North Fork of the White River – 09/27/2023

Time: 10:45AM – 5:00PM

Location: National Forest

North Fork of the White River 09/27/2023 Photo Album

After a promising start to my Flattops trip on my arrival day, Tuesday, I was rather excited for a full day outing on Wednesday, September 27. Would I be disappointed? For Wednesday’s adventure I chose a different section of the North Fork. The temperature when I departed from the Pine Cabin was 42 degrees, so I was in no rush to begin my fly fishing day. I was favorably surprised that the temperature was 57 degrees, when I pulled into the parking space next to my chosen trailhead. The sun was warming the atmosphere quickly, and the deep blue sky was devoid of clouds. I pulled on my rain shell for a bit of warmth, but I stuffed it in my backpack after thirty minutes of fly fishing, rock scrambling, and log rolling. My fly rod choice was my Loomis two piece five weight. The Loomis stick is shorter than my Sage options, and it offers a slower action, which I favor for casting large foam flies, dry/droppers and double dries.

Great Beginning

Typical Brawling Section

By the time I was ready and hiked to the creek, it was 10:45AM, and I noted this as my start time. I knotted a size 8 tan pool toy to my 4X tippet and then added a 20 incher on a relatively short dropper. The two fly combination yielded four trout, before I paused for lunch at 11:45AM. Two were ten to eleven inch cutbows, and two were smallish brook trout. Two of the morning catch smashed the hopper and two nabbed the 20 incher. The beginning portion of the section I chose was characterized by high gradient; and, therefore, lacking prime deep pools and long runs, so I was reasonably pleased with my morning.

Vermiculation Impressive

Roy G Biv Example

Home to Trout

After lunch, however, my concern over a lack of action increased. Admittedly the creek continued to rush downward at a rapid pace, so attractive spots continued to be a scarce commodity, but I plateaued at seven after two hours of intense fly fishing. I decided a change was in order, so I elected to try a double dry that featured the trustworthy peacock hippie stomper along with a medium olive body size 14 stimulator. The stimmy attracted a fish almost immediately, but when I moved on to the lower end of a spectacular pool, I witnessed a long look and rejection from what appeared to be a respectable rainbow. Rather than moving on, I did what I rarely do, and I swapped the stimulator for a size 14 light gray deer hair caddis. I launched at least twenty casts to the sighted trout, and it looked a few times, but it refused to eat my offerings. I shifted my attention to the equally attractive top half of the pool, and I managed a very brief connection. After five minutes of frustration, I flicked a downstream cast beneath a branch, so that the dries drifted over my reluctant friend. It worked, and the trout rose and drifted back under the hippie stomper and eventually nipped it. I followed the entire act and set the hook expeditiously, but the rainbow cleared the surface and slipped free.

Copper Tone

Yellow to Orange Belly

A few more pools failed to ignite confidence in the caddis, so at 1:15PM I replaced it with a salvation nymph on a short leader that remained from the double dry set up. I finally stumbled into fast action, and over the remainder of the afternoon I elevated the fish count from ten to forty-two! The hippie stomper and salvation were constants, but I also experimented with several flies in the middle position that included a tan caddis pupa, a yellow PMD emerger, an iron sally, an ultra zug bug, a yellow emergent caddis pupa, and an emerald caddis pupa. This entire group of add on flies probably accounted for three fish, but two were quite nice and deeply colored cutbows. The overwhelming favorites for the fish were the hippie stomper and the salvation nymph, and I estimate they split the catch 50/50.

Rare Pool As Wide as Creek Bed

On Display

What about the quality of the trout? It was outstanding. Approximately twenty netted fish were brook trout, and as expected quite a few were in the six to seven inch range, but I also played my share of ten and eleven inch trophies with hooked jaws and pumpkin colored bellies. The other twenty plus trout were robust wild cutbows, rainbows and cutthroats. In the latter stages of my outing I landed at least three gorgeous cutbows in the form of thick slabs that measured fourteen and fifteen inches. These catches were gratifying prizes. In addition, I probably landed ten rainbows and cutbows in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and these were much appreciated within the confines of the relatively small creek. The cutbows and cutthroats were deeply colored with that light copper background body and large black spots accented by a thin red stripe, red cheeks, and the iconic orange slash.

Zoomed in a Bit

Pointed Toward Home

What a day! My slump on Clear Creek was in the rearview mirror, and hopefully my body can hold up for another full day on Thursday. The weather is forecast to be spectacular once again.

Fish Landed: 42

North Fork of the White River – 09/26/2023

Time: 1:30PM – 4:30PM

Location: National forest

North Fork of the White River 09/26/2023 Photo Album

After a rough outing on Clear Creek on Friday, September 22, I was anxious to atone. I suffered through a severe illness from Labor Day through September 19, and I was feeling well enough to resurrect the idea of a Flattops trip. I did it. Jane helped me book three nights at the Pine Cabin at the Ute Lodge from Tuesday, September 26 through Thursday, September 28 and departing on Friday, September 29. I was undecided about whether to fish on my departure day, but I decided to allow the quality of the fishing to dictate that decision. Another factor prompting my decision to undertake the Flattops trip later that usual was the weather. I had reconciled myself to the fact that my annual trip was not in the cards, until I examined the Weather Underground forecast. The closest stations were in Yampa, CO and Meeker, CO; and both predicted highs in the low to upper seventies with virtually no threat of precipitation. Surely I needed to take advantage of this window of prime fall weather.

I departed Denver at 8:15AM on Tuesday morning and arrived at my chosen fishing destination by 12:40PM, and I elected to chow down before preparing to fish. As forecast, the temperature was in the mid-sixties, so I chose to wear only my fishing shirt and stuffed my raincoat in my backpack. With the expectation to tangle with some hot fish, I assembled my Sage R8 nine foot four weight. The only negative through my three hours of fishing was a fairly persistent wind.

Great Beginning

I began my quest for rainbows and cutbows with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper and a size 12 beadhead prince. In the first nice deep pocket, a feisty rainbow gobbled the prince, and I was on my way. Next a pair of small rainbows barely over six inches grabbed the prince, but this welcome but underwhelming action was accompanied by quite a few looks and refusals to the hopper. Number four emerged from a prime deep run to smash the hopper, and this reinforced my belief in the pool toy, but another string of refusals caused me to reevaluate.

Slick Behind the Rock


Keeping Wet

I elected to swap out the pool toy for a size 8 yellow fat Albert, and then I added a 20 incher and a salvation nymph. This combination clicked, and I boosted the fish count from four to twenty by the time I quit at 4:30PM. Eight of the trout landed on the dry/dropper combination ranged in size from twelve to fifteen inches, and these cutbows and rainbows were hard charging and thick wild fish. The fifteen inch beauty was a certifiable wide slab with gorgeous scarlet coloration. Of course, the remainder of the trout were small juveniles in the seven to ten inch slot, but they were colorful jewels in the backcountry setting. One of the trout in the five to twenty count sequence nailed the fat Albert, and the remainder snatched the salvation or 20 incher. I estimated that the salvation outperformed the 20 incher by 60% to 40%. I covered a lot of water in three hours by skipping marginal spots, as I cherry-picked deep runs and large pools. It seemed that depth was the main factor that attracted trout and particularly the larger fish.

Foam Line Promising

Dense Spots

Of course , a day would not be perfect without a bit of adversity, and I endured my dose of hardship. I was paused on six trout, when I approached a gorgeous narrow pool and deep run. I landed two very fine rainbows, and then I tossed a cast to a promising spot where two currents merged to form a deep V slot. The hopper paused, and I quickly set the hook and connected with what felt like a decent fish. Before I could gain control, however, the obstinate fighter turned its head, and the fly slid free. The pent up energy caused the flies to slingshot around a dead branch high above me. I was not ready to surrender these flies, so I started breaking off the lower branches. I made progress, but the dead branch that captured my flies was out of reach. I found a large rock that boosted my reach, so that I could grab the target branch just beyond the junction with the main trunk, but in spite of being dead wood, it remained strong enough to resist breaking. I inched my hands outward on the branch, but I lost my grip and fell backward into the edge of the river. Fortunately I landed on my backpack, so there was no bodily injury, but in spite of my quick response in righting myself, my shirt and undershirt were soaked, and spillover ice cold water slowly trickled down my long underwear and saturated my socks. On a positive note I limited the overflow enough, so that my feet were not sloshing in their neoprene booties.

Red Cheek and Matching Red Spot on the Tail

Under the Evergreen

As a footnote, after my spill I grabbed one of the dead branches that I broke off early on, and it had a notch, which I was able to hook over the dead branch that held my flies. I applied minimal pressure, and the end of the branch tumbled into the edge of the river, where I quickly grabbed it and untangled and recovered my flies. Why didn’t I try this sooner? I was roughly half way to my exit point, so I had no recourse except to grimace and move. When I was in the sun, I remained fairly comfortable, but the shade and wind put me between chilled and shivering. My shirt dried somewhat, and the wet suit effect caused the wet socks and long underwear to warm a bit, but the remainder of the afternoon was a bit of a struggle. Fortunately the post-fall period coincided with steady action and upstream movement, and this distracted me to some degree from my wet sponge state.

Another Fine Rainbow

Tuesday was a fun day on the North Fork of the White River. I gained confidence after my tough outing on Clear Creek, and I landed twenty fish including ten robust fighters in the twelve to fifteen inch range. I solved the puzzle and eventually found fly combinations that met the criteria of the local trout. I look forward to tomorrow and another Flattops adventure.

Fish Landed: 20

Clear Creek – 09/22/2023

Time: 11:15AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Idaho Springs

Clear Creek 09/22/2023 Photo Album

Friday was a success simply because I returned to fly fishing after a long hiatus due to injury and illness. The fly fishing itself was beneath my expectations, but being on a stream instead of tethered to my home was an improvement in my book. My last outing was on Maroon Creek on 08/30/2023, so I endured a 23 day layoff. I will not go into details here, but my woes began on the pickleball court, when I extended to return a shot by the net, stumbled and crushed my mouth in the metal net post. The pratfall necessitated three stitches, but the worst of it was the prescription for antibiotics to prevent infection. The pills caused an adverse reaction in my gastrointestinal tract, and I suffered for two weeks before I felt like a functioning human being again.

Lunch View

For my return outing, I did not want to travel too far, in case I suffered fatigue or a relapse, so I elected to test the waters of Clear Creek. In retrospect I should have paid more attention to the weather, because it was not very pleasant. When I arrived at the pullout, the dashboard thermometer registered 51 degrees in spite of an inviting 64 degrees, as I passed through Golden, CO. Adding to the discomfort was a cold wind that blasted along the top of the ridge overlooking the creek. I pulled on my fleece hoodie and topped it with my rain shell, but I decided against my hat with earflaps. That proved to be a poor decision, as I was chilled nearly my entire time on the narrow and largely shaded creek. Adding to my discomfort were my feet which turned into frozen stumps after an hour of wading.

Small But Pretty

The results of my upstream quest for trout certainly did not justify this taste of early winter-like fly fishing. I landed three small cutthroat trout during 3.5 hours of relatively intense fishing. In addition I hooked two temporarily that managed to quickly slip free, and I netted three tiny juveniles that did not meet my six inch threshold to count. Unlike an earlier trip to this area, I hardly saw any fish beyond those that I just mentioned. Normally steady action is accompanied by numerous looks and refusals, and fish that scatter upon my approach, but on Friday, this was not the case. I am baffled by this circumstance and can only hope that the creek is not the victim of an overzealous summer catch and kill crowd.

A Productive Spot

For flies I cycled through a peacock hippie stomper, size 16 gray deer hair caddis, beadhead salvation nymph, beadhead hares ear nymph, tan pool toy hopper and size 10 parachute hopper. I was really convinced that the realistic looking parahopper combined with the salvation nymph would unlock the code, but other than a pair of nymph eaters, it was not the ticket to success.

Coiled for Release

By 3:00PM my club feet condition forced me to exit and climb up the long bank and return to the Santa Fe. Adding to my resumption of fly fishing woes was a two hour and forty-five minute return drive due to road repairs on Interstate 70 just west of Wadsworth Blvd. Normally this trip takes one hour and fifteen minutes. Hopefully I can bounce back with more decent outings in what remains of September and October, before cold temperatures once again sideline this avid angler.

Fish Landed: 3

Maroon Creek – 08/30/2023

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Between Aspen Highlands and Maroon Lake

Maroon Creek 08/30/2023 Photo Album

Wow. I explored another high elevation mountain stream in Colorado. How was it? Read on.

In August of 2022 my wife, Jane, and daughter, Amy, accompanied me on an e-bike excursion from Aspen Highlands to Maroon Lake and back. Along the way I was in awe of Maroon Creek, as it tumbled along the valley floor toward its junction with the Roaring Fork River near Aspen, CO. I knew that one needed to take a shuttle from May through October to reach Maroon Lake and the fabled photography site for the Maroon Bells. Would the shuttle drop off fishermen at points in between? Fishing before and after the shuttle period was another option, but November and April would be quite chilly at that elevation. My daughter pointed out that autos were allowed to drive before 8:00AM or after 5:00PM. Given all the logistical issues with accessing Maroon Creek, I was convinced that the fishery was lightly pressured and worth the effort to explore.

On Wednesday, August 30, fly fishing on Maroon Creek became a reality. As I prepared for the Maroon Creek adventure, I called the White River National Forest ranger district office in Carbondale. The folks there were extremely helpful, and I found myself at the East Maroon Portal on Wednesday morning at 8:30AM. The air temperature was fifty degrees, so I procrastinated my preparation for thirty minutes, while I waited for the sun to rise and warm the high elevation valley. Eventually I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and pulled on my fleece and rain shell, and I crossed the pedestrian bridge to access the Maroon Creek Trail on the east side of the creek. The temperature eventually rose into the seventies, and I shed my rain shell, but I removed and added back the fleece several times during the day in accordance with the fluctuating cloud cover.

Massive Pool

The man that I spoke to at the ranger district office mentioned a huge and very popular pool downstream from the bridge crossing, and the young lady at the welcome station echoed his recommendation, so I veered to the left and wandered downstream along the trail for forty yards. Sure enough, a huge horseshoe shaped pool appeared where the creek made a sharp, greater than ninety degree bend. Wide shelf pools existed on both sides of the main current which deflected off the eastern bank and turned back toward the northwest. I found a gap in the bushes to allow unobstructed backcasts on the eastern bank, and I rigged with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper and a salvation nymph. I was new to the pool and somewhat intimidated by the size, but I began lobbing casts to the main current. The entire area was shrouded in shade, but a glare made following my fly difficult, as it bounced along the entering center current. Much to my surprise, as I was prospecting left, right and straight ahead; several rises appeared. I attempted to spot some casts in the vicinity of the surface feeders, but I managed only a refusal for my efforts. At least five rises were visible, so I decided to abandon the dry/dropper and switched to a single olive-brown size 14 deer hair caddis. A caddis is always my go to default, when I am uncertain about the source of trout feeding, but in this case the ploy failed, and after fifteen minutes of futile casting, I surrendered to the pool and resumed my original plan.

I walked back to the bridge and picked up the Maroon Creek Trail which paralleled the creek southward to the junction of East and West Maroon Creeks. A crude estimate on the parking lot map suggested that the creek ran a mile from the East Maroon Creek Portal to the confluence, so I hiked for .3 mile to get away from the parking lot but also to allow sufficient stream distance to cover over the course of the day. The trail began to angle uphill and away from the creek, so I cut through the woods and quickly found a space between the trees to access the creek.

This Small Pocket Produced Quite a Few Trout

Big Mouth

Between 10:00AM and 3:30PM I battled my way southward, and I landed thirty-six trout. This sounds like a resounding success, but this fish count was achieved with a large amount of adversity. The gradient for the .7 mile of creek coverage was rather severe, and this limited the fish holding lies quite a bit. At least four times I was forced to bash through thick bank vegetation in order to advance due to very swift current across the entire creek bed accompanied by thick brush and bushes tight to the water. The other downside was the size of the fish. Of the thirty-six fish that rested in my net, thirty-four were brook trout, and the largest of these catches stretched the measuring tape to ten inches. The predominant length was six inches, but these char made up for lack of size with their brilliant display of colors. Orange bellies, white-edged fins and elaborate patterns of aqua, green, yellow and purple vermiculation on the backs of these fish dazzled my eyes. Two of the landed trout were cutthroats, and these were eleven and twelve inch fish that offered significant pound for pound resistance.

So Pretty

Lots of Orange

I cycled through a range of flies during my day on the rapidly tumbling mountain stream, but the top producers were the size 8 tan pool toy hopper and a size 14 peacock hippie stomper. During the early morning session I utilized a deer hair caddis, the pool toy with a salvation nymph and then a prince nymph. By lunchtime at 11:45 these flies produced sixteen trout, but in truth all but one smacked the pool toy hopper. Ten of the sixteen trout came from two honey holes that featured slow current and at least four feet of depth. If I could find productive water, the fish were there.

Rare Trout Holding Spot

After lunch I switched to a single classic Chernobyl ant for the exceptional floatation qualities, but it only induced one take. Next I tried a yellow size 8 fat Albert with a salvation nymph dropper, and this combination delivered another hungry brook trout, but clearly I was bypassing some attractive spots with no success. I paused and analyzed the situation, and I converted to a single dry fly in the form of a tan-bodied size 14 chubby Chernobyl. I was optimistic about this fly, but it attracted one fish and then failed to produce thus provoking another change.

Under Control

For the remainder of the afternoon I cast a double dry offering, and the one constant was the hippie stomper. I boosted the fish count from eighteen to thirty-six, and the stomper was complemented with a purple haze and parachute green drake; and toward the end, the hippie stomper was fished solo. The purple haze and green drake accounted for a combined total of five fish, so the hippie stomper was the overwhelming star of the afternoon and only trailed the pool toy on the day.

Prime Pool

Pool Resident

Upper End of Pool Produced As Well

Toward the end of my adventure on Maroon Creek I encountered some massive deep pools upstream from some huge log jams. The water was over six feet deep with a significant amount of dead logs, and these locales harbored quite a few colorful brook trout. As I moved upstream, I monitored the surrounding terrain, and for awhile both sides of the creek featured steep banks, and I grew concerned about my ability to find an exit point. Beyond the last deep pool, the left ridge moderated, and when I approached a spot that was clear of trees and bushes, I decided to take advantage. At 3:30 I tucked my fly in the rod guide and mounted the bank, and then I ambled perpendicular to the stream through some tall grass and thistles, until I intersected with the trail. One mile later I was back at the parking lot and climbing out of my waders.

Cutthroat Number Two

Home of Cutthroat

Maroon Creek certainly ranks among my favorite outings of 2023, but unlike others that featured large fish or quantities of fish, the appeal of Wednesday was the feeling of remoteness and venturing, where others may not have attempted. I also felt a sense of accomplishment from being able to endure fast water and difficult wading conditions during my senior citizen status. I was extremely cautious, and in many circumstances I was very measured with each step or in planning my moves over logs, rocks and between nettlesome bushes and branches. Of course, the spectacular surroundings were another plus, and simply developing a successful plan that afforded access to Maroon Creek provided a deep sense of accomplishment. Would I return? Possibly. A lot of unexplored creek remains, and I suspect that some lower gradient sections might offer superior fly fishing. Getting familiar with a creek is another challenge that I enjoy. Wednesday was a lot of effort for small fish, but that is certainly part of the fly fishing equation.

Fish Landed: 36

Beaver Creek – 08/29/2023

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: National Forrest

Beaver Creek 08/29/2023 Photo Album

Note: In order to protect small high country streams, I have chosen to change the name for a few. This particular creek happens to be one of them. Excessive exposure could lead to crowding and lower fish densities.

Tuesday reinforced my love for Beaver Creek. I first fished this gorgeous creek on September 2, 2022 with great success, but a return trip in early August yielded an average day in terms of quantity and size of trout. I decided to give it another trial, but prior to making the drive I studied my post from September 2, 2022. During that day I experienced success with a pool toy hopper and salvation nymph early and then added to the fish count with a hippie stomper and the same salvation nymph in the afternoon. Why not follow the same recipe on August 29, 2023?

Ready to Begin

I arrived at the trailhead parking lot in the morning, and the dashboard thermometer registered 69 degrees. By the time I returned to the car at 4:30PM, the temperature had risen to the mid-eighties. It was a hot one and a good day to immerse oneself in cold mountain flows. I assembled my Sage R8 four weight and hiked to my desired starting point, where I configured my line with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper, a salvation nymph, and a sunk ant. This was the exact lineup that served me well during the morning component of my September 2, 2022 visit. Guess what? It worked again!

Hopper Scores

Deep Pockets

Between 11:00AM and 11:45AM I landed six brown trout, and these were not tiny tiddlers barely over six inches. Several of the morning net occupants stretched the measuring tape to thirteen inches. Five of the trout landed before lunch crushed the hopper, and these were not timid takes. The trout rose and sucked in the fake grasshopper with confidence.

Cascading Pools


Perfect Pool

After lunch the same flies continued to perform, and I doubled the count to twelve, with four gobbling the pool toy and two nipping the salvation. I even had a double, when a twelve inch brown snagged the salvation and a seven incher slurped the pool toy. By 12:45PM the action slowed to a snail’s pace, and I began experiencing refusals and temporary hook ups. For some reason the trout no longer savored the hopper. This lull continued for thirty minutes, at which point I replaced the pool toy with a peacock hippie stomper, while allowing the salvation to remain in place.

Two Fish at a Time

Ink Spot Brown Trout

The move was slow to have an impact, but eventually it clicked, and I elevated the fish count from twelve to thirty, before I called it quits. During this afternoon trout catching session, 75% of the takes favored the salvation and one fourth gulped the hippie stomper.



The fun on Beaver Creek returned, and I fished with confidence from pool to pool. The average size of the fish was probably eleven inches, but several chunky thirteens and twelves were part of the mix. The tail of deep pools were prime spots, and I could generally rely on those locations for success.

Impressive Pool

Whew, Another Nice One

What a day! I landed thirty brown trout, and many were in the twelve to thirteen inch range. The scenery was spectacular, the water was cold and crystal clear, and I had the place to myself. It is hard to imagine a more perfect fly fishing outing.

Fish Landed: 30

St. Vrain Creek – 08/23/2023

Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: National forest land

St. Vrain Creek 08/23/2023 Photo Album

The high in Denver was once again forecast to reach the nineties, and after a long journey on Tuesday I was interested in a shorter drive to a high country creek with cold water temperatures. St. Vrain Creek was just such a location, and I quickly settled on it as my fly fishing destination on Wednesday, August 23, 2023. On my previous visit to this tumbling mountain stream I encountered two massive moose. Were they still patrolling the area, and could I meet up with them again? Read on.

The sky was quite overcast, when I arrived at the trailhead parking lot, and the temperature remained in the low seventies. I stripped down to my quick dry T-shirt for the inbound hike, and I stuffed a dry shirt and my fishing shirt in my fishing backpack along with my lunch. My Orvis Access four weight was my chosen wand for a day of fly fishing in a small creek with tight vegetation. My hiking distance remained an uncertainty, as I embarked, but eventually I decided to put down a decent distance from the trailhead. Along the way I met a returning fly fisherman, and when I queried him on how the fishing was, he replied that “there were at least one or two in every pocket”. That statement raised my expectations, and I probably accelerated my pace.

Lunch Spot and Start to My Day

Wow on the Colors

Eventually I reached my chosen starting point, and since it was 11:45AM, I decided to munch my lunch, before I got involved in my fly fishing adventure. This proved to be only the first of many interruptions to my fishing rhythm, although I had not yet begun, so an interruption is probably not the proper term. After lunch I rigged my four weight with a solitary peacock hippie stomper, and I was on my way. The stomper generated refusals in the first couple pools, but eventually it attracted the attention of three brook trout. Since the number of refusals equaled or exceeded landed fish, I decided to make my first change. I plucked a classic Chernobyl ant from the fly box and knotted it to my line. I love the buoyant foam attractor in tight backcountry streams, because it does not require a backcast to float. The Chernobyl produced a couple small brook trout, but then it fell out of favor, and it was difficult to track the low riding fly in the shadows and glare of the small creek.

Nice Hole

Prime spots were not producing, so I speculated that perhaps the bigger fish were hunkered down low and eating subsurface morsels. I added an ultra zug bug below the Chernobyl, but the nymph made no impact on the feeding habits of the resident trout, so I once again considered a change. I ruled out dry/dropper and converted to a size 14 gray stimulator, that I fished solo. The fuzzy dry fly generated quite a few refusals, and one aggressive feeder to bring the fish count to seven.

Pumpkin Belly

I was stuck on seven for quite a while, when a fish swirled and refused the stimmy. I responded with a solid hook set, but in the absence of resistance I hurled the fly into a stiff evergreen branch obviously out of reach. I was forced to resort to applying direct pressure, and I snapped off the fly and a long section of leader. In fact, the tapered leader was reduced to five feet, and it ended with a thick stub that probably equated to 1X. I was reluctant to build tippets off this stub, so I removed it and installed a new 7.5 foot tapered leader that ended with 5X thickness. Needless to say, I was not pleased with yet another interruption.

Better Second Shot

Over the course of the remainder of the afternoon, I suffered through three brief thunderstorms. I stood beneath a dense evergreen through the first rain shower and managed to stay reasonably dry, but numbers two and three were accompanied by heavy rain, so I was forced to once again interrupt my fishing to remove all my gear to access my rain shell and then pull it on. While Denver suffered through a ninety degree day, I was chilled by the cool and damp weather conditions at high altitude on St. Vrain Creek.

Promising Pool

Once I looped my new tapered leader in place, I added a size 14 light gray deer hair caddis to the end of the line, and this became my most popular fly during the early afternoon. The trout responded with confident takes, and I raised the fish count from seven to sixteen before a toothy eater cut the hackle. I nipped off the damaged fly and stuck it in my fleece wallet, and I replaced the poopular caddis with a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. This smaller caddis imitation duped one fish, but then it was ignored in a gorgeous pool, so I made another change.

Orange Pink

During this time I spotted two green drakes, as they struggled to lift off from the surface tension, so I removed a parachute green drake from my drake box, and I prospected this fly for twenty minutes. In a long smooth run of moderate depth, the drake pounded up two nice brook trout, and subsequently it added two more, but eventually the green drake was ignored in some prime pools, so I reverted to another light gray deer hair caddis. In this instance I chose a size 16. The small dry fly was difficult to track in shadows, glare and turbulent water, but it was effective enough to boost the fish count to twenty-six.

Sweet Pool

By 4:00PM I was chilled and wet from the rain showers, and I was about to move from some attractive runs to a narrow section with fallen logs and plunge pools. These spots equated to difficult wading and reduced productivity, so I used the stream structure as an excuse to exit. I crawled over some deadfalls and found the path and hoofed it back to the parking lot.

Wild Turkeys

Twenty-six fish sounds like a solid day, and all but one landed fish were brook trout. The largest brook trout may have stretched the tape to ten inches, and many were short little chubbies barely over six inches. I landed one nine inch cutthroat, and I bypassed taking a photo, because I was sure larger cutthroats were in my future. This is the second stream in Colorado, where it seems like the cutthroat population is missing. As always the scenery was spectacular, and having an entire stream to myself in a backcountry location made the day a success regardless of the fish count. On my return hike I encountered a huge rabbit, which I assume was a snowshoe hare, and on the drive back to Denver I stopped to videotape a small flock of turkeys, after they crossed the road in front of me. The moose clan steered clear of me, so I settled for other forms of wildlife.

Fish Landed: 26


Canyon Creek – 08/22/2023

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: National Forest

Canyon Creek 08/22/2023 Photo Album

Note: In order to protect small high country streams, I have chosen to change the name for a few. This particular creek happens to be one of them. Excessive exposure could lead to crowding and lower fish densities.

The last time I fished this creek was on 11/08/2019, and although I did not do well on a late fall visit, I yearned for another adventure. Tuesday, August 22, 2023 was the opportunity I desired.

I made the morning drive and arrived at my destination by 10:30AM. Weather forecasts stressed upper nineties in Denver and eighties at my chosen fishing location, but gray clouds dominated the sky, as I prepared to fish. I even felt a brief drizzle, and the temperature was a comfortable 68 degrees. I chose my Loomis two piece five weight, as I expected to toss dries and dry/dropper rigs, and the slower action of the Loomis is well suited to that type of casting.


I started my activity tracker and hiked for .5 mile, before I cut to the creek. The small stream suffered from turbidity, but I was able to see the creek bed in most locations, so I assumed that the murkiness would not be an impediment to catching trout. In order to minimize false casting in the small creek with an abundant quantity of overhanging bushes and branches, I knotted a classic Chernobyl ant to my line. The all foam fly is perfect for small stream dapping and roll casting. I began prospecting the likely deep holes and pools, as I moved upstream, but the Chernobyl was treated like inert flotsam. I never spotted a look, refusal, or take; and this was highly unusual for this normally productive creek. Could the off colored flows be impacting the feeding behavior of the trout?

Small Creek Behemoth

Thoughts of moving to another stream to salvage the day crossed my mind, but before making such a rash move, I decided to try a different tactic. I replaced the Chernobyl ant with a size 8 tan pool toy hopper, and then I dangled a size 12 prince nymph from the hook bend. This change in approach paid dividends, as I landed three brown trout, and the first two were gorgeous fish in the thirteen and fourteen inch range. The fish drought was a historical circumstance, and I now had confidence that the creek contained a population of trout.


Full View

I paused for lunch at 11:45AM, and after my brief snack I resumed my upstream migration. By now I learned that dropping casts into marginal spots was a waste of time, as all my success resulted from deep and long pools and runs. In other words, I began to be more focused in my choice of targets, and I concentrated on the prime locations. It also seemed that my pace of action accelerated in the sections that were more distant from easy access off the hiking trail, and this made sense given my aversion to fishing close to roads, trails and parking lots.

Note the Murky Water

After some continued success in the post lunch time frame, I encountered a stunning wide and deep pool, but my coverage of the pool prompted only a brief hook up with a small trout. I was convinced that more fish were present, so I added a salvation nymph beneath the prince. Once again the change brought positive results, as I hooked and landed a spectacular fourteen inch rainbow trout. The stripe along the side was a bright and wide crimson. I was certain that this was the largest rainbow I ever caught in this mountain stream.

Biggest of the Day

The remainder of the afternoon allowed me to mount the fish count to twelve, and browns were the dominant species. The salvation nymph began to account for more fish than the prince nymph, and one aggressive brown trout slammed the fat Albert. Some dark clouds rolled across the sky, and the temperature cooled, and I weathered a brief shower. I approached a very attractive set of pools at 3PM, and I landed a nice brown from the shelf pool on the right hand side. The three fly combination got tangled in the process of landing the fish, and it took me an extended period of time to unravel the mess. Once I was prepared to cast, I dumped the fat Albert and trailers into a frothy seam, where the creek angled toward the opposite shore. The fat Albert bobbed in tantalizing fashion in the froth, and suddenly it disappeared. I was uncertain whether it was sucked under by the unruly currents, or whether a hungry fish was responsible, so I executed a quick hook set. Instantly I felt the weight of a thrashing fish, but as it moved away toward the opposite shore, my line went limp. The heavier than average combatant broke off the fat Albert and all the trailing flies! Not only did I lose a prize fish, but I lost three flies, and I was forced to redo my entire set up.

Upcoming Pool

Fat Albert Chomper

I continued fishing for another thirty minutes, but then the rain became denser, so I retreated under some trees for shelter. I was reluctant to remove my frontpack and backpack to retrieve my raincoat, because I was near the end of the day. In fact, I scanned the right shoreline, and I grew concerned about climbing the steep bank to gain access to the hiking trail, so I hooked my flies to the rod guide and waded downstream a short distance to a spot that was reasonably clear of dense bushes.

Another Deep Hole

Tuesday was a fun day. I was reassured of the condition of the creek after landing twelve trout in a little over four hours. I feel like hiking farther would yield better results in the future; however, advancing through the cascades, waterfalls and narrow chutes would be even more of a challenge with deeper penetration into the national forest. The size of the brown trout and the single rainbow was a welcome discovery, and this only added to my desire to explore the creek farther in a future visit. I am not sure whether the turbidity was a positive or negative.

Fish Landed: 12

South Boulder Creek – 08/20/2023

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/20/2023 Photo Album

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.

Heck of a Spot

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.

Nice Early Action

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.

Zoomed a Bit Closer

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.

Dave’s Best

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.

Better Lighting

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.

Nate on Fire

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.

Careful Hook Removal

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

South Boulder Creek – 08/16/2023

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Gross Reservoir

South Boulder Creek 08/16/2023 Photo Album

I consider my home waters to be South Boulder Creek, but quite a bit of time elapsed since my last visit. I frequently complain about the variability of the flows on this small tailwater, but that nuisance is now complicated by the construction to expand Gross Reservoir. Twice last year I was forced to abort a trip to South Boulder Creek, when I encountered digital signs announcing the closure of Gross Dam Road. Up until recently the flows remained too high to attempt a trip, but upon my return from Carbondale, I noticed the graph depicted several days of 155 CFS. I fished at 180 CFS in August in previous years with some success especially during the green drake emergence, so I got serious about making the trip.

I visited the web site and reviewed the map that tracked road closures and interruptions. My normal route to South Boulder Creek is via Coal Creek Canyon and then down Gross Dam Road, but that route was displayed in red, and the web site informed visitors that the road was closed until 2027. Yikes. I’ll be 76 by then and probably unable to fish anymore! Upon further review, however, I determined that I could access the creek from the north by traveling through Boulder and then following Flagstaff Road. I called the Denver Water customer service number and spoke with a friendly young lady named Bernice, and she confirmed my conclusion that the Walker Ranch Loop Trailhead was open and accessible without interference from the Gross Dam project. My maps application indicated that the northern route extended my drive by fifteen minutes, and consultation with my friend, Nate, suggested that the hike to the middle creek section was comparable to that from the fishermen parking lot near the dam. I was sold on a day of fishing in South Boulder Creek.

155 CFS

I arrived at the Walker Ranch Loop Trailhead parking lot, and the temperature was already in the low eighties. Eight other vehicles occupied spaces, but I was unable to determine whether the occupants were fishermen, hikers or bikers. I assembled my Loomis two piece five weight and departed down the dirt trail at the south end of the parking lot. I chose the Loomis, because I like the slow action and the way it casts dry flies and dry/droppers, and I assumed those approaches would dominate on Wednesday.

Nice Deep Run

As I hiked along the creek, I was surprised to discover two other anglers, and they were positioned in the middle of the stretch I targeted. Initially I was inclined to reverse direction and move upstream, but then I concluded that I planned to hike a significant distance below them, and by the time I fished upstream to their current spot, I was fairly certain that they would be gone. When I arrived at my chosen starting point, I realized that the flows were indeed 155 CFS, but the creek was very clear. I quickly determined that I was unlikely to cross due to the swift currents in the center of the creek; and, in fact, I did spend my entire day casting along the right bank.

Buttery Brown

Another Fine Brown Trout

To start my search for hungry trout I armed my line with a peacock hippie stomper and a Jake’s gulp beetle. The combination quickly generated four trout, with two nice brown trout chomping on the beetle. After the initial burst of action, however, the takes slowed to zero, and refusals began to dominate my morning. I removed the beetle, and not wishing to miss out on green drake feeding, I replaced the foam terrestrial with a size 14 parachute green drake. The change paid dividends, and I built the fish count to nine by the time I broke for lunch. Roughly half the eaters favored the hippie stomper with the others chowing down on the green drake.

Another Promising Slick

After lunch I resumed my upstream progression, and the stomper and drake combination spurred the fish count to seventeen. This took place over a couple hours, so the action was steady but not hot. A decent number of refusals and looks were interspersed with the eaters, and I was forced to move frequently to find takers after the solitary fish in a pocket refused my offering. Refusals seemed to prevail more often in the slower moving pools; whereas, takes were prevalent at the tail or along seams. I only spotted two natural green drakes during my entire time on the water, and I was surprised by this. The temperature probably spiked to the low eighties, and the heat may have been a factor in the lack of natural green drakes.

A Better View of the Parachute Green Drake

Hippie Stomper

When I reached seventeen, the fish became ultra fussy, and I suffered a long fish landing drought. I concluded it was time to change. The green drake was generating looks, but no eats, so I replaced it with a green drake comparadun. I loved the look of this fly with a large fan shaped deer hair wing and long moose mane tails, and initially two above average sized trout loved it as well. However after the initial burst of action, the comparadun failed to interest additional trout, so I implemented a radical shift to a dry/dropper featuring a tan size 10 pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear nymph, and a salvation nymph. The hopper was ignored, but the hares ear and salvation produced one fish each. In order to land these two fish I covered some prime water with no success, so I pondered yet another change. I reverted to the foam beetle as the first fly and then added a Harrop hair wing green drake as the second dry. This combination was a dud, but as I was slinging the pair, I spotted a couple pale morning duns. I snipped off the hair wing and replaced it with a size 16 cinnamon comparadun.

Vivid Black Spots on This Rainbow

Rainbow Was Tight to the Rock

By now I reached a narrow fast section that in the past signaled my exit point, so I followed tradition and scaled the rocky bank to the path. On my return hike I paused at two typically productive pools, and I added two more fish to the count to bring the total to twenty-three. Both of the late eaters sipped the trailing cinnamon comparadun.

Love the Orange Spots

The worst part of my day was still ahead of me, however. My new hiking trail to the Walker Ranch Loop Trailhead necessitated a one mile ascent from the creek to the parking lot. I executed small steps, drank water and paused many times, before I arrived at the parking lot. Needless to say, I was drenched in perspiration, and this condition developed in spite of some large black clouds obscuring the sun for much of my climb. Hopefully the difficulty of the one mile hike will fade from my memory banks, before I consider another visit to South Boulder Creek.


Twenty-three fish certainly represented a successful day in the South Boulder Creek canyon. Three brown trout and one rainbow extended to a foot with the remainder falling in the six to eleven inch range. The trout never locked into the green drakes in a manner comparable to previous August visits, when I logged ridiculous fish counts. Was it the heat, the higher flows, or the presence of a pair of anglers ahead of me? I will never know the answer to that puzzle, but I intend to return as soon as I can forget the strenuous climb at the end of the day.

Fish Landed: 23

Clear Creek – 08/15/2023

Time: 9:45AM – 3:45PM

Location: National forest

Clear Creek 08/15/2023 Photo Album

Although my fishing outing on Tuesday, August 15 was decent by most standards, it could have been even better. Let me explain.

After a fun day on a high mountain stream on Friday, I was yearning for another day on a Colorado stream; however, I was in favor of a closer destination, so I chose Clear Creek. I left the house at 7:40AM in order to pass through Floyd Hill before the rock scaling operations began at 9:00AM. CDOT announced that motorists should be prepared for delays between 9AM and 3PM on Mondays through Thursdays. I successfully avoided this scenario and arrived at my chosen pullout without incident.

Stream Improvement

The air temperature was in the sixties, but highs in the nineties were predicted for the metro Denver area. When I left the stream on Tuesday afternoon the dashboard digital display read 77 degrees. It was a splendid day to be in the mountains with mostly clear skies and the absence of wind. I assembled my Orvis Access four weight and fought my way through the trees and brush to arrive at the creek and begin fishing by 9:45AM. The water was exceptionally clear, and the flows were nearly ideal. I began my search for trout with a Chernobyl ant, and the all foam terrestrial produced four trout in the early going, although I experienced an equal number of temporary hookups. In fact, the escapees seemed to be the largest fish, and I was quite upset about this circumstance.

Sparse Speckles

In an effort to convert a higher rate of takes, I downsized the Chernobyl ant to a peacock body hippie stomper, and this change produced a couple fish, before it lost its luster to the local trout. I added a salvation nymph on a short sixteen inch dropper, and the salvation contributed a few additional catches to the fish count. During the late morning time frame I attempted to roll cast the dry/dropper, and I was unaware of an overhanging evergreen bough, and this foolish action resulted in breaking off the hippie stomper and salvation. I pulled another stomper from my fly box, but I opted for a sunken ant as the bottom fly, and the ant yielded a pair of trout. By the time I paused for lunch the fish count rested on ten, as four devoured the Chernobyl, two grabbed the salvation, two nipped the sunk ant, and the remainder crushed the hippie stomper. Ten fish in two hours of fishing was respectable, but I could have easily doubled the numbers, if I converted a higher percentage of my hookups to the net, and I am forced to reiterate that the fish that managed to free themselves also felt like the larger trout.

Lovely Pool

Jake’s Gulp Beetle

Beetle Chomper

After lunch I changed things up significantly, as I was not satisfied with the catch rate or the size of the fish. I grabbed a size 12 Jake’s gulpĀ  beetle from my fly box and fished it solo. The change paid off handsomely, and I elevated the fish count to seventeen. During the early phase of the beetle slapping session, the trout responded very positively, and in many cases the trout smacked the terrestrial as soon as the foam imitation splashed down. Unfortunately, in one scenario a very nice fish sipped in the beetle and upon feeling the hook set, it raced downstream. I applied side pressure to keep the prize in the small pool, but it twisted its head, and the beetle was hurled skyward. Adding to the insult of losing the fish, the beetle came to rest in a tall evergreen twenty feet above me, and I was forced to apply direct pressure and snapped off another fly.

Subtle Beauty

The interest in the beetle seemed to fizzle after an hour of intense action, so I implemented yet another fly change. I plucked a lime green trude from my fly box in a fit of nostalgia, and the size fourteen dry fly notched a small cutthroat. The magic of the lime green trude was short lived, however, and I defaulted to the hippie stomper with a gray size 14 stimulator in the trailing position. The combination of the two buoyant dry flies, worked for while, but then refusals began to escalate, and I swapped the stimulator for a size 14 light gray deer hair caddis. The caddis worked its charms on the wild trout, until I quit at 3:45PM, and the double dry fly tactic enabled me to boost the fish count from seventeen to twenty-six over the course of the afternoon.

Side Pool Was Attractive

Melon Color

I landed a pair of twelve inch cutthroats, but the remainder were rather small and ranged from six to eleven inches. These cutthroats more than compensated for their diminutive size with an explosion of vivid colors. Pastel olive and tan provided the body background, but ink black speckles, pink accents, crimson gill plates and the classic orange slash finished the pallet of colors. I had numerous opportunities to land slightly larger trout, and this was particularly the case in the morning time period. Nevertheless, Tuesday was a fun summer day with nearly perfect weather and ideal stream conditions. One cannot ask for much more than that.

Fish Landed: 26