Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM
Location: Below Gross Reservoir
On 8/16/2023 I made a trip to South Boulder Creek after a long hiatus due to dam expansion construction, road closures, and high flows. I experienced a fun day with flows at 155 CFS, and I was excited to make a return. I mentioned the idea of a visit to South Boulder Creek to my young fishing friend, Nate, and he was interested as well. I sold him on visiting a scenic location, wild trout and a green drake hatch. It did not take much convincing, and we arranged to make the trip on Sunday, August 20. I am generally averse to fishing on weekends, but Nate’s only days off are Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday; so I made an exception.
Nate drove, and we used the route through Boulder, CO and Flagstaff Park and arrived at a very busy parking lot at the Walker Ranch Loop Trailhead on Sunday morning. We were relieved and pleased to discover open parking spaces. The air temperature was already in the low eighties, so we knew that Sunday was destined to be a hot day, and we both avoided thinking about the one mile uphill climb from the creek to the parking lot at the end of the day. Flows on the DWR web site were 144 CFS, and this represented a decline from August 16, but the water level was still higher than ideal in this angler’s opinion.
I assembled my older Sage four weight, and we departed on the wide dirt trail toward South Boulder Creek, and we reached our designated starting point by 10:45AM. The hike in was taxing in the warm temperatures, and we could not contemplate the mostly uphill return. I assembled a South Boulder Creek fly box for Nate that included parachute green drakes, green drake comparaduns, a user friendly green drake, some foam beetles, a couple Chernobyl ants, and a parachute hopper. We both began our search for wild trout at 11:00AM with a size 14 parachute green drake, and we were quickly vindicated for our choice, By the time we stopped for lunch at 11:45AM, Nate was on the board with six splendid trout, and I netted eight. Although Nate recorded fewer trout, he made up for that fact with larger fish.
At the start of our day on the creek, we were able to cross to the south bank, and we worked our way upstream on that side for most of the day. A few wide spots offered moderated flows, and enabled us to cross. I generally believe that fishing the side of the river opposite a road or pathway is more productive, and on Sunday we mostly followed this tactic. During the afternoon I observed six natural green drakes, as they made the ascent from the river. They were large dark olive blurs and they glided smoothly skyward to begin their adult lives.
I persisted with the parachute green drake for my entire stay on South Boulder Creek. For the last thirty minutes I added a size 14 light gray deer hair caddis as a second fly behind the green drake, and the caddis produced a pair of brown trout. Nate followed the same strategy for much of the day, but he also tested a user friendly green drake and a green drake comparadun in a double dry fly alignment. These trials produced a few fish, but we concluded that they did not match the pace of success that the single parachute dry yielded during the morning and early afternoon.
At one point in the afternoon Nate equaled his record for number of trout caught in a day at eleven, but a long dry spell with the double dry caused him to reevaluate. He plucked a royal madam X from his fly box, and instantly an inviting pool under an overhanging branch, that seemed lifeless with the double dry, jumped to life and produced two chunky brown trout. The madam X was a sure fired winner, and Nate jumped his fish count to eighteen on the back of the madam X. Actually Nate was not sure whether the count was seventeen or eighteen, but I grabbed the higher number to set the hurdle higher for his next outing.
By 4:30PM the action slowed to a snail’s pace, and the bright sun in a cloudless sky beat down on our beings. We were hot and weary, and we reached a convenient exit point, so we climbed a steep bank back to the path and hoofed it back to the parking lot. Of course a fair amount of perspiration was involved in the one mile climb, but we both agreed it was worth it for a total of forty-two fish landed in a spectacular setting.
This report would not be complete without an account of two incidents that were ancillary to our fly fishing. I knew water would be a valuable commodity on the predicted hot day, so I stuffed my water filter system in my fishing backpack, and after lunch I pulled it out and filled the small bladder with creek liquid. I was holding my larger hydration bladder with my left hand and squeezing filtered water into the large bag with my right hand, when a large black ant crawled across my thumb and tumbled into the bladder. What now? Initially I was willing to continue with ant flavored water, but Nate convinced me that was not a good idea. Credit goes to Nate for patiently tilting the bag on its side, and then giving it a quick lift which flooded the ant to freedom. He was able to complete this rescue with only a small amount of lost water. I did, however, filter a second batch and topped off my hydration bladder.
During the early afternoon Nate lost awareness of his position, and he flicked a backcast into an overhanging evergreen bough behind him. He was beside himself with frustration, although any angler knows that these events are part of the sport. The fly was on the end of the branch, and it hung approximately ten feet above the surface of the creek. Nate was skeptical that we could reach the branch, but I was not willing to surrender. I scanned the bank behind us, and I found a long and straight dead log that was approximately four inches in diameter and six feet long. I handed it to Nate, and he was able apply pressure and bend the branch downward, but he had a rod in his other hand, and he was unable to reach up while pressuring the branch. I took his rod and moved to his opposite side, and we tried a second time. I was now reaching as high as I could, but the tip of the bough remained a few inches beyond my grasp. I pulled my wading staff from my right side, and I used it to push downward closer to the tip than Nate’s pressure point, and a miracle happened. On one of my sweeps, the wading stick wrapped the line and dragged both flies free! If only we had a third person to record this stream rescue adventure. We must have looked like a crazy team.
Sunday was a superb outing for this addicted fly angler. I was able to introduce Nate to some new sections of South Boulder Creek and to the hot fishing that accompanies the presence of large green drake mayflies. I described it to him in conversation, but that was not the same as actually experiencing it live. Best of all I gained a companion for fishing my favorite Front Range stream. Hopefully the flows will decline more before the green drakes disappear from the South Boulder Creek menu.
Fish Landed: 24