Monthly Archives: May 2024

Pine Valley Ranch Lake – 05/20/2024

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Pine Valley Ranch Park

Pine Valley Ranch Lake 05/20/2024 Photo Album

After a frustrating day on Saturday in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was eager to atone for a slow day of fishing. The day was useful in that it forced me to conclude that fishing freestones was no longer an option, until Colorado reached the downside of run off in 2024. My short stay at Sprague Lake, which produced a very nice brown trout, did elevate lake fishing to my upper level of consciousness.

I scanned the most recent stocking reports, and I noticed that Pine Valley Ranch Lake was stocked several weeks ago, so this became my destination for Monday, May 20, 2024. I am not a keen chaser of stockers, but a report of stocked trout assures me that the lake is free of ice, and also suggests a decent population of fish to be caught. I fished Pine Valley Ranch Lake numerous times over the past several years during run off, and I have generally experienced decent success.

I arrived at the lower parking lot in the park by 10:00AM, and ten vehicles occupied spots. Some were hikers and bikers, but obviously a number belonged to fishermen. I expected this given the recency of the stocking. The air temperature was 54 degrees, but the sun was bright, so I wore my fishing shirt over my short sleeved quick dry undershirt, and I stuffed my raincoat in my backpack in case I required additional warmth. I carefully fit together my Sage R8 four weight, and I departed for the lake at a brisk pace, I was anxious for a day of lake fishing.

Calm for a Short While at the Start

I skirted the north side of the lake along the North Fork of the South Platte River, and the river was rushing along at high velocity and very muddy. I surveyed the slough at the western end of the lake, but evidently the stockers did not dump fish in that area, as they have in the past, because I spotted no evidence of coldwater residents. I moved on and circled the western end of the lake and then situated myself on the south side with a very large gap between myself and the next group of anglers. I began my day at a gravel beach where a long fallen tree previously angled into the lake. It was no longer there, but I assumed that the area remained a haven for stocked trout.

Early Catch

I began my fly fishing efforts with a peacock body size 14 hippie stomper and a size 16 olive-brown body caddis adult. I spent twenty minutes firing medium range casts, and all I generated was refusals to the hippie stomper. It was attracting a lot of attention, but the fish were reluctant to close the deal. The wind kicked up and ruffled the surface, so I added a beadhead pheasant tail and beadhead hares ear below the hippie stomper. The hares ear never produced, so I replaced it with a supernova baetis and eventually a zebra midge. By 11:30AM I managed to land two rainbow trout on the beadhead pheasant tail along with many refusals and several foul hooked fish, when the trailing nymph connected, as I set the hook on a fake take.

Worthwhile

Some large puffy clouds blocked the sun, and the wind kicked up causing wave action, so I went through the hassle of removing the dry/dropper, and I converted to a streamer approach. I added a split shot above the last knot and then attached a black ghost and a black mini leech. I worked this combination aggressively for thirty minutes, before I paused for lunch, and all I could manage was a couple follows from small stockers near shore.

After lunch I ended my streamer experiment and returned to a single dry; the hippie stomper. Although the stomper was not a surefire answer to the trout feeding puzzle, it worked often enough to remain as the mainstay fly for the remainder of the afternoon. Initially the solo fly duped quite a few fish, but when a bevy of refusals returned, I once again added a caddis. The hippie stomper and caddis double dry offering dominated the afternoon until the last thirty minutes, when I replaced the caddis with a size 16 light gray comparadun.

Looking East from My Shoreline Location

I built the fish count from two to thirty over the four hours of afternoon fishing. The cycle of clouds, chilliness, wind and waves followed by sun and relative calm repeated itself. This iterative process in turn initiated surface feeding off and on, but I was unable to discern a trend of which conditions created the most favorable results for my flies. During the low light and windy periods, I was on the edge of my comfort zone, and I zipped my collar up as far as it would go and pulled my buff up to my ears. Even with this adjustment, I was on the verge of shivering from time to time.

How did I manipulate my flies? For the most part, I cast out thirty to forty feet and allowed the flies to rest for twenty to thirty seconds. I then gave the flies a quick twitch that created a small bulge, and then I paused. This was followed by a second such twitch, and if that failed to generate interest, I began a series of short strips to bring the flies back to my feet. Roughly fifty percent of the eats were slurps on the stationary flies after the cast, and the other half occurred after the first or second short strip.

One of the Better Trout

As I mentioned, two rainbows fell for the beadhead pheasant tail before lunch. After lunch the trailing caddis accounted for a few fish, and the light gray comparadun nabbed three fish in the last half hour, but the hippie stomper was the favored fly for the remainder of the landed fish. Numerous temporary connections and refusals were part of the equation, but foul hooked fish were no longer an issue.

Monday was my best day of 2024 in terms of quantity of fish. Obviously, they were all rainbow stockers with most of them being cookie cutter eleven inch trout. They displayed the silvery sides characteristic of stockers with minimal vivid markings such as one encounters with wild fish. Nevertheless, they required a ton of casting, and experimentation with flies and retrieves were necessary to achieve success. I had fun, and I plan to incorporate many more days of lake fishing in my schedule, as the rivers and streams bloat as a result of snow melt.

Fish Landed: 30

Sprague Lake – 05/18/2024

Time: 12:45PM – 1:45PM

Location: Western and northern shoreline

Sprague Lake 05/18/2024 Photo Album

I made the turn on to the Sprague Lake parking lot access road, and I instantly regretted my decision. The place was jammed with tourists. I crossed the bridge and made a right turn, and immediately I could see that cars were parked along the quasi-shoulder. I headed to the parking lot, but the three cars ahead of me stalled, as they waited for a car to depart from a space; and, thus, provide an open parking spot. I knew I was not going to snag a spot in the lot, so with no cars coming towards me on the one-way loop, I shot straight ahead for twenty yards and made a quick U-Turn and then secured a spot on the shoulder along with the rest of the mob.

I gathered my gear and hiked the short distance to the lake, and I was on the western shoreline. The trail that followed the lake was heavily trafficked, and I grew concerned about my ability to execute backcasts among all the hikers. I strode along the western edge of the lake while heading north, and I finally saw a gap with no trees, where I felt I could toss some casts. This part of the lake was quite shallow, so I decided to wade in a bit to generate clearance and enable shorter casts to deeper water. I was ten feet from shore, and I was now able to discern that the shallow depth continued out for quite a distance, so I decided to move on to the north shore, where I recalled from previous visits that the depth was greater. I attempted to lift my right foot to step backwards, but both my feet were now mired in the muck. The weight of my upper body shifted, but my legs did not follow, and I took a quick fall into the lake. I immediately righted myself, but it was not before some cold water spilled over the top of my waders. My wader belt contained most of the puddle, but some moisture managed to trickle down to my long underwear. Fortunately it got absorbed, before it reached my feet and socks, so I was spared the worst case scenario of sloshing feet. Adding to my state of distress was the pack of tourists who stopped to watch me fish, and they were now treated to a close up view of my pratfall. They kindly asked if I was OK, and I never heard laughter, although that probably commenced, after I departed.

Sprague Lake Under Overcast skies

What should I do now? I paused to assess the damages, and I determined that my right sleeve and right chest were very wet, but the water inside my waders was somewhat contained, so I gritted my teeth and decided to fish on. When I approached a small outlet stream, I paused to wash the mud off my right hand, and then I moved a short distance, until I was beyond the handicapped platform. Of course, by now some dark gray clouds moved in and blocked the sun, and this led to some gusting wind and a riffled lake surface. I carefully waded into the lake for fifteen feet, and I began laying out medium range casts. I was careful to glance backward before each casting action to make sure there were no human beings or bushes to interfere with my efforts. I fanned a series of casts from right to left, but the whole exercise struck me as quite futile. The waves and glare made it extremely difficult to follow the fat Albert, and the wind was causing the moisture in my shirt to evaporate, and this in turn was creating a significant chill in my core.

Brown Trout Was a Big Surprise

I decided to surrender, and I began to strip the hopper back toward me in rapid fire spurts. The hopper was actually skimming the surface, when a fish rose and swatted the imitation. This, of course, sparked some deep thoughts, and I removed the hopper and nymphs and converted to a double dry with a peacock hippie stomper and an olive body deer hair caddis.  When ready, I tossed the double dry in the vicinity of the aggressive follow of the hopper, and whack, a splashy rise consumed the hippie stomper. I was shocked, but I maintained my presence of mind long enough to set the hook. I expected an eight inch brook trout, but this fish was obviously larger than that as evidenced by its feisty effort to break free of my line. After a couple strong runs, I gained the upper hand and slid a wild thirteen inch brown trout into my net. I waded to the shoreline to snap a photo, remove the hook and release the fish; and as I was doing so, a group of Asian hikers approached. They were quite fascinated by my fish, and in broken English asked what type of fish it was. I informed them that it was a brown trout, and as they looked on, I allowed the prize catch to swim away to freedom. I suppose they were horrified to see such a nice piece of meat return to the lake.

Poised to Return

I was now optimistic about my prospects for additional action, so I once again fanned casts from right to left. The sky darkened again, and gusts of wind created mini waves. I allowed the flies to rest, and then I imparted quick strips or long strips, but none of these actions created any interest from resident fish. Once again I was quite chilled and some shivering began, so I decided to call it quits. Dry clothes and the warmth of the car were far more appealing than standing knee deep in a lake in wet clothing with hundreds of park visitors watching my every move.

Of course, when I returned to the car, the sun reappeared, and I questioned my hasty exit, but I returned to my senses and ended my day. After I removed my waders, I jumped in the backseat of the car to change out of my wet underwear, and of course a man was in the truck behind me with his engine running. In addition , a small herd of elk appeared in a little valley on the other side of the road, and a parade of tourists holding cameras and phones joined the proceedings. I exercised quite a bit of caution in my change over, as an arrest for indecent exposure would have punctuated my day with another dose of ill fortune.

The fishing on Saturday was not very exciting, but I encountered quite a few offbeat experiences to provide grist for an interesting report. Lakes and tailwaters are clearly my only options for the next month or more.

Fish Landed: 1

Glacier Creek – 05/18/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 12:30PM

Location: Glacier Creek below Sprague Lake

Glacier Creek 05/18/2024 Photo Album

The starting point for today’s fishing report is Mothers’ Day 2024. Last Sunday Jane and I visited Rocky Mountain National Park with the expectation of doing an auto tour in the rain. We threw rain pants and rain coats in the car, in case we could work in a short hike. On our drive from Denver to RMNP, the clouds parted around Boulder, CO; and we were able to enjoy a 5.6 mile hike along the Big Thompson River from the entry road to The Pool and back. Of course the visit afforded me the opportunity to scout out the streams in the park including Fall River, the Big Thompson and Glacier Creek. The Big T was running a bit high, but Fall River and Glacier Creek looked clear and reasonable for fly fishing.

I planned to leverage my first hand intelligence to repeat the trip on Wednesday, but I was intimidated by a weather forecast that called for high temperatures in the low fifties with rain in the early afternoon. I chose pickleball instead and deferred my trip to RMNP until Saturday. Of course, Thursday and Friday were gorgeous days with highs around eighty degrees, and I was concerned that these temperatures would accelerate run off in the park. I attempted to check fly shop reports, but they were purposefully vague or out of date, so I decided to take the plunge and make the trip. I was able to see flows for the Big T above Estes Lake, and they were significantly elevated from Mothers’ Day, so I targeted Glacier Creek.

I began my journey to Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday morning at 8:20, and I arrived at a fisherman parking lot off of Bear Lake Road by 10:15AM. Along the way I was detained by a long hold up in Estes Park due to road construction and a massive line of traffic waiting at the Beaver Meadows entry point. Needless to say, tourist traffic on the weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park is heavy. Jane and I entered at Fall River on Mothers’ Day, and in retrospect, I should have followed the same route on Saturday.

Two other cars preceded me to the fisherman lot, and one contained two young anglers, who departed for the creek ahead of me. While I was preparing to fish another fisherman arrived, and we compared notes on where we planned to fish. Based on that conversation I decided to fish directly across from the parking lot; while, Chris, the other fisherman, planned to hike upstream a ways to afford me space. The two young men had already headed downstream. The temperature was in the low sixties, so I pulled on my fleece hoodie, and I assembled my old Sage four weight for active duty.

High But Clear Glacier Creek

I ambled to a point along the creek, where a large fallen tree formed a natural dam, and I quickly focused on rigging my line with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear nymph and an ultra zug bug. I was finally ready to cast, and I looked up and spotted the two young men without waders casting to the creek approximately thirty yards upstream. They cut me off, and I uttered a few unkind words to myself and hooked my flies into the rod guides. I decided to explore downstream, but I would soon learn the fallacy of my decision.

First Small Brown Trout Came from This Spot

The Bear Lake Road that I drove to the parking lot was quite steep, and Glacier Creek followed the same topography and thus presented a steep gradient. I hiked for .6 mile along the top of the canyon ridge, and the combination of the high water and steep gradient created a situation that offered few trout holding locations. Finally I found a spot with a steep but negotiable grade to the creek, and I carefully made the descent.

LIttle Guy Was More Than Welcome

For the next hour and fifteen minutes I fished back up the whitewater chute that was named Glacier Creek. Most of the time was spent scrambling over rocks and trees and bashing through branches, as I sought the few slack water locations that might harbor a trout. Toward the beginning a small brown trout locked on to the ultra zug bug, but then my success rate tumbled to nonexistent. By noon I surrendered to the terrain, and I laboriously climbed the steep bank back to the sparse path and returned to the parking lot.

Foam Is Home Produced Number Two

Near the parking lot I spotted a few somewhat promising spots, so I paused to make some casts. By now I had switched the ultra zug bug for an emerald caddis pupa, and another small brown trout grabbed the caddis pupa, when I cast to a foam eddy on the opposite side of the creek.  I congratulated myself on catching two small brown trout in an hour and fifteen minutes of fishing in very adverse circumstances.

Number Two

Since I was back at the car, I pulled out my stool and munched my lunch. The car driven by the young guys was gone, but Chris’s car remained. Initially I planned to begin fishing, where I began the morning, but as I pondered the situation, I decided that the high and cold flows would be an issue along the entire creek, and perhaps a lake would be a stronger option. I returned all my gear to the car and made the short drive to Sprague Lake.

Fish Landed: 2

 

 

South Platte River – 05/13/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 3:15PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/13/2024 Photo Album

As a result of high winds, rain and a visit from my daughter I was unable to visit area streams between May 8 and May 13, 2024, so I was possessed with an abundant quantity of bottled up fly fishing energy. On Mothers’ Day, May 12, Jane expressed a desire to go for a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. We fully expected to remain in the car, while we completed an auto tour with perhaps a short hike in our rain gear, as dark gloomy skies and steady precipitation were present at our home in Denver. Jane’s decision proved to be a huge winner, as the dreary skies parted to reveal blue skies and sunshine, when we drove west of Boulder, CO.

One of the reasons Jane chose RMNP was in order to enter the park without a reservation. The reservation system kicks off on May 24, so we were not restricted in any way. By the time we arrived at the Fall River entrance, the air temperature was in the mid to upper fifties, and the trails and pavement were completely dry. After looping by Sheep Lake and the alluvial fan, we drove on toward Bear Lake, but we detoured through Moraine Park, where we found a parking space in a huge mud puddle. We were surprised at the number of vehicles and park visitors given the adverse weather in Denver, when we departed.

We  completed a 5.6 mile hike along the Big Thompson to The Pool and back, and a byproduct of the entire day was gaining unfiltered intelligence about the stream conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park. I checked out Fall River, the Big Thompson and Glacier Creek; and all three remained relatively low and clear and solid options for fly fishing.

I made plans to test the small streams in Rocky Mountain in the near term, but for Monday I had my eyes on the South Platte River at Eleven Mile Canyon. During my last trip to this fishery, I landed eighteen trout, and this represented my high water mark for 2024. Could I repeat this accomplishment? I was optimistic. The flows remained at roughly 130 CFS, and the weather was reasonable with a high of 61 degrees predicted. My only concern was the clarity of the river, since a fair amount of rain or snow hit Colorado over the weekend.

130 CFS and Slightly Stained

I arrived at my chosen roadside pullout by 10:30AM, and I immediately crossed the road to scan the river. I was a bit disappointed to note stained flows, but I decided to give it a test regardless of the clarity. I wore my light down North Face parka, and I avoided my hat with earflaps. If you follow this blog, you know that this was a major milestone for this 2024 fly fishing season for this avid angler. Once I was prepared, I crossed the road and walked downstream a bit to a crossing point, and by 11AM, I began casting from the bank opposite the road. I rigged my line with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a beadhead black mini leech and a flesh colored San Juan worm. After a fifteen minute trial period with no response, I removed the mini leech and replaced it with a weighted 20 incher to obtain deeper drifts, and a bit later I swapped the San Juan worm for a beadhead pheasant tail. In the half hour between noon and 12:30PM, I finally achieved mild success, as I landed two brown trout and one rainbow trout. These were relatively small trout in the ten inch range; however, I was pleased to finally get on the board. Two trout gobbled the pheasant tail, and one nipped the 20 incher.

First Fish of the DayRainbow Trout Before Lunch

At 12:30PM I paused for lunch on a small island in the middle of the river. After lunch, I continued my progression up the river, until I quit a 3:15PM. At 1:00PM I was stationed next to a long deep run, and a dark cloud obscured the rays of the sun. As expected the low light density initialed some surface feeding, and sporadic rises evolved into fairly regular feeding. I jumped at the opportunity to fish dry flies, and I quickly cut off the fat Albert and nymphs, and I replaced them with a double dry with a peacock hippie stomper in front and a trailing CDC BWO. Five or six trout made their presence known, and I began to lob across and downstream casts with quite a few upstream reaches to keep the line upstream of the flies. Unfortunately my flies were mostly ignored, until one aggressive feeder slurped the hippie stomper! This was number five, and I was quite pleased to guide it into my net.

Rising Trout to Blue Wing Olive Hatch in This Area

While the sky remained darkened by the clouds, I rushed to release the trout, but then I decided to experiment with a soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film. On the fifth cast a trout grabbed the emerger, as it began to swing at the end of the drift, but I was slow to react, and the fish quickly earned its freedom.

Late Afternoon Catch

Within minutes the clouds moved away and revealed the sun, and this weather change put an end to the hatch and the related feeding. I could see that it would be a while until the next significant cloud cover, so I reverted to the dry/dropper, and I rolled with the fat Albert, an ultra zug bug and a soft hackle emerger. The soft hackle emerger duped a small trout, and after a long lull, I replaced the soft hackle emerger with a beadhead hares ear, and the hares ear accounted for my last two trout to push my total fish count to eight.

I Like This Pocket Water Section

The last half hour was extremely slow with bright sunny skies, so I called it quits at 3:15PM and found a safe spot to cross the river to the steep bank on the opposite shoreline. I hoofed it back to the car and removed my gear. Monday was an average day in all aspects of fly fishing. I landed eight trout in four hours or two fish per hour, and this is a fairly average catch rate. The fish were all in the ten and eleven inch range. The weather was comfortable and the scenery was outstanding, so I regarded Monday, May 13 as a success. My next destination will, in all likelihood, be Rocky Mountain National Park, as I plan to take advantage of my scouting trip on Mothers’ Day.

Fish Landed: 8

South Platte River – 05/08/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 3:15PM

Location: Cheesman Canyon

South Platte River 05/08/2024 Photo Album

Four days of wind had me on edge and yearning for a day of fishing. Wednesday weather was not ideal, but at least the wind subsided, although the temperatures were forecast to be on the cold side. When will I ever be able to once again fly fish without wearing a hat with earflaps?

I checked the weather in Cotopaxi and Salida and Lake George, as I searched for a lower elevation fishing destination that might provide warmer temperatures. Lake George forecast highs in the forties, so I quickly eliminated that cold spot. The Arkansas River locales showed promise with temperatures in the low fifties; but I invited my friend, Nate, and he camped and fished the Arkansas over the weekend, so he was burned out on that large river. What about lakes? I scanned my list of lakes at lower elevation that would be ice free in early May, and I settled on Pine Valley Ranch Lake. When I proposed that spot to Nate, he countered with the South Platte River at Deckers or Cheesman Canyon. I pondered this, and came to the realization that the weather in those South Platte destinations would be similar to Pine Valley Ranch due to their proximity, so I agreed on the South Platte River.

I met Nate at a Park and Ride on Wednesday morning, and we continued on to the Cheesman Canyon Trailhead parking lot. Our preference was Cheesman Canyon with Deckers our back up, but we were fortunate to snag a parking space in the Cheesman lot. Fourteen vehicles preceded us, so we knew that we would encounter company on our river trip.

The dashboard thermometer registered 45 degrees, so I pulled on my long sleeved thermal undershirt, fishing shirt, fleece hoodie, and light down parka. For head gear I snugged on my billed cap with earflaps (will it ever be left behind?). I stuffed my fingerless wool gloves in my parka pockets, and then I assembled my Sage One five weight, and I was ready for action. Nate also wore layers, and he decided to carry two rods into the canyon; a light three weight for dry flies and his fast action Douglas four weight for dry/dropper and nymphs.

We completed a 1.5 mile hike and found a spot among the massive rounded boulders to begin our day of fly angling. I rigged up with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, flesh colored San Juan worm and size 18 beadhead pheasant tail. Nate spotted some large fish in a pool a bit downstream from our starting point, so he shuffled over to the river to begin casting his four weight. As I rigged my indicator nymph set up, Nate returned with a frown on his face and held up his fly rod. Instantly I recognized the cause of Nate’s sadness, as one of the sections of the rod was split in two. Nate broke his rod, and he was not even certain how it happened. What can one say to comfort a fellow angler, who encounters such misfortune at the outset of the day? The only positive was the presence of his three weight that he transported into the canyon along with the four weight, so he had the wherewithal to continue fishing albeit with an undersized three weight fly rod.

Gorgeous SpotsAnother Before Lunch Brown Trout

In the hour before lunch we progressed up the river, and I was able to land three quality brown trout. All three grabbed the beadhead pheasant tail, and all sported deep yellow coloring, and the size range was between twelve and thirteen inches. All three were hooked by blind casting, and the trout seemed to materialize from a sandy bottom, where I was unable to observe fish of any kind before casting.

Number Two From Here

After lunch Nate crossed the river, while I remained on the side next to the main trail. In this way we could work upstream in parallel rather than adopt a hopscotch approach. The river at 270 CFS was easy to fish from both sides simultaneously. I suffered through a long fish drought between 12:15 and 2:30PM, as I cast repeatedly to long sweeping runs, deep current seams and moderate riffles, but the fish were averse to approaching my offerings.

Nate Focused After CrossingLooking Down on Nate from High Above in the Canyon

After this long fishless period, I paused and replaced the San Juan worm with an orange scud. Voila! Not long after the transition, my indicator dipped, and I swiftly raised my arm and connected with a burly brown trout. This fifteen inch fighter proved to be the best fish of the day, and upon inspection in my net I realized that it sucked in the orange scud. It was gratifying to experience success so soon after a fly change. The prize catch emerged from a short but deep trough in front of a submerged boulder in an area that frankly looked rather marginal. I thanked the fishing gods and moved farther upstream.

Lemon Butter Brown, Best of the Day

One hundred yards beyond my fourth catch, I approached a long sweeping run that angled away from my bank and then curved straight down the river. I began flicking backhand casts to the top of the run, and allowed the nymphs to tumble through the slower moving deep center trough between two rushing deep runs with current seams. Suddenly the indicator dipped, and I was connected to another head-shaking brown trout that also measured in the fourteen inch range. In this case the fighter displayed the beadhead pheasant tail in its lip.

Last Fish Was a BeautyHome of Number Five Was Straight Ahead

I fished on for another fifteen minutes, but I was unable to repeat my success story, so I hooked my fly to the rod guide and called it a day at 3:15PM. My feet were chilled as was my core, and I was ready for the two plus mile hike back to the parking lot. Meanwhile, Nate was across from me, and he eagerly agreed with the decision to leave. He landed one very nice rainbow on the day, but he was overwhelmed with frustration. The broken four weight forced him to utilize his three weight, and the combination of the weighted dry/dropper, wind and undersized rod led to an abundant quantity of tangles. Nate suggested that he probably spent more time untangling his line than fishing.

Scenic View on Return Hike

Our return hike took one hour and twenty minutes, and the parking lot had thinned considerably. We quickly removed our waders and prepared for our return trip. My expectations for a day in Cheesman Canyon are always tempered by the selectivity and wariness of canyon trout. A five fish day in the canyon is a huge success in my opinion, and the quality of the brown trout was first rate. The weather was definitely chilly, but for much of the time I was shielded from the worst wind. One section that ran east to west between sharp bends challenged me with a headwind, and this in turn led to some significant shoulder fatigue. It had been quite a while since my last visit, and I was reminded of the beauty of the wonderful state that I live in. Spaced out ponderosa pines, massive round boulders, and red sandstone gravel are the signature qualities of the canyon, and I love them all. Five wild trout were icing on the cake.

Fish Landed: 5

Clear Creek – 05/01/2024

Time: 1:30PM – 3:15PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 05/01/2024 Photo Album

In order to set the stage for today’s report, I must begin with a prologue. I am a user of Instagram, and yesterday’s feed from @charliesflybox included a piece by Max about fishing with small streamers on Clear Creek. He suggested the method as an effective tactic for catching fish on small Front Range streams at this time of the year. This caught my attention.

The second part of my prologue involves my other passion, pickleball. Our favorite courts at Charles Whitlock Recreation Center were shutdown yesterday, Tuesday, as a result of an ordinance that requires courts to be more than 350 feet away from residences due to paddle noise. Yesterday was the last day that Whitlock was available, so our fun group held a party after and during pickleball competition. Jane and I transported our charcoal grill and cooked brats and hot dogs, and others chipped in with the usual picnic fare. We had a great time and bid farewell to our old friend, the Whitlock courts.

Of course, the Whitlock crew questioned each other about our new pickleball venue, and many stated that they would shift their playing time to Prospect Park. Wednesday, May 1, was our introduction to Prospect, and I decided to do a combined pickleball and fly fishing day and packed the car accordingly. After I ended my morning pickleball session, I munched my lunch on the lip of the hatchback, and then I drove to my chosen destination; nearby Bear Creek.

I usually check the DWR flows for area streams, before I commit to a destination, but Wednesday was one the few times, when I overlooked my standard practice. My rare lapse proved to be a mistake. When I pulled over in a wide pullout, I immediately strolled over to the bank to survey the stream, and I was disappointed to see high murky flows. I walked along the path for a bit, and due to the high volume of water, I concluded that the number of fish holding lies would be few, thus, requiring excessive walking and bushwhacking. Clarity was also an issue, although I suspect that it would have been acceptable in slow moving protected spots along the bank. I made a quick decision to short circuit my Bear Creek plan, and I departed for home, however, I quickly decided to detour to Clear Creek in the canyon to scout out that nearby stream. When I returned home on Wednesday after fishing, I checked the Bear Creek flows, and they were indeed elevated at 114 CFS. The graph depicted a huge jump on Saturday, which coincides with the timing of a heavy rainstorm, although I suspect that run off explains the continued rise in water three days later.

Jane and I hiked the Peak to Plains Trail on Sunday, and based on that visit, I knew that Clear Creek was flowing high and stained, but I was hopeful that three days allowed the volume to subside and clarity to improve. When I arrived, I immediately scanned the creek only to realize that the flows remained a bit high, and turbidity remained an issue. In spite of this, I decided to give it a go. I recalled the @charliesflybox Instagram piece, and I decided to commit to small streamers. The air temperature was in the low sixties, so I wore only my fishing shirt with no extra layers, and I rigged my old Sage four weight. I searched in my fishing backpack, and I retrieved my sinking tip line and reel, and I attached it to my four weight rod while dropping my four weight floating line in my backpack in case I decided to convert my method later.

Black Ghost Was a Star Performer

Once I was prepared, I crossed the highway and dropped down the steep and rocky bank to the north side of Clear Creek, and I began to fire long casts and roll casts to the slow moving shelf pool on the opposite side of the stream. My initial fly choice was a black ghost, and I trailed a go2 caddis pupa on an eighteen inch tippet from the eye of the streamer. I was unable to generate strikes or follows, but it was difficult to get swings of any depth due to the strong current pulsing down the center of the creek between me and the flies. After ten minutes, I was quite chilled, as a strong cool breeze swept down the canyon, so I retraced my steps to the car, and I added my fleece hoodie and a rain shell. Some gray clouds were building in the western sky, and I deemed it prudent to have rain protection.

Rainbow Home

When I returned to the creek, I crossed the footbridge and followed the Peak to Plains Trail a short distance, until there was a break in the fence, where I could safely descend to the south bank of Clear Creek. I was now perched next to the soft shelf pool, that I was attempting to reach from the other side. I began looping upstream casts, three-quarters casts, and across and down casts; as I concentrated on working the streamer through the slower moving water above and below me. I altered the speed and depth of my retrieve, and I was pleasantly surprised to feel a bump. I persisted and eventually felt a smack and hooked a nice ten inch rainbow trout with a black ghost in its lip.

Head Shot with Black Ghost

Rainbow Stretched Out

For the next 1.5 hours this game continued, and I landed three trout in total. As I just mentioned, the first was a rainbow, and the next two were small brown trout. All three grabbed the black ghost, and I discovered that the most effective offering was to allow the flies to swing below me and then pause and then strip and pause and strip and pause. In addition to the landed trout, I connected briefly with two more fish, and I felt a couple additional bumps.

Brown Trout Like Black Ghosts Too

The last thirty minutes were fruitless, and I feel the lack of decent holding water was the culprit. I encountered a few relatively nice slower moving sections below large bankside rocks, but the problem was the thick willows along the bank. I was forced to wade along the edge, and I suspect that I scared the fish in the lower portions of the targeted areas. My early success came from the lower sections of the shelf pools, when I dangled and stripped the fly back along the stream edge. If I try this approach again, I will fish downstream, and thus avoid the spooking situation.

Remembering Max’s advice saved my day, and I managed to land three trout, but it was definitely a learning experience, and I look forward to more experimentation with streamers in the early run off season.

Fish Landed: 3