Monthly Archives: May 2021

Pine Lake – 05/28/2021

Time: 3:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Lake 05/28/2021 Photo Album

Swollen rivers and streams in Colorado forced me to narrow my choice of fishing destinations to tailwaters and lakes for the foreseeable future. I suspect that the low snowpack in much of the state will enable decent conditions for fishing tailwaters later than normal, as the water managers hold back water in support of subpar run off from the high country. I visited the South Platte River on Wednesday with reasonable results, but another trip to a lake leaped on to my radar.

During 2019 I explored Pine Lake at Pine Valley Ranch Park, and after my surgery in 2020 I made a return trip. In both instances I failed to catch a fish. During 2019 I managed to hook a few fish temporarily, and the 2020 experience was primarily spent casting in the North Fork of the South Platte River.

Jane and I participated in some spirited pickleball on Friday morning, and then I suggested that we make the trek to Pine Valley Ranch Park for some hiking and fly fishing. Well, I proposed to fly fish, and she would hike or read. She readily agreed in light of the gorgeous spring day, and after lunch we made the 1.5 hour drive. Since it was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, we encountered a traffic bottleneck along US 285, but we suffered through the delay and arrived at the lower parking lot of Pine Valley Ranch by 2:00PM.

Open Valley

We quickly geared up for a hike and completed an out and back on the Narrow Gauge Trail. On the return leg we followed North Fork View Trail, as it passed along the shoreline of Pine Lake, and I noted some places for fly casting. Jane and I returned to the car, and I geared up with my Sage four weight, while she grabbed a stool and reading material, and we departed for a short hike to the lake. No sooner had I reached my chosen fly fishing position, than I realized that I left my dry fly box in my wader bib, and my waders remained in the car. I quickly jogged and walked back to the parking lot to retrieve the fly box, while Jane reserved my spot on the shoreline of the small lake.

A Channel

Once I returned, I observed quite a few rising fish, so I extended my leader with 5X tippet, and then I knotted a size 18 olive-brown deer hair caddis to my line. The fly of choice worked almost immediately, and I quickly landed a small rainbow trout. The most challenging aspect of this fly fishing was netting the fish without the advantage of waders, as I was required to hold my position on a very steep bank with loose soil, while I reached out and down with my net. I avoided wet feet, but there were some close calls.

Caddis Eater

I continued casting to sighted fish, but the next eater came free very quickly, as I lifted the rod tip in response to a sip. When I stripped in my line, I noticed the telltale curling leader; a sure sign of a bad knot. I was now minus one size 18 deer hair caddis, but I had four more in my box. I replaced the lost fly with another with a cream body, and this produced a second larger stocked rainbow, but then the new fly surprisingly produced a slump. I was skeptical that the body color of such a small fly would make a difference for small stockers, but fish after fish cruised by the dry fly without even a look.

Another Rainbow Trout

Having my fly ignored was not my idea of fun, so I plucked a size 18 black ant from my fly box and positioned it on the end of my line. As was the case with the cream caddis, the ant was avoided like the plague, and I was forced to consider new options. Fairly regular sipping rises indicated to me that the fish were focused on something very miniscule, so I switched to a size 24 griffiths gnat. Bingo. Over my remaining time on the water I hooked and netted four additional rainbow trout, as they reacted fairly aggressively to the tiny speck of a fly. Several responded to a strip or twitch, and the others sipped a stationary fly. I experimented with both approaches. The real key to success was staying low and executing casts without startling the fish. The water was quite low and clear, and even though they were stocked fish, they spooked easily to excessive movement or forceful splash downs.

Great Blue Heron

I was quite pleased to land six trout in two hours of fishing late in the afternoon on May 28. This was accomplished in spite of skittish fish. bursts of wind, and bothersome lake-side willows. Of course, they were all stocked fish, but I paid for my license, and anything is fair game during the snowmelt of 2021.

Fish Landed: 6

South Platte River – 05/26/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Downstream from Deckers

South Platte River 05/26/2021 Photo Album

I was encouraged by my visit to the South Platte River in the Deckers area on 05/17/2021 and anxious to schedule a reengagement. A cool day on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 with lots of cloud cover made a second trip to the South Platte River below Deckers a reality. Flows were a moderate 110 CFS, and an Instagram photo from someone I follow revealed some discoloration, although it was not enough to cancel my plans. I arrived at a sanctioned parking lot at 10:30AM, and after I set up my Sage four weight and walked along the road for a tenth of a mile, I was perched on the edge of the river prepared to fly fish. The flows were ideal from my perspective, and as shown on the Instagram photo, there was a slight stain, which was actually favorable for approaching trout.

Lunch View from the Tip of an Island

I debated whether to utilize an indicator system, but after careful consideration I adopted my standard dry/dropper configuration. I began with a tan pool toy hopper and trailed a salvation nymph and classic RS2. Between 11:00AM and noon I was unable to hook and land a fish, although I did experience a momentary connection to one of the nymphs and two swirls to the hopper. After lunch I removed my raincoat and stuffed it in my backpack, as the air temperature rose to comfortable levels, although the sun continued to be an intermittent presence.

Deep Water Beyond Gravel Bar Looks Encouraging

My slump continued for the thirty minutes after lunch, but then a fifteen inch brown trout assaulted the RS2, as I began to lift at the tail of a drift in front of a large exposed boulder. Earlier thoughts of a skunking penetrated my thought waves, so I was very pleased to tally a notch on the fish counter. After I photographed and released the much appreciated brown trout, I continued upriver in a renewed state of optimism; however. another hour elapsed with nothing to show for my diligent effort. I began changing the bottom fly and cycled through a hares ear nymph and orange scud. At one point I noticed two spaced out rises, so I shifted my approach to a double dry. I kept the pool toy hopper in place and added a soft hackle emerger without a bead. The soft hackle generated a refusal, but that was the extent of the double dry fly response.

Number One Was a Stunner

The absence of additional surface activity caused me to revert to the dry/dropper method; however, I replaced the pool toy hopper with a peacock hippie stomper and knotted a go2 bright green caddis pupa below it and followed the caddis pupa with a classic RS2. Surely the bright caddis would attract some afternoon interest. I was correct in this assumption, as a chunky thirteen inch rainbow smacked the go2 caddis around 1:30PM. The hard fighting rainbow might have been a stocked fish, but I was pleased with it nonetheless.

Decent Rainbow Trout on Go2 Caddis Pupa

Some large gray clouds moved into the area for most of the remainder of the afternoon, and I spotted the occasional blue winged olive, as they flitted up from the river. The fish count paused on two for a lengthy period of time, and I was fairly certain that I would return home and record that number on the analytics page of this blog.

I persisted, however, and I struggled to find some commonality with the type of river structure that provided success. Of course, it was difficult to ascertain a pattern, when only two trout succumbed to my search. By 2:30 the low light and wind seemed to induce some baetis activity, as the RS2 became popular. In a large pocket along the right bank, a relatively slow current flowed over moderate depth, and three brown trout less than twelve inches nabbed the RS2. In each case I made an upstream cast, and the hippie stomper paused briefly, before I lifted the rod tip and realized I was attached to a spunky fish. During this time frame I also experienced three or four temporary connections, and these instances seemed to result from a lift or strip near the end of the drift.

Lots of Spots

By 3PM I had covered quite a bit of South Platte real estate, and I was approaching a pullout occupied by several vehicles, so I crossed the river and climbed a short, steep bank and hiked back to the car. When I reached the Santa Fe, I thought about the fish that I hooked near the beginning of my day and the two refusals, and I decided to revisit the same spot. I remembered that the river reflected off a long rock along the far bank, and the current cut a deep trough, as it gouged gravel with the accelerating flow. I quickly found the spot and waded into position, so that I could execute an across stream cast such that the hippie stomper and two nymphs drifted through the natural funnel along the rock.

Point of Attack Was Next to Exposed Rock Along the Bank

On the third drift, as the hippie stomper neared the downstream end of the long rock, I spotted a dip and reacted with a swift hook set. Wow! I felt heavy vibrating weight, as the live object on the end of my line executed several headshaking dives. I gained some line with a couple strips, but then the fighter raced downstream below an exposed rock, and I released at least ten feet of line, before the aquatic warrior stopped. Once again I stripped line and gained the upper hand on a sixteen inch brown trout, which I scooped into my net, while my heart rate elevated to excitement levels. The lanky trout was not happy, and it squirmed and splashed in an effort to free itself from the rubber net. I took a video and snapped a few photos and then gently released the river resident to live on to fight another day.

Wide Body

I decided to end on a positive note, so I hooked my fly in the rod guide and returned to the nearby car. My day was punctuated by the first and last fish with a few small wild fish in between and accompanied by a ton of fruitless casting. Seven fish in four hours was certainly a below average catch rate, but the ability to fish in a river on May 26, when run off predominates most of Colorado, was much appreciated.  I suspect that I will return if the flows remain in the fifty to two hundred cfs range for the foreseeable future.

Fish Landed: 7

Davis Ponds – 05/25/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Davis Ponds

Davis Ponds 05/25/2021 Photo Album

If you are a long time follower of this blog, you know that I am not a big fan of fishing in stillwater. Unfortunately the options for fly fishing in flowing water are dwindling in Colorado, as snowpack shifts from solid to liquid form late in May. The run off conditions have actually been delayed as a result of colder than normal weather in April and May of 2021. Nevertheless, the inevitable has begun, so I turned my thoughts to lake fishing options on May 25.

I enjoyed several trips to Davis Ponds during my recovery from heart surgery in June of 2020, so I decided to test the waters once again on Tuesday. Temperatures in the seventies in Denver translated to sixties for the Davis Ponds area, and I am pleased to report that my fishing outing was a splendid spring experience. Before choosing Davis Ponds as my destination, I checked the DOW stocking report, and this useful document informed me that the Davis Ponds were stocked on May 11, two weeks ago. I was hopeful that some fish remained to entertain me.

Murky Pond

I arrived at the Davis Ponds trail parking lot at 10:30AM, and I quickly climbed into my waders and assembled my Sage four weight. Strong winds provided some concern, and intermittent gusts continued at the ponds, but my fishing position was somewhat protected, and I was not significantly impacted by the strong air currents. The pond water was significantly stained with only a foot or two of visibility, and this unfavorable condition factored into my choice of flies. I searched through my fleece wallet and extracted a black nosed dace streamer and dark cahill wet fly. These were throwback flies to my early days of fly fishing and fly tying, so I was anxious to determine, if they could still produce fish thirty-five years later. The black nosed dace displayed a silver body and white bucktail underbody, which I hoped would stand out in the turbid water. The dark cahill contained a muskrat fur body, and when wet, the dark fly contrasted with the brownish tan water in the pond.

The dark cahill proved to be a solid choice, as I netted five stocked rainbow trout, before I broke for lunch at noon. I tossed the two fly combination in all directions and stripped it back to shore with short pulsing pulls. Fairly early in my pursuit of trout I noticed periodic schools of stocked trout, as they swam at a fairly quick pace parallel to the shoreline. Several of the early catches resulted from stripping the flies in front of the advancing cluster of trout.

Dark Cahill Victim

After I reached four landed trout, the action paused noticeably, so I made a switch and replaced the black nosed dace with an emerald caddis pupa. With this two-fly offering in place, I landed a fifth trout on the dark cahill, but then another extended lull caused me to reconsider. The presence of periodic rises caused me to ponder the idea of a dry fly, so I removed the wet flies and changed to a size 18 olive body deer hair caddis. I focused on the water near my position, and when I spotted a rise, or when a fast moving cluster of trout swam by, I fluttered the caddis in the area, and this tactic paid dividends, as I boosted the fish count from five to twelve. During this period I also endured quite a few long distance releases due to the small hook and the tentative nature of many of the takes.

Unlike blue winged olive activity, it seemed that the surface feeding ticked up, when the sun reappeared from the clouds. The tiny deer hair caddis became waterlogged, and I was having difficulty tracking it, particularly after longer than normal casts, so I resorted to my popular ploy and placed a peacock hippie stomper in front of the caddis. I continued to lead the migrating fish with the two-fly combination, or I cast to the vicinity of single rises, and the fish counter climbed again to twenty-three. Surprisingly most of these afternoon fish smashed the hippie stomper, as it seemed the school of cruising fish competed to inhale the large attractor dry fly. Once again the hippie stomper amazed me with its versatility.

Hippie Stomper in Lip

Tuesday was another very enjoyable day at the Davis Ponds. Hopefully during the next month I will make another visit or two. The setting is spectacular with spaced out ponderosa pines and green meadows and gray rock facades overlooking the area. Sure, I was catching small stocked rainbow trout, but solving the puzzle of what the trout were eating remained a challenge. Bring on the snow melt. I am ready for stillwater action in 2021.

Fish Landed: 23

The Path Back

South Platte River – 05/22/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/22/2021 Photo Album

Fishing with my son, Dan, is an event that I truly value. Unfortunately we only found one occasion to experience a stream visit together in 2020, and that evening outing on the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek was not very productive. It took place in late June, when Dan was trying to enjoy all his favorite activities, while the hours of daylight were abundant. As I recall, the flows remained on the high side, and that made fly fishing a bit challenging. The birth of my grandson, Theo, dramatically reduced Dan’s availability for fishing outings in 2021, but we finally scheduled a trip to the South Platte River for Saturday, May 22, 2021. My wife and Dan’s mother, Jane, volunteered to babysit for Theo on Saturday, thus liberating Dan for a fishing trip with his father.

Starting Point

We drove to a favorite stretch of the South Platte River on Saturday morning, and we were positioned on opposite sides of the waterway by 11:00AM. The temperature was in the low sixties, and the wind gusted in the fourteen to sixteen mile per hour range for much of our time on the river. The South Platte was flowing at 55 CFS in the section that we chose to explore, and this made the act of fooling trout more difficult than normal at higher flow rates.

Dan Begins His Day

Dan crossed the river to prospect the left (east) bank, while I embarked on wading along the west side. Dan began with a size 8 fat Albert and beadhead hares ear nymph, and I elected to tempt the river residents with a pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph. Dan retained the same two workhorse flies throughout the late morning and afternoon, while I swapped out the salvation for a classic RS2 and emerald caddis pupa. We moved up the river in parallel, and by the end of the day we each managed to net seven fish, all brown trout.

Congratulations, Dan

A Small Gem

Our results were subpar compared to most visits to this stretch of the South Platte River, but we were both satisfied with a pleasant experience in a spectacular outdoor setting. I always admire the huge red sandstone rock formations, the spaced-out ponderosa pines, and the sparse vegetation consisting of yuccas, cacti and short tufts of grass. The scent of the evergreens and smell of the tumbling river simply supplement the special nature of the South Platte River environment.

Dan on a Roll

The trout were on the small side compared to my memory of previous visits, but by the afternoon we registered a few spunky fighters in the twelve inch range. We quickly learned in the morning session, that marginal pockets no more than three feet deep failed to produce, so we covered a significant amount of water and skipped shallow sections. Deep runs and seams near large exposed boulders were definitely the most productive types of structure, and we sought out these holding lies. Most of my landed brown trout grabbed the hares ear nymph; however, one crushed the pool toy hopper, and another nabbed the salvation nymph. In addition, I connected temporarily with a few aggressive fish, and I was haunted by four solid boils to the hopper that failed to connect.

The most rewarding aspect of my day on the South Platte was the rare one on one time with my son. We caught up on all aspects of our lives. Hopefully we will not face another lengthy interval, before we can repeat a fun day of fly fishing.

Fish Landed: 7

Arkansas River – 05/19/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Upper Basin

Arkansas River 05/19/2021 Photo Album

After two days of rain across Colorado, Wednesday was projected to be the start of a warming trend, so I decided to take advantage and log another day of fly fishing. I had my eye on the upper basin of the Arkansas River, since I drove past the area on my way to the Buena Vista section on Friday, May 14, 2021, and it reminded me of a place on my future exploration list. The high temperature in Leadville was forecast to reach 55 degrees, and this fell within my tolerance range, so I made the drive on Wednesday morning.

The temperature on the dashboard was 50 degrees, when I arrived at the small parking area at the fence opening, so I donned my North Face light down jacket and raincoat along with my billed hat with earflaps. The wind was gusting frequently, so I assembled my Sage One five weight to counter the fierce air currents. My attire proved appropriate, as I was only on the warm side a few times when the sun peeked through the heavy clouds.

Mt. Massive

The upper basin gauges of the Arkansas River posted flows in the range between 80 CFS and 235 CFS, but I was uncertain of my position relative to these two meters. Judging from the current velocity, where I fished, I can vouch for higher than ideal river flows, as I never attempted to cross the full river.

Two other vehicles preceded me to my chosen pullout, so I was conscious of their presence throughout my day on the river. Since it was my first visit to this section of the Arkansas River, I was not familiar with the structure and nuances. I did not want to fish directly behind other anglers, but I also did not wish to invade their valued space.

Typical Structure

I found the river difficult to read in this area. The terrain was mostly flat with a lower gradient than I am accustomed to in the west. The majority of the river rushed relatively full between the banks, and with few visible current breaks such as large rocks and logs, I sought places where currents shifted from one side to the other or where currents merged forming a deep V in the riverbed. Other prime targets were deep, slower moving ribbons next to the bank. I bypassed quite a few long stretches of fast riffles and runs that spanned the entire waterway.

Headed in That Direction

Normally I hike a good distance, before I wet my line, but my unfamiliarity caused me to begin casting relatively close to the parking area. I spotted another fisherman 80 yards upstream, so I decided to do some early exploration, before I interfered with his space. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line, and then I added a 20 incher and salvation nymph. This combination generated two temporary connections in the early going as well as a few refusals to the fat Albert. I paused for a quick lunch at noon, and after lunch I continued with the same combination for another thirty minutes. I persisted with the same flies for a longer than normal time period, because the attractive spots were so infrequent, that I was not sure that my fly selection was to blame for the lack of success.

Finally after some additional refusals, I decided that the fish were mainly looking toward the surface for their meals, so I clipped off the three fly dry/dropper and migrated to a single Chernobyl ant. The Chernobyl also generated some tantalizing swirls, and eventually I landed a small brown trout to prevent a threatened skunking, but it was getting late, and I had no answer for the infrequent surface snubs. The nymphs seemed to be more trouble than they were worth with the periodic tangles and the bothersome wind gusts. I opted for a size 10 yellow Letort hopper and trailed a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. This offering was an attempt to retain the yellow color scheme of the fat Albert but in a downsized imitation. The double dry failed to produce, but the yellow hopper did provoke a pair of heart stopping boils, but they never converted to a bite.

Narrow Band of Slow Water Along the Bank Produced

Quality Brown Trout

The refusals convinced me that the river contained some decent fish, but I was clueless over how to fool them. I returned to a dry/dropper approach with a pool toy hopper and then a different Chernobyl ant. I combined the surface foam attractors with a hares ear nymph and the 20 incher, but once again my efforts were futile. I sat down to ponder my plight next to a delightful long deep run that deflected off the opposite bank below me. This struck me as perfect deep nymphing water, so I took the plunge and rearranged my system to include a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, hares ear nymph and 20 incher. The set up failed to pay dividends in the attractive water next to me, but over the last hour I salvaged my sanity, as I landed a fifteen and thirteen inch brown trout on the 20 incher and hares ear.


The sudden taste of success provided a surge in optimism and focus, and I moved up the river with renewed enthusiasm to explore the deep runs and seams; but, alas, a three trout day was my ultimate fate. Of course, three landed trout was below my expectations, but I take solace in the fact that I explored new water and learned some things, that I can apply, when I visit in the future. I suspect that my dry/dropper offerings were too high in the water column, and I need to add more weight on future ventures. I clocked my return hike with my watch, and I now know that I was one mile from the parking lot, when I ended, and the more distant section seemed to offer more prime holding spots for trout. I stopped to chat with a young angler on my return hike, and he told me that he and his buddy were having success with RS2’s. I did try one briefly in my dry/dropper system, but I never added an RS2 to the indicator nymphing approach. Hopefully I can leverage this knowledge to greater success on my next visit to the upper basin of the Arkansas River.

Fish Landed: 3

South Platte River – 05/17/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Deckers

South Platte River 05/17/2021 Photo Album

The cycle of bad weather early in the week and nice weather late in the week repeated itself once again for the week beginning on May 17. I reviewed the forecasts for various fishing locations and concluded that Monday was a slightly better option than Tuesday. Monday morning projected highs in the upper fifties with the chance of afternoon thunderstorms, while Tuesday predicted rain for most of the day. I decided to designate Monday as my fishing day.

Choosing a destination was my next task. As is my custom, I reviewed all the stream flows for potential day trip options. All the Front Range freestones and most of the tailwaters were already blown out except for South Boulder Creek, and even that small tailwater was rushing through the canyon below Gross Reservoir at 177 CFS. Originally, I harbored thoughts of squeezing in a trip to the Eagle River prior to run off, but flows on that west slope river elevated significantly over the last couple days, so I was reluctant to undertake the two plus hour drive with the risk of murky conditions.

The Arkansas River was up 50 – 100 CFS, depending on the section, and I was intrigued to try the upper river near Leadville, until I checked the temperatures. Leadville is two miles high, and this translated to high temperatures in the upper forties. The middle section weather was more tolerable, but I was reluctant to make the 2.5-hour drive having just endured that journey on Friday.

Looking Back to My Starting Point

My thoughts turned to the South Platte River, where the water managers were holding back releases to fill the various reservoirs for later in the summer. The Lake George area was flowing along at a steady 55 CFS, and I knew from prior trips, that this represented solid conditions. As I pondered yet another trip to Eleven Mile, the idea of testing the Deckers area crossed my mind. The Heyman fire ruined the Deckers fishery twenty years ago, and I could not recall any successful results during my infrequent visits over the intervening years. My friend, Steve, reported some solid results recently, and a young angler on Instagram also cited some decent catches. I decided to make the trip on Monday to see if, in fact, the river had recovered to a semblance of its previous glory. The DWR water chart displayed flows of 90 CFS at Trumbull, a small town several miles down river from Deckers. Temperatures in Deckers were also milder than some of my other options.

I arrived at my chosen spot by 9:30AM, and I quickly assembled my Sage four weight. The sky was gray, as thick clouds dominated the southwestern horizon. I elected to wear my fleece cardigan and raincoat and snugged on my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps. The temperature was fifty degrees, and an intermittent breeze made it seem even chillier.

I hiked down the road for .4 mile and then dropped down a steep angled rock to the river, where I outfitted my line with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a salvation nymph and hares ear nymph. A prime spot existed adjacent to my starting position, but after ten to fifteen drifts, I abandoned it with no sign of a fish.

Three Hooked and Two Landed in This Narrow Pool

Another Display

I moved to the next attractive section in a narrow but deep run on the west braid around a tiny island. On the first cast a rainbow trout aggressively grabbed the salvation, and after I photographed and released it, I placed a second cast in the same deep channel. Much to my amazement a twelve-inch brown trout copied the actions of the rainbow, and my fish count climbed to two in a short amount of time. I released the brown, and I was surprised to momentarily connect with a third fish, but it quickly jettisoned the hook and escaped a photo session.

Second View

I wish I could report that the rest of my day evolved in similar fashion, but it did not. I stuck with the dry/dropper until 2:30PM, and the fish counter climbed to eight. After numerous disappointing sessions on the Deckers section of the South Platte, I was ecstatic over these results, even though the catch rate was average at best.

In the morning session I added another rainbow on the salvation, before I arrived at an interesting eddy near the parking lot. This location produced some positive results on previous visits, so I was optimistic that fish were present, and this was quickly confirmed by several sipping rises in the foam of the back eddy. I made the commitment to a double dry configuration and removed the dry/dropper and switched to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle with a Klinkhammer BWO as the trailer. The current between me and the foam patch grabbed my fly and created drag, so I moved to the top of the run and executed some reach casts to counter the drag on the line. Downstream drifts with the reach cast created some drag free floats, but the trout ceased feeding, and I surrendered to the pool.

Some thunder announced the onset of some stormy weather, and the sky darkened considerably, so I adjourned to the Santa Fe to eat my lunch. My return to the car afforded me an opportunity to brace for rain and foul weather, so I added my Northface down coat and topped off all the layers with my rain jacket.

Proud of This One

I returned to a beautiful wide riffle of moderate depth thirty yards upstream from the eddy, and I noticed a few sporadic rises. I considered the combination of dark overcast skies and rises and concluded that baetis activity might be commencing, so I exchanged the hares ear nymph for a classic RS2. This proved to be a prescient move, as a fourteen-inch brown trout nabbed the RS2, as I applied an exaggerated mend, while the flies glided along a high bank on the opposite side of the river. Needless to say, I was very pleased with this turn of events.

Powerful Fish

A bit farther upstream I lobbed an obligatory cast to a marginal and narrow slack area next to a fast current, and a fifteen-inch brown trout snatched the RS2. This trout dove deep and exhibited a strong effort to escape, before I guided it into my net. Things were getting interesting in the Deckers section of the South Platte River, and I was a believer in the reports from my friend, Steve. The fish count was perched at six including two robust wild brown trout, and I already exceeded my low expectations.

Rock Garden Yielded the Rainbow

I continued upstream to an area characterized by several deep runs and pockets among some huge sandstone boulders. My arrival at this locale coincided with a five-minute downpour, but I was more than prepared with my rain jacket and hood in place, so I continued fishing through the brief weather event.

Chunky Rainbow after a Long Lull

Between the end of the storm and 2:30PM I prospected upriver through various runs, pockets and pools, and this focused effort yielded an eight-inch rainbow trout and a muscular thirteen-inch rainbow. Both rainbows favored the salvation nymph, and the larger of the two came from a forty-yard section of rocky structure that contained numerous deep pockets and runs that swirled around submerged and exposed boulders.

Above the rocky section I encountered a long riffle area with a depth of three to four feet, and once again some sporadic rises announced the presence of several trout. In fact, some clouds darkened the sky, and the wind escalated, and the number of rising trout multiplied to six or seven. A cluster dominated the slow-moving shelf pool on the left side, and the rest rose more sporadically in the faster moving riffle directly above me.

Lots of Rising Trout in This Section

In an effort to capitalize on the windfall feeding activity, I swapped the orange scud for the classic RS2, but it was obvious that the fish were not tuned into food at the bottom or midlevel of the river. Next, I reverted to a double dry method with a hippie stomper as the indicator fly and a Klinkhammer BWO emerger as the trailer. Again, fish rose within inches of my offerings, and I resigned myself to yet another change. I snipped the Klinkhammer off, and replaced it with a beadless soft hackle emerger.

It required a ridiculous quantity of casts, but eventually another fourteen-inch brown trout latched on to the trailing soft hackle emerger, and I was proudly in possession of another quality wild trout, and this was my first of the day on a dry fly. A wide smile occupied my face, as I snapped off a few photos and released fish number nine.

Took a Soft Hackle Emerger

The next thirty minutes were pure frustration. The sky darkened once again, and the breeze kicked up, and I could now clearly discern a flotilla of tiny mayflies with upright wings in the glare on the surface of the slow-moving water of the shelf pool. The aquatic insect sailboats seemed to be slowly circling back upstream toward the shoreline, and trout were aggressively dimpling the area. My adrenalin activated, and I fired cast after cast to the area, but my fly was rudely ignored. In an act of desperation, I switched the soft hackle emerger for a size 24 CDC BWO, and the tiny tuft provided a similar silhouette with an upright wing, but the trout were having none of it. As a last-ditch gambit, I removed the hippie stomper and cast the CDC BWO solo, but, alas, this was yet another failed human intervention in a natural process.

Finally, the sun peaked out briefly and halted the feeding frenzy, so I hooked the CDC BWO to my rod guide and scrambled up the steep bank. I saluted the cluster of South Platte River baetis feeders and marched back to the car. Some dark clouds were in the southern sky, so in all likelihood another wave of feeding was around the corner, but my arm and mind were fried. I already surpassed my meager expectations for the day, so I returned to the car and prepared for the return drive. The South Platte River at Deckers is back on my radar as a fly-fishing destination.

Fish Landed: 9

Boulder Creek – 05/16/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 05/16/2021 Photo Album

After a reasonably successful day on Friday on the Arkansas River, I decided to squeeze in another day of fishing, before the run off kicked in permanently. Since it was a weekend day, and I was unwilling to drive a great distance, I chose to visit Boulder Creek in the canyon west of the city of Boulder. The flows were 80 CFS, and the graph trendline was not yet in an upward trajectory. I experienced flows in the 80 CFS range previously, and I knew that it was manageable. Because of ongoing construction in Boulder Canyon, I had not visited the area west of town in two years. I expected the fish to be small but felt that I could enjoy some action with smaller trout on a Sunday with relative solitude, and I assumed Sunday was an off day for the construction crews. I was correct on the latter assumption.

A one hour drive delivered me to a pullout in the canyon by 10:45AM, and after fifteen minutes of preparation I was standing along the edge of the creek with a dry/dropper arrangement that included a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl, a size 12 prince nymph and a size 14 beadhead bright green caddis pupa. My Sage four weight was in my grasp, and I wore my Northface light down coat covered with a raincoat.

Promising Slick Next to the Rock Wall

The sky was very overcast, and the clouds threatened rain during my entire time on the creek, but other than an occasional fine mist, precipitation was not a factor. The flows were 80 CFS as advertised on the DWR web site, and clarity was excellent with a slight bit of color. The air temperature was 55 degrees, and that along with an occasional breeze explained my layers. I also wore my New Zealand billed cap with ear flaps, and I never felt like I over dressed.

During my four hours on Boulder Creek I cycled through a wide array of flies. I relied primarily on the dry/dropper approach, but toward the end of the four hours I switched to the double dry technique. Among my dry fly offerings I landed one on the chubby Chernobyl, two on a Chernobyl ant, one on a deer hair caddis, one on a hippie stomper, and three on a Klinkhammer blue winged olive emerger. On the subsurface side of the ledger I landed one on the prince nymph, one on an emerald caddis pupa and one on a beadhead caddis pupa.

Typical Small Brown Trout

Surprisingly, given the higher than normal flows and lack of hatch activity, the fish seemed to be looking toward the surface for their meals. This fact was corroborated by the ratio of fish landed on dries compared to nymphs, and in addition I observed quite a few refusals to the chubby Chernobyl and hippie stomper, and I recorded four temporary connections with the Chernobyl ant. I persisted with the two nymph dry/dropper for 75% of my time on the water, but I suspect that I might have performed even better with the double dry approach.

Productive Run

During the last hour I removed the nymphs and added a one foot dropper with a gray size 16 deer hair caddis. The two dry fly combination attracted quite a bit of attention, and I landed one nice brown trout on the caddis adult. The fish counter rested on eight, and I was about to quit after fishing a gorgeous wide run and pool of moderate depth, when I began to notice quick aggressive rises throughout the attractive water near my location. I executed some nice downstream drifts along the foam line and current seam, but the sporadic risers paid no attention to my flies. Since the source of the sudden feeding pattern was not evident, I assumed the trout were keyed in on small blue winged olives, so I swapped the caddis for a size 18 parachute Adams. The white wing post made the trailing fly a delight to follow, but the fish ignored both of my flies in pursuit of the presumed BWO’s.


After ten minutes of futility I decided to make one more last ditch change. I exchanged the parachute Adams for a Klinkhammer BWO emerger. Eventually this fly proved to be the best of the day, but another period of fruitless casts preceded that welcome development. By some stroke of luck I began making downstream drifts and lifted the flies just as they approached the vicinity of previously observed rises. Voila! Five times a trout responded to the lift off, and in three cases a small brown trout rested in my net. Who knew that lifting the flies simulated a mayfly attempting to become airborne, and this movement was what triggered the feeding response in the fish?

Produced a Grab From Slow Water Along the Bank

By 3PM the rises ceased, and I was feeling chilled from the cool temperatures and standing in run off water, so I called it quits and hiked back to the Santa Fe. I ended up with the fish counter on eleven, and it was very gratifying to hook and land three trout on dry flies using the surface lift technique. Of course all the fish were on the small side with perhaps one ten inch giant among them, but it was challenging nonetheless. I managed double digit trout on May 16 on a freestone creek, and I consider Sunday’s results icing on the cake, before the snow melt begins in earnest.

Fish Landed: 11

Arkansas River – 05/14/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Above Buena Vista

Arkansas River 05/14/2021 Photo Album

My last fishing outing took place on May 5, so I spent nine days waiting for an opportunity to once again satisfy my fly fishing addiction. The nine days included a visit from my daughter, Amy; Mothers Day, two Theo Thursdays, and several rounds of bad weather on the days, when I was available to fish. In fact, it feels like the last six weeks have followed a trend, where the worst weather rolls in Sunday through Tuesday, my most available days to fish, and then nice weather arrives for Thursday through Saturday. Needless to say I was quite anxious to dip my waders in a Colorado waterway.

I narrowed my options down to three. I could return to Eleven Mile Canyon on the South Platte River, as flows were maintained at a very favorable 55 CFS. I entertained a second option of making the two hour drive to the Eagle River in the Avon and Edwards area, since flows were in the 250 CFS range and trending downward. This suggested that run off remained in abeyance, and a short window was available to leverage in my favor. Option number three was the Arkansas River above Buena Vista. This section is relatively new to me, but I enjoyed some fine action in the vicinity over the past two seasons. The fly shop reports stated that the upstream caddis migration stalled earlier in the week due to rain and cool temperatures. My weakness for chasing the Arkansas caddis distorted my reasoning powers, and I opted for the Arkansas River with a small chance of hitting the leading edge of the resumed caddis progression.


My maps application suggested that the quickest route to the middle Arkansas River was to head west on Interstate 70 and then south over Fremont Pass through Leadville to the turn off to my desired destination. I enjoyed driving a route that differed from the oft repeated US 285 through South Park and Fairplay. The trip was uneventful, and I arrived at the parking lot at an Arkansas River access point by 10:30AM. The temperature was 60 degrees, and I quickly donned my waders and rigged my Sage four weight, before I hiked along a path that followed the rim of the canyon for nearly .9 mile. To combat the wind and provide an element of warmth in the morning I pulled on my light raincoat. A pair of fishermen departed the parking lot ten minutes before me, and they seemed to choose the same direction, so I was on high alert to locate their position.

Quite a Setting

I never spotted another angler, so I angled down the bank at a relatively gradual location and prepared to initiate my quest for trout. The river was crystal clear and flowing at around 200 CFS, and I was tickled with the convergence of nearly perfect  weather and stream conditions. Occasional bursts of strong wind were one adverse factor. I debated whether to set up an indicator nymph system or a dry/dropper, but the clear and relatively low river convinced me to choose the dry/dropper path.

Iron Sally Working Early

Stunning Markings

I dug out an ice dub tan chubby Chernobyl as my top fly and added a go2 bright green sparkle caddis pupa and beadhead size 14 prince nymph. Neither of these flies excited the fish in the first twenty minutes, although I did experience two very brief connections. A very dark cloud rolled above me, and I noticed two small blue winged olives, so I swapped the prince nymph for a sparkle wing RS2, but this combination was equally ignored, so I paused to consider another change. In this instance I swapped the RS2 for an iron Sally, and just before I broke for lunch at 11:50AM, an eleven inch brown trout chomped the iron sally. I was on the board and very pleased with that status.

After lunch I continued upriver and explored likely holding spots with the dry/dropper. The iron Sally nabbed another pair of small brown trout, but clearly my catch rate did not match the quality of the water that I covered. I decided to extend my leader to four feet to create deeper drifts, and while I made this change, I repositioned the iron Sally as the top fly and swapped the g02 sparkle caddis pupa for a LaFontaine version with a dubbed body rather than the chartreuse micro braid. The bright green emergent sparkle pupa accounted for a pair of fish, but I remained dissatisfied with my success rate, so I once again completed a change. I knotted a 20 incher to my long dropper as the top nymph, and kept the bright green caddis pupa on the point.


This became my combination of choice, and the fish counter elevated from five to ten over the next several hours. I was very pleased to reach double digits, as the fishing was by no means easy pickings. I covered a ton of river and executed prodigious numbers of casts to register this total. By 2:30PM the catch rate dwindled to a lackluster lull, so I dumped the bright green caddis pupa and replaced it with my old reliable beadhead hares ear nymph. Oddly the hares ear duped two rainbow trout, one in the twelve inch range. I cannot remember ever landing a rainbow trout from this stretch of water in my one previous exploration of the area.

A Rainbow Appears

By 3:30PM the hares ear lost its magnetic qualities, so I made one final adjustment to a size 16 emerald caddis pupa. During the last hour I adopted the practice of dead drifting the dry/dropper for three casts, and I followed up with some very active manipulation of the line. Frankly I felt like I was stripping a streamer rather than a chubby Chernobyl and a pair of nymphs. The aggressive line management sort of yielded positive results, as I landed a fine brown trout and witnessed several follows and a couple momentary hook ups.

These Spots Are Amazing

I desperately wanted to move beyond thirteen before quitting, but by 4PM I remained shy of the desired count, and I was bored and weary, so I tromped back to the Santa Fe and called it quits. A thirteen fish day on a freestone river on May 14 is an accomplishment to appreciate. One brown trout with very dark black spots stretched to thirteen inches, and a couple others were in the twelve inch range, but overall the size of the fish was on the small side. This was consistent with my prior experience north of Buena Vista. The thirteen fish required five hours of focused effort, and the 20 incher was the best producer, but I never stumbled on to a fly that was desired more than others. I suspect the trout were laying low and being opportunistic, and success was more about reading the water and executing solid drifts or imparting the desired movement than fly selection.

Fish Landed: 13

Arkansas River – 05/05/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Salida and Wellsvile

Arkansas River 05/05/2021 Photo Album

Opportunity. As an avid fly angler, all I can ask for is opportunity. If I am unable to take advantage, then the fault lies with me, but at least I encountered numerous opportunities to connect with plentiful feeding trout. Cinco de Mayo was a day that provided numerous possibilities to connect with respectable Arkansas River fish. How well did I respond? Read on.

Heavy rain on Sunday extending into Monday afternoon had an impact on the front range streams, that I reviewed on Tuesday, in preparation for a day of fishing on Wednesday. I spent Tuesday supervising the patio landscaping project, and my daughter, Amy, was due to arrive on Thursday and stay through Saturday, so I was reluctant to miss quality time with her for a day of fishing. That left Wednesday as my one day of the week to log fly fishing time, and I wanted to make sure it was a productive day. As I browsed the stream flows and fishing reports, the Arkansas River in the Salida area caught my eye. The ArkAnglers web site cited extensive caddis emergence activity throughout Big Horn Sheep Canyon. The cold weather conditions of Sunday and Monday put a hold on the progression, but the warmer weather forecast for Wednesday through Saturday portended a resumption of heavy caddis activity.

Looking for Feeding Fish

Ongoing readers of this blog know that this avid angler is a sucker for the Arkansas River caddis hatch. I am like a punch drunk boxer who continually rises from the canvas only to be struck down repeatedly. I cannot resist the siren call of the dense caddis hatch even though it generally results in frustration. Only two or three times during my entire fly fishing history in Colorado have I managed to intersect with ridiculously easy fishing to emerging caddis, and it is those few instances that tug at my sensibilities, when I read about the chance of hitting the annual trout smorgasbord. The key to outstanding fishing to the hatch is finding the leading edge of the progression. In the few instances where I achieved this elusive objective, the fish ravenously slashed at emerging adults, as they skittered across the surface or get blown down by the wind. Sloppy casting was rewarded, since drag and movement emulated the the antics of the adult caddis.

Fish Were in This Area

More often than not, however, I arrived behind the leading edge of the hatch. Most of the adults already survived the gauntlet of hungry trout, and they were resting on the riverside rocks and willow branches. This was the situation, when I arrived at the Arkansas River on Wednesday morning. I parked at one of my favorite spots, Lunch Rock, and I pulled on my waders and rigged my Sage One five weight in anticipation of a day of caddis madness. The air temperature was around 55 degrees, so I pulled on my light down coat, and I was comfortable for most of the day except for the mid to late afternoon.

Stretched Out

The caddis seemed to be resting on the rocks and branches with very little activity over the water, so I elected to go with a deep nymphing rig in the late morning. I crimped a split shot to my line and added a Thingamabobber and then attached a go2 caddis pupa and classic RS2. This approach failed to exact interest, so I pondered my options and swapped the RS2 for an ultra zug bug, prince nymph and eventually a small prince with no bead. During one of these changeovers I also replaced the Thingamabobber with a New Zealand yarn indicator. The ultra zug bug and prince experiments covered the scenario of egg laying caddis, but the resident trout failed to respond. A bit after 11:00AM a twelve inch brown trout chomped the go2 bright green caddis pupa, as I lifted to make a cast, and I was on the board. This bit of good fortune raised my hopes for caddis pupa action, so I began imparting more movement in my drifts via aggressive downstream mends and jigging the flies, as they tumbled back toward me. None of these ploys created hook ups. Some dark clouds blocked the sun periodically, and this caused the wind to kick up, thus creating the perfect conditions for blue winged olive activity, so I added a sparkle wing RS2 in place of the prince as the point fly, but this gambit was also a futile action.

Typical Brown Trout

After lunch I continued my upstream migration along the south bank, and I observed that the adult caddis on the streamside rocks and vegetation began to rouse from their dormancy. This translated into increased fluttering over the water with occasional dapping, and in one shelf pool I spotted a couple rises. The nymphing approach was proving futile, so I decided to try something different. I knotted a single olive-brown deer hair caddis to my line, and I tossed a few casts in the vicinity of one of the sighted rises. Smash. A very nice brown trout appeared from nowhere and crushed my little caddis imitation. I concluded that the trout along the bank were tuned into the adults that occasionally dapped the river for drinks, and I began to prospect the edge with the size 16 imitation.

Bank Side Pool

In spite of the abundant quantity of caddis touching the water, I did not observe many rises, and it was increasingly difficult to track the earth tone fly particularly when the clouds blocked the sun. In order to improve my fly tracking capability I added a peacock body hippie stomper in the front position and then placed the deer hair caddis on a six inch dropper. The double dry fly approach became a winner, and I persisted with it for most of the afternoon. There  was a brief period, when I reverted to a dry/dropper with a caddis pupa and prince nymph, but the subsurface experiment was an undeniable failure.

Very Nice

Another Brown Trout Caddis Eater

During the early afternoon the caddis remained mostly along the shoreline with only occasional dapping activity. It was during this period that my double dry shined. I landed four additional trout to increase the fish count to six including a very muscular rainbow. Amazingly, two of the afternoon fish crushed the hippie stomper, even though it looked nothing like the size 16 caddis adults that seemed to be everywhere. By 2:30PM the caddis activity transformed into a full blown orgy. Adults were everywhere; in the bushes, on the rocks, in large swarms above the river, bouncing off the surface, and crawling in my ears and behind my sunglasses. In spite of this preponderance of available food, rising trout were only intermittent occurrences. My catch rate lagged in spite of the ridiculous quantity of insects in attendance. It seemed like the caddis were not on the water more than a second or two, and their touch downs were so erratic, that it was difficult for the trout to anticipate where to attack. My small inanimate dry fly was one among thousands, so the chances of it being consumed were minimal. In addition to the six netted trout, I also experienced in excess of four connections that resulted in escapes, so a double digit day was certainly a missed opportunity.

Two Trout from This Area

Double Dry Delivered

In summary, I found the caddis hatch. There have been years when I missed it entirely, so actually interacting with it was a positive accomplishment. Sure, I yearned for the easy plucking that accompanies discovering the leading edge, but being in the midst of the dense hatch was superior to missing it entirely. I managed to land six very respectable trout with the opportunity to score double digits. There is that word again; opportunity. Simply being a part of the spectacular caddis emergence made Wednesday a success in my book. The weather was perfect, and the wind was mostly a nonfactor. I had the opportunity to catch a lot of fish, but my skills were a bit lacking. Hopefully my health will enable me to pursue the grannom (caddis) hatch a few more times in coming years.

Fish Landed: 6

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