Monthly Archives: October 2023

South Boulder Creek – 10/20/2023

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/20/2023 Photo Album

Highs in Denver, CO were projected to reach 84 degrees on Friday, October 20, and this translated to the 70’s in most Front Range drainages, so I decided to take advantage and made a late season fishing trip a priority on my schedule. I reviewed the flows on my favorite creek, South Boulder Creek, and I was pleased to determine that the creek was sluicing along below the dam at 91 CFS. South Boulder Creek contains a higher percentage of rainbow trout than many Front Range streams, and I always gravitate to this factor during the brown and brook trout spawning season.

Because of the dam expansion work on Gross Reservoir, I was forced to drive on the Boulder Turnpike, and then I negotiated the twisting road through Flagstaff Park to the Walker Ranch Loop Trailhead parking lot. By the time I strung my Loomis two piece five weight and hiked down the trail, it was 11:30AM. I tied a peacock hippie stomper to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph to initiate my Friday fishing outing. The hares ear and salvation were effective in previous ventures to South Boulder Creek in the October time frame, and this guided my choice of flies.

Promising Spot

Prior to lunch I landed three small brown trout, as two nipped the salvation nymph, and one grabbed the hares ear; however, this encouraging bit of action was accompanied by numerous refusals to the hippie stomper. I paused for lunch in a nice small beach area along the south bank, and after lunch I proceeded upstream. The angle of the sun was such that I had great difficulty following the hippie stomper through the glare, and I missed a couple trout after temporary hook ups, because I was late as a result of not tracking the surface fly.

Pretty Little Fish

I swapped the hippie stomper for a larger size 8 tan pool toy hopper, and I retained the hares ear and salvation, and I elevated the fish count slowly to five, but refusals to the pool toy became a prevalent condition. Once again I paused to ponder the reluctance of the trout to consume my dry fly offering, and I decided to test a size 8 yellow fat Albert. I was actually hoping to find a fly that did not distract the stream residents from the nymphs. I also swapped the salvation nymph for a prince nymph; and the fat Albert, hares ear and prince remained on my line, until I quit at 2:30PM. I raised the fish count from five to fourteen, but the largest fish on the day extended only to nine inches with most of the landed trout brown trout in the six to eight inch range. One small seven inch rainbow managed to join the parade of small browns.

Prime Dry/Dropper Water

Fourteen trout in three and a half hours of fishing is respectable, but the size of the fish was sorely lacking. Could the larger and more mature brown trout have been preoccupied with reproducing? I did not see any spawning activity, but the absence of larger fish certainly suggests that theory as a viable one. I fished a section of the stream that historically delivered high fish counts and larger fish on average. Many prime deep shelf pools and deep runs also failed to produce, and this circumstance was equally puzzling. During this spectacular fall day I felt strong vibes that my 2023 season was coming to an end. I will keep a close eye on the weather in the coming weeks.

Fish Landed: 14

Arkansas River – 10/17/2023

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Below Salida

Arkansas River 10/17/2023 Photo Album

The high temperature was predicted to reach the low eighties on Tuesday, October 17, so I decided to take advantage of the summer-like weather with a trip to the Arkansas River. I departed Denver at 7:30AM, and I arrived at my favorite pullout along US 50 by 11:00AM, and this enabled me to be on the river fly fishing by 11:30AM. I geared up with my Sage R8 four weight, and I wore my Under Armour long-sleeved undershirt. The air temperature was in the upper fifties with a periodic chilly breeze, so I added my raincoat as an outer layer and windbreaker. The sky was bright blue with no clouds in sight, and the flows on the river were in the 285 CFS range and crystal clear.

Perfect Run and Shelf Pool

I hiked downstream for .3 miles and cut to the edge of the river, where I configured my line with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a 20 incher nymph, and a size 22 olive zebra midge. I covered a spectacular long run and shelf pool, but the fish were not cooperative, so I moved on toward the narrow island. Between the long run and the island, I landed a nine inch brown trout on the 20 incher, but several prime locations failed to produce, so I swapped the olive zebra midge for a blue-green perdigon. This combination was unproductive, and I once again paused to exchange the perdigon for a size 22 sparkle wing RS2. The trout provided another resounding thumbs down, as I worked my way along the south side of the island to the very top.

Soft Hackle Emerger

Managed Two from This Smooth Pool

Before approaching the smaller and shallower right braid next to the island, I sat on a nice rock and munched my lunch. After lunch I cautiously approached the right channel, and given the low water conditions, I decided to modify my approach. I switched to a peacock hippie stomper and trailed a beadless soft hackle emerger. A small brown trout responded to the hippie stomper, and I elevated the fish count to two, but I was sensing a tough day under the bright sun and clear skies. I made long casts with no positive results, until I arrived at the very top of the long pool, and a nice twelve inch brown trout sipped the soft hackle emerger in a bubble seam next to a large submerged rock. In the attractive feeder currents at the head of the pool, I witnessed a refusal to the hippie stomper, and then I moved on to short angled riffles on the north bank above the long pool. I sensed that trout were present and ignoring my flies, so I removed the soft hackle emerger and replaced it with a beaded size 22 sparkle wing RS2.

Trout Here

I methodically sprayed casts across the fifteen foot wide riffle, and as the hippie stomper bobbed along the north bank, it paused, and I immediately set the hook and found myself connected to a brutish fifteen inch brown trout. This proved to be the best fish of the day, and it inhaled the trailing sparkle wing. Unfortunately the trout escaped my net in the process of removing the fly, so I was unable to capture a photo.

Number Five

I continued prospecting the remainder of the narrow braid, but when I reached the very top, I crossed the upstream tip of the island and approached the nice deep pool and riffles bordered by a huge vertical rock wall on the south side of the river. I committed to experiment with streamer fishing, and this was my moment to pursue it. It was around 1:30PM, as I studied my fleece wallet and the messy flap that contained an assortment of streamers. I had decent success with classic bucktail and feather wing streamers, the gray ghost and Mickey Finn, in Iceland, so I gravitated to that style. Unfortunately the versions that I tied, when I first started fly tying, unraveled or lost bucktail fibers, but I did notice an Edson Tiger Light, that I tied in the same early stages of my fly tying career. The Edson Tiger light contained the same red and yellow bucktails as the Mickey Finn, so I plucked it from the fleece and knotted it to my line.

Sunk in the Net

I began to cast across the current to the vertical rock wall, and on the fifth cast and strip I felt a bump and then stripped and hooked a ten inch brown trout. Although I was expecting more size, I was quite pleased with my streamer success story. After I covered the lower half of the area, I waded up the river for ten feet, so that I was positioned across from the upper portion of the riffle, where the river deflected off the large rock. I threw some long casts across the current, and on the third pass I felt a solid shock, and I made another strip and connected with a fish. I immediately knew this was a bit larger, and sure enough, when the fish rested in my net, I inspected a chunky thirteen inch brown trout. It was a thrill to earn success on the Edson tiger light, a fly that I tied thirty-five years ago, when my skills were in their infancy.

Edson Tiger Light

I crossed the river to the north bank and worked my way upstream and cherry picked a few spots with deep troughs, but the river structure was not very conducive to streamer fishing. When I reached my original crossing point, I crossed back to the side of the river near the highway, and I ambled along the path to the top of the wide and deep pool below where my car was parked. I maneuvered the Edson tiger through some very attractive deep riffles and runs to no avail, and then I moved upstream thirty yards to a gorgeous shelf pool. Once again the trout were not kind to me, so I searched my fleece wallet once again and replaced the Edson tiger with an articulated streamer with dumbbell eyes and a clump of rust colored marabou. This fly was quite heavy, and I worked it diligently for fifteen minutes, but the trout were not interested.

By 3:00PM I was bored and weary, so I climbed the bank and returned to the Santa Fe and ended my day of fly fishing. Six trout was a rather anemic quantity; however, I landed a thirteen inch and fifteen inch brown. so that was rewarding. Catching two trout on the classic bucktail was another highlight of the day, and I definitely plan to construct more classic streamers and bucktails this winter. With my improved tying skills I look forward to this challenge.

Fish Landed: 6

South Boulder Creek – 10/15/2023

Time: 12:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 10/15/2023 Photo Album

When my son texted me on Saturday regarding a day of fly fishing on South Boulder Creek, I immediately checked the flows, and I was pleased to discover that they remained at 83 CFS, thus holding basically constant, since I checked on Monday, October 9. I responded to Dan with an affirmative, and I suggested that I pick him up at 10AM on Sunday morning. In addition to checking the water level, I used my Weather Underground application to review the weather, and the high temperature in Pinecliffe, CO, the closest town to South Boulder Creek, was predicted to be 55 degrees. All systems were go for a Sunday fly fishing adventure with my son; a rarity, as he juggles a career, being the father of a three year old, and spending quality time with his wife.

As planned, I picked Dan up at 10:00AM, and my grandson, Theo, appeared on the porch to offer me a soft pretzel shaped like an E. Dan and Theo baked soft pretzels on Saturday, and they formed four into the letters: T, H, E and O. I accepted Theo’s gracious gift and stuffed the pretzel into my lunch bag. By the time we drove from Louisville to the Walker Ranch Trailhead parking lot, prepared to fish and hiked down the Walker Ranch Loop trail; it was 11:45AM, so we immediately found a spot on a log in the sun and ate our lunches. I selected my Loomis two piece five weight, and I packed in my Under Armour undershirt and North Face light down coat. Before I began fly fishing, I pulled on my light down, but I never accessed the Under Armour shirt, as the air temperature and sun were warmer than I expected.

Opening Location

Fine Brown Trout

I began my quest for wild trout in a gorgeous pool along the left side of the creek, and within the first fifteen minutes I landed three small fish. Two were browns and one was a rainbow, and each of my first three flies produced a fish. I began with a peacock hippie stomper, beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. I was predictably optimistic, as I moved upstream, and another small trout attacked the hippie stomper to boost the count to four. That’s when the real challenge began. For the next couple hours I moved steadily upstream, as I prospected likely spots, and I managed to add one additional trout that sipped a size 14 gray deer hair caddis. The nymphs were ignored after the early flurry, and the hippie stomper attracted an abundance of refusals. I clipped off the nymphs and added the caddis on a two foot dropper behind the hippie stomper. The fish continued to focus on the hippie stomper via refusals, so I defaulted to a single deer hair caddis, and that resulted in the aforementioned trout. I moved on to some very attractive longer side pools, but the solo caddis was ineffective, so I eventually removed it and reverted to a red hippie stomper trailing a size 18 dark olive stonefly imitation, that I designed myself. Miraculously in a nice pocket around a bend, I spotted a fish in a depression in front of a submerged rock, and once I floated the double dries over its position, the fish darted to the surface to grab the stonefly imitation. The hungry stream inhabitant was a ten inch rainbow trout, and it boosted my fish count to six.

Dan Landed a Pair from This Area

Dan was also catching trout sporadically, and he now caught up to me, as we approached a gorgeous deep run with attractive shelf pools on each side. I spotted a rise, but the trout ignored the stonefly, so I replaced it with a soft hackle emerger, that I greased with floatant. I hypothesized that the small soft hackle fished in the surface could imitate small stoneflies or blue winged olives, but the theory never gained traction with the fish of South Boulder Creek.

Likely Fish Holding Spot

Another move upstream placed me next to a nice deep shadowed pool, and I could see two fish finning in the tail area. I flicked the double dry, but the fish did not respond, so I swapped the soft hackle emerger for a parachute black ant size 18. I was certain that the trout could not resist a large juicy terrestrial, but I was again proven wrong. In a final act of desperation, I exchanged the ant for a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis, and this fly was also treated like inert flotsam.

By this point is was 2:30PM, and another angler appeared in the nice pocket water ahead. I was weary and frustrated, and Dan readily agreed that it was time to leave and undertake the one mile hike from the creek back to the parking lot, so we quit for the day. Sunday was admittedly somewhat disappointing from a fish count perspective, but the weather was favorable, and we managed to land a few wild jewels from the clear tailwater. Most importantly I was able to spend some rare time with my son, and that was the most valuable gift for me on Sunday, October 15 on South Boulder Creek.

Fish Landed: 6

Big Thompson River – 10/10/2023

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Canyon below Lake Estes

Big Thompson River 10/10/2023 Photo Album

Last week on a trip with Amy and Jane to a relatively remote area in Colorado, I relapsed into my gastrointestinal illness. I was in a difficult situation, as there was only a couple outdoor hotspots, where I was able to obtain cell phone reception, and the closest pharmacy was thirty miles away. Fortunately I was able to connect with the office of my primary care physician, and we used scheduled call back times to generate a prescription at the closest town. Jane and Amy made the 1.5 hour roundtrip on Thursday, October 5, and this enabled me to initiate my dosage that same day. Although I missed two days of highly anticipated hiking with my wife and daughter, the medicine kicked in and alleviated my concern over the four hour return drive on Saturday.

By Monday I was feeling close to normal, and with another very fine autumn day forecast for Tuesday, I made plans for another fly fishing adventure. My initial thoughts revolved around South Boulder Creek, but when I checked the flows, I noted that they elevated from 5.6 CFS to 80 CFS in one single twist of the valve on Monday, so I was concerned that the dramatic change would impact the willingness of the trout to feed. I am convinced that large changes in stream levels require a period of adjustment for the cold water inhabitants. I moved on to look at other Front Range possibilities. I settled on the Big Thompson River, as the flows were 60 CFS, the high temperatures in Estes Park were in the 65 degree range, and fly shop reports were favorable. Based on past experience, I knew that 60 CFS represented nearly ideal flow rates.

Deep Run

I arrived at the highway pullout by 11AM, and the air temperature was 57 degrees. I wore a long sleeved undershirt, but that was the extent of my layering, as I was convinced that the temperature would quickly warm to comfortable levels. For my casting tool I chose my old Sage four weight, and after I hiked down the road a decent distance, I waded into the river (more like a creek) and began fly fishing at 11:30AM. To start my advance on the local trout population I armed my line with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper, a salvation nymph and a beadhead RS2. Quite a few flying grasshoppers flushed from the roadside vegetation, as I strolled along the shoulder of the road, and this prompted my choice of the pool toy hopper. Fall baetis hatches are prevalent on Colorado streams; and, thus, the RS2 nymph assumed a position on the end of my line.

In the first thirty minutes I progressed a short distance upstream, and I managed to fool one small six inch brown trout on the salvation nymph, before I adjourned for my lunch break on a wide flat rock in full sunshine. I also momentarily hooked a better fish on the hopper and temporarily connected with a smaller finned resident on one of the nymphs. Three refusals to the hopper were also part of the morning experience.

Nice Pastel Colors

After lunch I decided to downsize, and I replaced the hopper with a peacock hippie stomper while allowing the other nymphs to remain in place. In a short amount of time a small rainbow trout grabbed the hippie stomper, but then I suffered through an extended period with only stomper refusals to show for my efforts. I paused to reevaluate, and I concluded that the nymphs were not a desired food source, as nearly all the interactions with trout were on the surface. I nipped off the nymphs and replaced them with a size 14 light gray deer hair caddis on a twelve inch dropper. The stomper/caddis combination yielded a small brown trout that grabbed the caddis; however, most of the activity involved refusals to the hippie stomper.

Looks Promising

Respectable Brown Trout

Edge Water Produced

I removed the distracting hippie stomper and settled on a solitary deer hair caddis as my offering. I focused my casts to the small slow pools along the edge of the river, and I was rewarded with four very nice brown trout. This portion of my day elapsed between 1:00PM and 2:15PM. Eventually the caddis began to generate refusals as well, but I observed fairly frequent rises to surface foods that were too small to detect. I suspected a mid-afternoon blue winged olive hatch, so I clipped off the caddis and replaced it with a CDC BWO.


Rising Fish in This Area

The transition to the CDC BWO occurred, as I approached a long smooth pool that spanned the entire riverbed, and sporadic rises appeared throughout the pool For the next hour I cast the CDC BWO to rising fish, and I managed to boost the fish count from seven to ten. Two of the landed fish were medium sized browns; however, one was a very respectable chunky twelve inch rainbow. I made a significant number of casts throughout this time period, and the fish were by no means competing for my fly. Quite a few regular risers absolutely ignored my fly, and quite a few more looked at and refused the small CDC puffs. I swapped the CDC BWO for a soft hackle emerger fished with floatant on the body, but this ploy was ineffective. Near the end of my time on the water I converted to a size 22 CDC BWO with a small medium dun hackle, and this duped the rainbow trout, but it was also refused and ignored as frequently as the CDC BWO without hackle.

Flipped Around

By 3:30PM I progressed to the top of the run and pool, so I retreated along the south bank and crossed at the shallow water near the tail. The shadows lengthened across the river, and the absence of the sun’s rays sent chills through my back. I could have added my raincoat for an extra layer of warmth, but I attained double digits, and it was 3:30 and time to make the drive home.

Tuesday was a fun bonus day of fly fishing after another bout of illness, and I appreciated it. The action was not fast and furious; however, I managed to reach double digits, and at least four of the trout measured in the eleven inch range. Fishing dries in October is always appreciated, and I managed to formulate tactics to net a few nice fish with the caddis along the banks of the river. The weather is supposed to cool significantly over the next few days but then return to warmer temperatures Sunday through early next week. Perhaps I will post another fishing report before the cold weather moves in to stay.

Fish Landed: 10

Eagle River – 10/03/2023

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Private water near Eagle, CO

Eagle River 10/03/2023 Photo Album

My friend, Dave G., invited me to fish the private water of the Eagle River with him on Tuesday, October 3, 2023. Jane and I joined Dave G. and his wife, Beth, for dinner on Monday night, and then we stayed over in Eagle, CO.

Tuesday morning was very dreary with overcast skies and rain, so Dave G. and I took our time before departing for the river. When we arrived at the crude parking area, the air temperature was 46 degrees, but the sun broke through among heavy clouds. I chose my Sage R8 four weight and wore my North Face light down coat. We hiked a short distance to the A section, and we were positioned on the water fly fishing by 11:00AM.

I copied Dave G. and launched my pursuit of trout with a yellow fat Albert, a green-black Pat’s rubber legs, and a size 20 blue-green perdigon. In the early going I managed to land a small rainbow and brown trout on the perdigon, but then my fortunes tumbled, as I suffered through a lengthy fish drought. Dave G., meanwhile, was rocking, and his catches included a twenty plus inch cutbow.

Stunning Relatively Large Trout

Wide Riffle Was Productive

After a lengthy lull, I asked Dave G. for one of his olive-green perdigons (I will tie some of these this winter), and he obliged. I swapped the unproductive Pat’s rubber legs for a salvation nymph, and I exchanged my perdigon for the olive-green version from Dave G. I approached a  long and wide riffle that screamed trout, and I began to toss the three fly dry/dropper to the top of the section, as I covered all the feeding lanes. I fished from the top and moved steadily downriver for thirty yards, and I concentrated on the seam that bordered the fast moving main current. This section was easily my most productive on the day, as I landed four rainbows. The first netted fish was a football shaped sixteen inch rainbow that snagged the salvation nymph. The girth of this fish barely allowed me to get a grip around the body. The other three were fat gems in the fourteen inch range. I was beyond excited after this early afternoon session.

I Can Barely Get My Hand Around the Body

Faint Slash on This Cutbow

For the remainder of my time on the river, I progressed steadily upstream, and I doubled the fish count to twelve. Four of the additional catches were chunky thirteen and fourteen inch slabs that displayed iridescent pink and purple stripes. All the fish landed after the first two inhaled the olive perdigon except for number three which grabbed the salvation nymph.

Love This Head Shot

Screams Trout

Tuesday exceeded my expectations, and the size of the fish was superb. The weather gradually improved, although there were periods of heavy overcast with intermittent blasts of wind. I pulled on my rain shell as a windbreaker at lunchtime and added my billed hat with earflaps. More October outings such as Tuesday would be greatly appreciated.

Fish Landed:12

My Host, Dave G.