Monthly Archives: September 2021

Clear Creek – 09/24/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: National forest area

Clear Creek 09/24/2021 Photo Album

My trip to the Frying Pan River was successful, if for no other reason than I got to spend an evening with my daughter and her significant other, Thirty-two fish in two days was also respectable, and that included a nice sprinkling of fish in the twelve to fifteen inch range. The forecast for highs in the eighties in Denver spurred me to plan another day trip to fish in a local stream on Friday, September 24. The days are rapidly getting shorter, and I was anxious to take advantage of mild weather. My first choice was South Boulder Creek, but a quick check of the DWR gauge revealed that flows were reduced to a trickle of 6.74 CFS. I suspect that I could have caught some fish, but I did not feel that it was fair to fish at such ridiculously low levels.

Promising Water Above and Below the Dam

My fallback option was Clear Creek, and I found myself along the banks of the front range stream at 11:00AM ready to cast. The air temperature upon my arrival at the pullout was 53 degrees, and this reading prompted me to pull on my rain shell for warmth and to act as a windbreaker. Periodic gusts chilled me, while I assembled my Orvis Access four weight. When I quit fishing at 4PM and returned to the car, the dashboard digital thermometer read 67 degrees, and I wore the raincoat during my entire time on the creek. The conditions were pleasant for fishing but a bittersweet reminder that cold weather is imminent in the high country.

Skinny Water Required Stealth

So Pastel

I began my day with a peacock hippie stomper fished solo on a 5X tippet, and in the one hour before lunch I recorded three cutthroat trout. I targeted quite a few very attractive pools with no results, so I pondered some changes. After lunch I extended a one foot leader from the bend of the hippie stomper and fished a double dry setup that included a gray size 16 caddis. The combination produced a trout on the caddis, but it was less effective than the solo stomper, so I once again implemented a change. In this instance I added a beadhead hares ear nymph, but in a short amount of time I realized that the plop of the weighted nymph was scattering the trout on the first cast to a new spot. I quickly made another adjustment and replaced the hares ear with a sunk ant. The ant did not create the same impact upon landing, During this period of experimentation with fly combinations I raised the fish count from three to six. I was beginning to question my ability to hit double digits. In my mind I was debating the reasons for a low catch rate, and my mental list included a marginal stretch of creek, cold overnight temperatures that made the trout lethargic, and my inability to choose the right flies.

Trout Alert

Prominent Slash

In spite of my lowered confidence level I persisted. During this time refusals to the hippie stomper continued, so I downsized the surface fly to a Jake’s gulp beetle and retained the sunk ant. The terrestrial pair attracted a few looks, but no takes, and I once again shifted direction. I removed the double dry fly and migrated to a single lime green trude. This was an archived fly that occupied space in my box, but was rarely used until Friday. The trude exhibited some magic, when it accounted for a cutthroat, and I was certain that I had solved the puzzle. In the next pool a larger than average fish nipped the trude, and I was connected for a very brief moment, until it shed the hook point. I was convinced that this fish was a prize worth pursuing, so I entered the game of changing flies, even though a fish that is pricked rarely eats a second time. The targeted cutthroat actually rose and looked at the lime trude two more times after being nicked by the hook, so I concluded it was worth a few more fly changes. First I knotted a size 18 parachute black ant to my line. Time and again the low riding ant has rescued me in difficult dry fly situations, and on Friday it drew a look, but that was the extent of it. Next I swapped the ant for an olive-brown caddis, and it topped the ant, as it induced a swirling refusal. At this point I surrendered to the king of the pool and moved upstream.

Christmas Colors

Caddis Consumer

I stuck with the deer hair caddis for a bit and landed a few more fish, but the earth toned fly was very difficult to follow in the shadows and glare, so I decided to revert to the hippie stomper, and I added a gray size 16 deer hair caddis as a dropper dry fly. Bingo. This dynamic duo enabled me to elevate the fish count from ten to twenty-eight, before I called it a day at 4PM. I actually planned to quit at three o’clock, but a large and steep bank on the north side of the creek blocked my exit and forced me to continue upstream, until the terrain became more forgiving. Once again I debated in my mind why the fishing improved significantly in the two o’clock to four o’clock time frame. The long, steep bank was certainly a barrier to anglers, and this probably explained much of the improved success along with the direct sunlight and warming of the water temperatures to the optimal zone for feeding. Whatever the reason, I thoroughly enjoyed the last couple hours. I searched for deeper holes and pools and concentrated my casts to the most productive spots. Long casts were more effective than short ones and cautious approaches paid dividends. In short I gained confidence in my flies and knew that accurate casts and properly reading the water resulted in repetitive success. Hopefully I can squeeze out a few more days like Friday before the winter winds blow.

Fish Landed: 28

Perfection with Fins

Frying Pan River – 09/22/2021

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir Dam

Frying Pan River 09/22/2021 Photo Album

Quite a few cars occupied the prime parking pullouts along the upper three miles below the dam and as expected contending with competing anglers was a given. I found a spot above three other vehicles and marched down to the stream to eat my lunch. Another fisherman occupied the spot that I desired, so I mentally surveyed my alternatives. I returned to the car to jettison my lunch bag, and I decided to walk down the road a bit to assure myself that my target entry point was occupied. As I walked along, I passed a car with its hatch open, and an angler was stashing his gear. Could it be the fisherman that I observed in my desired starting space? It was, so I continued down the road and then cut along an angled path to the edge of the river.

My dry/dropper remained in place, so I prospected some nice runs with the hope that perhaps the trout were interested in the salvation nymph, as it typically imitates a pale morning dun nymph. This was not the case, so I began to carefully angle my way across the river toward a favorite spot, where the main current deflects against the south bank, and in the process the river created a very attractive riffle of moderate depth. The flows of 290 CFS made the crossing much more challenging than normal, but I succeeded in my plan. I began lobbing the dry/dropper to the churning water at the head of the riffle and allowed the three flies to drift to the tail, and I was disappointed to discover a lack of interest from the resident trout.

I began to ponder my next move, and as I watched the stream, several subtle rises manifested themselves. By now my watch displayed 1:30, and a chilly wind gusted up the river. I removed my fleece during the drive from the upper river to where I was presently, and I was wishing that I kept the extra layer in place. Could the anticipated green drake hatch be underway, and could the fish be rising to the windblown adults? I quickly clipped off the dry/dropper flies and shifted to a parachute green drake. The number of rising fish in the vicinity ballooned to five or six, and I made downstream drifts to all of them, but other than a couple refusals, my efforts were thwarted.

In a state of frustration I stretched my seine across the net opening, and I held it and collected samples from the surface film. After a minute or two the only food item of interest was a solitary blue winged olive, so I added a one foot extension to the green drake and knotted a CDC blue winged olive to my tippet. Nothing. The tiny olive was treated with even more disdain than the green drake. The wind continued to gust, and I remembered historical BWO hatches in windy conditions, when the trout honed in on emergers, since they were available, before the wind swept them from the surface. I cycled through a Klinkhammer emerger BWO and a soft hackle emerger, but neither of these yielded success, and I acknowledged that my windswept theory was misguided. Typically pale morning duns overlap with green drakes, so I added a cinnamon comparadun of size 18 and then 16 behind the green drake, and once again the trout continued to rise but ignored my offerings.

This Cutbow Was the First Decent Trout

As I focused on a downstream rising trout, I thought I saw a green drake natural, as it danced above the surface. The wind buffeted the large mayfly causing it to touch the surface repeatedly, as it attempted to get airborne. Did my fly need to look more active? I tied a Harrop hair wing green drake to my line behind the parachute green drake and fished a double dry. Finally I managed to hook and land a greedy eleven inch cutbow on a downstream drift, as the greedy eater grabbed one of the green drake imitations. I thought perhaps I was on to something, but after I released my first tailwater fish of the day, I returned to a state of frustration.

I finally decided to surrender to the picky eaters, and I crossed to the roadside bank once again. However, before stepping on land, I paused at the tail of the nice riffle where I began, and I thought I spotted a very subtle sipping rise in the tiny nook at the tail of the riffle tight to the bank. It took four casts to get a drift of the two flies over the spot, where I thought I saw the fish, but suddenly a nose appeared, and it sipped the parachute green drake. I set the hook, and a fight commenced, but the top fly slipped free and the trailing green drake foul hooked the battler. Eventually before I could land the brown trout, it broke free and escaped. The vision of the sipping take remains in my head, even though the brown trout was not among my fish count.

I walked along the shoulder to a point where I could once again angle to the river, where it formed two braids that split around a long narrow island. I progressed along the left braid observing for rises, but none were forthcoming, so I crossed below another angler above the upstream tip of the island, and I negotiated my way through some tight willows to cube rock pool. A huge rock in the shape of a cube occupies the top of the pool thus the name. I explored the near side of the strong center current with a multitude of casts, and only managed to generate three looks. It was maddening to attract the attention of decent trout without being able to close the deal.

Best Fish on Wednesday by Far

I slowly waded back to the top of the island with the intention of moving to another section of the river, but as I was about to cross the north braid below the other angler, I decided to make a few casts to a nice deep but short pocket that spanned the braid. On the fifth drift I noticed that a trout emerged from a position at the lip of the pocket. By now I reverted to the size 16 cinnamon comparadun behind the green drake, and I began to forego casting, as I dragged the two flies to the top of the pocket and then allowed them to drift back to the lip. Eventually I simply lifted the flies and let them flutter in the wind and then allowed them to touch down repeatedly at the lip of the pocket. After quite a few such actions, a large mouth appeared, and the comparadun disappeared. The fight was on, and I managed to land the best fish of the trip, a fifteen inch cutbow. Needless to say catching this fish under difficult conditions was very gratifying.

Tip of the Island Area

I decided to move on at this point. As I drove along the stream during my approach, I noticed a few open pullouts above the wide parking area that is generally filled with guide vehicles. I pulled into one of these. The river narrows in this area, and I was uncertain that low velocity holding spots existed at the higher than normal flows. For the next hour I migrated upstream along the left bank, and I managed to land a nice thirteen inch brown trout from a narrow slot and some slack water next to the bank. By four o’clock I was burned out, and whitewater chutes were all that remained ahead of me, so I climbed the steep bank and returned to the car and called it a day.

I Fished This Stairstep Edge Water and Landed One Brown Trout

Wednesday afternoon was very challenging. The 290 CFS flows reduced the number of prime fishing spots for the abundant quantity of fishermen. The chill and wind had an impact on the hatches, and I never saw the “profuse” emergences described by the salesperson at Taylor Creek Fly Shop. I should have remained on the upper Frying Pan River, but I did manage to finesse a fine fifteen inch cutbow from an obscure lie. For this I was grateful. I am amazed at the fishing pressure that the Frying Pan tailwater absorbs.

Fish Landed: 3

Frying Pan River, Upper – 09/22/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Above Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River, Upper – 09/22/2021 Photo Album

I stayed at my daughter Amy’s condo in Carbondale on Tuesday evening, and she needed to report to work early on Wednesday to catch up on some documentation. As she drove to work, she texted me that her thermometer registered 30 degrees. I checked out her garden and noted that five or six leaves on the squash plant were damaged from frost. I decided to take my time to allow the air temperature to warm up, before I hit the stream on Wednesday morning.

Deep Spots Like This Produced

I was somewhat disappointed with my so-so day on Tuesday on the Frying Pan River tailwater, so I decided to spend Wednesday morning on the upper Frying Pan River above Reudi Reservoir. I departed from Amy’s condo in Carbondale at 8:45AM, and this enabled me to arrive along the upper Pan by 10AM, and I was positioned to make my first cast a bit before 10:30AM. I wore my fleece hoodie, since the air temperature, when I began, was 53 degrees. The flows were probably average for September at 30 CFS, and an abundant quantity of large exposed boulders occupied the stream bed.

Small Stream Gold

Speckles Galore

I rigged my Sage four weight with a fat Albert, prince nymph and salvation nymph, and I began to methodically work my way upstream. It was not long before several brown trout jumped on the prince, and this action in the early going was indicative of my two hours on the river. The Frying Pan in the stretches above Reudi is actually more of a creek than a river. Although the action was not as torrid as that which I experienced in the Flattops, it was more interesting than what I encountered on Tuesday on the Frying Pan tailwater. I progressed up the stream at a moderate pace and probed all the deeper pockets and runs with the dry/dropper. More often than not a rainbow, cutbow or brown trout emerged from the clear flows; and I netted eighteen trout in two hours. The air temperature warmed to the sixties, but I remained quite comfortable in my fleece hoodie.

Morning Prize

The species caught split fairly evenly between brown trout and rainbows and cutbows. I was pleased to net five trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range, but the size of the fish in the upper Frying Pan were certainly smaller than my better catches in the tailwater. As I moved along, I pondered the idea of remaining on the upper water for my entire time on Wednesday. The higher than normal flows of 290 CFS on the tailwater frustrated me, and I was having a great deal of fun on the smaller and more intimate upper Frying Pan. On the other hand I made the long drive and spent the night in order to experience the fabled hatches on the lower Pan, so should I not return for another shot at green drakes and pale morning duns? The air temperature for Wednesday was forecast to be ten degrees higher than Tuesday, so perhaps the hatches would be longer and more robust. In the end this argument trumped the idea of staying on the smaller Frying Pan, and I threw my gear in the car and drove to a spot within the first three miles below the dam.

Fish Landed: 18

Frying Pan River – 09/21/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Reudi Reservoir

Frying Pan River 09/21/2021 Photo Album

I suspect I was spoiled by my high fish count days in the Flattops, and consequently I was somewhat disappointed by my day on the Frying Pan River. I decided to make the trip on Tuesday morning and cleared a one night stay at my daughter’s condo in Carbondale.

A cold front moved through Colorado on Monday night, and this produced temperatures near freezing at the Eisenhower Tunnel and at the summit of Vail Pass. The temperature when I began fishing on the Frying Pan River on Tuesday was 55 degrees. I wore my fleece hoodie for the entire time on the river, and I was never too warm.

On my way to the river I stopped at Taylor Creek Fly Shop to buy two spools of 5X tippet, and the salesman informed me that profuse hatches of green drakes, pale morning duns, blue winged olives, caddis, and yellow sallies were in play. He also noted that the flows were in the 290 CFS range. He spoke like this was desirable, but it concerned me, since I prefer the water to be the 100 – 200 CFS range. This concern would ultimately prove to be valid.

Near My Starting Point

I rigged my Sage four weight and configured my line with a pool toy hopper, prince nymph and salvation nymph and began prospecting the promising runs and pockets below a small island. On the fifth toss the pool toy hopper darted sideways, and I set the hook. Instantly a missile shot downstream, and I allowed line to spin off my reel at an alarming rate. Just as I prepared to follow the torpedo below a fast chute, the tension released, and I quickly realized that three flies were missing in action from my line. I suspect that I foul hooked a respectable fish, but needless to say I was not pleased with the need to once again configure my three fly dry dropper.


By the time I paused for lunch at 12:15PM I notched one small brown trout. I returned to the car for lunch and to restock my fleece wallet with prince nymphs and salvation nymphs. After lunch I cautiously crossed the river at a point across from the Santa Fe and added a second small brown trout to the count, but I was certain that I was bypassing fish, so I decided to implement a change. Crossing the Frying Pan River at 290 CFS was not a walk in the park, but I hoped to position myself to search the less pressured water opposite the road.


Appreciated Brown Trout

The cool temperatures and intermittent wind suggested a high pressure system, and I rarely do well in such conditions. The 290 CFS flows also reduced the viable fish holding spots, but the fly shop salesman promised profuse hatches. I decided to heed his advice, and I converted to a peacock hippie stomper trailing a parachute green drake. The change paid off, when I duped a thirteen inch rainbow trout on the green drake, although I lost the original paradrake to a bad knot and landed the rainbow trout on a comparadun. Eventually I switched back to another parachute, and over the course of the afternoon I elevated the fish count from three to ten. Two of these trout slurped the hippie stomper, and the remainder snatched the green drake. A fifteen inch rainbow and two fourteen inch brown trout were part of the afternoon haul.

Lifted for Display

Parachute Green Drake

Long and Lean Brown Trout

By 3:30PM I reversed my direction, and on the way back, along the south bank I landed a medium sized brown trout on a size 16 cinnamon comparadun. The move to the comparadun was dictated by a sparse hatch of pale morning duns. By 4:00PM I returned to the car and drove to mile marker 11.5, where I fished the braids, the pool at cube rock, and the pockets at the upstream tip of the island. These efforts were futile, and I called it quits at 4:30PM. Shadows and glare covered the entire river, and my confidence plummeted.

Hops Dried on the Vine

Tuesday was a fair day on the Frying Pan River. The catch rate was average, the hatch was less than profuse, and I landed four respectable trout in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. Hopefully warmer temperatures and less wind will yield better hatches and more success on Tuesday.

Fish Landed: 11

North Fork of the White River – 09/16/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: National forest area

North Fork of the White River 09/16/2021 Photo Album

Thursday felt like a repeat of Wednesday. I spent Wednesday evening filling two empty fly boxes with dry flies from my boat box to replace my MFC box that broke free from its leash on Wednesday. Needless to say I am still grieving over the loss of a box stuffed with hopper patterns, chubby Chernobyls, classic Chernobyls, ants, beetles, stimulators, caddis, yellow sallies, and comparaduns. I am anxious to fill another MFC brown trout box with my mainstay patterns, when I return home.

Trout Expected

The temperature at the car, as I prepared to fish, was already in the sixties, and by the time I returned to the Santa Fe at 4PM, it was 69 degrees. I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked to my chosen starting point. During the afternoon some large puffy clouds rolled across the sky on a regular basis, and I actually resorted to wearing my rain shell for additional warmth for most of the afternoon.

Brilliant Red Says It All

For the day I kept my fly selection rather basic, as I started and ended with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper, a size 14 prince nymph, and a size 16 salvation nymph. Thursday’s game was more about casting to the right water than choosing the correct fly.

Love the Deep Color

Another Look

I began my quest for trout at 10:30AM, and by lunchtime the fish counter rested on eleven. Quite a few chunky twelve and thirteen inch rainbows rested in my net, but the ones that escaped were the most impressive. I quickly learned that marginal spots were a waste of time, and I focused my casting on places with depth and length. Of course, as is usually the case, the farther I moved from easy access, the better my catch rate. The hopper only generated a couple fish, but the prince nymph delivered most of the damage. The salvation induced ten grabs, and the prince accounted for the remainder. Inexplicably numerous prime spots failed to produce, but I discovered that movement was my friend. Rather than dwelling on the failure, I pressed on and found spots that produced multiple trout.

Spawning Colors

I Know You Are in There

The ratio by species was around seventy percent rainbow and cutbow and thirty percent brook trout. At one point I considered adopting Wednesday’s lineup of a hippie stomper and salvation nymph, but I concluded that the configuration might attract more small trout, and I was pleased with the steady stream of energized eleven to thirteen inch rainbow trout that were finding their way to my net.

Like Opening a Christmas Present

By 2:30PM the catch rate slowed considerably, my arm was sore and weary from four straight days of casting, and I grew increasingly concerned about my exit plan. I called it quits at 3PM to allow time to find the main dirt road, and after a .9 mile hike I arrived at my car.

Outfitter and Horseback Riding Stables Next to Ute Lodge

Although I fell short of fifty fish on Thursday, I registered another outstanding day of fly fishing. I estimate that half of the thirty-six fish were robust rainbows and cutbows in the eleven to thirteen inch range. A sprinkling of vividly colored brook trout added to the mix, and I ended my week in the Flattops in a satisfied state of mind.

Fish Landed: 36

North Fork of the White River – 09/15/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: National forest area

North Fork of the White River 09/15/2021 Photo Album

Another spectacular day of fly fishing was overshadowed by an expensive loss, but I will return to that misfortune at the end of this report. After a terrific day on the South Fork, I returned to the North Fork on Wednesday.

Typical Productive Bank Pocket

Once again the weather was perfect, as the dashboard displayed 53 degrees, and I assembled my Sage four weight and prepared for a day of fly fishing. I felt a bit chilly, so I slipped into my rain shell, but within fifteen minutes of fishing I shed the layer and remained in my fishing shirt for my 6.5 hours on the creek. The air temperature was 75 degrees, when I started the Santa Fe for my return drive to the cabin. The stream appeared to be in prime condition, although a bit lower than previous Septembers. Eventually I would discover that greater than normal stealth was required to fool the wild trout on Wednesday.

Pool Toy Hopper 2

Very Fine Specimen

The day of fly fishing essentially breaks down into three segments. During the two morning hours I prospected a significant distance from my starting point and landed eight trout. The fish count included a couple of chunky twelve inch rainbows and a mix of smaller brook trout and rainbows. Perhaps I was spoiled by my ridiculous success on the South Fork, but I sensed that I was not catching fish in prime shelf pools that produced in previous years. I used a size 8 tan pool toy with a salvation nymph for most of the morning. I did hook up with two above average beasts that I failed to land, so I had a shot at double digits.

Promising Pocket

Orange Belly

After lunch I began to experiment with dry/dropper combinations. I added an ultra zug bug along with a salvation for a short period, but the results were no better than the two fly approach. I also added a sunken ant below the salvation, and that move seemed to provide a temporary boost, as the fish count advanced to the thirteen range. Still, it seemed as though I was casting to prime lies with no sign of fish, and I was not catching my normal quota of hot cutbows and rainbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range.

Lowered for Release


I pondered the situation and concluded that the large hopper and nymph tandem was disturbing the water too much at the lower than normal water level. I remedied the excessive splash down by replacing the hopper with a smaller yet buoyant hippie stomper and matched it with a salvation nymph and sunken ant. This combination turned the tide, and the fish counter zoomed from fifteen to fifty-two during the remaining hours on the creek. After some time I realized that the ant was simply getting in the way, so I revisited the two fly dry/dropper, and judging from the numbers, the trout obviously approved.

Defined Slashes

Elegant Trout

I’m not sure whether to credit the fly selection, the rise of the water temperature to a prime feeding range, or my increased distance from the trailhead; but suddenly the North Fork was on fire. The afternoon action was equal to or better than previous years, and my net was visited by bright orange-bellied ten inch brookies, a host of muscular rainbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and two copper-hued cutbows. One of the cutbows may have been the best fish of the day, as it stretched the tape to fifteen inches. The salvation was easily the star fly of the day, although five trout crushed the foam-bodied stomper.

Amazing Yellow Spots

Below the Woodpile

Highlight of the Day

By 4:30PM I was quite weary from climbing over rocks and deadfalls, and I was positioned below a short steep bank, so I called it quits. When I returned to the car, I decided to replace flies that I lost throughout the day, and one of those was a hippie stomper. I grabbed my waders and reached in the bib pocket for my MFC dry fly box. Imagine my shock, when all I found was half of the fly line that served as a tether, and it was frayed where the fly box was previously connected. My pulse and heartrate elevated at the thought of losing my valuable selection of dry flies. I quickly returned to my exit point and carefully maneuvered down a steep bank to a place, where I remembered fishing through some difficult shrubs, but the box was nowhere to be found. I estimate that the box contained at least 400 flies. I thought about spending Thursday retracing my path, but I concluded that it would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Did the fly box fall in the water or on the bank? If on the bank, which bank? I would need to search both banks, since I criss-crossed the stream on a regular basis. I decided to write off the flies and move on. Fortunately, I had my boat box along on the trip, and it contained a deep supply of backup dry flies. I planned to fill two spare fly boxes that evening and continue my Flattops adventure on Thursday and possibly Friday.

Chinese Wall

The loss of my flies put a significant damper on what should have been the celebration of another fifty fish day. Hopefully as time passes, my memory of the magnificent day of fishing will overshadow the loss of a fly box.

Fish Landed: 52

South Fork of the White River – 09/14/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: National forest area

South Fork of the White River 09/14/2021 Photo Album

The temperature was 51 degrees, when I began my hike, but the exertion from hiking quickly warmed my body temperature. I never wore a layer beyond my fishing shirt, and I was comfortable all day. The sun was bright and warm with only a rare cloud. There were some periods of breeziness, but not enough to impact my casting. The river was very clear and perhaps slightly lower than previous visits, but not enough to impact my fishing.

Near the Start

Not a Bad Start

I knew from past trips that the cutbows and rainbows of the South Fork are very strong fighters, so I rigged my Sage One five weight for extra leverage. This proved to be a very prescient move. I hiked a good distance from the parking lot and then cut to the river and configured my line with a size 8 yellow fat Ablert, a size 12 weighted prince nymph and a salvation nymph. I extended the leader, so that the total distance from the fat Albert to the salvation was four feet. I wanted to make sure that I was getting deep enough in the relatively high and cold flows of the South Fork.

Nice Deep Water in This Area

Jagged Wing Edge

Look at That Tail

The system apparently fit the circumstances on Tuesday, because I never changed the flies through six hours of fly fishing. I lost four salvation nymphs and replaced them, but I never changed to different patterns. I also knew from previous years, that extreme efficiency was necessary to succeed on the Flattops river. I skipped wide sections with shallow riffles and marginal pockets, and I focused my efforts on long slots and riffles of moderate depth. I knew my strategy was paying off, when I paused for lunch at 11:45AM with eight rainbows already notched on the fish counter. In addition, two very respectable fish escaped from my line and prevented me from upping the fish count total to ten.

Smooth Water by the Bank Enticing

Pastel Pink Stripe

Dense Speckle Pattern

The remainder of the day was simply amazing. I concentrated my casts to quality spots with depth and progressed upstream for .7 mile, and the fish count soared from eight at lunch to fifty-one, when I quit at 4:30PM. The fishing was simply outstanding. Of the 51 trout landed, one was a brook trout, and the remainder were rainbows and cutbows, but the rainbows clearly dominated the net. I estimate that thirty-one trout gobbled the prince nymph and twenty snatched the salvation. By the end of the day the prince nymph was essentially a tapered peacock cylinder with gold rib and a gold bead. I find it amazing that the fly held up that well through thirty fish.


Love This Shot

But what about size? The size and energy of these fish is what makes Tuesday potentially the number one day of fishing in 2021. I landed at least three rainbows that stretched the tape to the sixteen and seventeen inch range. The predominant size was twelve to fourteen inches, and the rainbows were pound for pound some of the toughest I have ever wrangled with. Of course there were probably fifteen below twelve inches, but if you do the math, you will realize that my day included an abundant quantity of above average size fish. Can someone pinch me?


On Tuesday fifty-one fish were landed on a stream that historically has proven to be quite temperamental. What was different about this venture? I am placing credit on the longer dropper leader and the extra weight of the prince nymph. These modifications to my approach enabled me to get my nymphs in front of large trout in deeper lies. I suspect I was drifting over the top of likely eaters on previous trips. Being disciplined on my river coverage was also a major positive. How can the next several days in the Flattops possibly compare to Tuesday? Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 51

North Fork of the White River – 09/13/2021

Time: 1:15PM – 5:00PM

Location: National Forest area

North Fork of the White River 09/13/2021 Photo Album

Every year around the second week of September I schedule a trip to the Flattops area of Colorado. It is a relatively remote area that is difficult to access from Denver, and this circumstance is probably an essential part of the allure. The area is teeming with wildlife and lacking human beings, at least that is the case during weekdays in September. The timing of my trip overlaps with muzzleloader and archery hunting seasons, so I do share the wilderness with orange clad hunters, horses and horse trailers, and large canvas tents. Modern amenities are very basic, and I always struggle to find a strong enough cell phone signal to maintain contact with my wife, Jane. Normally I camp during my one week stay in the Flattops area, but for 2021, in a concession to my advancing age, I rented the rustic Pine cabin at the Ute Lodge near Marvine, CO. For $150 per night I dwelled in luxury with heat, a bed, a refrigerator, a bathroom with a shower and a kitchen that enabled me to prepare meals. It was rather basic, but cozy, and it served my needs perfectly.

Very Respectable Rainbow

I began the week on Monday morning, as I departed Denver at 8:05AM, and this allowed me to pull into a nice wide pullout next to the North Fork of the White River by 12:30PM. I quickly inhaled my small lunch and pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage One five piece rod. I intended to tangle with some above average fish on Monday; and, therefore, chose the larger rod for the extra leverage. The air temperature was a cool sixty degrees, and heavy clouds dominated the sky for most of the afternoon. When I arrived along the edge of the river, I noted that the stream seemed lower than normal for mid September, but it was still decent for fly fishing in my estimation.

Wide, Fast Shallow Water

Distinct Spots

I began the afternoon with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper and added a size 12 prince nymph and a size 16 salvation nymph. Between 1:15PM and 5PM I worked my way up the river from the starting point, until I was forty yards above the confluence with a small tributary. Two brief periods of light rain forced me to wade to shore to pull on my raincoat. I stuck with the pool toy for most of the afternoon, and the prince nymph was a constant. The end fly rotated between the salvation nymph, ultra zug bug, hares ear nymph, iron sally, sunken ant, and an emerald caddis pupa.

Nice Size

After a series of refusals to the hopper at 4PM, I swapped the pool toy for a gray parachute hopper, and as a final act I exchanged the parahopper for a fat Albert for visibility and floatation. Over the course of the afternoon I landed three trout on the pool toy hopper (one was a rewarding, fat twelve inch brook trout), one on the salvation nymph, two on the sunken ant, and the remainder on the prince nymph. Three countable trout were brookies, and the remainder were rainbows. A pair of chunky bows in the thirteen to fourteen inch range were the highlights of the day along with the two twelve inch brook trout and seven energized rainbows in the twelve inch range.

Some Nice Deep Runs Ahead

Greedy for the Pool Toy Hopper

Large for a Stream Brook Trout

I covered roughly .7 mile in just under four hours, so I was skipping a fair amount of unproductive wide shallow riffle sections. Prerequisites for success were depth and length. Short deep pockets did not produce. The key to a decent catch rate was constant movement and being very selective about where to cast. The afternoon encompassed quite a few refusals to the pool toy, and I was tempted at times to experiment with a double dry, but I never made the change because of the performance of the prince nymph.

Look at the Dense Spot Pattern on This Cutbow

In summary, I rated Monday as a solid success. Eighteen fish in four hours was a decent catch rate, and eleven chunky brook and rainbow trout in the twelve to fourteen inch range was a respectable showing. Last year I landed fifteen in the same section over a similar period of time, so Monday’s performance was an improvement. By the end of my fishing day on Monday I was looking forward to day two in the Flattops.

Fish Landed: 18

Cozy Cabin Bedroom

South Boulder Creek – 09/10/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 09/10/2021 Photo Album

The star of my fly fishing outing on September 10, 2021 on South Boulder Creek was the sunk ant. My history with the sunk ant is rather brief relative to my fly fishing lifetime, but it has recently climbed my fly rankings as a promising producer. Click on the sunk ant link to read more about my history with sunken ants, and you will also find the source of the pattern I choose to deploy.

But I am getting ahead of myself. If you read my previous post on Pine Creek, you know that my attempt to return to South Boulder Creek for a fourth time this summer was thwarted, when the Denver Water powers reduced the outflows from Gross Reservoir on Wednesday from 95 CFS to 15 CFS. This spooked me, because at the time of my decision on a fishing destination, the downward spiral on the graph was at 65 CFS, and I was uncertain how low it would go. I am also leery of visiting a stream after a dramatic change in flows, as it takes some time for the stream residents to adjust to their modified environment.

The DWR graph eventually settled at 11.1 CFS and remained at that level Wednesday through Thursday. On Thursday evening I searched through my South Boulder Creek blog reports on this site, and I found two from October 2017 that described my experience, when the flows trickled at 9.3 CFS and 10.5 CFS. I actually enjoyed double digit days in both instances, and this encouraged me to make the drive to South Boulder Creek on Friday morning.

11.1 CFS

The air temperature upon my arrival in the parking lot was 71 degrees, and I was tempted to pull on my wet wading pants and wading socks; however, historically me feet get numb at the small tailwater, even when I wear my waders, so I adhered to the wader approach, even though I knew I was in for a hot hike. I strung my Orvis Access four weight and descended the steep path to the edge of the creek; and, sure enough, the stream was flowing along at a reduced level from what I became accustomed to. Bare rocks and dry streambed characterized the view, but even at 11.1 CFS the creek was the size of some of the high mountain streams that I recently explored.


Early Winner

Parachute Ant Took Over

By 10:30AM I was perched along the creek ready to pursue the wild denizens of South Boulder Creek canyon. My blog posts highlighted the success of beetles and ants, and I was present on the creek one month before my 2017 visit, but I  decided to experiment with a Jake’s gulp beetle first. The size 12 foam terrestrial attracted attention in the early going, and I landed three nice brown trout, before the trout seemed to scorn my offering more frequently than they ingested it. On one of the 2017 posts a black parachute ant was on fire, so I exchanged the beetle for a size 18 black ant with a pink wing post. The low floating bug duped a pair of nice fish, but it also floated unmolested through some very attractive smooth pools. As my morning evolved, I spotted five yellow sallies, as they slowly glided skyward toward the streamside trees. Could this be a hot menu item?

Stealth Required

I once again swapped flies and replaced the ant with a size 16 deer hair yellow sally. The move paid quick dividends, and I landed five more trout to elevate the fish count to ten, as I found a nice flat rock on the south bank and chowed down with my lunch. Several of the trout attacked the yellow sally aggressively, when I twitched it across some shallow riffles, so movement was part of the program during the yellow sally phase.

Nice Width

After lunch I suffered a lull, and I no longer witnessed natural yellow stoneflies in the atmosphere, so I once again changed the game plan. I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line under the assumption that it was close enough to a green drake, that it would attract attention, if western green drakes were still active. A couple of aggressive feeders snatched the foam attractor, but refusals were also part of the equation. The foam hippie stomper is large enough to support a dropper, but I knew that a beadhead would create too much of a disturbance in the low and clear conditions, so I opted to tie on a sunk ant on a 1.5 foot leader. What a move this turned out to be!

A Rainbow Emerged from the Right Side

Out of the Shadows

For the remainder of the day I progressed upstream with the dry/dropper combination and boosted the fish count from ten to thirty-four. Friday afternoon represented the type of fishing I thoroughly enjoy. I fluttered casts to all the likely pools, pockets, riffles and runs; and more often than not the trout cooperated. The hippie stomper remained as the top fly for much of the time, but I also cycled through a parachute green drake, green drake comparadun, and user friendly green drake. Each green drake produced a few trout, but the South Boulder Creek cold water trout were not locked into green drakes with the same fervor that they displayed on my three prior trips. I returned to the hippie stomper after the green drake experiment, and it accounted for four eats, but the real star of the show was the sunk ant.

Lovely Spot Pattern

I was pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of the shallow drifting sunken terrestrial. I was concerned that the fish would gravitate to the large surface offerings and ignore the small ant, but this was not the case. In several instances an above average trout attacked the ant, almost as soon as it entered the water, and this reaction always surprises me. Quite a few times I cast the dry/dropper to the top of some very clear shallow riffles, and near the tail I spotted a swirl and set the hook under the assumption that the trout grabbed the surface fly only to discover an ant embedded in the lip. Clearly a tumbling sunken terrestrial was not an uncommon occurrence in South Boulder Creek.

What a Pool!

By 2:30PM the sun was bright above and the heat in the canyon was oppressive. The trout seemed to take a siesta, and this angler felt like doing the same. My fish count was already locked on thirty-four, and the most recent fish came from deep slots that bordered oxygenated water next to structure such as large boulders. Quite a few small caddis flitted about on branches along the bank, so I forsook my treasured ant and replaced it with a size 16 deer hair caddis on a one foot dropper off the hippie stomper. I continued prospecting the double dry combination through some very attractive plunge pools and deep runs for another half hour, but the effort proved futile. At 3PM I surrendered to the heat and completed the hike back to the parking lot including the steep ascent at the end. I was a soggy piece of toast by the time I unlocked the tailgate.

Promising Deep Spot Beyond the Log

Friday was another fabulous day on South Boulder Creek. On September 10 I was forced to work harder than my previous outings. During those day I simply knotted a green drake pattern to my line and enjoyed the outstanding success. Of course I needed to respond to the conditions a few times, as I rotated through my green drake styles, but the solution to the puzzle was rather apparent. Friday’s success required adjustments, as the day progressed. I began with terrestrials and then shifted to yellow sallies and eventually settled on green drakes and sunken ants. 11.1 CFS dictates cautious approaches and long delicate casts, but Friday proved that success can be found at relatively low flows, and sunken ants were part of the equation.

Fish Landed: 34

Pine Creek – 09/08/2021

Time: 12:00PM – 3:30PM

Location: Backcountry

Pine Creek 09/08/2021 Photo Album

Wednesday, September 8 was supposed to be the day I returned to South Boulder Creek for my weekly encounter with the green drake hatch. My previous three trips to SBC resulted in excellent results, as I fished mostly parachute green drakes and green drake comparaduns. When I woke up on Wednesday morning, my first action was to fire up the desktop computer, as I nervously scrolled to the South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir chart. The nearly perfect horizontal line at 95 CFS had a slight tail on it, as the flows dropped to 91 CFS. I resumed my preparation for a day of fishing, but I made a mental note to check the flows again, before I departed.

Fast forward to 7:30AM, and I positioned myself in front of the computer once again, and in this case the straight downward tail on the graph plummeted to 60 CFS. Clearly the Denver Water managers were initiating a major adjustment to the flows from Gross Reservoir. I endured these events in the past, and I was reluctant to devote my precious day of fishing to a tailwater in the throes of a major modification, and it was unclear what the bottom point would be. I made a flash decision to change my destination in order to allow the South Boulder Creek situation to stabilize. I checked the flows upon my return to Denver, and the flow reduction bottomed out at 15 CFS! 95 CFS morphed to 15 CFS in one day!

Small, Low Creek

Earlier in the summer Jane and I completed an out an back hike along Pine Creek, and I was intrigued enough by the small high country stream to plan a future fishing visit. With South Boulder Creek’s flows disrupted by the water managers, I decided to give Pine Creek a try. I arrived at the trailhead by 11:15AM and quickly jumped into my wet wading attire and assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod. The air temperature was 68 degrees at the trailhead with nary a cloud in the sky, although a persistent haze from wildfires permeated the atmosphere. I hiked along the trail for 1.3 miles, at which point I cut in a northwestern direction, until I intersected with the small creek.


I began my quest for backcountry trout with a peacock dubbed hippie stomper, and the small attractor remained on my line for the duration of my time on the creek. In the early going it attracted a couple refusals, although attractive trout lies were a scarce commodity. I persisted and eventually landed a pair of nine inch brown trout from a nice run above a jumble of sticks and branches that stretched across the stream. I expected the stream to hold small brook trout, so encountering brown trout was a welcome introduction.

Surprised Early by A Brown Trout

Another lull followed the brown trout successes, so I added an ultra zug bug on a 1.5 foot dropper, and the move improved the catch rate somewhat, as the fish count mounted to eleven by 2:30. For the last hour I swapped the ultra zug bug for a salvation nymph, and the hippie stomper/salvation combination enabled me to increment the count to seventeen, before I quit at 3:30PM. Approximately ten of the landed fish on the day attacked the peacock stomper, and the remainder nabbed either the ultra zug bug or salvation nymph.

A Brook Trout Hot Spot

So Bright

Beast for This Small Creek

During my 3.5 hours of fishing I landed seven brown trout and ten brook trout. From a size perspective the brown trout were the larger fish, and I even netted a thirteen incher that put up quite a fight in the close quarters of the small stream. A pair of ten to eleven inch browns were also welcome surprises from the the high country habitat. Although the brook trout were routinely smaller fish in the six to nine inch range, they made up for their lack of size with vibrant colors. Several sported bright orange bellies that contrasted with luminescent gray-blue upper bodies, that were sprinkled with bright spots.

Big Jaw and Unique Spots

While one might think that these backcountry trout were easy marks, that would be a bad assumption. The low clear water along with a vast array of streamside obstacles made connecting with these small fish an interesting challenge. I scattered decent fish from several prime holes with clumsy approaches, sloppy casting, and snagged branches or sticks. I also experienced quite a few long distance releases, and four or five of these were almost certainly trout that exceeded my six inch minimum to qualify for adding to the fish count.

Another Respectable Brown

Deep Run

Wednesday was a fun day, and I attribute much of my satisfaction to exploring new water and the allure of discovering what species were present. The weather was perfect for wet wading, and the surrounding scenery was spectacular. Will I return to Pine Creek? Perhaps, although I rank several other high country destinations ahead of this one, so I am doubtful another visit is in my future for 2021.

Fish Landed: 17