Monthly Archives: March 2021

Arkansas River – 03/09/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Fremont – Chaffee County Line

Arkansas River 03/09/2021 Photo Album

Another spring-like day with a high temperature in the upper sixties along with a significant impending snowstorm motivated me to complete a fishing trip on Tuesday, March 9. I envisioned a larger river than the front range streams within close proximity to Denver, and I considered the Arkansas River and several sections of the South Platte River. After consulting with a fishing guide, fly shop reports, and DWR flow data I decided on the Arkansas River, and I departed from my home in Denver by 7:15AM.


Fortunately the drive was uneventful, and I arrived at my usual parking space high above the river by 10:00AM. The river was low and clear, and the air temperature was 53 degrees, as I assembled my Sage One five weight and added several layers to my upper body. The wind gusted on a regular basis in excess of 10 MPH, and this condition explained my tendency to over dress for my day on the river. I crossed the river at my usual spot and marched along the north bank, until I reached an attractive deep run that became my starting spot. I knotted a size 12 20 incher to my line, and beneath it I added a crystal stone. I read that little black stoneflies were in abundance on the South Platte River, and I concluded that they might be a tasty morsel on the Arkansas River as well. Guide Pat Dorsey’s recommended imitation for the little black stonefly was a black pheasant tail, but I did not have a dyed black pheasant tail feather in my possession, so I improvised. My size 18 black stonefly pattern contains a black crystal flash tail, wing case, and legs. The preponderance of crystal flash suggested a name that contained crystal, and, thus, the crystal stone was born.

Deep Run Did Not Produce

I thoroughly fished the double nymph combination with a thingamabobber indicator from bottom to top in the starting run, with no evidence of hungry trout. After this disappointment I continued upstream to the narrow island and then up the southern side of the island, and again my efforts to connect with a local trout were thwarted. When I returned to the downstream tip of the island, my watch displayed 11:30AM, so I found a nice flat rock and consumed my lunch. I was now positioned along the north side of the narrow island at the downstream end of the right channel. I concluded that the double weighted nymph combination would disturb the low flows excessively, so I paused to reconfigure with a peacock hippie stomper, sunken ant, and iron sally. The three fly arrangement looked great to this avid angler, but once again I found no evidence of resident fish; not even a darting spooked fish.

First Trout Came From This Bank Side Run

When I reached the top of the island and right channel, I found a spot to sit down and reverted to the indicator nymphing arrangement; however, this time I used a chartreuse yarn New Zealand strike indicator along with the 20 incher and a coffee/black Pat’s rubber legs. I hiked quite a ways to skip around a wide shallow section, and eventually began to probe the deeper runs on the north side of the river. I reached a nice deep run and trough along the right bank by 1:00PM, and my fish count was mired on zero, so I decided to make another change. I replaced the coffee/black Pat’s rubber legs with a yellow/brown Pat’s rubber legs with orange legs. This fly was a size 12 with a bead, and it was also weighted.

Numero Uno

Nice View of 20 Incher

Almost instantly I found success, when two very nice brown trout snatched the 20 incher, as the flies drifted along the deep run by the bank. After two hours of fruitless casting, I was elated to finally tally some fish and prevent an increasingly likely skunking. The sun broke through, and the air warmed up, and I was overheated in my light down coat and fleece hoodie, so when I reached my original crossing point, I moved to the south bank and climbed to my car, where I removed the down coat layer. I retrieved my phone and checked in with Jane and then advanced to the high vertical wall next to the river. Here I observed for a few minutes in an attempt to spot a fish, but the effort did not yield any targets. I made several upstream casts tight to the wall and drifted through a foam line, but this ploy proved futile.

Site of Two Landed Brown Trout

Better Light and Focus

I departed from the deep slow moving portion of the massive pool and moved to the area just above, where a nice deep riffle fed the depths. The current was moderate, the depth was three to four feet, and the river bottom contained numerous large submerged boulders. I was convinced that this was brown trout territory, and after some patient casting I was proven correct, when I landed two more respectable brown trout in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. The first trout gobbled the 20 incher, but I was surprised to discover the yellow/brown rubberleg in the mouth of the second netted fish.

Number Four Was a Beauty

For the next 1.5 hours I progressed along the south bank and systematically nymphed all the likely spots with the double stonefly presentation. At a spot fifty yards above the vertical wall and large pool, I scooped two more brown trout in the twelve to fourteen inch range into my net. Both savored the yellow/brown stonefly imitation, and my confidence in the fly zoomed. I tied these quite a while ago to imitate vulnerable stoneflies, after they molt. Initially I chose the fly to add weight and keep the 20 incher along the bottom of the cold flows of the Arkansas River. Who knew that the molting event truly attracted Arkansas River trout?

Long Brown

Number Six

The wind was a constant nuisance, but Tuesday was a fine day for fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains. After getting skunked for two hours, I landed six twelve to fourteen inch brown trout on the double stonefly combination. These six fish came to my net in the final two hours. At 3:00PM I snagged bottom in a spot, where it was too deep to risk my life to retrieve the flies, so I broke them off and declared it a day. I will not complain about six nice fish early in the season, and I will now have to wait out the return of winter before venturing out to another trout stream in March.

Fish Landed: 6

Klinkhammer BWO – 03/06/2021

Klinkhammer BWO 03/06/2021 Photo Album

Links to a materials table and additional information regarding the Klinkhammer BWO are available on my 02/23/2020 post. I utilize three different styles of flies to mimic the small blue winged olives that hatch in prodigious numbers in western streams. My first choice is generally a CDC blue winged olive which is tied similar to a comparadun but with CDC substituted for deer hair for the wing. Frequently, however, the trout ignore my CDC BWO, and in these cases I resort to the Klinkhammer BWO. The Klinkhammer imitates a mayfly in an intermediate state of emergence with the curved abdomen dangling beneath the surface. On rare occasions neither of these flies meet the rigid specifications of the resident trout, and my fly of last resort is a Craven soft hackle emerger with no bead. I apply floatant to the body and fish the small wet fly like a dry fly in the surface film. Visibility is a major drawback to this manner of fishing.

Solarez Coating on Body

During the 2020 season I experienced sporadic success with the Klinkhammer BWO. It yielded a selective trout on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon late in the season to help salvage a slow day. It has produced often enough to earn a spot in my fly box. When I counted my blue winged olive supply in preparation for the upcoming season, I determined that I was adequately supplied, but the number of CDC BWO’s and soft hackle emergers far outnumbered the Klinkhammers. I decided to narrow the gap on this situation, and I tied six additional flies for the upcoming season. Four were new flies tied from scratch, and two were unraveling examples, that I repaired. I expect to encounter blue winged olives in the very near future.

Six New Klinkhammer BWO’s

Crystal Stone – 03/06/2021

Crystal Stone 03/06/2021 Photo Album

I am taking credit for creating and naming a new fly, although I have not researched whether a similar tie already exists. I was researching destinations for a fishing trip prior to my visit to the Arkansas River on 03/09/2021. One of my options was one of the sections of the South Platte River. I follow guide, Pat Dorsey, on Instagram; and a post during that time frame mentioned that little black stoneflies were present in decent numbers along the South Platte. He suggested using a black pheasant tail size 18 as an imitation. I pondered this and realized that I did not possess any small black nymphs, so I decided to cover my bases and tie a few.

Sideview of a Crystal Stone

I surfed YouTube and browsed some black pheasant tail patterns, and that was when I realized, that they required dyed black pheasant tails, and I had none in my possession. Over the last year I made a concerted effort to utilize the materials that I already stock in abundance rather than increasing my supply, so I contemplated replacement materials. I settled on black crystal flash, as it was the correct color, offered some flash, and worked well in an iron sally.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookSize 18 dry fly hook or nymph hook
BeadSilver, size to fit hook
Thread Black 6/0
TailSix strands of black crystal flash
RibFine silver wire
AbdomenFine black dubbing
Wing CaseBlack crystal flash
ThoraxBlack peacock ice dub
LegsBlack crystal flash

Here are my steps for tying a crystal stone:

1. Put down a solid thread base over the back 2/3 of the hook shank.

2. Cut six strands of black crystal flash from the clump and tie them in on top of the hook at the midpoint of the shank.

3. Wrap over the crystal flash keeping the strands on top of the hook, until you reach the point, where the hook begins to bend.

4. Cut the tail, so it is roughly equal to the hook gap or a bit longer.

5. Tie in the fine silver wire at the midpoint and wrap back to the beginning of the tail.

6. Move the thread to a position above the hook point and twirl black dubbing on the thread. Use the bare thread to move back to the front of the tail and then build a tapered body from the tail to a point 1/3 behind the hook eye.

7. Wrap the wire forward to create a rib over the abdomen. Tie off and cut off the wire.

8. Fold the strands of crystal flash back over the abdomen and make a couple wraps to keep it pointing toward the tail.

9. Use black peacock ice dub to create a nice thorax that is thicker than the abdomen.

10. Fold the six strands of black crystal flash forward over the top of the thorax and tie down behind the bead with some secure wraps. Use your fingers if necessary to spread the fibers so they have a decent width for a wing case.

11. Separate the six fibers that protrude over the eye of the hook into two clumps of three, and then fold each back and lock down with some wraps, so the legs point backward along the sides of the body. Build a collar behind the bead and whip finish.

12. Cut the legs to an even length, so they extent slightly beyond the wing case.

13. Optionally apply a bead of UV resin to the wing case and cure.

I know I am biased, but I tied five of these, and I think they look great. They are the right size, totally black, and they display an eye-grabbing amount of flash. I tried one at the start of my day on the Arkansas River on 03/09/2021, but I was unable to interest the trout in my new creation. Perhaps little black stoneflies are more prevalent in the South Platte drainage. Once the recent snowstorm disappears, I hope to visit the South Platte for another test of the crystal stone.

Five Crystal Stones

South Platte River – 03/03/2021

Time: 2:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Within Chatfield State Park above Chatfield Reservoir

South Platte River 03/03/2021 Photo Album

Lots of Wide Shallows

By the time I ate my lunch and drove the short distance from Bear Creek to Chatfield my watch registered 2PM. I gathered my gear and cut to the river, and as I suspected, the stream was devoid of ice shelves or snow. The clarity was crystal clear, and I carefully walked upstream with the goal of sight fishing. The South Platte River in this area consists of many shallow stretches over a gravel bottom, so I skipped these sections and focused on deep pools and runs.

Looks Very Fishy

I covered a mile of the South Platte River in 1.5 hours, and sadly I was unable to land a fish. In fact, I was unable to sight a fish, and that placed a significant hole in my sight fishing strategy. The temperature peaked in the low sixties, and I enjoyed a pleasant two mile hike in my waders. I landed my one fish on Bear Creek to kick off 2021, so I was not overly upset with my lack of success on the South Platte.

Fish Landed: 0

Bear Creek – 03/03/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 1:15PM

Location: Lair O’ the Bear Park

Bear Creek 03/03/2021 Photo Album

With mild temperatures forecast for Wednesday, March 3, I could not contain my urge to visit a local stream for my first fishing outing of 2021. My initial plan incorporated a trip to the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, but when I checked the stream flows, I was disappointed to discover a reading of .66 CFS. Apparently the work on Buttonrock Dam was still in progress. I quickly refocused my search and settled on Bear Creek and the South Platte River near Deckers. Ultimately I selected Bear Creek, because it was a shorter drive, and I was reluctant to travel the extra time to Deckers for an early season trip.

Typical Open Water on Bear Creek

I arrived at the Lair O’ the Bear Park lot by 10:45, and I was armed with my Sage four weight and ready to cast by 11:00AM. I was disappointed to learn that much of the creek was covered in ice and snow, but I gambled that I could entice a fish or two to my flies from the intermittent open sections. I began my quest for fish number one of 2021 with a yellow fat Albert, hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2. On the second cast one of the nymphs hung up on the stream bottom, so I gave the rod a quick upward flick. The flies immediately came free, but the catapulting action of the the lift and bent rod sent all the flies to a dead branch above and behind me. I attempted to unwrap the flies, but it was a futile effort at retrieval, and I broke off three flies after only two casts in the new season. It was an ominous start to 2021.

Nice Spot

I found a nice rock and sat down, while I reconfigured my line. For some reason I replaced the fat Albert with a size 10 Chernboyl ant, but I replaced the hares ear and RS2 with different versions of the same flies. I began moving along looking for openings in the ice and snow that enabled decent drifts, but I was unable to attract the attention of any resident trout. My mind began to wander to thoughts of moving to the South Platte River above Chatfield Reservoir, as I knew that section of the river would be ice free.

Scene of My One Landed Trout

After hopscotching through five holes I encountered another fisherman, so I circled around him and followed the trail to a spot above a foot bridge. I resumed the practice of fishing the open areas, until I encountered a nice deep run with an overhanging ice shelf along the left side. I executed ten casts, and then I spotted a couple decent trout as they darted from beneath the ice shelf. One seemed to stop three feet out from the shelf, but I was unable to spot it in the greenish brown bottom.

Orange Scud Was a Winner

The sight of several fish spiked my focus, and I decided to swap the RS2 for an orange scud. I surmised that perhaps the bright orange color would imitate eggs or at the very least stand out compared to the drab brown and olive background. On the third cast with the orange scud the Chernobyl ant displayed a subtle pause, and I lifted the rod to sense a connection with a thrashing twelve inch rainbow trout. I had already chalked Wednesday up to an exploratory skunking, so imagine my delight when I netted the prize rainbow! I recorded a video and snapped a few photos to document my first fish of 2021 and continued my progress upstream.

Vibrant Colors on Display

Shortly after my success story I approached another nice open deep spot where the current reflected off the left bank. I flicked a cast to the top of the run, and just as it drifted to the lip of the hole, a trout darted to the surface to inhale the Chernobyl ant. In spite of my state of shock over a dry fly rise early in the season, I managed to set the hook, and I was momentarily connected to a trout. Alas, the joy of hooking a second fish did not persist, as the trout quickly shed the hook and disappeared into the depths.

Momentary Hook Up Along the Ice Shelf on the Left

After my two connections I proceeded in a westerly direction, but it wasn’t long before the stream narrowed between steep banks, and this condition prevented the warming rays of the sun from melting the snow and ice covering. The open holes that provided periodic fishing opportunities were nonexistent. I called it quits on Bear Creek and hiked back to the car, where I ate my lunch and then departed for the South Platte River above Chatfield Reservoir.

Fish Landed: 1