shallow water along the shoreline. Eventually after several mad rushes, I once again carefully slid my net under a solid North Platte River specimen. I was pleased to observe the apricot egg lodged in its mouth, and I was frankly stunned by the knowledge, that I landed three gorgeous rainbow trout from the Miracle Mile.



Had the day ended at this juncture, I would have been ecstatic, but it did not. I circled around Steve and waded along the edge of the shelf, until I was in a position to reach the inviting moderate riffle that fed the far current seam. I was now standing where I could reach enticing virgin water in the large honey hole that we occupied. Over the remaining thirty minutes I landed two additional chunky hard fighting rainbows in the sixteen to eighteen inch range to bring my fish count to five. While this good fortune was unfolding I paused to wade to the shore and photograph an incredible eighteen inch rainbow that was unable to bypass Steve’s egg fly. I recorded a video of the netting and snapped a few photos, before I returned to my favorite position at the top of the pool.

My What Red Cheeks

By 12:40 a drift boat rowed into position thirty yards below us, and the occupants paused to eat their lunches. Steve and I experienced a brief lull in action, so we decided to call it a day at 1PM. I escalated my focus and delivered some expert drag free drifts to the top of the hole and along the seam, but I was unable to replicate the earlier success. At one o’clock I reeled up my line and hooked the egg fly to the rod guide and slowly waded to the bank to join Steve. We informed the occupants of the drift boat that the pool was all theirs and returned to the Subaru.

Drift Boat Below Us

What an amazing day! Before we began fishing, I announced that I would be happy with a couple fish. I ended up landing five stunning rainbow trout, and all measured in the sixteen to twenty inch range. More impressive than the length, however, was the considerable weight of these healthy specimen. I was certain that all my fish as well as Steve’s exceeded all but one or two of our landed fish on Wednesday. I was convinced that the Miracle Mile would not live up to its name, but I must now confess that it is not an example of modern day hyperbole. I cannot wait to return.

Fish Landed: 5

North Platte River – 03/21/2018

Time: 8:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Grey Reef boat launch to Government Bridge

North Platte River 03/21/2018 Photo Album

The dashboard temperature hovered in the 28-30 degree range, as Steve and I drove to the Wyoming Fly Fishing shop after breakfast at the Hampton Inn on Wednesday morning. We met Greg, our guide, at 7:30AM, and this was earlier than our previous float trips. Prior to our departure from Denver, in an email to Steve, Greg mentioned floating the Miracle Mile, but when I greeted him, he informed us that he scheduled the normal float below Grey Reef. He later explained that a friend fished the Miracle Mile with solid results, but he was hesitant to make that our destination before he personally inspected it.

A Crowd Gathered at the Boat Launch

Wednesday, March 21 was the last day of the flush, and the water level at the boat launch remained higher than our experience on Tuesday afternoon. I took my place in the rear of the drift boat, while Steve manned the bow. I began the day wearing my heavy down coat, mittens with hand warmers, billed hat with ear flaps, and two layers of socks with toe warmers under my waders. I was not taking any chances after the adverse 2017 weather experience. Over the course of the day I never shed a layer, and I felt reasonably comfortable. The high temperature for the day was 55 degrees, but it never felt that warm because of the stiff wind, which gusted up to twenty MPH during the midday time period.

Beauty on Display

A Better Angle

Steve and I enjoyed steady action throughout the day. We both drifted double plastic egg rigs; one light chartreuse and one apricot. The consistent catch rate enabled me to tally twenty-one fish, and eleven filled my net in the morning, while ten occupied the rubber mesh receptacle in the afternoon. The takes were equally divided between the two egg varieties. The most productive river locations were slow moving  sections of decent depth next to faster current lanes and drop offs.

Deep Snow Drifts in This Section

Greg managed the speed of the boat in expert fashion, and this enabled long drag-free drifts. In one particularly productive spot, Greg rowed upstream repeatedly thus allowing six drifts through a sweet trough, and the effort rewarded Steve and I with four or five fish each.

Bronze Variety

All the fish landed were in the thirteen to twenty inch range, and we each topped out with one at the twenty inch mark. The rainbows were in perfect condition and consequently strong fighters, and the males displayed vivid stripes and bright scarlet cheeks. We both hope to make another trip in the spring of 2019. In short, we had a blast.

Fish Landed: 21

Guide Service Sign

North Platte River – 03/20/2018

Time: 2:30PM – 3:30PM; 4:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: One hour at the tailwater just below Grey Reef dam; 1.5 hour at the Alcova Afterbay

North Platte River – 03/20/2018 Photo Album

My friend Steve and I decided to renew our annual pilgrimage to the North Platte River near Casper on March 20, 2018. This was our fifth such trip, and we experienced good to phenomenal fishing during all our ventures. Steve made the arrangements and scheduled the float trip with Wyoming Fly Fishing for the last day of the spring flush. The water managers release a surge of water from the upstream dam for ten consecutive days to cleanse the gravel spawning beds of the rainbow trout. This action also stirs up the sediments of the riverbed, and this in turn creates a conveyor belt buffet of eggs and worms for the resident trout.

Our 2017 trek was less successful than previous years, and we attributed this to two factors. Our visit took place after the conclusion of the flush; and the weather was extremely formidable with wind, rain and temperatures that hovered in the upper thirties. It was difficult to maintain focus under these severe conditions. Steve communicated with Liz in the shop in order to pick a date that coincided with the last day of the flush.

Fortunately Steve was willing to drive his car, since the spring on our overhead garage door snapped the day before our departure. I arranged my gear on the porch, and once Steve arrived, I transferred the cargo to his Subaru. We departed northern Denver by 8AM, and after a four hour drive we arrived in Casper, WY. We stopped for a quick lunch and checked into our room at the Hampton Inn, and then we headed west to the parking area below Grey Reef dam.

Steve Covers a Run Above the Boat Ramp

The temperature was forty degrees as we prepared to wade fish, but the ever present wind blasted across the relatively flat high plain. I wore my heavy down coat, hat with ear flaps and two layers of socks; and I was thankful for the insulation. Steve and I rigged our rods with a plastic apricot colored egg, split shot and indicator. After fifteen minutes with no action, I added a pine squirrel leech, since the same fly proved its value on an earlier visit to the tailwater during the flush. Unfortunately the additional weight of the conehead leech pattern caused my flies to continually snag, until I broke off the leech and replaced it with a red annelid worm.

Pine Squirrel Leech Failed to Produce

We worked our way up the right bank toward the dam, although when we arrived, six fishermen were spaced out between our positions near the boat ramp and the dam. These anglers, however, cleared out and ceded an open path to our progression. By 3:30 Steve and I were very chilled and bored with the lack of action, so we decided to relocate our efforts to the Alcova Afterbay area.

Steve Feeling the Chill

We stowed our rods and gear, and after a brief drive we bounced our way down a rough packed mud road to the crude boat launch area of the afterbay. Steve chose to begin in the area near the launch, while I hiked upstream to the “post”. A thick post protruded from the river twenty feet beyond the bank, and I recalled landing several nice rainbow trout from the same area during our 2017 trip.

I fished the deep trough between the post and the bank with no reward for my efforts, and then I waded to a position just below the post and began fanning casts to an area of moderate depth between two merging currents. Roughly halfway down the V-shaped merge area, the indicator dipped, and I set the hook. Unlike the endless previous sets that yielded bottom snags, I felt movement and weight, but as soon as I applied pressure, a rainbow rolled on the surface, and the hook released, as two flies hurtled back toward me. After two hours of frustrating fly fishing, my opportunity to tally a fish count evaporated in an instant.

I moved downstream a bit more, and as I was doing this, a guide appeared on the bank. He offered that his client was on fire with a purple rock worm and midge pattern. I did not possess a purple rock worm, so I exchanged the red rock worm for a pink San Juan worm, and then I added a 3X section to the eye and knotted a salad spinner to the end. I returned to the top of the moderate riffle and repeated the downstream prospecting but with no positive results. Apparently only the lower portion of the afterbay was on fire.

My feet morphed into stumps, and I began to shiver, so I climbed the steep bank and spotted fish for Steve over the next half hour. I was amazed by the number of large visible trout, but most appeared to be in spawning mode and showed little signs of hunger. Steve persisted with some nice fly fishing, but he was unable to interest the pods of fish in his offerings, so we called it a day and returned to the hotel. After showers we drove a short distance to J’s Bar and Grill and enjoyed a casual dinner. Our thoughts now turned to our much anticipated float trip on Wednesday.

Fish Landed: 0


North Fork of the St. Vrain River – 03/15/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Buttonrock Reservoir

North Fork of the St. Vrain River 03/15/2018 Photo Album

My season opener on the South Platte River near Deckers was a disappointing experience, and I was eager to visit another Colorado stream, where I could atone for my frustrating performance. My 2018 fish count consisted entirely of trout landed in the southern hemisphere. Surely Thursday would be the day, when I posted fish number one from North America on the fish counter.

Wednesday was actually a nicer day from a weather standpoint, but a morning doctor appointment prevented a meaningful fishing adventure. Thursday’s forecast projected a high of 65 in Denver with afternoon showers, so I opted to make a second trip in the early season. Historically I enjoyed early and late season success on tailwaters, and when I reviewed the flows, I noted that South Boulder Creek and the North Fork of the St. Vrain were running slightly below 15 CFS. These flows were low, but I knew from experience that a cautious approach and longer casts could produce decent action. The North Fork of the St. Vrain was more open to the direct rays of the sun, so I selected it over South Boulder Creek.

I contacted my Instagram friend, Trevor, and informed him of my decision to visit the North Fork of the St. Vrain, and he decided to meet me there. Trevor prefers an earlier start, so I agreed to look for him on the stream. The time change on Sunday meant that it took longer for the sun to warm the air temperature, and I intended to fish later in the afternoon, so an early start was not a priority for me.

I arrived at the parking area near the entry gate by 10AM, and after I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and climbed into my waders, I embarked on a thirty-five minute hike. I tied my light fleece coat around my waist, since I knew that I would overheat with the extra exertion of hiking. I eagerly scanned the creek for Trevor and his dog, Shilling, and finally after the expected walk, I spotted my friend along the left side of a long smooth pool. I asked about Shilling’s whereabouts, and Trevor explained that he left him at home for this longer trip and hike. Trevor also disclosed that he landed a trout near the parking lot, and he spotted numerous fish, as he ambled along the road high above the creek. These pieces of information revved up my expectations, and I announced that I would continue upstream to a point where a large boulder was situated between the road and the stream.

I strung my fly line and tied on a gray stimulator, and below the attractor dry fly I added a beadhead hares ear. I prospected this combination through several attractive areas with no positive results, so I added a size 20 salad spinner. This addition was ineffective, so I replaced the salad spinner with an ultra zug bug. Trevor in the meantime landed two fish that snatched a fly with a sparkling body similar to the ultra zug bug. The changes failed to attract hungry fish, and the stimulator did not support the two beadhead nymphs very well, so I once again initiated a change. I swapped the stimulator for a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle.


Trevor spotted several fish at the tail of a nice pool, but he concluded that his leader was too short, and his flies were passing over the fish. I moved in and made some drifts with my flies, but I experienced a similar lack of interest, and my leader length was similar to Trevor’s. I abandoned the sulking bottom huggers and moved on, but before resuming my casting I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a size 20 soft hackle emerger. This fly produced results during previous March visits, when I observed very small stoneflies, and I was hopeful that a similar occurrence might commence.

I continued fishing with renewed concentration, but the fish were not cooperating. I pondered the situation, and I decided I needed to get deeper, so I clipped off the beetle and replaced it with a size 8 yellow fat Albert. This fly was quite visible, and it could easily support two size 14 beadhead nymphs. Unfortunately my deep drift ploy was also unsuccessful, and Trevor and I approached the large pipe, where the overflow of the lake dumps into the creek. Since it was the middle of March, and the flows were regulated to a paltry 15 cfs, the pipe was dry, but Trevor wanted to show me the pool on the upstream side of the road. We walked across the dirt road, but the small pool was covered with ice. Trevor mentioned that when he checked out the pool later in the season, he observed as many as twenty-five trout gathered in the small space.

Deep Run

We crossed back to the main creek, and Trevor retreated to some nice water thirty yards downstream, while I approached the deep pool across from the pipe. I made some nice long casts to the tail of the pool and then worked the top portion where the faster water entered, but once again my efforts were thwarted.

Trevor and I climbed to the top of the bank on the edge of the road, and we realized that it was noon. Since Trevor volunteers to coach the Longmont baseball team on Thursday afternoons, he departed, and I grabbed a rock high above the creek and devoured my small lunch. My 2018 North American scorecard remained blank.

After lunch I mysteriously broke off the soft hackle emerger, as I began to migrate upstream from the pipe area. It was not producing, so I used this as an opportunity to lengthen my leader and to change flies once again. I added tippet below the fat Albert, and then I reconnected the hares ear. Below the beadhead hares ear I extended another fifteen inches and knotted a salvation nymph to my line. The total length of my droppers below the fat Albert was in excess of three feet, and I had the weight of two size 14 beadhead nymphs to improve the sink rate.

First Trout of 2018 in North America

I once again began to prospect the deep runs and pockets, and finally I connected with a small seven inch brown trout. In spite of the small size, I snapped a couple photos, since it was my first Colorado fish of the new year. In a short amount of time I added another similar small brown trout to the count, and then I was surprised by an eleven inch rainbow trout. Two of the first three trout snatched the hares ear and one attacked the salvation.

A Hares Ear Fooled This Rainbow Trout

It was now around 1PM, and some gray clouds moved in and blocked the warming rays of the sun. I responded by retrieving my light down coat from around my waist, and this improved my comfort level dramatically. I continued my upstream path and tallied two more trout, before I once again inexplicably lost a fly, and this time it was the salvation. At this point four of the five fish preferred the hares ear, so I replaced the salvation with a pheasant tail nymph.

Brilliant Orange Spots

Over the next hour the fish count mounted to ten, and the hares ear accounted for all except one pheasant tail victim. The action was steady up until this point, but each fish required three or more drifts to arouse the interest of the trout. The pheasant tail was in the prime position at the end of my line, and it was relatively ineffective, so I returned to the salvation nymph. This move proved to be a winner, as I landed eight more trout over the remaining two hours. Included in this batch of netted fish were a thirteen and twelve inch brown trout and another eleven inch rainbow. The two afternoon browns were easily the best fish of the day.

Hot Spot

In one particularly productive hot spot, I landed four trout including the eleven inch rainbow and the foot long brown. All of these trout grabbed the trailing salvation nymph. Unlike the early afternoon quite a few fish snatched the tumbling nymphs on the first or second cast. In addition two trout smashed the fat Albert, although I was unable to land these small but aggressive feeders.

A Fine Small Stream Catch

By 3:45 my hands were curled and ached from the cold, and my toes began to lose their feeling. I reeled up my line and hooked my fly to the guide and completed the forty minute hike back to the Santa Fe.

During the morning I failed to land a single fish, but the afternoon proved to be a fun beginning to my fly fishing season in Colorado. I extended my leader, added heavier flies, and changed to a salvation nymph; so it is difficult to isolate which variable produced my afternoon success. The air temperature warmed, and perhaps that prompted the fish to become more aggressive. I will never know which factors contributed to my enjoyable day on the North Fork of the St. Vrain, but I am thankful and anxious to continue my fly fishing adventures in a new year.

Fish Landed: 18

South Platte River – 03/08/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Morning downstream from Whale Rock; Afternoon just below Deckers

South Platte River 03/08/2018 Photo Album

Highs of 65 degrees in Denver convinced me to make my maiden trip to a northern hemisphere trout stream on Thursday, March 8. Today was exactly one month after Jane and I returned from our exciting trip to New Zealand. I contemplated traveling  to the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek or Boulder Creek, but I somehow convinced myself to give the South Platte River near Deckers another try.

I recalled that my last two season openers occurred on this same section of the South Platte River, and each resulted in a day of futile casting. These thoughts were a strong deterrent; but the flows were running at 180 cfs, and the tailwater in a wide open valley that absorbed an abundance of direct sunshine convinced me to make the drive.

I descended Nighthawk Hill and made a right turn at the T and continued downstream for another couple miles, until I reached a long parking lot along the dirt road. I named this area Whale Rock, since a huge long rounded boulder in the shape of a whale is perched between the road and river at the upstream edge of the parking lot. A car was parked near the entrance to the lot, and I could see the owner fishing in the nice slow moving bend pool adjacent to the parking area. I decided to make Whale Rock my first stop and planned to hike along the shoulder to position myself downstream of the angler who preceded me.

Starting Point to 2018 in North America

I executed this plan and found myself perched on the edge of the river just above a steep whitewater chute, and I rigged my Sage four weight with a strike indicator, split shot, beadhead hares ear and salad spinner and began to prospect the deep runs and pockets. For the next half hour I continued this cast and move sequence, until I reached the bend previously occupied by the fisherman, that I observed upon my arrival. During this time I persisted with the hares ear and midge emerger, but the resident fish population, if there was one, eluded my efforts. In fact I never spotted a fish in spite of repeated attempts to pause and observe in a manner similar to my New Zealand sight fishing experience.

At 12:15 I reeled up my line and returned to the car and decided to execute a radical shift in plan. I drove upstream for twenty minutes until I reached a large dirt parking area on a bend just downstream from the village of Deckers. Three cars preceded me, but one angler was removing his waders in preparation for departure. I was astounded by the number of fishermen along the South Platte River on Thursday, March 8. It was a weekday, and each parking lot along the way was occupied with fishermen vehicles. Does anyone in Colorado actually work?

I quickly consumed my lunch and then clipped off the two flies and extended my leader. Insanity is continuing to fish the same way and expect different results, so I swapped the hares ear for a flesh colored San Juan worm, and then I added a size 16 beadhead pheasant tail as the end fly. The San Juan worm and pheasant tail nymph were stellar performers during the halcyon days of the 90’s on the South Platte River, so why not give them a test?

When I was set, I cut directly to the river twenty yards from the Santa Fe, and here I began to drift my subsurface offerings through some quality deep runs. Again my efforts were not rewarded, so I proceeded up along the right channel where the river split around a small narrow willow-covered island. At the top of the right braid two currents merged to create a gorgeous deep run, and my expectations soared, but alas only casting practice ensued.

Junction Pool Looked Attractive, But No Success

At this point I crossed to the road side of the river and climbed a steep bank and returned to the car. The parking lot at the Deckers Store contained numerous SUV’s, and fishermen appeared everywhere. I continued downstream from the parking lot with the intent of fishing back from the first bridge, but as I approached, I spotted a fisherman along the bank changing flies or unraveling a tangle, so I reversed my direction and cut down to the river thirty yards above him. I began drifting the worm and nymph through some attractive deep runs, until I turned my attention to a small but deep pocket along the left bank just above my position. I paused to peer into the clear water and spotted a decent trout, as it held in the deepest section of the area behind an exposed boulder.

I debated switching to a dry/dropper in order to create less disturbance in the relatively thin water, but I planned to fish deep in the runs toward the center of the river, so I was reluctant to execute a change. I lobbed a couple casts to the pocket above me, and I thought I saw the target trout follow one of the drifts, but it never grabbed a fly. I reconsidered my approach and decided to switch to a dry/dropper system, since the flows remained relatively low, and I determined I could effectively cover the deeper areas without the aid of a split shot and indicator.

I removed the indicator and split shot and converted to a yellow fat Albert trailing an emerald caddis pupa and beadhead pheasant tail. On one of my earlier drifts the hook of one of the flies impaled a greenish blue caddis worm, and this prompted the emerald caddis choice. Once I was ready, I flipped five or six casts to the area where I spotted a fish earlier, but it was no longer visible and did not respond to my new menu. I turned my attention to some deep narrow runs across from my position, and began to drift the large visible foam imitation in the beckoning lanes. On the fifth cast the fat Albert darted sideways, and I instantly set the hook and felt the throbbing weight of a decent fish.

I quickly raised my rod, and the moving shape on the end of my line plowed upstream and then reversed and headed toward some heavier current. I began to carefully move downstream with the fish, but the connection did not feel normal. I applied some side pressure to bring the fish below me, and at this point the flies popped free and hurtled back toward me feet. I clearly sensed that the fish was foul hooked somewhere in the head but not the mouth, and thus was likely not as large, as I initially perceived.

Fish Spotted in the Deep Trough in Center

I moved upstream after this momentary connection with a trout, and I once again spotted a decent trout hovering in the deepest trough of a slow moving pool. This time I was prepared with my preferred dry/dropper technique. I carefully executed some nice casts to the area three feet above the fish, but on each successive drift the fish showed no signs of recognizing my offerings. I paused and exchanged the pheasant tail for a size 22 RS2, but this did not capture the attention of the sighted trout.

Finally I conceded to the wise stream dweller and once again moved upstream to some upcoming attractive water. The river created a gorgeous long riffle of moderate depth, where it angled around the wide curve by the parking area, and I was certain that this would yield my first landed fish in North America in 2018. Unfortunately my instincts were misplaced, and after covering the area thoroughly I reeled up my line and returned to the car and called it a day.

The weather was spectacular for March 8, and I managed to spot two fish and connect temporarily with one, but the crowded conditions were very disappointing. Given the number of competing anglers, I suspect that the area I covered was disturbed repeatedly in the morning hours prior to my arrival. Based on my limited success on the Deckers stretch of the South Platte River, I continue to be baffled by its popularity.

Fish Landed: 0

Pool Toy Hopper – 03/04/2018

Pool Toy Hopper 03/04/2018 Photo Album

A pool toy or a fat Albert? I struggle with this question quite often. During 2017 I opted for the fat Albert early in the season and late, but leaned on the pool toy during the July and August time period. The comparison may not be valid, since I tend to tie fat Alberts with yellow bodies and pool toys with tan bodies. Also I construct fat Alberts on size 8 hooks, and my pool toys are built primarily on size 10 hooks. I point these differences out to suggest that other variables besides type of fly may factor into the effectiveness of these two large foam hopper imitations.

Fine Looking Hopper

2017 was the second year that I fished a fat Albert extensively, and I was quite pleased with the results. In situations where I yearn for a large buoyant visible fly to support a pair of beadhead nymphs, the fat Albert is my preferred choice. The size 8 high floating attractor with dangling sexilegs is easy to track, and when combined with a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph provides hours of productive prospecting.

Ready to Tempt Trout

Despite my recent preference for a fat Albert I am not inclined to abandon the pool toy. In situations where I attempt to match the grasshopper hatch, the pool toy is very effective. For this reason the pool toy occupies my line frequently during the months of July, August and the first half of September. My 1/31/2013 post chronicles my introduction to the pool toy and describes some of the questions that I confronted during my first attempts to replicate the Andrew Grillos pattern. My 02/11/2017 post describes the intrusion of the fat Albert as an alternative surface indicator fly in a dry/dropper configuration.

A Pair with Different Color Legs

I counted thirteen tan pool toys in my various fly bins, so I manned my tying bench and manufactured an additional seven to bring my total to twenty. Eight yellow versions occupied space as well, and I decided to increment that total to ten by tying two more. I feel that I possess an adequate supply of foam grasshopper patterns to entertain the trout population in 2018.