Monthly Archives: October 2022

Big Thompson River – 10/19/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: The canyon below Estes Park

Big Thompson River 10/19/2022 Photo Album

Admittedly I was very excited to watch game two of the NLCS between the Phillies and Padres, and this may have distracted me from fly fishing. The Phillies have been my favorite team since my early childhood. I can remember sneaking my transistor radio into bed with me and listening to the woeful Phillies of the early sixties, when I was supposed to be sleeping. On the other hand my day of fishing on the Big Thompson River is probably better explained by the lack of insect activity and the bright blue sky that yielded pleasant autumn weather for the fisherman, but not much insect activity for the fish.

I chose the Big Thompson, because it represents a relatively short drive from Denver, and the flows were adjusted downward to 45 CFS three days ago. I favor Big Thompson flows in the 50 – 100 CFS range, and 45 CFS was close to the bottom. I used to believe the Big T harbored a fairly high ratio of rainbow trout, but fishing experiences since the big flood of 2013 have caused me to reconsider that opinion. At any rate I was looking for a higher proportion of rainbow trout over brown trout to offset the spawning effect, and I felt the Big Thompson had more bows than other Front Range options.

Perfect Riffle Water

I made the drive to the canyon below Estes Park without incident, and the air temperature was 51 degrees, as I rigged my Loomis two piece five weight and prepared to fish. My starting point featured a long and wide, slow-moving section, so I knotted an olive-brown size 16 deer hair caddis to my line and began making long upstream casts. I covered the entire thirty yard stretch with one refusal to show for my efforts, and then I adjusted my approach to an olive body hippie stomper and retained the caddis on a one foot dropper. Once again the trout gave my choices a resounding rejection.

The water type shifted to faster runs and pockets around exposed boulders, so I once again made a change, and this time I opted for a tan size 8 pool toy hopper with a beadhead hares ear trailer and a zebra midge. A solid fifteen minutes of prospecting with the dry/dropper failed to ignite the interest of the fish, and I exchanged the zebra midge for a size 22 olive bead. This fly is as basic as it gets with a silver bead and an olive thread body. The trout rejected this combination, and as noon rapidly approached, I once again swapped the olive bead fly for a sparkle wing RS2. Finally in a deep pocket a barely six inch brown trout nipped the RS2, and I was on the scoreboard with one trout. The first hour of fishing was very inauspicious.

Since I was near the car at noon, I climbed the boulder strewn bank and ambled back to the Santa Fe. I threw my gear in the back of the car and drove downstream for a couple miles before I parked in a pullout facing west. The portion of the canyon that I planned to fish after lunch ran tight to steep canyon walls, and I was fearful that I would be forced to fish in the chilly shadows. I debated traveling farther down the river to a point that was more open, but I decided to remain, because I remembered some nice pools in the area, in case blue winged olives made an appearance.

Beauty over Size

I retained the three fly system that included the pool toy hopper, hares ear and RS2 for the next 1.5 hour, and I was rewarded with frustration and one very pretty ten inch rainbow trout that nabbed the RS2 in a small eddy downstream from a large bankside boulder. Along the way I swapped the hares ear for an ultra zug bug, in case the rainbow trout desired more flash, but this idea failed to turn around my fortunes. By 1:45PM I arrived at a long wide riffle that spanned the entire river, and I was certain that this was prime dry fly water. I removed the dry/dropper and revived the olive hippie stomper with a size 16 gray deer hair caddis. A couple refusals reinforced the idea that the trout were tuned into the surface, and eventually I found a taker in the form of a ten inch brown trout.

Eager Brown Trout

I continued upstream for another fifty yards, and the hippie stomper and caddis attracted a bit of additional attention in the form of refusals and a temporary hook up, but the action was very sporadic, and I never saw signs of a BWO hatch or insect activity of any form. Toward the end of this period I exchanged the caddis for a size 22 CDC BWO in case the trout were looking for upright wings, but that move proved as futile as my others. By 2:20PM my mind was preoccupied with the baseball playoffs and bored with fishing, so I climbed the bank and meandered back to the car.

A three fish day in 3.5 hours was rather pathetic, however, the weather was outstanding and the scenery and drive were spectacular. I listened to the Phils take a lead on the return drive, but once I got home, they unraveled and stumbled to an 8-5 trouncing. Oh well, they won game one and return to Philadelphia with a split of their away games. I still like their chances.

Fish Landed: 3

Eagle River – 10/18/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Private club water near Eagle, CO

Eagle River 10/18/2022 Photo Album

My friend, Dave, invited me to join him on some private water on the Eagle River on Tuesday, October 18, 2022, and I readily accepted. I fished this same stretch in late June prior to one of our float trips, and I knew it was quality water that contained a high ratio of rainbow trout. As you may know, I am constantly seeking rainbow trout water in the fall, while the brown trout are mostly preoccupied with spawning.

I arrived at Dave’s house in Eagle Ranch at 10:15AM, and we were on the water by 11:00AM. It was 44 degrees, as we hiked down a path to the river, and I wore my North Face light down coat in the morning, but the bright sun warmed the air up rather quickly. As I’m still waiting for my Sage One five weight fly rod to be repaired (shipped to Far Bank in late June), I used the Scott five weight that Dave G. loaned me. I crossed the river at a low, wide spot, and Dave and I worked up the river in parallel until 1:00PM, when we returned to our cars for lunch.

Low and Clear

To say that the morning was frustrating would be an understatement. I began fishing with a size 8 amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl, beadhead hares ear and RS2; and after twenty minutes of focused fishing in some very attractive sections, I had nothing to show for my efforts. Dave G., meanwhile was connecting on a fairly regular basis. Dave G. showed me his lineup before we began, and it consisted of a tiny olive beadhead midge larva and a zebra midge. Since he was experiencing steady success, I decided to copy him, and I swapped the RS2 for an olive-colored perdigon fly. This change increased my contact with trout, but it also raised my frustration level significantly. In a nice deep pocket between some exposed boulders, a twelve inch rainbow trout smacked the chubby Chernboyl, and I was on the scoreboard with my first fish; but the remainder of the morning and early afternoon tortured me with seven straight long distance releases. The fish were grabbing the perdigon, but for some reason they were consistently able to shake free from the tiny fly weighted with a tungsten bead. I inspected the fly several times, and it was a small curved scud hook with a wide gap, and the point seemed sound.

Dave G. Concentrating on His Fly

After lunch we hiked downstream to one of the most attractive pools that I ever encountered on the Eagle River. It was wide and deep with a strong center current that fanned out to create a very long and wide slower moving area. It was an obvious fish gathering spot, and Dave offered me the top of the pool. I carefully observed, and I was surprised to see quite a few subtle rises along the slower moving shelf area, so I took the time to remove the dry/dropper configuration, and I switched to a single size 22 CDC blue winged olive. Initially the tiny speck of a fly provoked several refusals, but when I shifted to some fish directly above me, I managed to land two rainbows in the seven inch range. Dave, meanwhile, continued to net larger fish on the midge larva at the tail of the pool.

Only Brown Trout on the Day

Given his success rate with subsurface offerings, I decided to change my approach, but before going deep, I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line along with the CDC BWO on an eight inch dropper. This double dry combination was largely ignored, although I did manage a temporary hookup with an above average fish on the trailing olive. Finally I gave up on dry flies and reverted to the dry/dropper with the chubby Chernobyl, a zebra midge and a classic RS2. For the remainder of the afternoon, I prospected all the likely fish producing locales with this threesome, and I built the fish count from three to ten. Of the ten landed fish, seven were rainbows in the seven to nine inch range, one was a medium sized brown trout, and two were chunky rainbows in the fifteen inch range. All of the afternoon trout snatched the RS2 from the drift. The fat fifteen inch beast materialized in a relatively obscure deep and short trough between some bank boulders and very fast white water. This fish grabbed the RS2, after I disturbed the same small pocket while playing a rainbow of similar proportions just prior to landing my prize, but the earlier catch avoided my net by shedding the hook.

Quite a Chunk

Ten fish in late October was a respectable day, but had I converted at least 50% of my temporary connections, I would have experienced an exceptional day. I’m not sure why the perdigon resulted in so many long distance releases, but I plan to use a few of the others that I tied over the winter. I told Dave that I would welcome another invitation to the private stretch in order to atone for my low batting average, and he agreed to another outing, should the fall weather cooperate. Snow is predicted for the weekend in Denver, so a short break from fishing may be in the near future.

Fish Landed: 10

Clear Creek – 10/12/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 10/12/2022 Photo Album

I was certain that the stars and planets were aligned for an autumn fishing trip to South Boulder Creek. Readers of this blog may recall that I embarked on a trip to South Boulder Creek on 10/03/2022, but it was suddenly aborted, when I encountered a digital display sign that announced that Gross Dam Road was closed, and this forced me to pivot to the Big Thompson River for a day of fishing.  Subsequent to that frustration, I made a phone call to Denver Water and eventually learned of a web site with a map that informed the public of days when Gross Dam Road was closed. In addition one of the readers of this blog sent me a link to the same web page.

The closure schedule indicated that the road was closed on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday during the week of October 10, so I built my fishing plans around this information and made South Boulder Creek my destination on Wednesday. I checked the flows, and the DWR graph depicted volumes of 89 CFS, and this was very favorable from my perspective. The weather was also a positive with high temperatures of 59 degrees in nearby Pinecliffe, CO. My historic blog posts established that I had some very successful days around the same time on South Boulder Creek in previous years. In short, I was quite excited to finally make a return trip to South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir.

I departed Denver by 8:30AM, and this allowed me to reach the turn off to Crescent Meadows by 9:15AM, and guess what greeted me? The same irksome sign that stopped me on 10/03/2022, and once again it announced that Gross Dam Road was closed on 10/12 and 10/13. Needless to say I was steamed. I decided to persist with my route in case the web site information was accurate, and the person that posted the sign made a typographical error. After a few minutes on upper Gross Dam Road I reached Crescent Meadows parking lot, and sure enough a young man blocked farther progress with a stop sign. I parked in the lot and walked over to the poor unsuspecting worker and expressed my anger with the disconnect between the web site information and the local road closure decision. Of course he was not responsible, but he did offer to pass along my frustration to his supervisors. I, likewise, planned to make another call to Denver Water, although I fear I the weather may never allow me to attempt another trip to South Boulder Creek in 2022.

What should I do now? I considered driving to the Big Thompson River, but after making the drive to Lake George on Tuesday, I was averse to extending my trip once again. I considered other options and temporarily decided to make the southward journey to the South Platte River at Deckers; however, when I stopped in cell phone range near Golden to map directions, I first checked the stream flows. The water managers apparently opened the taps, because the CFS reading was 430. I was reluctant to attempt to fish at those high levels in the fall, so I gave up on that idea and defaulted to the relatively nearby Clear Creek in the canyon.

Rolling Along

Clear Creek is generally my least favorite front range destination; as the fish are small, they are surprisingly difficult to catch, and brown trout comprise at least 80% of the population. One of my criteria for October fishing is streams with a higher ratio of rainbow trout, and Clear Creek does not meet that guideline. At any rate I found myself at the tailgate of my Santa Fe preparing to fish in Clear Creek by 10:50AM on Wednesday. I fitted together my Loomis two piece five weight and slipped on my raincoat, since the temperature was sixty degrees but felt cooler due to a constant breeze that changed into strong gusts on a fairly frequent basis. I carefully maneuvered myself to the edge of the stream and began my upstream progression at 11:00AM. I began with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper, a size 14 prince nymph, and a size 16 salvation nymph.

Number Three

Catching Some Leaf Change

I covered a substantial distance and probed all the likely spots for thirty minutes with no response from the trout. I was starting to fume over my lousy luck, but eventually I calmed down and decided to reconfigure my offerings. I extended the leader from the hopper to the first fly to gain more depth, and then I replaced the prince with a size 12 weighted 20 incher to enable a faster sink rate while leaving the salvation in place. This move paid dividends, as I landed a spunky eleven inch rainbow and a six inch brown trout before I broke for lunch. The rainbow chomped the 20 incher, and the brown trout favored the salvation.

Pretty Little Trout

Very Attractive Section

I pretty much stayed with the same three fly combination for the remainder of my time and built the fish count to eight, before I quit at 2:30PM. There was a period, after I was forced to break off the 20 incher and salvation, when I substituted an ultra zug bug and pheasant tail for the salvation, but the substitute nymphs never delivered, and I reverted to the salvation. My catch rate seemed to improve toward the end of my upstream movement, and I netted an eleven inch rainbow and a thirteen inch brown trout. A brown of that size is a trophy in Clear Creek. I suspect the improved catch rate was attributable to a combination of reasons that included warming water temperature due to the sun’s penetration, a narrower streambed which created more depth and better structure, and less pressure because of limited parking and a steep bank next to the road.

Beast of the Day

At any rate I salvaged an eight fish day on Clear Creek, and I fished for 3.5 hours including my lunch time. The trout were small and picky, as is usually the case, and the wind was quite adverse. I was forced to drive my casts into the wind most of the day, and this action was very tiring to my elbow and shoulder. I was actually quite pleased to net eight fish under the challenging conditions, but Wednesday was not the day I envisioned, when I departed from home at 8:30AM.

Fish Landed: 8

South Platte River – 10/11/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/11/2022 Photo Album

Another nice fall day was in the forecast for Tuesday, October 11, so I decided to take advantage with a fishing day trip. I checked a report on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, and the mention of tricos and blue winged olives sealed the deal. I made the drive to a favorite pullout along the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, and a check of the dashboard thermometer revealed an air temperature of 53 degrees at 10:35AM. I elected to pull on my light down coat, and I rigged my Sage R8 four weight, before I departed and hiked .3 mile up the dirt road to a place, where a manageable angled trail allowed me to safely descend to the river. The river was rushing along at 134 CFS, and that was a bit higher than what I am used to, but clarity was excellent, and wading was conducive to moving along the river with relative ease.

Promising Spot

The air was devoid of any insect activity, so I began my day with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, 20 incher and hares ear nymph, and within the first thirty minutes I landed an eight inch rainbow and foul hooked another. Before I stopped for lunch at noon, I added a second small rainbow, after I swapped the hares ear for a sparkle wing RS2. The morning session included some prime pools and runs, so I was somewhat disappointed with the deep nymphing effectiveness. I ate my lunch overlooking my favorite long, smooth pool, which was occupied by a young female angler. She was flinging a nymph rig as well with an orange strike indicator, and she landed a respectable fish, as I looked on.

Brawling Eleven Mile Canyon

After lunch I changed my approach to a single CDC BWO, and the move paid off quickly, when an eleven inch brown rose to sip the tiny olive mayfly imitation. Just above the place where I landed the brown, I sighted some nice trout, and they were rising to something miniscule. I dwelled at that one small eddy far too long, as I attempted to interest three fish in my CDC BWO, but they were having none of it, even though they rose to naturals sporadically around my fly. I finally admitted defeat and moved upstream through some pockets, where I added another small rainbow to the count.

Solid Brown Trout 2

My next stop was the nice pool next to some large boulders with vertical walls along the river, and here I converted to a peacock hippie stomper trailing a CDC olive: but, surprisingly, I never saw a rise in this area nor did the trout exhibit any inclination to eat my fly. A father and son team occupied the large bend pool, so I circled around them and moved fairly quickly to the long smooth pool that exists along the east bank below the entrance to the first of a series of tunnels.

Scanning for Rises

Red, Pink, Tan

Started a Trend

Almost immediately I spotted a pair of rises at the extreme downstream end of the long pool, so I lobbed some casts across and down, and checked my cast high to create a soft landing and a bit of slack. On the fourth such drift, a small but fat brown trout smacked the CDC BWO. This fish was oddly shaped, as if it was moving toward a bluegill figure, as it displayed a disproportionate girth for its stubby length. The other trout that showed itself upon my arrival never surfaced again, so I carefully waded toward the midsection. During this phase of my day, small dark clouds periodically blocked the sun, and this generated wind, and the frequency of rises increased. My CDC BWO, however, was ignored, so I spent an inordinate amount of time doing what Deming said not to do. I was repeating my action and expecting different results, and that was a recipe for failure. Finally I began to experiment with different size CDC BWO’s, but again this was not the answer, until I plucked a size 22 Craven soft hackle emerger from my box and applied floatant to fish it in the surface film.

Soft Hackle Emerger

Chrome-like Gill

Right Side Up

What a positive move this turned out to be! I cast across to a slightly riffled spot on the other side of the center current, and a fat sixteen inch rainbow smashed the emerger with confidence. I battled this strong fighter longer than usual, but I rejoiced, when I slid my net beneath the prize. Over the remainder of the afternoon I landed five more trout to boost the fish count to eleven, and the last six fish on the day were all in the thirteen to sixteen inch range with plenty of girth. Two very respectable browns were part of the haul, and the remainder were rainbows including one that nearly matched the sixteen incher. Who knew that a soft hackle emerger fished like a dry fly was the solution to the South Platte River fish feeding puzzle?

Leopard Bow

I had written the day off as a four fish disappointment, and I ended up in double digits with some very respectable fish. Of course there were a few long distance releases and refusals over the five hours of fishing, and I could have easily run the count to fifteen with a better conversion rate. This experience made me wonder what the hatch would be like on a rainy day, or one with heavier cloud cover. I would like to find out, although I might have to endure some fairly chilly temperatures.

Fish Landed: 11

The Drive Back

North Fork of the White River – 10/08/2022

Time: 4:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: Public water upstream from the Ute Lodge

North Fork of the White River 10/08/2022 Photo Album

Jane, Amy, Chara and I completed a 6.5 mile hike to Big Fish Lake between 11:00AM and 2:30PM. The fall foliage remained spectacular, and the trail conditions improved measurably since our arrival on Wednesday. The temperature hovered between 58 degrees and 64 degrees under mostly sunny skies with periodic wind.

Upon our return to the Ute Lodge, I decided to spend some time on the North Fork of the White River. I pulled on my waders at the cabin and then drove to a new section, that I hoped to try as a brief scouting expedition for future September fly fishing trips. I parked next to a two track lane that led to a cattle gate and rigged my new Sage R8 with an amber ice dub chubby Chernobyl. I passed through the gate and closed it behind me and marched along the two-track to a crude bridge. The bridge was decorated with no trespassing signs as was the area to the right, so I inspected the upstream prospects for public fishing. A tight barbed wire fence blocked me from approaching the north side of the river, so I embarked on an unproductive hike along the fence, as I headed upstream. After .3 mile of frustration, I concluded that the White in this area was off limits, even though all the maps depicted the area as public land. I retraced my steps, passed through the gate, and threw my gear in the car and drove a mile upriver.

After a mile I encountered a crude circular turn around that was clearly used by other fishermen, so I quickly climbed back into my gear and circled around some trees and bushes and entered the river. I consumed a bit of time adding a size 12 20 incher 3.5 feet below the chubby Chernobyl, and I began prospecting the most attractive spots, of which there were very few. Between 4:00PM and 5:30PM I covered .5 mile of river, and I landed two trout.

Very Pleased With This Catch

The first netted fish was a sixteen inch cutbow, and it was a beauty with a light olive body and understated speckles on the top and along the side. The chunky river resident snatched the 20 incher in a narrow band of deep, slow moving water along the north bank. I was thrilled to coax a wild finned fighter into my net.

A Slow Release

The second trout was a rainbow in the fourteen inch range, and this fish also grabbed the 20 incher and put up a respectable fight. Another fish refused the chubby near the spot where fish number one was landed, and a decent trout elevated to inspect the chubby in the vicinity of trout number two. These two locales were easily the best that I encountered in .5 miles of wading. I bypassed many sections characterized by wide shallow and fast-moving riffles. I did pause at a number of more marginal spots, but I only registered futile casting exercise.

Next to the Barely Visible Rock on the Right Produced

The two robust trout made my 1.5 hour fly fishing outing a clear success. The North Fork in this area is fast moving with limited deep pools and runs, but decent trout can be had by covering a lot of territory.

Fish Landed; 2

Ute Lodge Pond – 10/06/2022

Time: 4:30PM – 6:00PM

Location: North and west side of the pond

Ute Lodge Pond 10/06/2022 Photo Album

A fall trip to the Flattops is becoming a family tradition; and Jane, Amy, Chara and I continued the trend with four days at the Ute Lodge in October 2022. Originally this stay was planned for the third week of September, but an important obligation arose which caused us to delay the timing. Jane and I made the drive on Wednesday, October 5, and our daughter Amy and her St. Bernard, Chara, joined us on Thursday morning, October 6. We rented the Pinion cabin during this stayover, and we thoroughly enjoyed our days in the Flattops. The weather was perfect, and we completed some vigorous hikes and experienced a unique horseback ride that included setting up a hunting camp.

1.5 Hours on This Pond

After our hike to Little Trappers Lake on Thursday, I decided to explore the small pond on the Ute Lodge premises. According to the manager, Jason, the pond was stocked with trout and grass carp, so I could not pass up a chance to explore the nearby fishing hole. Jane, Amy, Chara and I wandered to the pond, and when I arrived, quite a few fish were rising. I led with a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis, but the stocker rainbows ignored it. I decided to try a different approach and replaced the caddis with a peacock size 14 hippie stomper, and then I added a size 22 flashback zebra midge larva. In the process of configuring my line; Chara, Amy’s St. Bernard, walked by and snagged the midge larva and quickly took me into my backing. The 105 pound St. Bernard represented my largest catch ever. Amy corralled Chara and removed the tiny fly from the thick fur on Chara’s leg, and she was released to forage on other food items.

Chara Loves to Hike

The remainder of my time on the pond, I cycled through a myriad of flies including a parachute ant, CDC BWO, and beadhead hares ear nymph. Eventually I learned that stripping the stomper in choppy bursts generated interest, and I landed six trout using this method. Unfortunately interest was different than eating, and all but one of the chasers were foul hooked, as the trout surged to the surface fly but backed off without eating. When I observed the surface disturbance, I set the hook and dragged the trailing nymph into the body of the stocker. In one instance late in this fishing adventure, a rainbow grabbed the stomper.

Many Rises in This Area

I probably should have tried a Griffith’s gnat, but I did not think of it, until I was hiking back to the cabin. The food source was clearly something infinitesimal, and a size 24 speck of peacock herl may have been the ticket. One trout in 1.5 hours of fly fishing is rather pathetic, but I was captivated by the frequent rises, and I constantly sprayed and stripped casts. The pond represented an easily available source of entertainment. The trout were all cookie cutter rainbows in the twelve inch range.

Fish Landed: 1

Big Thompson River – 10/03/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Lake Estes in the canyon

Big Thompson River – 10/03/2022 Photo Album

My day of fly fishing on Monday, October 3, 2022 can be characterized as one of frustration. My initial plan involved a trip to my favorite local stream, South Boulder Creek below Gross Reservoir. In preparation for the trip I checked the stream flows on the DWR web site, and the news there was favorable with the valve delivering 76 CFS, which is as close to ideal as it gets. The weather was tolerable with a high in the upper fifties and afternoon clouds with rain commencing at 3PM. I searched my South Boulder Creek posts for early October, and I found one for October 15, when I landed twenty-nine trout using mostly a dry/dropper system. All systems were go except for a check on Gross Dam road. During my last trip, I encountered a sign that notified travelers that the road would be closed the two days after my passage. Was it possible that the road would be closed again and would my access be blocked? I looked up the Denver Water customer service number and made a call and spoke with a representative named Lindsey. She did not have that information, but she gave me the number of the Gross Reservoir ranger, and she suggested he was likely to have road closure information.

I waited until 8AM and called Ranger Don, but my call was forwarded to voicemail. A long recorded message informed the caller that the South Gross Dam Road was closed for the duration of the project, but I concluded that this was the dirt road that I met at a T intersection, where I turned right to cross the creek and access the Kayak parking lot. I asked Ranger Don to return my call, but the request was never fulfilled, so I embarked on my original plan.

I followed my normal route to Coal Creek Canyon, but when I approached the turn off to Crescent Meadows, a large road construction sign announced that Gross Dam Road was closed on October 3 and 4. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. I actually anticipated this, but I was unable to gather the necessary information to avoid the wasted trip. I decided to change my plans and reversed my direction to CO 93, and I followed the road through Boulder, CO and eventually on to the Peak to Peak Highway and Estes Park. Upon my approach to Estes Park, I turned right on Mall Road, and then I shortcut to US 34 and followed the two lane to my chosen pullout.

Scene of Hot Start

The air temperature was sixty degrees, so I pulled on my fleece hoodie, and I proceeded to gear up with my Loomis two piece five weight. I used the Loomis in the Flattops, and I liked the feel for casting dry flies and dry/dropper rigs. I hiked down the road a bit and then cut perpendicular to the river, and then I rigged with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear nymph and beadhead salvation nymph. I tossed the three fly dry/dropper upstream to a moderate depth run, and instantly a fish grabbed one of the nymphs, but it quickly escaped. A second cast to the left resulted in a foul hooked brown trout, and then a third cast yielded a small brown trout to my net. After the first thirty minutes of fly fishing I recorded two foul hooked fish, two temporary hook ups and four landed trout. The fourth brown crushed the hopper and then twisted the nymph droppers into a wicked snarl, so I spent a ridiculous amount of time untangling and retying the flies. In the process the one remaining functioning zipper on the drop down foam pocket in my frontpack broke, and the pad remained in the down position permanently. This was a significant nuisance to casting and line management, and since it was 11:45AM, I returned to the car to eat lunch and develop a temporary fix to my frontpack.

Innovated Front Pack Fix

After lunch I searched through my fishing bag, and I found a 2.5 foot long lanyard from a Bucknell reunion that I saved for just such an occasion. I wrapped the lanyard around the frontpack and knotted it in the back. The drop down foam patch was now locked in the upright position, but the strap was low enough to allow me to pull the zippers on the main frontpack compartment to open and close. I walked back down the road to a spot above the no trespassing signs and above my exit point before lunch, and I resumed prospecting with the three fly dry/dropper. The torrid pace of interaction with trout that I enjoyed before lunch slowed to a snails pace, as I managed to increment the fish count by two small fish in spite of covering some very attractive pools, pockets and moderate riffles. Of course this section of the Big Thompson flowed right next to the highway, but I was certain that decent trout inhabited the catch and release water.

Nice One

When I reached a point, where I was opposite the Santa Fe, I climbed up the short but steep boulder strewn bank and threw my gear in the car and drove downstream another mile to another favorite spot. At this location I marched directly to a nice pool with a deep run that split the river into two excellent shelf pools. I paused and observed for a bit, and as some heavy cloud cover blocked the sun, I noticed a few sporadic rises. Before departing the first fishing location, I reconfigured my line with a double dry that featured a peacock body hippie stomper and olive-brown body size 16 deer hair caddis. I sprayed some casts to the area of the observed rises, and I was rewarded with a couple refusals. The time of year and overcast conditions suggested blue winged olive activity, so I replaced the caddis with a CDC blue winged olive, and once again a pair of refusals ensued.

Given the high flows of 123 CFS, could the trout be focused on active nymphs and emergers? I decided to try a deep nymphing approach, and I invested time in converting my set up to a New Zealand yarn indicator, split shot, hares ear nymph and classic RS2. I circled back down the river to where my car was parked, and I worked my way back to the pool by drifting the nymphs along the slow moving band of water along the south bank. The deep nymphing ploy failed to pay dividends, until I reached the large pool, and here I waded directly to the top where the strong main current entered. I began drifting my nymphs along the seam, where the main current met the slow moving pool, and I picked up two brown trout on the nymphs. One nabbed the RS2, and the other nipped the hares ear.

I finally cracked the afternoon code, so I persisted upstream to an area that contained some very attractive deep pockets, slots and runs, but the nymph rig was not productive, so I decided to revert to a three fly dry/dropper rig. If I was not catching fish, I at least wanted to use a method that I preferred. For this dry/dropper system I opted for a size 8 classic Chernobyl ant, a size 12 prince nymph, and a hares ear nymph. In a deep slot between some exposed boulders, the Chernobyl disappeared, and I raised the rod and found myself connected to a thrashing twelve inch rainbow trout. The rainbow snatched the prince nymph from the drift, and I was convinced that I found the answer to the riddle. Unfortunately after another ten yards of probing, the Chernboyl snagged on a stick, and the high flows prevented me from wading into a rescue position, so I applied direct pressure and popped off the three flies.

A Favorite Pool

I was in a state of frustration, and the sky was growing progressively dark with rain nearby, so I decided to call it a day at nine fish landed and began marching back along the shoulder to the car. As I passed the large pool, I decided to scramble to the midsection in case more blue winged olives were making an appearance. Sure enough, I spotted several very sporadic rises in the wide and shallower lower portion of the pool. I grabbed my line and added a two foot 5X section and knotted a size 22 CDC BWO to the end and began casting across and down to initiate downstream drifts. Over the next twenty minutes I sprayed casts over a twenty yard area and managed to land two aggressive brown trout of nine and eleven inches. By 3:30PM light rain began to fall, and rather than removing my backpack and frontpack to access my raincoat, I simply ambled back to the car and quit for the day. The rain increased in intensity, as I removed my gear and waders, and I drove through four sessions of heavy downpours and strong winds on my return trip.

Best Rainbow

I managed to salvage eleven trout from the Big Thompson River on Monday, October 3. None of the fish exceeded twelve inches, but I was quite proud to land two on dry flies. Why did the first half hour begin with such hot action? I have no answer other than the fact that the first stretch was more away from the highway and perhaps less pressured. I remain very anxious to return to South Boulder Creek, so I will pursue a source of information for road closures of Gross Dam Road between Coal Creek Canyon and the Kayak parking lot.

Fish Landed: 11