Time: 11:15AM – 2:30PM
Location: Buttonrock Preserve
January, February and March have been consistently cold months during the winter of 2023, and I anxiously awaited a break that would enable me to visit a local stream to kick off the new season. When I checked the high temperatures in Denver for Friday, March 10, I noted sixty-one degrees, so I immediately checked some towns near Front Range streams. This process led me to Lyons, CO with a high of 59, so I decided to initiate my season on the North Fork of the St. Vrain northwest of Lyons. A quick check of the flows revealed 20 CFS, and although this was on the low side, I decided to give it a go. My history with opening days was not good, so I set my expectations low for Friday.
I arrived at the nearly vacant and muddy parking lot at 10AM, and the temperature on the dashboard registered thirty-two degrees. I was skeptical that 59 was attainable, but even more problematic was the gusting wind that sent chills down my spine, as I exited the car to gear up for my first day of fly fishing. I quickly pulled on my fleece hoodie and North Fork light down and then added my raincoat as a windbreaker. My bag yielded a New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps, and I searched through the fishing bag for my woolen fingerless gloves. This was evidently winter fishing and not the warm spring outing that I anticipated. My new Redington waders barely slid over my bulky layers, and when I slipped on my new backpack and front pack, I realized that the straps needed significant adjustment. By the time I had everything tuned up, my hands were stinging from the cold and wind, so I jumped back in the car and turned on the engine and listened to some sports talk for ten minutes.
Finally my hands were back to normal, so I tugged on my fingerless gloves and snapped on my front pack and backpack and assembled my newly repaired Sage four weight and began my hike on the dirt road that follows the creek. By 11:15 I arrived at my favorite starting point, and I was sheltered to some degree in the canyon, although the wind remained a nuisance throughout the day. I began with a size 8 yellow fat Albert and added a three foot dropper with a beadhead hares ear nymph, and these were my flies of choice for the 45 minute morning session prior to breaking for lunch at noon. The late morning creek exploration failed to yield a single landed trout, although a fairly nice fish crushed the fat Albert and immediately cleared the surface, before it shed the hook and escaped to freedom.
After lunch I exchanged the hares ear for a green and black Pat’s rubberleg in order to gain more depth, but the stonefly imitation was not on the menu. In the 45 minutes after lunch I prospected with the rubberlegs, bright green go2 caddis pupa, and ultra zug bug, but the subsurface offerings failed to interest the stream residents. I did, however, manage to hook and land a ravenous nine inch rainbow that slurped the yellow fat Albert, and I celebrated my first fish of the year. Unfortunately the little fighter wrapped the trailing rubberlegs and caddis pupa in an ugly snarl, and I spent five minutes untangling the mess.
By 1:30PM I approached a gorgeous long smooth pool with several swirling current seams, and before I could make a cast with the dry/dropper, I noticed a series of sipping rises. What could be bringing these trout to the surface? I decided to take advantage of the unexpected early season surface feeding, and I removed the nymphs and fat Albert and tied a size 24 CDC BWO to my leader. I spent ten minutes spraying casts to all the locales that revealed sipping trout, but the tiny mayfly imitation was soundly ignored. Were the fish eating small black stoneflies? I encountered them previously on this section of stream, so I knotted a size22 black bug to my line with a swept back poly wing. The move did not pay off. The flurry of rises seemed to follow strong gusts of wind, so I guessed that perhaps ants were blown from the trees into the creek. I stripped in my line and replaced the black stonefly with an olive size 16 deer hair caddis and then added a parachute black ant on an eight inch dropper. Some excellent drifts with the visible double dries were met with total disregard, so I returned to the dry/dropper that produced my only trout.
For the next hour until I quit at 2:30PM I prospected upstream with a size 14 peacock body hippie stomper, ultra zug bug and size 20 BWO soft hackle emerger. After a reasonable trial period the emerger got stuck in my frontpack mesh, and I bent it in the process of removing, so I replaced it with a size 20 sparkle wing RS2. One refusal to the hippie stomper was the extent of my action on the dry/dropper combination, so I hooked the RS2 to the rod guide at 2:30PM and retreated to the car. The sky was partly cloudy, and the wind continued to howl, as I tramped back along the road to the mud bound Santa Fe.
One fish in nearly three hours of fishing was not a stellar outing, but I was, nonetheless, pleased to land a rainbow in order to initiate the fish count for 2023. The cold and wind provided significant hurdles to success on Friday, although I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a brief hatch. I also broke in and adjusted new equipment, and that should prepare me for future fly fishing ventures. I am rooting for you, spring.
Fish Landed: 1