Monthly Archives: October 2021

Big Thompson River – 10/29/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Lake Estes

Big Thompson River 10/29/2021 Photo Album

Combine a weather forecast featuring highs in the low sixties in Estes Park with a fine outing on Monday, 10/25/2021 and the desire of a beginning fly fisherman to squeeze in another trip before the wintry winds become prohibitive, and what do you get? The combination yielded another trip to the Big Thompson River in the canyon below Estes Park with my new fly fishing companion, Howie. Monday’s visit elevated my optimism, and I was convinced that the rainbow trout of the Big Thompson would satisfy Howie’s appetite for at least one wild Colorado trout.

Fishing Pair

I picked up Howie at 9:30AM, and this enabled us to park in a pullout four miles below Estes Park by 11:00AM. The air temperature was sixty degrees, and, much to our delight, that exceeded the forecast. The section where we began was bathed in sunlight, but I chose to wear my raincoat as a windbreaker, although I soon discovered that I was over dressed for this delightful late fall day in the Rocky Mountains. I told Howie the plan was to alternate fishing, and in this way I would remain close by for assistance, but I could also log some fly fishing time.


Unfortunately our starting point was a long slow-moving shallow pool, and we were mesmerized by a few rises and an abundant quantity of darting trout, as I stepped into the water. I immediately recognized that tossing a dry/dropper would create excessive disturbance, so I rigged Howie’s line with a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. I suggested that he begin at the bottom of the pool and fire long casts directly upstream, but in retrospect, we should have skipped the entire area. The whole exercise was extremely challenging, and as if the distance casting and skittish nature of the fish were not enough, gusting crosswinds made the adventure futile. I occupied a position along the left bank and began shooting long casts with a hippie stomper and caddis, and even my many years of experience offered no advantage. I was just as unsuccessful as Howie.

We finally moved on and prospected upstream for another 75 yards, before we returned to the car for our lunches. which we grabbed and munched next to the river across from the Santa Fe. During the pre-lunch time Howie encouraged me to work ahead of him, and he voiced the goal of me catching one fish, before we would break for lunch. I decided to take him up on his offer only because I wanted to apply my rapid fire dry/dropper experience to the enterprise in hopes of discovering an approach that would yield results for both of us. When I finally reached a nice section where the canyon narrowed to create some very attractive deep runs and plunge pools, I temporarily hooked a fish tight to a rock with one of my nymphs, and then I connected with a rainbow for a half second on the hippie stomper. I knew it was a rainbow, because it immediately leaped above the water and shook free from the foam dry fly.

Howie Looking for Trout

After lunch we drove west toward Estes Park to another spot that delivered positive results in the past. I was now tossing the hippie stomper with an ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear, and I modified Howie’s line to include a size 16 Chernobyl ant with an orange body and a size14 2XL nymph with a tinsel abdomen. These were both in his box, and he wanted to try some his flies. I gambled that the locals might be drawn to something different from the usual offerings.

We scrambled down a steep rocky bank to a gorgeous deep pool, and we both saw quite a few nice fish cruising along both shorelines. Howie positioned himself at the bottom left tail of the pool and began lobbing casts to all the feeding lanes. Unfortunately the fish showed no interest in the Chernobyl and nymph menu items, but he persisted with the tantalizing presence of visible fish prodding him on. Meanwhile I covered the next forty yards of pocket water, and I was convinced that it would produce a hungry fish or two; but, alas, Friday was proving to be a far different day than Monday. After fifteen minutes of fruitless casting, another angler appeared twenty yards above me. He was a large man with a gray ponytail, and I was immediately angered for being high-holed. but then I reconsidered and concluded he did us a favor by driving us from unproductive water. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that we were out of sight deep in the canyon and behind some large boulders.

A Big Grin

I returned to check up on Howie, and he informed me that he had some good news and bad news. The good news was that he tied on two new flies himself. The bad news was that he hooked some tall grass along the opposite bank and broke off the Chernobyl ant and flash nymph. I carefully moved upstream a bit to some shallower water that fed the pool and crossed to search the tall grasses. He remembered that the break off occurred within a twelve foot section, and he also felt that the fly was at eye level. I systematically moved along the bank and visually searched for an orange Chernobyl. How hard could it be to see a size six foam attractor? Well, it was hard. I covered the entire section without success and then returned to the upstream border and began scanning the dried grass a second time, but during round two I gazed lower toward the edge of the river. Much to my surprise at the halfway point I spotted the sun reflecting off a thin section of monofilament, and I followed the line upward, until I found the oversized ant dangling from the tip of a dried stalk of grass. It was a forest from the trees situation, as the ultimate landing spot reached out over the stream, and I was looking at the dense clumps of grass that grew vertically along the bank.

We hoofed it back to the car and stashed our gear and drove west to one of the places that I fished on Monday. I knew there were fish in this spot, so failure to catch them could only be attributed to our flies or abilities. I parked above a bridge, and we walked along highway 34 for 50 yards, until we dropped down a short rocky bank to a gigantic pool with a nice center cut deep run. I converted Howie back to a dry dropper rig that featured a hopper Juan as the surface fly and an ultra zug bug on a three foot dropper. By now I was tossing the hippie stomper, ultra zug bug and a size 18 black stonefly nymph imitation.

We took both sides of the pool, and I was shocked to learn that nary a fish showed interest in our flies. I never even saw a fish or rise, and this was highly unusual for this prime pool on the Big Thompson River. Next we moved above the pool and began to prospect some deep pockets and runs. Howie hooked a branch on the bank that bordered the highway, and this misfortune morphed into a nasty tangle. I worked it for a bit, but two very tight wind knots developed, and Howie volunteered to address the mess of his own doing, so I acquiesced and handed the line off.

The Area That Produced

Deep Colors

While Howie puzzled over the monofilament snarl, I advanced upstream at a fairly rapid pace. The river in this area was entirely covered by shadows, and the air temperature in the shade seemed to plummet ten degrees. I quickly popped three to five casts in likely fish dens, and within ten minutes a small rainbow latched on to the ultra zug bug, and I was on the scoreboard with the first fish of the day. For the next thirty minutes I worked the deep runs and pockets, and suddenly the river came to life with hungry trout. I landed four more wild finned residents, and the late afternoon catch included two brown trout and three rainbows. The last two fish were easily twelve inch gems.

Upper Productive Stretch

Scarlet Gill

A few attractive deep runs remained, and I was satisfied with my late salvage effort, so I turned my attention to Howie. He had gained ground on me, and he was positioned twenty yards downstream. I called out and motioned him to join me on the north bank. When he arrived, I examined his flies, and a triangular loop remained on the hopper Juan, so I snipped it and removed the small section of knotted line. I lengthened his dropper to three feet and knotted an ultra zug bug to the point. As I did this, I realized that I was done fishing for the day, and I could have just handed him my rod, but in hindsight, the large hopper Juan was more easily tracked than the hippie stomper in the dark shadows and fast churning current.

A Second Look

I switched into guide mode, and Howie showed me some much improved casting, as he prospected a pair of marginal slots in the middle of the river. Next, however, we approached a very promising deep slow moving slot that flowed along the south bank. Howie expertly tossed the hopper to the top and allowed it to drift through the prime holding water. On the third such pass with the dry/dropper, the hopper plunged, and Howie reacted with a swift hook set. Before the whoops and hollers could escape my mouth, however, the brightly colored rainbow leaped a foot above the surface and tossed the ultra zug bug back to the depths. Howie and I were sorely disappointed with this turn of events, but we persisted.

A Jewel

We moved through a few more deep runs in the middle of the river, and then we came to a moderately promising pocket. The current angled toward us and then sped up and churned downstream, until it reflected off a large exposed boulder. I pointed this out to Howie, and I predicted that if a trout called this pocket home, it would be in the bottom third, where the current ran past the rock. Howie was ready, and on the third drift the hopper paused, and Howie lifted the rod tip and connected with a ten inch brown trout. There was no messing around, as my fishing companion hoisted the wild thing of beauty into my net. We snapped copious quantities of photos and exchanged fist bumps and gently released the little brown trout to live another day.

The Man and His Fish

What an ending to what seemed to be developing into a very disappointing day! I managed to land five trout including a pair of twelve inchers, but I was more thrilled to see the wide grin on Howie’s face, as he landed his first trout in Colorado. The rainbow that escaped along with the brown trout that he landed gave him a small taste of the fun that lies ahead, if he continues to hone his fly fishing skills.

Fish Landed: 5

Big Thompson River – 10/25/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: In the canyon below Estes Park

Big Thompson River 10/25/2021 Photo Album

The weather forecast for Monday, October 25 predicted a high temperature of 78 degrees in Denver, and I was unable to resist the allure of fly fishing. How many more opportunities would arise over the remaining days of 2021? If you read my last post, you know that streams with a higher ratio of rainbow trout ranked high on my priority list for autumn fly fishing, and the Big Thompson River was one of them. Rainbows are not encumbered by spawning activities; and, therefore, are focused on binging on food in preparation for the long winter ahead.

With temperatures forecast to peak in the upper sixties in Estes Park, I made the Big Thompson River in the canyon below Lake Estes my destination. I departed from Denver a bit after 9AM, and after a stop to refuel I arrived next to the river at 11AM. The air temperature hovered in the mid-fifties, so I slipped on my fleece hoodie and topped it with my rain shell. I assembled my Sage four weight, packed my lunch in my backpack and ambled along the shoulder of highway 34 for .2 mile, before I cautiously dipped down a rough path to the edge of the river. According to the DWR water graph, the flows were 31 CFS, and as I surveyed the condition of the stream, I was quite pleased with the water level.

Productive Slicks

Glistening Number Three

I decided to experiment with a dry/dropper, before I resorted to other methods, and I knotted a classic Chernobyl ant to my line along with a beadhead hares ear nymph and beadhead ultra zug bug. Within the first fifteen minutes I landed two small brown trout, and then after a brief lull I netted a very feisty eleven inch rainbow trout. In addition I suffered a pair of refusals to the Chernobyl and a momentary hook up with an energetic trout that slipped free from one of the nymphs. At 11:45AM I encountered a perfect lunch spot that consisted of a wide flat rock, and I paused to consume my typical lunch.

Targeted the Area Next to the Big Rock

Home of the Beast

After lunch I continued my upstream progression, and after a few more refusals I exchanged the Chernobyl ant for a peacock hippie stomper. The white poly wing on the stomper was much easier to track in the shadows and glare that prevailed on the left side of the stream. In the half hour after lunch I added another rainbow to the fish count, and I was perched at four, when I approached a short but deep pocket next to a large exposed boulder. I dropped several casts in the middle of the pocket, and on two separate occasions, as I lifted my rod tip to keep the line off the water, a huge rainbow trout appeared to closely inspect the hippie stomper. The Big Thompson beast showed interest, but not enough to open and close its mouth on my offering.

Rich Spot Pattern

Amazing Girth

Normally after two refusals I abandon the hole and move on, but in this instance the size of the interested party caused me to deviate from tradition. I decided to invest some time in a fly change. I plucked a size 14 deer hair caddis with an olive-brown body from my MFC fly box, and I tied it to the tippet that extended eighteen inches behind the hippie stomper. I dabbed some floatant on the body and proceeded to lob a short cast to the center of the pool. While my eyes focused on the larger hippie stomper with the white wing. my vision picked up the targeted rainbow, as it elevated  and sucked in the caddis. The take was almost imperceptible, but I reacted to the tipped mouth and felt solid contact with the pink-striped bruiser. I was able to contain the fight within ten feet of my position, and after some active thrashing and rolls, I managed to lift the trophy into my small net. The rainbow easily stretched beyond the net opening, but the girth was what made it impressive. After I photographed the slab and removed the fly, I held the bulky fish above the river, and my hand could only grip half of the body. I congratulated myself on my good fortune and concluded that my day was a success, even if I failed to catch another fish.

Ultra Zug Bug

Fortunately that was not the case. I continued with the double dry for a bit, but neither fly produced so much as a look, so I decided to switch back to the dry/dropper approach. I returned the ultra zug bug to my line in the upper position, but the end position was assigned to a size 16 salvation nymph. During the next phase of my day I built the fish count to eleven, and the hippie stomper was largely responsible for my success. At least four of the trout landed in this time period emerged from a nice long run of moderate depth just below the start of a section of private property. I systematically executed thirty-five foot casts from the bottom of the run to the top, and the trout aggressively smashed the surface attractor.

Free from the Monofilament

I exited the river at this point and circled around the home with an abundance of unfriendly warning signs and then re-entered upstream of the driveway. The dry/dropper remained my offering of choice through some nice pocket water, and then I encountered a long smooth pool. A few small trout darted for cover at the downstream tail of the pool, and I realized that the splash down of the nymphs would startle all the fish present in the pool. I took the necessary time to reconfigure to the double dry with the size 14 olive-brown deer hair caddis, and I began to fire long casts upstream from my position. At this point the wind reared its ugly presence, and I recall making some casts that started over the middle of the pool and ended up next to the left bank. This gusting hassle lasted for fifteen minutes, before it calmed to intermittent breezes. Near the midsection I shot a cast at a forty-five degree angle toward the bank next to the road, and a fine brown trout in the twelve inch range gulped the hippie stomper.

Stomper Chomper

The top of the pool was directly across from the Santa Fe, and I moved upstream for another forty yards, as I continued my search for trout. The sun was bright, and I fished in full sunlight for the first time on Monday, but the river was wider and offered fewer attractive holding lies. I managed one more decent brown trout, as I drifted the nymphs through a deep slot that bordered the roadside bank.

Good Thickness

By now it was 2:30, and I was near the upstream border of the public water. I debated whether to move and continue or call it a successful day, since eleven fish easily surpassed my expectations without even considering the seventeen inch rainbow that graced my net. I decided to throw my gear in the car and moved downstream a mile or two to one of my favorite sections of the river. I parked in a pullout before a bridge and ambled back upstream along the shoulder to a spot, where I could angle to the tail of a gorgeous pool. This spot delivered numerous fun experiences over the years especially during spring and fall blue winged olive hatches. On Monday, however, it failed to produce, but I continued upstream for the next hour and built the fish count from eleven to eighteen. Most of these landed fish were rambunctious rainbows with a pair of decent browns also in the mix. I replaced the unproductive salvation nymph with an emerald caddis pupa. The caddis pupa accounted for one trout, and the others were split between the hippie stomper and ultra zug bug. This section of the river featured some very nice deep slots and runs, and the trout responded aggressively to my casts and drifts.


At 4PM I decided to retrace my steps and skirted some private property in order to reach the shoulder of the highway, and then I hiked back to the car. What a day Monday turned out to be! Eighteen trout was significantly beyond my expectations, Dry fly action on the hippie stomper was totally unexpected. I estimate that six of the landed trout were browns, and the remainder were rainbows. Quite a few of the rainbows and browns were in the twelve inch range, and all were brilliantly colored wild fish. Could the Big Thompson River provide another enjoyable fly fishing outing before the season ends? Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 18

South Platte River – 10/20/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/20/2021 Photo Album

Recent weather reminded this fair weather angler that we are on the downside of the 2021 fly fishing season. However, I typically take advantage of intermittent nice days in October to satisfy my addiction. The high in Denver on Wednesday was forecast to be in the upper sixties, so I decided to make another trip to a Colorado waterway, before the temperatures became too prohibitive.

Instead of focusing on the stream flows, I first surfed through my Weather Underground app, as I looked for locations with relatively mild air temperatures. Along with streamflows and air temperature, a third variable entered the destination choosing equation. Late October coincides with the brown trout spawning ritual, and historically I discovered that eating is not the number one objective, when the browns are preoccupied with procreating. Sure, not all the brown trout are on the same cycle, and some continue to satisfy their appetites, but from a big picture perspective, fewer trout are available to the searching fly fisherman. Rainbow trout, on the other hand, spawn in the spring, so their instincts have them eating as much as possible to fatten up for the lean and cold days of winter. A stream with a decent population of rainbow trout, therefore, became the third variable.

Most of the Front Range streams are primarily brown trout fisheries. My inclination quickly leaned toward the Big Thompson River, South Boulder Creek, and the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. I guestimated that South Boulder Creek holds 25% rainbow trout, while the Big Thompson River and Eleven Mile Canyon contain populations that are 50% of the pink striped fighters. The forecast for Wednesday projected highs in the low sixties for Lake George, CO and highs in the low fifties for Estes Park. Flows on South Boulder Creek were a piddling 7 CFS, so I eliminated that option quickly. I made the South Platte River my destination, but I did not rush out the door, in order to allow the low sun to warm the narrow canyon before my arrival.

Spent Some Time in These Prime Runs

By the time I arrived in the special regulation area of Eleven Mile Canyon and completed my preparation routine the air temperature was in the mid-forties, and the river was mostly covered by shadows. I pulled on my fleece hoodie, North Face down coat, and snugged my New Zealand billed hat with earflaps over my ears. For a fly rod I selected my Sage One five weight with the hope of tangling with some larger trout on October 20.

Looks Like Fish Number Two

I hiked down the road for .1 mile, until I found a nice angled path of moderate slope to negotiate the steep bank. By the time I arrived at a nice open spot along the river, it was 11:45AM, so I paused to devour my standard lunch. After lunch I rigged my line with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2. When I stopped to purchase 5X and 4X tippet spools at the Anglers’ Covey in Colorado Springs, I asked the salesman what was working, and he matter-of-factly stated blue winged olives and midges, so this dictated my RS2 choice. For the next 1.5 hours I prospected the nymph combination through deep pockets and runs, and I succeeded in guiding four trout into my net. The first and second were twelve inch brown trout, as number one nipped the RS2 and number two grabbed an emerald caddis pupa. During the early half of this time period, the hares ear failed to produce, so I swapped it for the emerald caddis pupa.

Close Up of the Emerald Caddis Pupa

Emerald Caddis Pupa in Lip

During the latter portion of the after lunch time frame I landed two gorgeous rainbow trout. The first one also grabbed the caddis pupa, as I lifted it from the tail of a deep pocket. Number four was a sixteen inch beast, and it was easily the best fish of the day. Similar to the caddis eater, the large rainbow nabbed the trailing sparkle wing RS2, as I began to lift at the tail of a wide slow moving pool bordered by two merging currents on either side. Needless to say, the shimmering silver and pink slab made my day.

Gratifying Catch

Lowering to Freedom

From 1:30PM until 3:30PM I covered a significant amount of river real estate, but failed to register any additional trout. I hopped from prime pool to prime pool and directed my casts to the faster runs that entered the upper portions of the pools. I experienced two temporary hook ups that felt substantial, but I was unable to convert. Bright bluebird skies allowed brilliant sunshine, and this in turn warmed the atmosphere to create comfortable fishing conditions, but this was great weather for fly fishermen, but not favorable for blue winged olives. I spotted a few small olives in the air and three rises during my time on the river. I hoped for more surface action, but it never materialized, and this left me probing the depths with the strike indicator and split shot arrangement. The worst part of the four hour outing was the never-ending task of plucking aquatic slime from my flies. I inspected the pair of flies on every third cast, and I was rarely surprised by clean hooks.

Rainbow Abode

Four trout in four hours of fishing is surely a slow day; however, I adjusted my expectations downward given the cold temperatures and the absence of significant natural insect activity. Landing the sixteen inch rainbow was a blast, and seeing it sagging in my net made the trip worthwhile. Perhaps another mild overcast day in the future will attract me to Eleven Mile Canyon one more time.

Fish Landed: 4

Boulder Creek – 10/11/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 10/11/2021 Photo Album

Monday deviated from my typical fly fishing outing. During the past summer Jane and I became acquainted with a couple that moved to Denver from Lancaster, Pa. to remain close to their son’s family. They were experienced pickleball participants, and during side conversations, I learned that they possessed all the necessary fly fishing gear, but they never fished for trout in Colorado, and they were anxious to give it a try. After a few false starts Howie (the male member of the couple) and I made plans to make a foray to a Colorado stream. I wanted to choose a stream where Howie had a relatively high probability of catching a fish or two and a destination that did not require a long drive. I narrowed my choices to Boulder Creek in the canyon west of the city of Boulder, the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek at Buttonrock Preserve, and the South Platte River at Deckers. I tested the waters at Deckers on the previous Friday, and I was humbled by a skunking, so I crossed that option off the list. Was I being egotistical to assume that because I was unable to catch fish, that an inexperienced angler would suffer the same fate? Flows on the North Fork of the St. Vrain were seasonally low but adequate, but I knew from experience that the small brown trout can be rather temperamental, and the best sections involved a one mile or greater hike. I went with Boulder Creek because it was close, and it was next to the highway, and I knew from past experience that it contained a relatively high density of small brown trout.

I picked up Howie at 10:00AM, and we completed the one hour plus drive to Boulder Canyon with no significant incidents. The air temperature was in the low fifties, as we prepared to fish at a wide pullout along Canyon Boulevard. Howie suited up in his Orvis waders and assembled his Orvis Clearwater eight foot, four weight fly rod, and I provided a short casting lesson behind the Santa Fe. Howie demonstrated a base level of proficiency; much better than many novice fly fishers that I worked with in the past, and I concluded that we were ready to attack the stream. Boulder Creek was low and clear, as it tumbled along at 19 CFS, and shadows enveloped the entire creek. A breeze was fairly constant thus making the low fifties feel like the forties. I wore my fleece cardigan, and at lunch time due to heavy cloud cover and intermittent wind I added my raincoat as a windbreaker.

Howie Vipler Ready to Fly Fish

We carefully negotiated a moderately steep path to the creek, and I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to Howie’s line. I was hopeful that we could generate some surface action with a single fly to keep things simple, and after twenty minutes, a small trout swirled and refused the top fly. I was pleased to see a response to the foam attractor, but it seemed that we were not getting the amount of activity that I expected. I asked Howie to swing his rod tip over, and I extended a two foot leader below the hippie stomper and added a beadhead hares ear to the dropper. We continued our upstream movement, and Howie experienced another refusal to the stomper and then had a solid hook up with a small brown trout on the hares ear. I actually saw the brown swirl, as Howie lifted his rod in a hook set, and it was probably a ten inch prize, but the fish shed the hook in short order. At this point we took a break and consumed our lunches along the rocky bank.

From Fran Betters Shop

After lunch we continued for another three hours. After another refusal to the hippie stomper in a narrow pocket next to a large rock with an overhanging ledge, I removed the hares ear and added a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. I also replaced the hippie stomper with a fly that Howie had in his box, that he purchased from Fran Betters’ Fly Shop in the Adirondacks of New York. Howie loved the double dry set up, and after another hour or so, he connected with a small brown trout and played it to my net. It was a small five or six inch fish, but he was, nevertheless, excited to land his first Colorado trout. We exchanged fist bumps and moved on. A bit later Howie executed a nice cast to a narrow band of slower moving water along the far bank, and a trout snatched the caddis just as it was about to drag. I saw the fish bolt halfway across the stream bottom, before it obtained its freedom in a long distance release.

In the Shadows

At one point in the afternoon we encountered a long glassy smooth pool that was probably only two feet deep from the midsection to the tail. Howie gave me his rod and relinquished the pool to me. At the time the line was configured with Fran Betters’ fly and the size 16 deer hair caddis. I fired some thirty-five foot long casts directly upstream to the midsection, and on the fourth such attempt a bulge appeared under the trailing caddis. I quickly lifted the rod, and I was connected with a small brown trout. The little jewel was barely over six inches, but Howie was pretty excited, and I took a couple photos before I released it to continue its growth.

A Small Jewel

DGW Fishing Guide

In the last hour we covered quite a bit of water and numerous attractive spots, but Howie was unable to interest the locals in a meal, so at 3:30PM we agreed to call it quits. The temperature dropped five degrees in the shade of the canyon, as the sun disappeared behind the rock walls across the highway. We ambled back to the car and removed our gear, as my feet were morphing into stumps.

Howie Prepares to Cast

Monday was a fun day with a new fishing companion. He showed me patience and persistence, and his casting skills were above average for the early stage of his development. The low and clear conditions were quite challenging for a novice fly fisherman, so one fish plus two long distance releases plus three or four refusals was quite an accomplishment. During our next outing, if the conditions are similar, I will encourage him to approach prime spots more slowly and to stay back. Pausing his back cast to generate more distance will enable him to shoot longer casts over wary brown trout. Boulder Creek is primarily a brown trout fishery, and judging from the absence of darting and scattering trout, I suspected that the spawning season was already in progress. I certainly observed far fewer fish, than I ordinarily would during a summer visit to the small Front Range stream.

Fish Landed: 1

South Platte River – 10/08/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Deckers

South Platte River 10/08/2021 Photo Album

If the readers of this blog believe that Wellerfish is immune to bad days, they are sadly mistaken. Friday is vivid proof of this reality.

A forecast of highs in the eighties in Denver motivated me to seek a fly fishing destination. I considered several options but ultimately chose the South Platte River below Deckers. I liked the idea of a tailwater with relatively constant temperatures, as night time air temperatures plunged, and reports announced the presence of blue winged olives. The drive to the South Platte was shorter than my trips on Monday and Wednesday, and that appealed to me as well.

I arrived at a parking space by 10:30AM, and I quickly moved through my preparation routine. As I began to apply sunscreen, my sunglasses slid between the passenger seat and the center console. If you are an automobile owner, you know what a hassle this can be. I probably spent fifteen minutes trying to recover the sunglasses, and eventually I discovered that the arm of the frames got hung up in the hardware under the seat. As I rejoiced in the recovery, I walked around the back of the car and banged my head against the corner of the partially raised tailgate. I spent another five minutes writhing on the ground in pain, as a knot formed on the right side of my forehead. With this inauspicious start to my day, I seriously considered returning to Denver for a sedentary afternoon on the couch.

290 CFS

The air temperature hovered in the low sixties, as I assembled my Sage One five weight. I bypassed extra layers and relied on my raincoat, in case wind and rain caused a temperature drop. Some dark clouds dominated the afternoon sky, and I pulled my raincoat on for warmth and in case of rain which never developed. The flows were around 219 CFS, and this was high compared to several spring visits in 2021.

As I began my tailwater adventure, I decided to use a deep nymphing technique. I attached a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, orange scud, and salvation nymph. The river was a bit murky, and periodic passing aquatic vegetation suggested the bottom had been stirred up. Scuds and worms seemed like obvious fish food options. Between 11AM and 1PM I progressed upstream with the nymphing rig and failed to attract a shred of interest in my flies. Along the way I experimented with a hares ear nymph, iron sally, RS2, and flesh-colored San Juan worm in addition to the scud and salvation nymph.

Love the Cattails

By 1PM I reached another parking lot, and given the lack of action on the nymphs, I decided to try a dry/dropper method. I knotted a tan pool toy hopper to my line and added a hares ear and RS2. I reasoned that this approach was ideal for the ten feet of water that bordered the bank, but I was certain that it was not effective in the 219 CFS flows through the middle of the river. I crossed a very wide and shallow section and bushwhacked downstream along the bank opposite the road, until I was just above another young angler. For the next 45 minutes I cast the dry/dropper to inviting pockets along the bank, and I managed to create two opportunities to land fish. In the first instance a fourteen inch rainbow rose and refused the hopper from a position underneath a pile of debris at the lip of the pocket. I reacted with a hook set and netted the fish with a trailing nymph embedded in the belly behind the gills. It was a “no counter”. Within the next fifteen minutes another smaller rainbow also refused the hopper, and once again I foul hooked the fish with a trailing nymph, but in this case the fish freed itself before feeling my net.

Wide Shallow Crossing Point

For the final hour I advanced up the river at a fairly rapid pace. I cherry-picked the bankside spots and looked for rises. Near the end of this exercise in water coverage, I flipped a cast to an eddy, and after a very brief pause the hopper disappeared. I set the hook, and a thirteen inch brown trout launched above the surface. In an instant the hook popped free, and a skunking avoidance slipped away. A stream of curses spewed from the angler’s mouth, but nothing could avert the fact that Friday was a fishless day for Wellerfish. I continued fishing for a few more minutes and then shuffled back to the car.

Foam Is Home

Although I was handed a blanking by the Deckers tailwater, I enjoyed my four hours on the river. My mind was constantly mulling over new strategies, and I managed three fish landing opportunities. I never saw another fisherman landing a fish, although my eyes were mainly glued to my flies and indicator. In retrospect I wish I had added a second split shot during the deep nymphing phase. I am certain the section contained fish, and deeper drifts with more weight may have been the proper response to flows of 219 CFS. San Juan worms and scuds should have worked!

Fish Landed: 0

Arkansas River – 10/06/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Salida

Arkansas River 10/06/2021 Photo Album

After a rough day on Monday, I decided to give fly fishing another try on Wednesday; however, I opted for a destination that was lower in elevation and a place that offered more openness for solar penetration. My choice was the Arkansas River. Flows below Salida were in the 280 CFS range, and the fly shop reports highlighted blue winged olive activity, with fish spread out across the river and ideal wading conditions.

The temperature when I arrived at a favorite pullout on Wednesday morning was 57 degrees. I chose to forego additional layers, as I viewed my raincoat in my backpack as an insurance policy. Heavy afternoon cloud cover actually forced me to cash in my insurance, and I wore the rain shell for several hours in the afternoon. The river, as expected, was exceptionally clear, and I took advantage of the low flows to wade to the shoreline away from the highway for much of my fishing day.

Early Action in This Area

I began casting at 11AM next to two very attractive deep runs with tantalizing seams along the main current line. I chose a tan pool toy hopper as my top fly and extended a long four foot leader to a 20 incher and then added a salvation nymph. I spent twenty minutes drifting this combination along the seam and shelf pools next to the deep run, but a sign of trout never appeared. I covered thirty yards of prime water with nary a sign of fish, and I knew from past experience that fish occupied this area.

Beast Mauled a 20 Incher

Good Fortune Continued

I pondered my situation and decided to probe the depths, so I converted to a nymphing rig with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, 20 incher, and a sparkle wing RS2. Much to my amazement I hooked an energetic fish on the first drift, but it shook free from my hook after a pair of powerful streaking runs. It was not long after this disappointment that I hooked and landed a battling sixteen inch brown trout. I quickly learned the importance of depth during fall fishing expeditions. For the next hour I progressed up the river and netted two additional brown trout, with one being a muscular thirteen inch beauty. Several additional momentary hook ups were also part of the before lunch story.

Seemed Promising

After lunch I was positioned to explore the small north braid of the river, which is one of my favorites on the entire Arkansas. The low, clear flows; however, caused me to be leery of using the deep nymphing set up, so I changed my approach to a double dry with a peacock hippie stomper and a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. I probed the low, slow-moving bottom third of the braid, and I managed one look for my concentrated effort. The two flies seemed totally out of favor, and I did not wish to waste the final promising two-thirds of the braid on unproductive flies. I converted the double dry to a dry/dropper with an iron sally and a salvation nymph. The change yielded results , as two nice twelve inch brown trout nabbed the salvation in fairly obscure locations.

For the next 1.5 hours I progressed up the river along the right bank and probed likely deep runs and slower-moving small pools with the dry/dropper combination. I was confident that the same tactic that worked in the top one-half of the braid would also succeed along the bank of the large river. Alas, it did produce two additional trout in the sub twelve inch range, but I felt certain that a deep nymphing set up would have produced better results.


The reason I suspect this to be true is that I switched back to the New Zealand indicator with a split shot, 20 incher, and RS2 for the last hour, and I built the fish count to eleven. Several of these late afternoon catches were wild thirteen inch browns. All the trout landed during this time frame nabbed the size 22 RS2. Moderate riffles over a rocky bottom and depth of three to four feet produced all the brown trout. By 3:30PM I reached a nice deep eddy and pool, and after I fished it thoroughly, I decided to call it a day. I angled along a steep bank for a considerable distance, before I found some hidden stone steps that led me to the guard rail and the highway.

Big Tail

Wednesday was not a spectacular day but a success nonetheless. I achieved double digits that included five brown trout in the thirteen to sixteen inch range. I feel certain that a commitment to deep nymphing for the entire day would have elevated my fish count, but testing various approaches is an enjoyable aspect of the fly fishing game.

Fish Landed: 11

Lake Creek – 10/04/2021

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: National forest area

Lake Creek 10/04/2021 Photo Album

Monday evolved into a decent day of fishing. It was the ancillary events that transformed it into a vexing day on the stream. With highs forecast to be in the eighties in Denver, I gambled that I could sneak in another high country stream adventure in early October.

When I arrived at the parking lot across from the trailhead, the temperature on the dashboard read 46 degrees. I expected the high to reach the upper sixties, and I planned to complete a two plus mile hike to reach my intended destination, so perspiration was a given. I banked on my raincoat for added warmth and stuffed it in my backpack, as is my normal practice. The stream was relatively narrow, so I opted for my Orvis Access eight foot, four weight.

High Gradient and Many Overhanging Branches

I hiked for 2.6 miles, until I reached the farthest upstream penetration to date on the mountain creek. and here I began to fly fish. The creek was narrow and swift as a result of a steep gradient and a fair amount of rain in the previous week. Numerous overarching branches made casting a nearly impossible chore, and the narrow canyon with steep rock walls prevented the penetration of the sun. I broke for lunch after thirty minutes of very frustrating fishing with a tan pool toy hopper, hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. I managed to land a pair of small brown trout, but the snag inducing nymphs were largely ignored, as the fish concentrated on refusing the large hopper. The lack of sun and a periodic breeze created a worrisome chill, as my sweat-drenched Brooks long sleeved undershirt next to my skin induced the dreaded evaporation effect.

After lunch I resumed my upstream migration, but the stream structure remained the same, and I was uncertain whether a trail existed above the high vertical wall on the northeast side of the creek. I decided to cut my losses and reversed direction and hiked back toward the trailhead for a mile, before I resumed fishing. The gradient was more forgiving, and extra overhead space allowed for better casting situations. In order to reverse a series of refusals I downsized to a peacock hippie stomper, and the change paid off, as I began to net brown trout at a slightly faster pace. The stomper was not perfect, and it also generated its share of refusals. so after thirty minutes of fly fishing, I added a twelve inch dropper from the bend of the stomper and knotted a size 16 gray deer hair caddis to my line.


Hippie Stomper Getting It Done

The two dry fly combination performed in a consistent fashion, and the fish count rose in a corresponding manner, until I set the hook on a temporary bite and catapulted the flies into a large evergreen high above the creek. Retrieval was out of the question, so I applied direct pressure and popped both flies off on the branch. I could see the monofilament strand taunting me from its unreachable perch. I replaced the hippie stomper with another like version, but I traded the gray caddis for an olive-brown deer hair caddis in the same size.

Light Gray Caddis Also Effective

The stomper and caddis combination clicked, and the catch rate accelerated, as I boosted the fish count to seventeen by 3:30PM. The section that I fished in the afternoon was much more conducive to fly fishing with fewer overhead branches and more desirable targets in the form of pockets, pools and moderate depth runs. The hippie stomper delivered seventy-five percent of the landed trout and the caddis attracted the remainder.  After lunch I pulled on my raincoat, and that move along with the warming air temperatures associated with the progression of the afternoon placed this fly angler in a more comfortable state. Rarely did the brown trout rise to the first cast, but repeated efforts often extracted interest on the fourth or fifth drift.

Bruiser for Small Stream

Sleek and Shiny

I set a goal of reaching twenty fish, and just before 3:30PM I placed my wading staff on a slippery round rock and leaned on it to make a step upstream. This was a mistake I would learn to regret. The stick slid out, and I reached down with my right hand to break my fall. The move did just that, but much of my body weight landed on my right ring finger and pushed it backwards and into my first knuckle. Ouch. At the same time I dropped my fly rod so as not to break it. That goal was achieved, but dropping the rod resulted in some associated issues. I stood up, and the tip of my ring finger was numb, and burning pain emanated from the knuckle. I was able to move all the fingers on my right hand, although I felt pain in my ring finger, as I attempted to straighten it or move it backwards. I decided to call it a day and hiked back to the Santa Fe. During the 1.8 mile hike, the numbness disappeared, and the knuckle pain subsided significantly allowing me to rule out a visit to the emergency room.

Better Pool

At the end of the trail I crossed the creek and decided to toss a few casts to test my grip. The proximity of the area to the road and parking area dictated a low level of confidence, but in the pool just above the crossing area, an eleven inch brown trout found the hippie stomper to its liking. The fish count ticked up to eighteen, and I sauntered up the hill to the car thankful for a double digit day and grateful for avoiding a more serious injury to my finger.

Breaking down my rod and removing my reel were my first chores, after I opened the tailgate on the car. I unscrewed the locking mechanism on the reel seat, but when I attempted to slide the collar down off the reel foot, I discovered that It was stuck. I tugged and pulled and pushed the collar with a screwdriver, but I was unable to budge the recalcitrant mechanism. I turned my attention to breaking down the rod, and the upper two sections pulled apart with ease, but the section above the butt was as stubborn as the reel. I tugged and twisted and pulled. I found my gripper pads in my fishing bag and employed the behind the back maneuver, but all I accomplished was strained muscles, and I raised my frustration level. I tossed the two section fly rod and reel in the car and vowed to deal with it, when I returned to Denver.


After I unloaded the car at home, I turned my attention back to the fly rod. I asked for Jane’s help, and after several unsuccessful attempts, we were able to separate the rod sections. I was very thankful for that accomplishment. Jane began to work on the reel. Our pliers were not long enough to get a good grip on the collar, so I retrieved the vise grip pliers from the garage, After some serious tugging the reel came free from the cork grip, but the end of the reel seat and collar were still in place on the reel foot. How could this happen? The threaded portion of the reel seat and the collar pulled out of the wooden reel seat cylinder. After a bit more effort we separated the threaded section from the reel, but I now had a broken fly rod. I prepared the online fly rod registration form and elected to drop the rod off at the local Orvis store to be shipped back to Orvis for repair.

Pocket Water

An eighteen fish day on Monday, October 4 was very respectable. All eighteen fish were brown trout, and the largest was in the twelve to thirteen inch range. The trout landed on Monday were on average smaller than those that I caught on my previous 2021 visit. However, the afternoon action was decent, and I enjoyed prospecting through the pocket water and deeper holes. The trip cost me a sprained finger and a fly rod repair, but I suppose adversity is part of the fly fishing equation.

Fish Landed: 18

North Fork of the White River – 10/01/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: National forest area

North Fork of the White River 10/01/2021 Photo Album

On October 1, 2021 I returned to a section of the North Fork of the White River, where I experienced a 52 fish day on September 15. Could my luck continue?

Jane and I rented the Cedar cabin at Ute Lodge from September 28 through October 2, and we spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday hiking trails in the Flattops area. The weather was adverse during this time, but the worst hiking conditions occurred on Wednesday, when we hiked the Big Fish Creek Trail in the rain. On Thursday we trekked on the South Fork of the White River Trail, and a pair of horses chewed up the black mud ahead of us. Hiking in the sticky black muck was very challenging.

Friday was my day to fish, and I decided to visit the section of the North Fork, where I lost my fly box on September 15. The section of fly line that tethered the box to my wader bib severed, and I was oblivious to this unfortunate event, until I arrived back at the car at the end of the day. I thought I remembered, where I accessed the fly box, after I snapped off the hippie stomper on a branch that extended into the water, so I waded directly to that spot to begin my fishing. I used my Garmin watch to clock the distance, and it was .5 mile. I actually found the branch that snagged my flies, but I was unable to spot the MFC box in spite of some careful searching in the nearby area and for a ways upstream. The effort reinforced what a “needle in the haystack” challenge I faced in recovering my stuffed fly box. I am resigned to elevate my fly tying efforts this winter to restore my fly supply to its previous excessive level.

Early Going

The temperature, when I began was 44 degrees, so I pulled on my light down North Face coat, and I wore my New Zealand billed hat. The temperature warmed nicely between 10:30AM and noon, and I actually began to perspire; however, while I munched my lunch, some dark clouds rolled in, and I pulled my rain shell from my backpack. I wore the raincoat for the remainder of my time on the river, and I was quite chilly for much of the time. Twice during the afternoon I weathered short periods of rain.

What a Color Scheme

Settled a Bit More. Love the Bronze.

I began my quest for high country trout with a tan pool toy hopper and a prince nymph. The hopper pattern delivered one trout early, but then an extended lull forced me to reexamine my approach, and I switched the prince for a 20 incher. The 20 incher clicked, and I built the fish count to five, before I halted my efforts for lunch. By lunchtime I progressed to within fifty yards of my normal exit point. I felt that I was covering a lot of normally productive water with below average results, and I surmised that the pool toy hopper was disturbing the water excessively. I decided to make a radical shift and replaced the pool toy with a peacock hippie stomper, and I swapped the 20 incher for a  beadhead hares ear nymph. Well, perhaps that was not radical, but I sought a top fly that produced a softer landing. In the next fly fishing interval the hares ear yielded two feisty rainbows, but then I suffered a long drought, so I returned to the pool toy and 20 incher. As I rounded a large bend and paralleled the road, a very thick cutbow crushed the pool toy to bring the count to eight.

About to Take Off

Pool Below the Falls Yielded a Trout

At this point, I progressed along the road and under a bridge and then beyond a large pond. None of these spots produced, and I attributed this result to easy access from the road leading to greater fishing pressure, so I moved upstream. The section of the river above the pond was relatively small as a result of being above two fairly sizeable tributaries, so I skipped through it quickly, until I reached a nice deep pool. As I surveyed the pool, I spotted three or four trout sipping something tiny from the surface. I knew the dry/dropper was too heavy for the situation, so I removed both flies and knotted a CDC blue winged olive to my line. I carefully fluttered a host of casts to the area, but the olive was rudely ignored. Fortunately the occupants of the pool continued to rise in spite of my casts, so I abandoned the CDC BWO and gambled on a size 18 black parachute ant with a bright green wing post. Success! A beautiful brook trout sipped the ant, and I guided it to my net for photos. When I returned my attention to the pool, another pair of fish resumed sipping. The ant was ignored by these persistent feeders, so I switched to a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. This move paid dividends, when I landed a twelve inch cutbow and a twelve inch brook trout to push my final count to eleven.

Curled in My New Net

Parachute Ant and Brook Trout Complement Each Other

I ambled along the narrow stream a bit farther, until I reached a huge spring, where the North Fork emerged after flowing underground below Trappers Lake. The deep pool displayed a blue color, and I paused to observe for five minutes with the hope that some trout would expose themselves, but that happenstance was not forthcoming. My body was chilled from the wind and the overcast skies, so I returned to the large pond that I bypassed earlier. A small olive mayfly perched on my rod earlier, and I spotted a few random BWO’s in the air, so I approached the pond with optimistic hopes that some trout would be sipping blue winged olives. The optimism was unfounded, so I continued below the pond to a spot, where a dirt path ascended the bank to a road, and from there I marched back to the car. Unlike September 15, my fly box was secure in my wader bib pocket.

Hard to Concentrate on Fishing

Subtle Beauty


Obviously my fishing results on October 1 did not come close to matching my day on September 15. On the plus side I did not lose anything. The weather was less comfortable, than I expected, as I was chilled in spite of wearing an Under Armour insulated shirt, a fishing shirt, a light down coat, a raincoat, and a hat with earflaps. It was pretty raw. In spite of these conditions I managed to land eight very respectable hard fighting rainbows and cutbows in the eleven to fourteen inch range. Toward the end of my time on the stream I fooled three trout on dry flies including two vividly colored brook trout. I failed to recover my fly box, but expectations on that proposition were very minimal going into the venture. The aspen leaves were brilliant yellow with a few trees peaking at scarlet, and the Chinese wall and Flattops rock formations were spectacular. If I could repeat Friday, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Fish Landed: 11

North Fork Emerges Here After Going Underground