Monthly Archives: June 2023

Clear Lake – 06/28/2023

Time: 10:15AM – 2:15PM

Location: Mostly the inlet area, but also next to the lower parking lot.

Clear Lake 06/28/2023 Photo Album

After two partial days of fly fishing in the Rio Grande drainage I was feeling unfulfilled, so I logged another day of fishing on June 28, 2023. Jane and I were committed to a social obligation on Wednesday evening, so I needed a fishing spot that was not too distant. The Front Range creeks remained high, so I turned my attention to lakes, and I decided to revisit Clear Lake. The high temperature in Denver was forecast to peak in the upper 80’s, so I wanted a high elevation option, where temperatures were moderated by altitude. I experienced quite a bit of success on my previous visit, so I departed for the small stillwater near Georgetown, CO.

I arrived a bit before 10:00AM, and the lower parking lot was full, so I grabbed a space in the upper lot and quickly assembled my gear. My rod of choice was my old Sage four weight, and a temperature of 64 degrees allowed me to proceed with no extra layers. I immediately hiked to the inlet area, and I was greeted by several anglers who arrived before me. Two young men occupied the side closest to the road and another angler was perched on a large rock high above the spot where the creek first entered the lake. My greatest disappointment was a fisherman across from me in the spot that yielded ridiculous quantities of trout on 06/21/2023, but I determined there was adequate space below him, so I crossed North Clear Creek and settled by a cluster of rocks on a point that jutted into the lake. I began my day with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper, a size 12 prince nymph and a size 14 iron sally. The iron sally was crack to the Clear Lake fish on June 21.

My Spot Near the Inlet

I began to lob casts to the lake surrounding my position, and I quickly observed quite a few fish finning in Clear Lake above, across and below me. However, my hopper and nymphs were apparently not on the trout diet on Wednesday. A fair amount of surface sipping prompted me to switch to a double dry approach. I removed the dry/dropper flies and replaced them with a peacock hippie stomper and trailed a size 18 deer hair caddis. The caddis drew some attention but no connections, so I replaced it with a black size 18 parachute ant. The ant fooled a small trout, and I was excited to be on the right track, but apparently the little rainbow eating an ant was an aberration. Once again I made a swap, and this time I replaced the ant with a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. The caddis also generated some looks and eventually a bold feeder grabbed it, as I gave it a twitch. Unfortunately the trout continued to sip periodically, but my flies were not targeted, so I decided to return to the dry/dropper. The man in the sweet spot continued landing fish at a torrid pace, and I concluded he was drifting nymphs in the area that displayed stronger current.

Fine Rainbow

Once again I knotted the pool toy to my tippet, but unlike earlier, I extended the 4X tippet from the bend for at least 3.5 feet, before I tied a beadhead hares ear and size 20 salad spinner (midge pupa) to my line. Finally I achieved a degree of success, and I grew the fish count from two to nine, before I took a break for lunch just after noon. The catch rate lagged June 21, but I finally settled on a fly configuration that seemed to satisfy the appetites of the stocker rainbows. Of the seven fish landed before lunch, five nabbed the salad spinner and two plucked the hares ear. During the late morning time period I gradually edged south along the bank, so that my casts were covering water that exhibited slightly more current, and I feel that this extra movement was also responsible for my greater level of success.

A Bit More Color

After lunch I resumed fishing the dry dropper above the rocky point, and the fish count moved to twelve. Two of these fish favored the hares ear and one snatched a zebra midge. I replaced the salad spinner with a zebra midge, after I lost the hares ear and salad spinner in an evergreen tree on an overly aggressive hook set. After I landed number twelve, I stared at the lake bottom and noticed that it was a red-brown color. Why hadn’t I observed this earlier? My gaze shifted to the incoming creek, and I was astounded to see red-brown turbid flows entering the lake. The leading edge of the muddy plume contained pine needles and typical debris from the floor of a forest. Very few clouds appeared in the southern or western sky, so a brief thunderstorm as the source was unlikely. I could only conjecture that someone did some digging in the creek and churned up the sediment.

From the Parking Lot End

In response to the discoloration, the other anglers departed, but I moved north along the shoreline to a nearby area where the clarity of the lake remained unaffected. The dry/dropper ceased to interest the trout, so I decided to experiment with some streamer fishing. I began my lineup with an olive woolly bugger with rubber legs and below that I added a Mickey Finn. I began to distribute casts in a fan formation from the rocky point, and I was rewarded with two trout that chased and crushed the woolly bugger. I also felt some grabs on the Mickey Finn, but then I noticed that the trout pulled the bucktail fibers from the head wraps, so I replaced the Mickey Finn with another old tie that may have been in the Edson tiger family.

At this point I checked the incoming flows, and they remained a very thick red-brown color, and I grew concerned over my ability to wade across the incoming stream, so I hiked back to the inlet and safely made the crossing. The fish count was at fourteen, and I felt satisfied with my day, so I hoofed it back to the entry road. I intended to end my day, but I stared at the small cove north of the lower lot, and I decided to give the area a try with my streamer combination. I inspected the Edson tiger, and I noticed that some of the yellow and red bucktail had escaped on this fly as well, thus presenting a much narrower baitfish profile than desired, so I exchanged it for a wiggle damsel nymph. In the next fifteen minutes I landed two trout on the damsel nymph and generated several temporary hook ups, but then the action came to a screeching halt, and I decided to finally end my day of fishing.

Roadside Grazing

Sixteen cookie cutter rainbows between seven and twelve inches were a respectable day, and this temporarily satisfied my fly fishing addiction. The surge of muddy creek water was an unwelcome surprise, but I managed to work around it and salvage a fun lake fly fishing day. Experiencing success with streamers in Clear Lake was an added bonus. I suspect that I will be tying some bucktail streamers in the near future.

Fish Landed: 16

Big Meadows Reservoir – 06/25/2023

Time: 10:15AM – 2:30PM

Location: Black Creek inlet/South Fork of the Rio Grande inlet

Big Meadows Reservoir 06/25/2023 Photo Album

As I discovered on Saturday, stream fishing in the Creede area was a very challenging proposition. Before departing for Creede, I tracked the flows on the Rio Grande River, so I knew that the river was high compared to the average due to the above normal snowpack. In anticipation of this circumstance, I studied my Easy Access Mountain Lakes book, and I determined that five lakes existed in the Rio Grande Valley within reasonable distance of Creede. One that caught my attention was Big Meadows Reservoir, as it also offered hiking trails for Jane and Amy.

At the Start

The three of us arrived at the parking lot on the northwest corner of the lake by 9:45AM. I assembled my Sage One five weight, while Jane and Amy departed on the Archuleta Trail. The temperature was in the low sixties, and I set out along the northern shoreline and followed the same Archuleta Trail, until I crossed a small creek on a rickety pedestrian bridge. I cut down to the inlet and knotted a tan pool toy to my line and trailed a beadhead hares ear and prince nymph. I waded into the shallow area, where the creek dropped into the lake, and I began casting the dry/dropper into the plume. Almost immediately I noticed quite a few rises, so after ten minutes of fruitless casting, I switched to a double dry approach with an olive hippie stomper and a tiny size 24 midge emerger. The trout continued rising next to my flies, so I concluded that the tiny midge was a non-starter. I swapped it for a size 16 light gray deer hair caddis. Over the next 45 minutes I fired cast after cast to the entering flume, and I managed two rainbow trout. One nipped the caddis, and the second gulped the hippie stomper. I was happy to register two trout, but this was by no means easy fly fishing. The trout in the area rose confidently to natural food morsels and ignored my offerings with the exception of the two rainbows that settled in my net.

Small Creek Inlet

Caddis Eater

The book described good fishing at the inlet of the South Fork of the Rio Grande, and I was interested in exploring it, so I hooked my flies to the rod guide and continued westward on the trail. Eventually it was clear that the trail was veering away from the lake, so I made a left and bushwhacked my way to the South Fork of the Rio Grande. For the most part the creek was churning at high velocity, but I found a bend, and I was sure it would deliver a trout or two. My certainty was misplaced, so I reeled up and stumbled upstream through some dense low lying shrubs searching for more water that could hold trout. I found nothing except high gradient runs and riffles right up against the banks.

I reversed direction and scrambled through some marshy land, until I was in some slower-moving bends just above the inlet. A deep run along a deadfall looked promising, but it failed to deliver, so I advanced upstream to a narrow ribbon of slower moving water along the left bank. A cast to the extreme top of the run yielded a flash, and I set the hook and found myself connected to a hard fighting rainbow trout with an iron sally in its lip. I brought it to my net and celebrated with several sips of water.

South Fork of the Rio Grande Beauty

Productive Spot

Next I retreated to the mouth of the South Fork of the Rio Grande. A shallow sand bar ran into the lake for thirty yards with deep drop offs on either side. A cluster of spin fishermen were along the deep channel between the sandbar and the bank, so I confined my casts to the left side. My lineup consisted of a yellow size 8 fat Albert, a 20 incher, and an iron sally. On one of my casts the fat Albert dipped, and I was connected to a rainbow trout that chowed down on the 20 incher. By the time I released my catch, it was 12:30PM, so I sat in the grass on the peninsula and ate my lunch.

After lunch the wind kicked up and the dry/dropper was not delivering results, so I changed tactics. I pulled an olive-black woolly bugger from my fleece and added it to my line after removing the dry/dropper configuration. Below the woolly bugger I knotted a black mini leech on a ten inch tippet extension. I began spraying casts and stripping along the sandbar drop off. Two rainbows were duped by this approach, with both nailing the mini leech. I cast and counted to 15 or 20 seconds and then began my retrieve. Next I pulsed the line with two very quick strips, and then I resumed my choppy retrieve. Quite often I felt a soft bump with the resumption of movement after the initial quick burst, but on two occasions the trout made aggressive grabs.

Afternoon Waves

At one o’clock Jane and Amy arrived and announced they were ready to leave. I negotiated two more hours and hiked with them along the southwest side of the lake to the parking lot. I continued one-third of the way around the lake, where I scooted back down to the Black Creek inlet, but a family with two young boys occupied my desired fly fishing position. By the time I re-rigged my line, however, the family departed, and I had it to myself. I began casting the bugger and mini leech across the entering current, and within a short amount of time a nine inch brook trout flopped in my net. Brookies are wild and brilliantly colored in Big Meadows Lake. The bugger/leech combination failed to interest additional trout, so I replaced the leech with a Mickey Finn that I tied forty years ago. Hooray. My classic fly produced two more brook trout and a rainbow before the streamer disintegrated. A trout apparently locked its teeth on the bucktail fibers and pulled them free of the thread wraps without getting the hook in its mouth. What a wily trout! I was left to stare at a hook shank with an unraveling tinsel body and nothing else. Another Mickey Finn replaced the denuded version, but I ended my day of fishing at 2:40PM, when the wind accelerated to ridiculous speeds leaving whitecaps on the lake and making every backcast a life threatening event.

Decent Brook Trout

Ten trout in 3.5 hours of fishing is respectable. I learned about Big Meadows Lake and in the process found productive areas. I gained confidence in streamer fishing and advanced the renaissance of the Mickey Finn. It was not all bad for a windy day during run off.

Fish Landed: 10

Rio Grande River – 06/24/2023

Time: 3:15PM – 4:15PM

Location: Across from and upstream from Marshall Park Campground

Rio Grande River 06/24/2023 Photo Album

As I grieved over my wasted opportunity to land some fish on Saturday, June 14, I considered the idea of edge fishing the Rio Grande River. I was familiar with a public section across from and upstream from the Marshall Park Campground, and it was conveniently along my return path to the cabin. I decided to give it a try. I continued beyond the Marshall Park Campground turn off and made a right turn on to Middle Creek Road. I passed the campground area and found a narrow pullout along the dirt road. I walked downriver along the shoulder of the road a short distance, and I surveyed the river in the process. After a short distance I spotted a nice slack water spot behind a jumble of sticks and branches, so I decided to make the approach. I thrashed through some picker bushes and attempted to plant my right foot on a branch, but the branches parted ways, and I found my right leg extended below the branches, which were now even with my thigh. I was in an extremely awkward position, and in the process of trapping myself I hooked my flies and the leader on the thorny plants that grew in thick clumps along the bank. I was stressed out by my time limitations, but I eventually raised myself out of the hole, and cut off the flies in order to free myself from the trap. I revisited the tan pool toy, hares ear nymph and added a prince nymph; and I managed to edge into some shallow slow-moving water, so that I could extend some backcasts beyond the branches of a tree below me.

Prince Nymph Eater

I began lobbing short casts to the top of the bankside pool behind the log jam, and much to my surprise an eleven and a ten inch brown trout gobbled the prince nymph. My skunking was a thing of the past, and I smiled accordingly. During this short bout of success, massive quantities of size 18 caddis flies were buzzing about. I climbed back up the bank and tried three additional spots with no success. The Rio Grande fishing represented a very difficult game of climbing and sliding down the steep bank, because it was impossible to wade along the shoreline due to the powerful current at high flows.

During the last two bank scaling exercises I noticed a cluster of salmon flies, as they flew across the river, and one perched on my hat brim in an upside down position. It would have been a pretty cool photo opportunity, but it flew away before I could ready my camera.

Fish Landed: 2

South Brown Lake – 06/24/2023

Time: 2:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: A knoll at the end of a two-track road on the south lake.

South Brown Lake 06/28/2023 Photo Album

After a fun trip to Creede in June of 2022, Jane and I booked another stay at an Airbnb in Creede from June 23 through June 27. For our 2023 trip we were joined by our friend, Amy S. Prior to departing for the journey from Denver to Creede I reviewed the flows on the Rio Grande, and I was disappointed to learn that the river was raging along at high run off levels. Consequently I developed a backup plan, and I skipped ahead in my Colorado Easy Access Mountain Lakes book to read about five lakes in the Rio Grande Valley vicinity.

Jane, Amy and I departed from Denver on Friday and made the 4.5 hour drive without incident. We easily found our cabin overlooking the mining town of Creede, and after we unloaded our baggage, we made the less than one mile drive to Main Street. The Rio Grande Angler was closed for the day, so we continued our stroll along the small downtown area, until we reached the Ramble House fly shop. I entered the shop and immediately met with a young salesperson. I bought two spools of tippet, and then I questioned my salesman for fishing information in the area. I discovered that the Rio Grande remained very difficult to fish due to the high flows and that the salmon fly hatch was just beginning. I described the successful edge fishing that I enjoyed on other freestone rivers, and the gentleman suggested the Coller State Wildlife Area as a spot to try edge fishing.

Next I asked if there were other moving water options, and he offered Crooked Creek by Road Canyon Reservoir and North Clear Creek west of Creede. My final line of questioning revolved around lakes, and he suggested Big Meadow Reservoir and Beaver Creek Reservoir, and he assured me that both were ice free. Both reservoirs were in my Easy Access Mountain Lakes book, so I was pleased to gain the information about the status of the lakes.

On Saturday morning Amy, Jane and I completed a five mile out and back hike on the Deep Creek Trail. When we returned to the cabin, we ate our lunches, and then I was free to embark on a fly fishing excursion, while the ladies ventured forth on the Up and Over hike. I dropped them off at the trailhead, and then I drove west on CO 149. I planned to explore the North Clear Creek option, and my backup included Brown Lakes State Wildlife Area. My easy access book presented Brown Lakes as a solid destination for hungry brook trout.

When it came to North Clear Creek, I was shooting in the dark regarding a section to explore, so I set North Clear Creek Campground as my destination. I knew that a National Forest campground provided some assurance of public water in a national forest setting. As I entered the campground, I spotted a rectangular wooden sign that pointed to fisherman parking, and I made a left turn and parked. Jane reserved tickets for a play at the Creede Theater on Saturday night, and we had dinner reservations before the show, so I was on a tight timeline. I quickly pulled on my waders and assembled my Sage four weight and anxiously crossed the campground entry road and dropped into the forest. I could hear the rushing water of the creek, but it was not visible. I advanced twenty yards toward the sound of water, when I felt a thick twig in my right boot foot. I tried to ignore it in order to avoid removing all my gear and my waders, but it was pressing into the bottom of my foot, and I could not imagine continuing to fish under these circumstances. At the time I noticed a high barbed wire fence that angled from the road to the creek, and this sealed my decision to retreat to the road. I grabbed a seat on the bench of the first campsite after the parking area, and I removed my front pack, backpack, wading staff, camera, and my right wader foot, until I was able to hold it upside down to empty the irritating twig. I put myself back together and continued down the road past several campgrounds, and then I cut back to the creek.

My first glance at the creek was not reassuring, as the water was rushing along at high velocity and very tight to the bank. I decided to walk upstream a bit, but viable places to cast a fly were practically nonexistent. The two that I observed were quite marginal, and I could foresee excessive hiking along the creek between possible fish holding locales. I decided to cut my losses, and I returned to the car, stashed my gear and proceeded a few miles to the Brown Lakes SWA.

Brown Lakes was two miles off of CO 149, and as I approached, I noticed the parking lots were completely devoid of cars. The lakes were in a wide open setting with no trees, and the wind gusted relentlessly and created whitecaps on the small bodies of water. Adding to my initial feelings of doubt, the color of the water was brown with minimal visibility along the edges. The book did not suggest which lake to fish, so I drove by the north lake parking lot, until I reached a parking lot for the second, and here I spotted a two-track lane that stretched toward the south end of the lake. I was hoping to find the inlet, since fishing near inlets had served me well in other stillwater ventures. The two track eventually curled onto a knoll that rose twenty feet above the lake on a small point.

South Lake Looking North

I removed my fly rod, which remained strung from my aborted effort on North Clear Creek, and I added a tan size 8 pool toy hopper and a beadhead hares ear nymph and black mini leech. I dropped down a steep bank on the north side of the knoll, and I was positioned in a calm, murky cove. I never saw any surface activity, but I was at least protected from the wind, so I began spraying casts toward the calm water in the protected portion of the lake, as I moved toward the corner. I allowed the flies to rest for varying amounts of time and then deployed short jerks and strips, but the fish, if they were present, ignored my actions. I lost confidence and grew frustrated, so I decided to explore to the south in hopes of finding the inlet. After a brief hike, I once again encountered a barbed wire fence, and it extended into the lake, so I abandoned the inlet search. I returned to the point that protruded from the knoll, and I reconfigured with a streamer, but ten minutes of casting and stripping did not yield anything besides arm exercise. I cut my losses and returned everything to the car. Fly fishing in the Rio Grande Valley in June of 2023 was not getting off to an auspicious start.

Fish Landed:0

Clear Lake – 06/21/2023

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Next to parking lot and inlet area

Clear Lake 06/21/2023 Photo Album

The rivers and streams of Colorado remained in an elevated state, and I was attempting to ratchet back the strenuous nature of my endeavors for a few weeks, so I decided to visit another lake. On Wednesday, June 21 I opted for Clear Lake, and this was another example of a lake described in my Colorado’s Easy Access Mountain Lakes book. The weather was predicted to be cooler than earlier in the week, and the threat of precipitation was minimal.

I departed Denver at 8:30, and I arrived at my chosen destination by 10:00AM. I quickly assembled my Sage four weight, and I ambled a very short distance to the south side of the beach area next to the parking lot. The easy access book repeatedly emphasized not fishing right next to the parking lot, but I ignored this advice. The sun was bright and the air temperature was in the upper sixties, so I wore no layers beyond my fishing shirt and stuffed my raincoat in my backpack.

Double Dry in Place

In the early going I tossed an olive hippie stomper and trailed a size 16 gray caddis, and this double dry fly combination enabled me to establish a fish count of three. Two of the stocker rainbows caught during this time frame nipped the size 14 stomper, and one grabbed the trailing caddis. I also experienced quite a few brief connections, as the trout bumped the caddis without fully chomping down. The book suggested working along the southern shoreline, but it consisted of a steep rocky bank, and I was reluctant to negotiate the relatively severe terrain with my pledge to reduce stress. I clipped my flies to the rod guide and mounted a dirt bank next to the entry road and then followed a rough two-track to the inlet section. The book suggested that the inlet was the place to be, and the author described hours of hot fishing with a dry/dropper.

Salivating Over This Area

Initially I persisted with the double/dry, but other than a refusal or two, the offering was not effective, so I decided to make a switch. I followed the author’s lead, and I rigged with size 8 tan pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear nymph and a size 12 prince nymph. This combination proved to be the ticket, and I notched five additional trout before lunch to increase the fish count to eight. The hopper accounted for one fish, but the others nailed the prince. I began fishing the inlet by prospecting the faster run where the creek emptied into the lake, and this locale yielded a fish or two, but when I slid westward, so I was beyond a moderate-sized exposed boulder, I began to enjoy more success. The lake in this area dropped off and still carried some current; however, the tongue of the run fanned out to much slower moving water.

One of the Better Fish

Just before lunch I inadvertently broke off the two nymphs, so after lunch I replaced the prince as the top subsurface offering and then added an iron sally. What a fortuitous move this turned out to be! Just before lunch some thick clouds blocked the sun for an extended period of time, and I grew quite chilled standing in the waist deep water. I decided to return to the car for another layer, but I left my rod and all my gear on the gradual shoreline. I decided to vacate the area, and a solo fisherman was below me, so I approached him and made the offer for him to take my spot. He was very thankful, but I was not certain he would change his position.

I quickly hiked back to the car and grabbed my North Face light down coat, and upon returning to my pile of gear, I snugged the down coat under my thin rain shell. My comfort level zoomed to positive and remained in that status for the remainder of the afternoon. Not wishing to wade waist deep again, I began shooting longer casts to the deep and moving water that rolled by forty feet across from my position. The fun began instantly. On the first three casts a rainbow trout attacked the iron sally, and for the remainder of the afternoon this torrid success level continued, until I boosted the fish count to thirty. Sixty percent of the time a trout locked on to the nymph on the drift, but a strip or twitch initiated action the rest of the time.

Got a Grip

After an hour of this trout catching bonanza a trio of kids arrived, and they set up operations fifteen yards below me. The male of the group was likely in his late teens, and the two females were probably ninth or tenth grade. Their tools consisted of two fly rods and two spinning rods. They were not having much success, and they looked on in awe, as I hoisted fish after fish from the honey hole that was across from me.

At one point between fifteen and twenty landed fish, I snapped off the prince and iron sally on a backcast, and I retooled with a beadhead hares ear as the top fly and stayed with an iron sally for the bottom offering. During this time one of the young ladies asked to see my fly, and when I showed her, she produced her fly box and asked which of her flies I thought would work. I pointed to four flashy hares ear nymphs.

Next to the Bank and Between the Boulders

After breaking off two valued flies I decided to follow the gentleman who was below me before lunch. He crossed the creek above the lake and scaled a steep bank and positioned himself along the opposite shoreline thirty yards below my position and that of the teenagers. I hoped to eliminate the risk of loss during long backcasts, as the prime water ran very close to the bank across from me. The tactic worked, and after a brief creek crossing and short hike I was prepared to cast from the north shore.

Nice Gleam

I was pleased to discover that my catch rate resumed at a similar pace, if not perhaps even greater. The rainbow trout were all over my nymphs, although the hares ear began to produce, albeit at a lower ratio than the iron sally. Several narrow evergreens invaded my space, so I was forced to be very cautious with my backcasts and hooksets. Short roll casts served the purpose of keeping my flies in the water and out of the timber.

From the Opposite Shore

By 3:30PM I grew weary of the easy fishing (I cannot believe I am writing this), so I snugged up my line, climbed the bank, followed the trail, crossed the creek and returned to the trio of teenage friends. I asked the young man, if I could look at his line, and he gleefully handed it to me. He told me the rod was new and called it a Crosswater (I think). I inspected the fly, and he had a thick leader with a tiny elk hair caddis knotted to the end. What comes after 0X? I nipped off the fly and added three feet of 4X using a surgeons knot, although it was very difficult to cinch the thick leader side. I asked if he had any large foam flies, and amazingly he produced a size 10 chubby Chernobyl. I knotted it to the 4X, and then I asked to inspect his fly box. I instantly spotted a pair of flashy beadhead hares ear nymphs, so I added a three foot dropper to the chubby and added the flashy nymph. I proclaimed him ready to catch a fish and suggested that he cast to the area, where I was landing fish after fish from both sides of the lake.

The young angler gave it a game effort, but he was unable to extend a cast more than thirty feet or so, and the sweet spot required another ten feet. He was left handed, and he was applying his forward stroke way too early, and this drained all the energy from the line. I attempted to instruct him on how to pause to allow the rod to load, and he managed it a few times, but then he angled his arm on the forward cast and landed the flies upstream in still water rather than the target area. I began to shout at the moment that the rod loaded on the backcast, and that helped, but his flies continued to fall short. Meanwhile the two females landed a pair of fish on the spinning rod, and I sensed he wanted to transition back to that form of fishing.

One of the Better Rainbows

I said my farewell, and they thanked me for my assistance, and I returned to the small cove next to the parking lot. Several fish rose sporadically, but the hopper/dropper was not their cup of tea, so I clipped off the flies and tied on a size 16 gray deer hair caddis. For the next fifteen minutes I fished this tiny morsel solo, and I increased the fish count to thirty-five, before I called it quits and ambled back to the car. Of the last five fish to feel my net, three reacted to a twitch or strip, and the other two crushed the fly, while it sat in a stationary position.

Ram Tough

Wednesday, June 21 evolved into a fish catching orgy. All the trout were rainbows except for one brook trout that barely exceeded my self imposed minimum of six inches. The iron sally was far and away the favorite of the lake residents, although the prince, hares ear, pool toy, hippie stomper and deer hair caddis contributed to the haul. I suspect another lake fishing adventure lies in my near future, and my confidence in the Easy Access Mountain Lakes book is growing.

Fish Landed: 35

Pine Valley Ranch Lake – 06/19/2023

Time: 2:00PM – 4:15PM

Location: Southern shoreline

Pine Valley Ranch Lake 06/19/2023 Photo Album

After experiencing some mild health setbacks on Friday and Sunday, I desired a less taxing day of fly fishing on Monday, June 19. I settled on Pine Valley Ranch Lake, because it represented a bit over an hour drive, and the hike to the lake was only .2 mile. The high temperature in Denver spiked in the low nineties, so that was an additional consideration.

Jane and I arrived in the lower parking lot at Pine Valley Ranch Park by 1:30PM, and we were fortunate to snag a spot near the trailhead, because only a few spaces remained. June 19 is Juneteenth, a new federal holiday, so we assumed that this circumstance impacted the greater than normal number of park visitors on a weekday.

Looking East

I considered wet wading, but I did not wear the proper shirt to hold my dry fly box, so I reverted to waders, and I never felt overheated during my time on the lake. For casting, I selected my Sage R8 four weight, and I have grown to love my newest graphite stick. Jane and I departed from the parking lot and hiked along the northern shore using the dirt road that separates the lake from the North Fork of the South Platte River. Anglers were spaced out along the south and north shorelines by roughly thirty feet, with the only remaining open spaces on the earthen dam and at the upper end of the southern shore. I decided to inspect the narrow channel at the west end, and it was devoid of fishermen, but as I scanned the shallow slough, I was unable to spot any fish, nor were any fish feeding on the surface. The combination of no sighted fish and no fishermen convinced me to move on. We circled around the west end of the lake, and I grabbed a spot toward the western end of the southern shoreline. The vegetation grew into the water, so waders or wet wading were required to fish in this section. Most of the fishermen at Pine Valley Ranch Lake were shore bound, so I saw this as an advantage. Jane set up her chair in the pavilion in the southwest corner.

West End

Release Time

I began my quest for rainbow trout with a double dry configuration that featured a peacock hippie stomper as the first fly and a size 16 gray deer hair caddis as the trailer. For the next two hours I fired forty foot casts in a fan pattern from my waded position, and I edged my way eastward. After an hour the man and woman who claimed the spot by the angled dead tree departed, and I quickly replaced them. How did I do? I landed nine stocker rainbow trout during 2.25 hours of fishing. I utilized the same technique that resulted in a twenty-five fish day on a previous trip. I allowed the flies to rest for thirty seconds, and then I made quick pulsing strips back to my casting position. All but two of the trout sipped the fly, while it was motionless, and two made a grab on an early strip. The caddis accounted for six trout, and the hippie stomper attracted three smacks. The hippie stomper eats seemed to coincide with a breeze or wind and the presence of a slight chop on the surface of the lake. Many fruitless casts were part of the equation, and doing the thirty second countdown repeatedly tried my patience, but nine fish in 2.25 hours during air temperatures in the low eighties was actually a fairly solid performance.

Send It

By 4:15PM the pace of action slowed to a crawl, and my back began to tighten, so I stripped in my flies, and Jane and I returned to the car. Jane enjoyed watching my efforts and actually called out a take, when I looked away for a split second. We were both awestruck, when an osprey assumed the shape of a wedge and plunged into the lake at high velocity directly across from us. Neither of us had our cameras available, but we then watched, as the majestic bird of prey circled the lake several times. On two occasions it swooped, until it was twenty feet above the surface of the lake, and we were sure another dive was imminent, but on both occasions it backed off and regained altitude.

From the Earthen Dam

I hope to explore a few more lakes within the next couple weeks before rivers and streams return to fishable levels.

Fish Landed: 9

South Platte River – 06/14/2023

Time: 10:15AM – 4:15PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/14/2023 Photo Album

My new friend, Nate, expressed an interest in wrangling with a fish that put a significant bend in his rod, and I suggested the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. During the run off season, the South Platte River was a rarity, with flows running at 47 CFS, so we made plans for a day on the tailwater west of Colorado Springs on Wednesday, June 14, 2023. Unbeknownst to both of us, the day held several surprises.

We arrived at my favorite roadside pullout a bit before 10:00AM, and this allowed us to be on the river by 10:15AM. I chose my Sage One five weight, and Nate went with a five weight as well, as his reel that held a four weight line was out of commission. We walked up the road for .3 mile, and then we dropped down an angled bank to the river across from some huge exposed boulders and deep surrounding pocket water. We both began our days with dry/dropper rigs, and in my case I chose a tan pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. Between 10:15 and noon, Nate and I pushed our fish counters to two. Both my trout were fine brown trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and one nipped the salvation nymph and the other crushed the pool toy hopper. I was standing to the side and slightly above a small but deep hole in front of an exposed boulder, and I spotted a fish, as it darted to the surface to grab a small food item. I dropped a very short cast to the pocket, and almost immediately the same fish aggressively smashed the hopper. What a start to my day!

Home of First Brown Trout

Gorgeous Brown Trout

We quickly discovered that the most productive water was deep pockets and runs around large rocks, such as the area where we began. The popular pools seemed devoid of fish, and we quickly lost confidence in these spots. As we approached the next extensive section of pocket water, we encountered a group of three anglers, so we decided to circle around them. At the time we were on the west side of the river, and we normally travel on the east side to navigate our way upstream. I could see a large vertical rock wall ahead, but I assumed that we could sneak by in the river with flows at their low levels. Wrong. As we grew near, we realized that we had to do some rock climbing, if we stayed on our side of the river, or backtrack and cross. We chose the first option, and we endured the first surprise of the day. We clambered up a fairly steep rock face for sixty feet using crevices to gain footing and handholds. However, upon reaching a more level area, we followed the contour of the rock to a position that we hoped would allow us to descend back to the river. Nate went ahead to scout the situation, and he announced that the drop off was too steep, so we resumed our ascent for a distance that more than doubled our initial climb. We were now perched high above the river, so we cut in a southern direction. but once again we encountered an impediment to our progress. The drop off remained more than either of us were willing to risk, so we angled away from the river. At one point I was faced with maneuvering my aging body around a large protruding rock, but I was unable to find good hand grips, even though I handed my rod off to the much younger fishing companion in order to free up two hands. Instead of risking the dicey balancing workaround, I followed a large deadfall, and eventually I found a line that allowed a more gradual descent. Whew! Nate and I were both relieved to return to the river, but we were also pleased with our ability to overcome the rock climbing obstacle.

Wild Iris

When we approached the river again, we were just downstream from one of my favorite pools, the one that I named big bend pool. The river splits around a narrow island and then merges into the pool where the western braid curls around a large ninety degree bend. We noticed a few sporadic rises, but for the most part the pool was dead. Nate chose the upstream portion of the pool, where a nice wide riffle section extended for fifteen yards before the river spread out into the middle section of the slow moving pool. I waded to a position opposite the mid-section, and I began lobbing long casts to a deep trough between two large boulders. One of the boulders was subsurface, and the other peeked above the waterline. I allotted ten minutes to my prospecting, but my confidence was low, and I moved around Nate to some small pockets just above the entering run on the western braid. Nate was focused on a massive tangle that consumed twenty minutes (his estimate), but he announced that he would continue fishing the riffles once the snarl was rectified.

Nice Colors

Tiny Bucket Produced the Rainbow

First I dropped a few casts in a marginal shallow run, but then I fired a cast to a very short but deep pocket above the shallow run. I was just killing time, but almost immediately a hot rainbow trout grabbed the salvation nymph, and the game was on. I battled the cantankerous trout for a few minutes and then landed it for some beauty poses. I love extracting nice trout from obscure areas, and this was a classic example. I continued working my way around the bend and along the west channel, and suddenly I heard Nate cry, “Come here, Dave”. I quickly reeled up my line and hooked my fly to the rod guide, and then I stepped down a worn path on the narrow island, until I was across from Nate. He was enmeshed in the second surprise of the day, as he valiantly battled a very large trout. I whipped out my camera and videotaped three sequences, as the long, fighting cold water species made four or five determined runs away from Nate’s net. Nate performed like a pro, and each time the trout stressed the situation with a bold streak, Nate released line and allowed the combatant its space. Eventually the behemoth tired enough that Nate was able to hoist it over his Fishpond net. I waded across the channel to get some closer photos, and when I approached, I peered down at a twenty inch cutbow. Nate beamed from ear to ear, and why wouldn’t he? I snapped some fin and grins, and then Nate allowed the prize to recover before he nudged the beast back in the river. Nate’s day was already compete at noon, and so was mine.

What a Fish

Cutbow Magic

There Is a Smile

Big Boy Took the Fly Below the Bright Green Bottom

I returned to my exit point and fished my way up to the tunnel pools. By now my watch displayed 12:30PM, so I found a comfortable spot on a grassy bank to eat, and I was joined by Nate within a few minutes. He reported that his legs and arms were still shaking from the adrenalin rush initiated by the largest fish of his young life. As we chomped our snacks, we observed the pool, and we were entertained by a smattering of rises. I also spotted a handful of small mayflies, and we surmised that a very sparse mayfly hatch was in progress. We debated switching to dries to focus on the risers, but I was reluctant to remove my dry/dropper configuration, and I was not certain that the rises were steady enough to create reasonable success or just a tease that would lead to frustration.

Lunch View

We moved on to some faster entering currents, and at this spot Nate bumped into his third surprise. His three fly rig snagged near the vertical rock wall on the far side of the river, and in his effort to disengage, he snapped off all three flies. He undertook the laborious task of reconfiguring his flies with three new versions, and when he cast near the same spot as the snag, his drift was once again interrupted. Upon lifting the flies to free them, he realized that he was connected to the three flies he just broke off. In this instance, however, he waded through some moderately deep water, freed his active flies and recovered the ones that he broke off!

Nate Scanning the Pool

With this bit of good fortune in hand, we decided to vacate the troublesome hook grabbing environment, and we advanced around two ninety degree bends to a wide slow moving pool. A couple was perched on the bank eating lunch, so we circled around them and progressed to a long stretch of pocket water that I targeted early on. I continued fishing the dry/dropper for the next hour, and I covered some gorgeous deep pools and pockets, but only had some refusals to the hopper to show for my efforts. I cycled through a number of nymphs including an emerald caddis pupa, a bright green go2 caddis pupa, an RS2, and an iron sally. I concluded that the fish were not in tune with nymphs, but the refusals to the hopper suggested that surface food was on their menu. I removed the three fly dry/dropper offerings and moved to a double dry set up. The front fly was a peacock body hippie stomper, and it trailed a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis.

Great Colors

Although the last two hours of fly fishing would not be characterized as hot fishing, I did increase the fish count to six with three fish netted while deploying the double dry approach. One of the afternoon trout hammered the hippie stomper, and the other two nabbed the trailing caddis. Two of these fish were quite nice including a fourteen inch rainbow and a thirteen inch brown trout. I made a large quantity of fruitless casts for these trout, so the catch rate remained subpar. Nate mostly stuck with the dry/dropper approach, and he advanced his fish count to five, although the monster cutbow made his day, and everything else was gravy.


Six fish in five plus hours of fishing is quite slow, but I managed to land some very fine rainbows and browns. Stream productivity in the middle of June is always welcome. Of course, the highlight of the day was Nate’s cutbow, and the euphoria extended into the next day, when I saw him at physical therapy. We already discussed some future trips. His goal of putting a significant bend in his rod was easily surpassed.

Fish Landed: 6

Curtain Ponds – 06/12/2023

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Second Pond

Curtain Ponds 06/12/2023 Photo Album

Cool damp weather stalled the snow melt temporarily in Colorado during the first full week of June, but the conditions did not improve enough to enable a visit to a freestone river. One of my goals for 2023 run off season was to experiment with more stillwaters during the snow melt time frame, and Monday, June 12, 2023 was one of those days.

My new fishing companion, Nate, told me about the Curtain Ponds, and then I received a book for my birthday titled Easy Access Mountain Lakes of Colorado. One of the lakes featured in this book was the Curtain Ponds. The combination of these two independent references to the Curtain Ponds caused me to make it my destination on Monday. I was fairly certain that the ponds would be ice free, and that was another important consideration, although the weather forecast was rather unsettled with rain and thunderstorms predicted for the late morning and all afternoon. I decided to risk the 1.5 hour drive regardless of the negative prognostications.

Looking West

I arrived at a dirt parking lot along the bike path by 9:45AM, and the temperature hovered at 48 degrees. This was colder than I expected, so I took the necessary precautions and suited up with my Under Armour long sleeved thermal shirt, my fishing shirt, my fleece hoodie, and my North Face light down parka. I stuffed my raincoat in my backpack and donned my New Zealand billed hat with earflaps. These were winter conditions, and I was prepared. I fitted my four piece Sage R8 rod together, and began my journey along the bike path in an eastward direction. Nate told me that he had the most success at the second pond, so that became my destination, and I stopped at a worn spot, where the shoreline jutted out into the deep blue-green pond. The book that I cited earlier mentioned that the lake was quite deep, and it suggested making longer casts toward the middle to avoid fishing the highly pressured locations closer to the bank. The book also mentioned the existence of quite a few easy to catch rainbows, but the real prizes were wild brown and brook trout that grew to greater length, but they were also harder to dupe.

Looking East

I knotted a peacock body hippie stomper to my line and then added an olive-brown size 16 deer hair caddis, and I began spraying casts in all directions from the point that I stood on. As I was doing this, I observed a few sporadic rises, so I directed some casts to those locations. On my last lake visit to Pine Valley Ranch Lake, I adopted the practice of casting, counting to 30 seconds, and then twitching and short stripping the flies back. I repeated this cycle on the Curtain Pond, but the trout did not respond. After twenty minutes of fruitless casting and stripping, I directed my attention toward the west, and I was surprised, when a fish raced to the surface to crush the caddis. I set the hook and carefully played a feisty ten inch brook trout to my net. I was on the board, but I was unclear regarding what variables led to my success.

What Colors

I released the brook trout, and as I paused to dry and refresh my flies, I peered eastward and noticed some rises thirty yards up the shoreline, so I made the short hike to a position adjacent to their activity. I managed one or two soft momentary hookups on the caddis on short strips, but the area was unproductive, and I once again turned my attention to the extreme southeastern corner of the pond. In that area I recognized increased feeding activity, so I once again shifted my position. I found a nice point on a small protruding grassy bank, and I began lobbing forty foot casts to the vicinity of the feeding trout. My flies were summarily ignored, and I paused to consider alternative choices. I stripped in my line and extended the tippet to 18 inches in case the stillwater fish were leader shy, and I replaced the caddis with a black parachute ant. The ant might as well have been inert flotsam. I dug out a small plastic canister that I carry in my wader bib that contains an array of tiny dry flies that mostly fall in the size 20 to size 24 range. Whatever these trout were feeding on, it had to be tiny, because I was unable to see anything on the surface of the pond. I retrieved a size 20 parachute Adams, but the desirability of this offering was equal to the black ant. I sorted through the small canister once more, and I located a size 14 midge emerger with a gray body and a wisp of a gray CDC wing. Nothing doing. Finally I stirred the flies again, and I plucked a size 24 CDC trico spinner.

Stunning Brown Trout

As this fly trial and error process evolved, the feeding action in front of me escalated to a full fledged frenzied hatch. There were at least twenty fish feeding aggressively in front of me, and I was unable to interest them in my tiny offerings. It was quite clear that these fish were the wild browns and brook trout mentioned in the book and not the stocker rainbows. I was in a state of frustration, as I tied the small trico on my line. I fluttered a thirty foot cast to a spot occupied by an active feeder, and suddenly there was a bulge near the visible hippie stomper, I set the hook and instantly felt the weight and resistance of a nice trout, and after a brief struggle the fourteen inch brown trout nestled in my net. I was beyond happy with this turn of events, and I rushed to dry the trico spinner to get it back in action.

As I sopped the fly on my sleeve, I heard the sound of distant thunder, and as I was ready to resume casting, a strong breeze kicked up and ruffled the surface of the lake. This either ended the surface activity or made it impossible for me to view it, and within minutes a dark cloud settled above me and delivered light rain. Fortunately my raincoat was in place, but my casting continued to be futile, and I was unable to see my targets. My confidence plunged, and my wet hands began to sting, so I tromped back to the car to warm up and eat my lunch. I waited out the storm, and by 12:45PM the rain subsided enough to consider resuming my exploration of the Curtain Ponds.

I pondered a change of approach during the rain delay, and I removed my Orvis reel with the four weight line and replaced it with a sink tip version. I decided to probe the depths, as suggested by the book, with streamers. I possessed the suggested streamers, and I began with an olive slumpbuster. I began my streamer experiment where the land poked into the lake to the deeper section, and I fanned casts in all directions, but it was to no avail. A black mini leech worked on another lake several weeks ago, so I knotted one to my line, but it was equally unpopular. I knew that the east end of the lake contained a host of fish, so I migrated there and stripped the leech with a jigging action, but futility ensued.

Most Fish Seen In This Area

What now? I removed the leech as well as the sink tip line and reel and returned to the floating four weight line. What about a dry/dropper? I had not tried that approach, so I added a tan pool toy hopper and trailed a zebra midge. Were the feeding fish locked into midge larva and adults? If they were, they were not in tune with my zebra midge. I actually saw a visible fish look at the midge larva, but it turned away without eating it. How about a scud? Dense aquatic vegetation grew from the floor of the pond, and surely an ample quantity of scuds were present. An orange scud replaced the zebra midge, but once again the trout showed no interest.

During the early afternoon, heavy clouds dominated the sky, but precipitation held off for a couple of hours, and the surface of the pond returned to mostly a glassy smooth shimmer. Once again the fish in the corner resumed sipping something from the surface, but the frequency was no where near the frenzy before lunch. I returned to a deer hair caddis in the form of a size 18 with a light gray body. I began firing casts in every direction and especially to those spots, where a fish made its presence visible via a rise. I managed a couple very brief connections on the caddis, as I twitched it, but frustration reigned.

Another Fine Brook Trout

I paused and observed that some trout near a protruding point across from my position fed a bit more frequently, and I had not disturbed that water, so I waded across a shallow cove and took a position near an old stump a few feet out from the bank. A small lagoon extended eastward next to the highway, and several fish began to rise in the space between my position and the opposite bank. Once again some clouds rolled above me, and rain was imminent, but I persisted and managed to hook and land two brook trout in the ten to eleven inch range. Both grabbed the caddis, as I twitched and lifted it.

Rain Resuming

The rain intensified, and my watch announced that it was 3:30PM, and my hands were beginning to chill, so I hooked my fly to the guide and began the walk back to the parking lot. I stopped briefly at the west end of pond number one and made a few casts to places, where a rise was seen, but once again my efforts to land a fish were thwarted.


I landed four wild trout in five hours of fishing. I wore my arm out making longer than normal casts, and the weather was quite adverse, although I was able to complete more fly fishing than I expected. I was never able to lock in a fly that consistently fooled the selective feeders at the east end of the ponds, but I saw enough to seek a return engagement at a future date with more favorable weather.

Fish Landed: 4

Pine Valley Ranch Lake – 06/07/2023

Time: 10:15AM – 2:30PM

Location: The lake at Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Valley Ranch Lake 06/07/2023 Photo Album

Today, June 7 was all about improving my stillwater fly fishing game. I enjoyed a fun day on Tuesday on the South Platte River, so I was anxious to experiment with a day of lake fishing that did not involve too long of a drive. On June 1 I detoured to Pine Lake at Pine Valley Ranch after a frustrating morning at the Davis Ponds, and after a bit of success I was eager to return. The weather forecast called for a high probability of thunderstorms from 2PM on, so I arrived at Pine Lake a bit earlier than normal. Quite a few cars occupied the spacious parking lot, and I would soon learn that many fishermen were present.

The temperature was in the mid-sixties, so I wore only my fishing shirt over a short sleeved high tech undershirt, and I was comfortable during the morning and early afternoon. I chose my newest fly rod, my Sage R8 four weight, and I was quite pleased with its action and responsiveness for the longer casting required for lake fishing. I began my quest for stocker rainbows by heading to the narrow channel at the west end of the lake, and as I strolled down the dirt path, I passed a woman with a spinning rod, who seemed to be vacating my target area. Once I arrived at the spot, where the lake narrowed into the channel, I encountered another man who occupied the mid-section of the shallow slough. He commented that there were a lot of visible fish, and he was tossing a thin mint (woolly bugger style fly) with a spinning rod and casting bubble. As I looked on, he landed a fish or two, and I asked him if I could fish below him. He approved my request, and I took up a position at the mouth of the channel and tied a size 16 deer hair caddis adult to my line.

Morning Hunting Area

As Good As It Gets

For the next 1.5 hours I fished from my perch and made casts toward the other angler, who was soon joined by the woman that I passed on my hike to the lake. I landed three small stocker rainbows, and then my fly was consistently ignored, so I changed tactics. I replaced the caddis dry fly with a size 18 black parachute ant, and the terrestrial accounted for two more fish. The woman of the pair was chucking a bubble as well, but the landings were not as soft as the man’s, so I felt that my repeated casts and her plops were putting the fish down. I circled around the fishing pair and asked if I could make some casts from the end of the narrow channel back toward them, and they replied that my intentions were not a problem for them.

Aimed to Freedom

I curled around the end of the water-filled ditch and followed a worn path for around ten feet on the opposite bank. A film of pollen washed into the extreme western end area, so I positioned myself to fish the area beyond the pollen scum. Fish were rising sporadically, and I returned my offerings to a size 18 tan body deer hair caddis, and this fly produced a fish or two. After an encouraging start, the fish began to ignore the caddis, so I extended some tippet off the bend and tied on a tiny size 24 griffith’s gnat. I connected temporarily with the gnat, and then I lengthened my casts to prospect new water and managed to land two more rainbows on the caddis.

Showing Off

At this point it was 11:45AM, and the frequency of rises slowed to a very sporadic pace. I decided to vacate the channel and moved to the south shore of Pine Lake. Most of the anglers at the lake were clustered on the earthen dam breast or in the southeast corner, so I had most of the southern shoreline to myself. I dropped down a short path to a small worn beach, where a dead, fallen tree angled into the lake. I switched the caddis and griffith’s gnat for a size 8 tan pool toy hopper trailing a size 14 yellow stimulator. I shot some casts to the area, where the log submerged in the lake, and I was shocked when a feisty rainbow trout crushed the hopper. I released number nine and fired another cast five feet beyond the one that yielded a success, and after a long wait, another rainbow grabbed the stimulator. These two fish elevated my fish count to ten, and I celebrated with a quick lunch. In both cases I allowed the two flies to sit in excess of a minute, before a trout was enticed to strike. This method of fishing was taxing my patience.

Area Beyond the Tip of the Log Produced

Surprise Hopper Eater

After lunch I endured an abundant quantity of refusals to both the hopper and the stimulator, so I paused to assess my options. I concluded that I needed to down size, so I swapped the pool toy for a peacock hippie stomper and replaced the stimulator with an olive-brown size 16 deer hair caddis. This choice proved to be on the money, and the fish count zoomed from ten to twenty-five over the next two hours. initially I landed a few fish that snatched the caddis, while it sat motionless, but then I experimented with a twitching retrieve, and this resulted in some brief hook ups. Eventually I settled on a cycle of allowing the flies to rest motionless for thirty seconds followed by quick short strips, and quite often a fish would grab the caddis on one of the strips. The leading hippie stomper tended to dive briefly and then pop back up, and a few fish went for the stomper, but in most cases I believe the larger foam indicator attracted attention, and the rainbows swiped the  trailing caddis. In a few cases the grab occurred immediately on the first short strip. It was almost as if the fish was watching the flies, and then the twitch caused them to eat for fear of their food source escaping. I also observed that the pace of action seemed to accelerate when the wind kicked up a bit to create a small riffle. I theorized that the surface disturbance interfered with the trout’s vision, and movement of the flies caught their attention.

Looking at the Popular Southeast Corner

Caddis Fan

Of course, I did not catch a trout on every cast, but I estimate that I averaged one landed fish for every three casts, once I settled on the cast, wait, twitch and strip routine. Lake fishing seems to be a game of trial and error to a greater degree than stream fishing. I’ve settled on a warm weather sequence of single dry, double dry, downsizing, dry/dropper, streamers and indicator nymphs. It is harder to view the fish’s reaction to these different methods, so systematic experimentation seems to be the name of the game. Of course, I have been dealing with mostly stockers, so the approach may deviate, when I visit wild trout in high country lakes, once the ice clears.

Fish Landed: 25

South Platte River – 06/06/2023

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/06/2023 Photo Album

I reviewed and tracked the flows on roughly thirty streams in Colorado during the 2023 snow melt season, and only a few tailwaters were available for reasonable fly fishing on June 6. One of them was the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, and the graph depicted flows of 42 CFS. 42 CFS is actually below the ideal range, and low levels suggested difficult fishing. I debated a trip to the South Platte vs. a trip to one of my favorite lakes, and I chose the moving water option.

I arrived at a dirt parking lot by 10:00AM, and this enabled me to be on the water fly fishing by 10:30AM. The temperature was sixty degrees, so I wore only my fishing shirt, but I stuffed my raincoat in my backpack, and I assured myself that I could always return to the car, should I need to add layers. The weather forecast predicted thunderstorms all afternoon, and I knew from the previous Wednesday that a storm produced wind and a temperature drop.

My Playground on June 6

I began my fly fishing effort with a peacock hippie stomper and a beadhead hares ear nymph, and in the one hour and fifteen minutes, before I stopped for lunch, I landed four brown trout. Two of the eager eaters grabbed the hares ear nymph, and the others favored the surface hippie stomper. All the morning fish were in the eight to ten inch range, but I was nevertheless pleased with the early action on a stream in the first week of June.

A Bit Larger

After my quick lunch I resumed my progress upstream, but I abandoned the dry/dropper approach; and I, instead, replaced the hares ear with a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. During this time frame the caddis was the productive fly, but the hippie stomper was attracting an annoying number of refusals, so I replaced it with a size 8 Chernobyl ant. The double dry combination enabled me to boost the fish count to seven, before I noticed another angler twenty yards above me. I was disappointed to get high holed, but there was another stretch I was anxious to test, so I stripped in my flies and made a move .5 mile upriver. During the morning session I noted that most of the trout did not come from the obvious attractive areas such as deep runs and pools, but instead materialized in more obscure lies such as the very top of a riffle or a deep slot tight to a boulder. The three fish landed after lunch ate the trailing caddis, and the size of these fish was moderately larger than the morning catches.


Pocket Water Ahead

When I pulled into the pullout at my second location, I replaced my short sleeved shirt with a long sleeved thermal undershirt, and then I added my fleece hoodie and my billed hat with earflaps, I kept the earflaps turned up, but I was prepared for the predicted afternoon storms. When I began fly fishing at my second stretch of river, I applied the knowledge I gained from the morning, and I focused on similar types of water, and the strategy paid off. In the first location I spotted a handful of aggressive rises, but my Chernboyl and caddis were ignored, so I swapped the Chernobyl for a size 12 stimulator with a light yellow body. Voila! The stimulator and caddis combination was quite popular, and I incremented the fish count from seven to nineteen, before I called it a day at 3:30PM. I fished through a forty yard section of pocketwater, and the majority of the trout came from this area. Two of the final twelve trout were rainbows, and the remainder were brown trout. Four of the afternoon twelve attacked the stimulator, and the others favored the caddis. At one point I swapped the olive-brown caddis for one with a gray body, and this change seemed to improve the catch rate a bit. Toward the end of my time in the second section, I snagged my flies on a backcast, and when I tried to rescue the flies by pulling down the branch, I snapped them both off. I spent five minutes scanning the branches for my flies and dangling monofilament, but I finally accepted the loss and moved on. I replaced the yellow stimulator with a gray version. and this fly along with a gray caddis accounted for the last two trout.

One of the Better Fish

Slow Areas Along the Boulders Are Prime

The two rainbow trout were in the twelve inch range, and at least four of the brown trout stretched the tape to twelve and thirteen inches. I do not actually measure them, but based on experience, I am fairly accurate at assessing length. The larger browns all came from fairly obscure lies next to large exposed boulders. In one case (click on the photo album link to view a video of this spot), I thought I spied a very subtle rise in a narrow two foot wide band of water between two large exposed rocks. I made some casts to the  lower part of the run right above my position, and then I targeted the small area, where a fish possibly rose. The first cast landed on the bankside rock and then tumbled into the river below the target area. The next cast, however, was on the mark, and instantly a thirteen inch brown trout smashed the caddis. How gratifying! This was one of my favorite scenarios of the season thus far.

Green Algae Kept Clinging to My Line and Flies

Narrow Space Between the Smallest Exposed Boulder and the One Below Produced

I was very pleased to land nineteen trout on June 6, 2023. While most of the state experienced dangerous river and stream levels, I enjoyed a pleasant day on a clear river in flows that were actually on the low side. The action was not torrid, but the successes were frequent enough to keep me focused for my entire time on the river. While I was fishing, I observed dark clouds to the north and then to the south, but my location was luckily spared. I was prepared with layers, but unlike June 1; wind, chill, and precipitation never developed.

Fish Landed: 19