Big Thompson River – 04/12/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 2:45PM

Location: Canyon below Estes Park

Big Thompson River 04/12/2024 Photo Album

Another fabulous early spring day was forecast for Friday, April 12, and I decided to take advantage for a day of fly fishing. After the long drive on Wednesday to the Arkansas River, I was averse to making a trip in excess of two hours, so I focused on South Boulder Creek and the Big Thompson River. Both locations projected high temperatures in the low sixties, and flows were favorable on both streams. South Boulder Creek was running at 44 CFS and the Big Thompson rolled along at 55 CFS. The fly shop report suggested blue wing olives were present on the Big Thompson, and South Boulder Creek necessitated a fairly arduous return hike, so I chose the Big Thompson.

I arrived at my chosen pullout by 10:40AM, and this enabled me to be positioned along the stream casting by 11:00AM. I used my Sage R8 four weight, and I wore my North Face light down parka. I began my day with a tan ice dub body chubby Chernobyl and a beadhead hares ear nymph along with a salvation nymph. Within the first fifteen minutes I hooked and landed a small brown trout that was barely over six inches, but as I reached for my net that is usually dangling behind me, it was absent. This sent me into panic mode, and I began to plan a trip to a fly shop in Estes Park to buy a new net. Before resorting that rash solution, however, I decided to retrace my steps to the car if necessary. Did I fail to clip it to my retractor at the car? I was fairly certain that was not the case.

I waded back down the river a short distance to the small island, where I began, but it was nowhere to be found. What if it wasn’t properly clipped and fell in the river and floated downstream? Next, I waded back to the bank on the US 34 side of the river, and then I followed my path back to the highway. I scrambled up some large rocks, and I was extremely pleased to spot my net five feet off the asphalt. What happened? I inspected the net and discovered that the eye screw that goes into the handle pulled out; and, sure enough, clip that snaps into the retractor remained in place with the eye screw dangling from it. I pulled the eye screw out and twisted it back in the hole on the end of the net, until it was very secure, and I returned to the point, where I was interrupted. What a relief to recover my net in a fairly short amount of time.

Between 11:30 and 2:15 I prospected the dry/dropper arrangement, as I worked my way upstream, and I landed two additional small trout to finish the day at three. I was quite disappointed with this performance, however, I had my opportunities for a better outcome. I actually connected with nine fish, but six managed to evade my net; and, of course, the escapees felt like the better fish. By one o’clock I expected to see some blue wing olive activity, so I abandoned the salvation nymph and replaced it with a sparkle wing RS2 size 22. I suspect that my long distance releases after this fly change can be attributed to the small hook size.

By 2:00PM I reached private water, so I returned to the car and drove downstream a mile or two to another favorite location. Unfortunately an angler was in the pool that I targeted, and a car was parked in my normal spot, so I rolled downstream a bit farther. I gathered all my gear and hiked down the road a tenth of a mile or so, and I resumed my quest for trout. I was curious to experiment with a smaller dry fly, so I removed the dry/dropper offerings and transitioned to a peacock hippie stomper with a size 16 olive-brown body caddis. I flicked these flies to likely locales particularly along the bank and large protective boulders, but the fish were having none of it. By this time the sun was bright in the sky, and the temperature elevated, and it seemed as if the trout were lulled into sleep mode. When I reached a point, where the channel narrowed and created deep plunge pools and fast runs, I called it quits and climbed the steep boulder strewn bank and then ambled back to the car.

Friday was a disappointing day for this avid angler. Three trout landed in three hours of fishing is rather abysmal, and the size of the trout was lacking as well. In spite of these results, I was motivated by the fairly steady action created by temporary connections, and these fish raised my interest, because they felt larger and fought harder. I have no explanation for my poor conversion ratio of hook ups to netted other than the small hook size of the RS2. The R8 rod carries a softer tip than most of my other rods, so perhaps I need to strengthen my hook set power lift. The weather and the beauty of my surroundings were a distinct positive.

Fish Landed: 3

Arkansas River – 04/10/2024

Time: 11:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Big Horn Sheep Canyon

Arkansas River 04/10/2024 Photo Album

After two subpar outings on Colorado Rivers during the last week, I was anxious for redemption. I was pleased with my visit to the lower Arkansas River on 03/27/2024, so I decided to repeat the drive. The flows and clarity were favorable, and the fly shop reports were optimistic (as they usually are), so I took the plunge and made the 2.5 hour drive. I suffered through rush hour traffic in Denver, a long stretch of road construction south of Colorado Springs, a detour around an accident between Florence and Canon City, and ongoing construction on the main street of Canon City. I was exhausted before I arrived at my chosen fishing spot.

The air temperature was in the mid-fifties, so I pulled on my North Face light down coat, and I assembled my Sage R8 four weight. A white pickup truck preceded me, and I spotted two anglers meandering along the river sixty yards above me. To start my day I elected to hike east along US 50 for .2 mile, before I dropped down a steep bank to the river. My morning session featured fishing to long and deep pockets among very large boulders next to the highway. I began my adventure with a New Zealand chartreuse strike indicator, a split shot, a 20 incher, and a bright green go2 caddis pupa. The 20 incher proved to be in demand, and I landed a small brown and a thirteen inch rainbow, before I adjourned for lunch and returned to the car.

I quickly devoured my standard lunch, and then I crossed two braids and headed to the northern most branch of the river. This was the section I fished on March 27, and I was looking forward to a repeat during the afternoon. However, before advancing to the north branch, I covered some nice deep shelf pools on the braid that bordered the highway. Although the water looked quite enticing, I was unable to attract fish, so I moved on to the confluence of the north braid and the main river. I shuffled along the south bank, until I was positioned next to a large pool twenty yards above the confluence. I swapped the 20 incher for an emerald caddis pupa, and I added a sparkle wing RS2 on the point, and I began to prospect the prime water with my indicator nymphing setup.

I managed to hook and land a spunky thirteen inch rainbow, but as I advanced, I was disappointed to note the return of the occupants of the white pickup truck. While I was eating lunch, they returned to the truck for lunch, and I hoped that they were preparing to relocate, but that was not the case. They were positioned in another prime run and pool fifty yards above my location.

I continued my progress through some decent deep runs along the north side of the river with a couple momentary hook ups rewarding my efforts, until I arrived at a narrow and deep trough along the north bank below a large exposed rock. I was now twenty yards below the two other anglers, who by the way, were the only other fishermen that I spotted on the entire river between Parkdale and where I was fishing. It was just my luck to seek out the same section of the vast Arkansas River public water.

I swept some drifts through the attractive trough in front of me, and as I was doing so, a cloud blocked the sun and the wind kicked up a bit, and five trout began to rise sporadically in the trough area. I checked my watch, and this activity commenced at around 1:30PM. The rises were fairly frequent, but they were not the rhythmic cadence that typically leads to fairly easy fishing. Dry fly fishing to blue wing olives is what I made the trip for, so I paused to remove the indicator nymphing paraphernalia, and I selected a peacock body hippie stomper and added a CDC blue wing olive on a twelve inch dropper. I spent the next forty-five minutes making reach casts along the bubble line, and my fly was treated like inert flotsam. I swapped the CDC olive for a soft hackle emerger and a Klinkhammer emerger, but a refusal and brief look were my only reward. The lighting was not the best, and I was having a difficult time distinguishing the white poly tuft of the hippie stomper from bubbles. I reverted to a size 24 CDC BWO with tiny hackle, since the naturals appeared to be quite small. Finally during a gust of wind, I lifted the flies and inadvertently skated the small trailing CDC BWO, and an aggressive brown trout grabbed the olive. Apparently movement was the key. I concluded that the trout were seeking more movement than what was exhibited by my dead drifting dries, so I began twitching and skating the flies, but, alas, I was unable to entice another strike.

The two anglers above me departed, and this opened up the remainder of the north braid for my exploration. I retained the double dry for a bit, but the faster pockets and runs were not conducive to spotting rises, so I resorted to nymphs; however, I was reluctant to resort to the indicator and split shot, so I deployed a size 8 yellow fat Albert along with a salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2. Between 2:45PM and 4:00PM I advanced along the left side of the north braid, and I managed to increment the fish count from four to seven. The RS2 was the productive fly, and the trout responded to the swing and lift at the end of the drift in moderate riffles of two to three feet of depth. These trout were in the twelve inch range, and I was pleased to net them, but the average size of the trout landed on April 10 was inferior compared to March 27.

By 4:00PM I reached the main stem of the river, so I waded along the edge toward my crossing point to return to the car. Below a long section of fast pocket water, the river formed a nice wide pool, and I spotted a few rises in the slow band of water along the bank next to my position. I took the time to remove the dry/dropper and tied a solo CDC BWO to my line, but as was the case on March 27, the feeding stopped by the time I was prepared to cast, and the change in tactics did not pay dividends. I returned to the car by 4:30PM and made the return trip.

Wednesday, April 10 was a decent day, but I truthfully had higher expectations. Using 20-20 hindsight, I probably should have reverted to the indicator nymphing method after my failed attempt with the double dry. Also, I should have abandoned the dry fly debacle sooner, and perhaps I should have sought another section of the river that featured the absence of competing anglers. Nevertheless, it was a gorgeous day, and I enjoyed moderate success.

Fish Landed: 7

 

Clear Creek – 04/08/2024

Time: 2:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek 04/08/2024 Photo Album

A high of 59 F on Monday April 8 prompted me to entertain the idea of a fishing trip. Of course, Monday, April 8 is notable as the day of the solar eclipse. Here in Denver the experts determined that 70% blockage of the sun was expected. The peak partial eclipse was supposed to develop at around 1:30PM.  Jane and I played pickleball in the morning, and upon my return I ate my lunch and loaded the car for fishing. As I was doing so, my neighbors appeared in the alley along with their dog, and I asked if they looked at the sun. They responded with an enthusiastic yes, and they asked if I had, and I replied that we failed to purchase eclipse glasses, My neighbor, Josh, immediately walked toward me and offered one set of their glasses. I stretched them across my regular sunglasses, and I was quite amazed at the image. Roughly 2/3 of the sun was covered in black. I returned to the house and offered the glasses to Jane, who was equally impressed with the partial eclipse image. I am so pleased that we did not pass up eclipse viewing, even a 70% event. The next full eclipse is on the calendar for some time in 2044.

Once my solar viewing was complete, I drove to Clear Creek Canyon west of Golden. I wish I could say this was uneventful, but the short trip required two detours and a ten minute wait due to construction in the canyon. My decision to check the maps app before departing proved to be a very worthwhile act.

The temperature in the canyon, when I arrived at my parking space, was 53 degrees, so I bundled with a long sleeved thermal undershirt, fishing shirt, North Face light down parka, and my rain shell. I wore my billed hat with ear flaps for ear coverage. Nearly the entire fishing time was in the shade of the canyon, and aside from my hands and feet, I was reasonably comfortable. For my fishing tool I fit together my Sage four weight, and after trudging along a fisherman and rock climbing path, I descended to the creek.

I began my quest for canyon trout with a yellow size 8 fat Albert and trailed a 20 incher and emerald caddis pupa. I prospected my way up the creek for 1.5 hours, and I am disappointed to report that I hooked only one small brown trout on the fat Albert. I tossed the dry/dropper in all the likely fish holding locales, however, the stream residents, if they, in fact, existed ignored my nymphs. I did observe a couple looks at the fat Albert, but the subsurface action was nonexistent. For the end fly I cycled through a beadhead hares ear nymph, ultra zug bug, black balanced mini leech, a salvation nymph and a go2 bright green caddis. My confidence fell to new depths, and I vowed to not return to Clear Creek for awhile.

The water was a bit off color, and I never saw signs of insect activity, so I speculated that low level snow melt from recent storms was impacting the water clarity and temperature. I tried lengthening the dropper leader near the start to obtain deeper drifts, but all my changes in flies and tactics failed to reverse the adverse fortunes. In my two most recent outings I got skunked and then landed one fish, so I am due for a change in fortunes. I will probably pass on fishing during the 2044 solar eclipse.

Fish Landed: 1

South Platte River – 04/03/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 3:15PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/03/2024 Photo Album

Highs in the upper 60’s in Denver, CO prompted me to search for a fishing destination on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. After some blue winged olive action on the Arkansas River on my last trip, I decided to investigate the presence of olives on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. Historically I experienced some fabulous days in early April on that tailwater river. I invited my young fishing companion, Nate, to join me on his weekday off; and he accepted.

We met at a park and ride along I25, and we arrived in Eleven Mile by 10:30AM. We had to stop in Florissant at a convenience store to break a ten dollar bill in order to have the $4.50 in cash to pay the senior day use fee. The temperature upon our arrival was around 45 degrees with a moderate breeze, so I layered up with my Columbia long sleeved undershirt, fleece hoodie, North Face light down and rain shell along with my billed hat with ear flaps. I felt like a stuffed sausage, as I assembled my Sage One five weight for a day on the river.

Nate and I hiked up the road a bit and then found a steep and snowy quasi-path to the river. I took extremely small steps and attempted to dig in my studded wading boots to avoid injury at the outset of our day. When we arrived at the river, we post-holed a bit in order to enter the water. The flows were tumbling along at 135 CFS, which is a bit higher than I favor, but the clarity was excellent, and I was certain that a blue winged olive hatch would eventually bring the trout to the surface.

To start my day I rigged with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, beadhead hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2, but during the one hour morning session I was only able to generate a momentary hook up with a rainbow trout, as I lifted my flies above a depression in slow water. I could see two decent trout finning in the hole over a light sand bottom, so I was sight fishing, when the connection occurred.

Two anglers occupied one of our favorite large pools, so after lunch on a sunny rock we skipped around them and proceeded up the river. Ultimately we hoped to occupy the productive bend pool below the split braids, but a fisherman jumped in ahead of us, so we prospected the pool below that with no positive results.

Injured Bird

The fisherman above us departed after a short amount of time, and he politely waved us on, so we complied with his suggestion and moved to one of our favorite spots in Eleven Mile Canyon. Nate waded across the river and commandeered the same rock that was recently the perch of the departing angler, and I moved up along the west bank to the riffles at the top of the pool.

We pounded this area for an hour and a half, and Nate enjoyed success with an olive body RS2. He landed a fifteen inch rainbow near the entry point of the eastern most braid above the pool, and he landed a second fish, when he returned to his favorite rock perch.

I, meanwhile, experienced nothing but frustration. My chartreuse strike indicator disappeared at one point, and this forced me to devote time to replacing it. Apparently the transparent plastic sleeve that locks the wool tuft in the loop split and fell off during casting. At a later point Nate asked if my strike indicator was on the bank below me, and sure enough I was able to recover the wool clump for future use.

For flies I cycled through quite an array of favorites. I tested my olive perdigon, classic RS2, sparkle wing RS2, soft hackle emerger, ultra zug bug, salvation nymph, and emerald caddis pupa. When Nate reported success with the olive RS2, I experimented with three small green and olive colored nymphs in my fleece wallet, but none of them produced. I did manage another split second connection, as the nymphs swept across the center of the pool, and I suspect the attractor was the classic RS2 that was on my line at the time along with one of the larger nymphs.

By 2:30 my frustration reached a new level, and Nate was catching a few fish on the dry/dropper, so I transitioned from indicator nymphing to dry/dropper. I used a yellow size 8 fat Albert, and I trailed a salvation nymph and a sparkle wing RS2, as I progressed upstream from the big bend pool, while Nate remained on his large rock perch below the pod of trout and suckers.

I quickly covered the north channel with no sign of trout, until I approached the glassy, smooth pool along the steep bank that drops from the access road. I paused to observe, and while a large cloud blocked the sun, I spotted three rises in the slow moving water along the far bank, so I decided to commit to a double dry approach that entailed a hippie stomper trailing a CDC blue winged olive. By the time I completed my transition, the sun reappeared, and the feeding fish were reduced to one hungry trout directly across from me. A glare made identifying the landing spot of the flies difficult, but I covered the far edge with a barrage of casts. It was very difficult to achieve a dead drift for more than three or four feet, but I did manage a swirl to the one of the flies, as it began to drag across the current. After fifteen minutes of futility, the surface feeding halted, so I once again migrated upstream, but without rising fish, my double dry set up seemed futile.

We needed to depart by 3:30PM, so at 3:00PM we reversed our direction back to the large bend pool. I stole Nate’s favorite rock, and I could see the large swarm of nice fish in the depression nearby, but the trout were not rising and probably feeding near the bottom. My double dry was not the correct offering; however, I gave it an honest effort, before I called it quits at 3:15PM and climbed the steep and icy path back to the road.

I suspect this was my first skunking at Eleven Mile amongst many very productive visits, so I will not allow a tough day to deter me from future trips. I experienced two very brief hook ups in 3.5 hours of fishing. I observed only a handful of naturals on the water, and I suspect that explains the lack of action. Nate’s success with the olive RS2 will motivate me to tie some for future consumption. Intermittent sun raised the afternoon temperature to the low fifties, so I was relatively comfortable on an early spring day on the South Platte River. I was outdoors in Colorado, and that alone, made the day a success.

Fish Landed: 0

Arkansas River – 03/27/2024

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Big Horn Sheep Canyon

Arkansas River 03/27/2024 Photo Album

I was seeking warmer temperatures somewhere in Colorado after another slug of winter hit the state on Sunday, March 24, 2024. As I scanned my Weather Underground app, I noted that most highs were in the 40’s, and I am averse to fishing in winter conditions. However, I discovered a ray of hope, when I tapped on the Canon City location, where the high on Wednesday was expected to peak at 52 degrees. I decided to explore the lower Arkansas River.

I was reluctant to fish in the lower canyon because of the Hayden Creek fire burn scar and subsequent ash flows leading to reduced insect populations and subsequently an impact on trout numbers. For this reason I avoided the area over the intervening eight years, but weather considerations caused me to reevaluate. I called ArkAnglers, and the gentleman I talked to assured me that the lower canyon had recovered, so that became my destination.

Road construction on I25 and major road work in Canon City slowed my progress, but I arrived at my chosen destination by 10:30AM. I was excited to renew my acquaintance with a favorite spot in lower Big Horn Sheep Canyon. The temperature was 42 degrees, as I prepared to fish. I donned my Under Armour long sleeve thermal undershirt, fleece cardigan, North Face light down coat and rain shell along with my billed New Zealand hat with earflaps. I was layered up and prepared for the cold. For a fly casting instrument I chose my newest Sage R8 four weight.

I began in a section of the main river that ran next to US24. The river was tinged with color, so I rigged with a strike indicator, split shot, molting rubber legs stonefly, and 20 incher. I utilized lots of weight, and It was at this point that I discovered that I lost the wool material for my New Zealand strike indicator, so I was forced to deploy an orange Thingamabobber.

I worked the deep, slow moving slicks next to the steep rocky bank for 45 minutes, until I got snagged. The wedged flies were in a spot that was too fast and deep to risk a rescue, so I yanked directly on the line and popped off both flies and the split shot. I replaced the tandem with an emerald caddis pupa and classic RS2, and just before I quit for lunch, a nice, thick rainbow nailed the caddis emerger. I was on the board, but my hands were stinging from the cold, and it was lunch time, so I climbed the bank and returned to the car. I grabbed my lunch and sat in the drivers seat, and I turned on the car to check the temperature, and it displayed 36 degrees. How could this be?

When I returned to the river, I added fingerless wool gloves to my winter attire, and I crossed the highway and several braids to reach the northern-most channel. For the remainder of the afternoon I worked my way up the entire north branch and landed another seven trout. One additional trout took the caddis pupa, and the remainder snatched the RS2, The rainbow that grabbed the pupa, broke off the RS2 in the process of fighting, and I replaced it with a sparkle wing version of the RS2.

Around 2PM the pace of the action increased noticeably, and I spotted a few natural olives above the river along with two bankside risers; however, my success rate was such that I stuck with the indicator nymphing set up. Clearly, however, the fish were tuned into baetis activity in the mid to late afternoon.

In addition to the eight fish that I landed on the day, I experienced at least six additional trout hook ups, that I fought for varying lengths of time, before they managed to escape. The downside of using size 20 RS2’s is the lower ratio of hooked to landed fish. One of these fugitives from my hook point was a decent rainbow that totally cleared the surface of the river and snapped off the RS2, as the aggressive fish splashed back down. I replaced the sparkle wing with a beadhead soft hackle emerger, and that yielded a few fish over the remainder of my time on the river.

Surprisingly, five of the landed trout were rainbows, with the remainder being browns. I say surprisingly because memory tells me that this section of the Arkansas River was ninety percent brown trout, when I fished it eight years ago prior to the Hayden Fire. The size of the trout was quite favorable with nearly all falling within the twelve to fourteen inch range, with chunky thirteen inch fish being the norm.

As I hiked back along the main stem of the river at 4PM, I spotted some rising trout along the near bank, and I could see more naturals drifting up from the river, than I had seen previously. This observation caused me to extend my day, and I removed all the nymphing accoutrements and tied on a CDC BWO. By the time I reconfigured, however, the flurry of surface feeding subsided, but I did manage to get a look from the most upstream feeder. I was having issues with tracking the tiny fly in the surface glare, so I added a peacock hippie stomper as the forward fly, but that move failed to produce success, so I called it quits and returned to the Telluride.

While I would have preferred more surface feeding and dry fly action, I was quite pleased with my day. Eight nice trout over four hours equals an average of two fish per hour catch rate, but this could have easily been better, had I converted more of my connections. The size of the trout was satisfactory, and the trout were hot fighters that challenged my fish fighting abilities. This was my first usage of the indicator nymphing technique in quite awhile, and I was pleased with my ability to achieve success. Above all, I discovered that the lower Big Horn Sheep Canyon has, indeed, recovered from the fire, and I will surely add the area as a future fly fishing destination.

Landed Fish: 8

Arkansas River – 03/20/2024

Time: 11:30AM – 3:45PM

Location: Big Horn Sheep Canyon

Arkansas River 03/20/2024 Photo Album

My last fishing outing was on 03/12/2024, and my friend, Howie, and I experienced a skunking on Bear Creek. The largest snowstorm of the year swept through Colorado on March 14, and that halted any thoughts I had of visiting a local stream. I celebrated my birthday on Saturday, and for some unknown reason I was wiped out by sickness early Monday morning. This circumstance also interrupted my fly fishing plans; however, by Wednesday, March 20, the first full day of spring, my health and the area rivers were ripe for a day of fishing.

I evaluated my alternatives, but I quickly selected the Arkansas River below Salida for my trip. The weather predicted a high in the mid-fifties with single digit wind speeds, and the fly shop reports documented low and clear river conditions along with mention of midge hatches and some signs of baetis nymph movement. I was itching for a shot at bigger water and potentially larger fish, so I made the three hour drive from my home in Denver to the Big Horn Sheep Canyon section below Salida. On Tuesday evening I perused my blog reports for the Arkansas River from previous visits in March, and this set my expectation for five to ten fish while bottom dredging with stonefly nymphs. It’s early season, so any sort of action was welcome after the March 12  shutout.

When I arrived at the roadside pullout, the dashboard temperature registered a cool 42 degrees, so I slipped into my long sleeved thermal undershirt, North Face light down coat, and rain shell. I chose my billed New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and this bundled outfit kept me warm throughout my time on the water. It was particularly valuable in the first hour, before the sun worked its magic on the air temperature along the river. I fitted together my Sage One five weight rod, and I hiked toward a favorite location on the river only to find another angler stationed in one of my productive long deep runs. I only saw a few parked cars along the highway, but apparently one of the fishermen had the same idea about a fishing site as me.

I stealthily cut down to the river and turned right, so that I was situated fifty yards above him, and I quickly rigged my line with a fish skull sculpin and Mickey Finn streamer. I intended to test out one of the new black ghosts I tied recently, but I left them in the boat box in the car, so I defaulted to the next best classic streamer in my collection, the Mickey Finn. I covered a twenty-five yard section of the river characterized by moderate velocity current and intermediate depth riffles, but I was unable to generate even a follow. I decided to make a longer cast and sweep behind a large exposed rock, but in my haste I lost awareness of my position, and hooked my backcast on a tree limb. I waded to a spot beneath the tree and attempted to spot the two flies, and I was able to identify a section of monofilament. When I moved closer, however, I realized that this was the leader from another unfortunate angler. I stared at the other branches on the limb, and in a short amount of time I saw my broken off streamers. I placed my rod out of harms way, and I scanned the bank for a retrieval instrument.

There it was. An eight foot long dead limb was beneath the tree, so I grabbed it and attempted to bend the small branch that possessed my flies, but it was still alive and not brittle, and, therefore, not prone to breakage. I changed tactics and used one of the protruding nubs on my retrieval branch, and I began to rake downward over the flies, and on the fifth attempt the tip of the branch broke off, and my flies tumbled to the earth, where I was able to capture them. I quickly snipped off the tippet and returned them to my fleece wallet and began my fly fishing day anew.

I was now below a long narrow island that divided the river in half with 75% of the volume on the left and 25% on the right, so I approached the right braid. The low and clear nature of the river precluded streamers, nymphs or large bulky dry flies, so I elected to knot a peacock body hippie stomper to my line. This fly has become a favorite, and I love its buoyancy and visibility and relatively small size for a foam attractor.

As I knotted my new offering to my line, I noticed a couple nervous spots across from me at the tail end of the long pool. It was difficult to discern whether the movement resulted from fish, current waves, or the wind; but I was preoccupied with tying on my fly, so I did not study the scene. Once I was ready, however, I was quite sure that a couple fish were subtly sipping minute food from the surface or just below the surface. My fly was probably not what they were tuned into, but I tossed a couple casts up and across nonetheless, and crush, a fine, wild brown trout of thirteen inches inhaled the attractor dry. This was too good to be true.

I refreshed the fly, and cast a bit higher up in the center current seam, and, whack, another carbon copy brown trout slid into my net. I felt like I was in a dream. Again I dried my stomper, but successive casts failed to elicit a response, yet the regular feeding pace increased, and additional trout showed their presence above to the left and right of the center current. Apparently I duped the dumb ones or the exceptionally hungry members of the school, and now the discerning eaters were teaching me a lesson. I stripped in my hippie stomper and added an eighteen inch section of 5X leader to the bend, and then I attached a CDC blue winged olive (CDC BWO)  as the second fly.

For the next forty-five minutes I fired casts to all the sites of recent rises, and I netted an additional four brown trout. Now I was beyond dreamland, and these were all quite nice trout in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. Two temporary hookups added to the action along the channel pool. When I arrived at the top of the pool, I spotted the dorsal fin of the largest feeder in the area, and my heart rate elevated in anticipation of wrangling with the big daddy. Alas, after four or five drifts that did not tempt an eat, I watched the behemoth, as it slowly cruised to a spot of hiding.

I glanced at my watch, and it was now 1:10PM and way beyond my lunchtime, so I found a dry spot on the north bank among some rocks and munched my sandwich and carrots. I observed sporadic blue winged olives, so this confirmed the source of the earlier eating frenzy. From past experience I knew the area across from me was a prime spot, as the river deflected off a high vertical rock wall. A shallow riffle was upstream of the rock, and then a nice run and pool of moderate depth developed. I carefully waded across the river and positioned myself at the upper end of the area, and I fed downstream casts through the entire zone, but the fish were not rising, and the attractor did not work its magic.

By two o’clock I adjourned to the north bank and progressed up the river while prospecting attractive sections of moderate depth and current velocity. Lacking risers, I abandoned the CDC BWO, and I replaced the double dry setup with an emerald caddis pupa and RS2. In a nice long pocket behind some exposed rock, I hooked and landed a thirteen inch brown trout that aggressively attacked the caddis pupa, but in the process of landing, the RS2 broke off. I replaced the RS2 with a size 18 baetis imitation that I tied many years ago from my Scott Sanchez book, and I continued my upstream progression.

After twenty minutes of fruitless casting, and as the wind began to gust in a more significant way, I cast along the seam next to some faster water. I had replaced the hippie stomper with a yellow fat Albert for better visibility in the afternoon glare, and suddenly the fat Albert dove. I reacted with a quick set, and the battle ensued. In this case I eventually hoisted a fifteen inch rainbow trout into my net, and it displayed the twenty plus year old baetis in its lip. Wonders never cease.

By 3:15PM I reached my crossing point, so I carefully shuffled across and climbed the roadside bank and then investigated the long smooth pool below the high rock bluff next to the car. I was unable to spot fish, and had it not been so close to quitting time, I would have switched to a deep nymphing rig. But I was weary and close to the end, so I stayed with the dry/dropper and fished the twenty-five yard section of moderate riffles over a rocky bottom that led into the pool. Nothing. I concluded that my leader was too short and rather than bother to lengthen it, I swapped the emerald caddis pupa for a weighted size 12 20 incher with a beadhead. That did not work either, so I reeled up the slack and called it quits at 3:45PM.

What a day! This was easily the best day of the year so far. Eight fish in 3.5 hours of fishing is not exceptional, but the quality of the fish was outstanding with a size range from twelve to fifteen inches. Every fish was a wild and healthy battler, and I was thankful for that. Icing on the cake was landing six beauties on dry flies. Fishing successfully to rising fish on March 20 is something to embrace and remember.

Fish Landed: 8

Bear Creek – 03/12/2024

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Morrison

Bear Creek 03/12/2024 Photo Album

I did not lose any flies, and I did not fall in the creek. I did not injure myself in any way, and I did not break any equipment items. The weather was quite nice for late winter, and my new car performed admirably. My friend, Howie, accompanied me on this trip to Bear Creek, and he was the perfect companion. There were a lot of positives on March 12, 2024.

Howie and I arrived at our chosen fly fishing destination at 11:10AM, and the parking lot was completely devoid of vehicles. I was curious to know what it looked like on the previous sunny Sunday. I pulled on my North Face light down coat and added my rain shell along with my billed hat with ear flaps. The dashboard thermometer registered in the low 50’s, but I knew from previous visits that fishing in the shadow of the nearby ridge was a chilly experience. Quite a bit of snow and ice shelves remained along the first section of the creek that we fished, and this was testimonial to the lack of sunshine and frigid temperatures.

Initially I rigged with a yellow size 8 fat Albert, size 14 prince nymph and a size 16 beadhead hares ear. Howie opted for a grasshopper with a gray dubbed body and a beadhead hares ear nymph, that he tied. We alternated casting in pools for the first hour, but there was no evidence of trout in the crystal clear and low Bear Creek. After thirty minutes I swapped the hares ear for a salvation nymph, and the change had no impact on the sulking trout population in Bear Creek.

After lunch we resumed our upstream migration; but, alas our fortunes remained on the negative side of the ledger. I cycled through numerous fly changes including an olive mini leech, a 20 incher as the top fly for added weight, and an RS2. The 20 incher was an experiment with fishing depth, and the RS2 tested the idea that the fish were tuned into smaller natural food items. Neither theory applied, but I searched for answers nonetheless. Howie stayed with his hopper and hares ear, and midway through our afternoon, I swapped the hares ear for an apricot egg.

By 2PM we reached a less attractive section of water that was characterized by wide and shallow riffles, so we hoofed back to the car and drove to another parking lot farther upstream. Here we quickly grabbed our gear and hiked for .3 mile, before we cut to the creek and resumed our dance with futility. During this last part of our day, I witnessed a brown trout, as it rose and snubbed the fat Albert, and that was my closest encounter with a trout during the three hours of fly fishing. I also sighted a trout along the bank below an ice shelf, but I was unable to get quality drifts over the target, and it disappeared into the depths.

Toward the end of the day Howie broke off both his flies on a rock, so he converted to a deep nymphing configuration with a strike indicator and beadhead hares ear. I observed, as he made some impressive drifts through promising runs and along undercut banks, logs and ice shelves; but the magic was absent for him as well. The sky once again clouded over, and a sudden chill enveloped our persons, so we returned to the parking lot at 3:00PM and made the return drive to home.

I listed the positives in the first paragraph, but I am forced to admit that we were victims of a double skunking on Bear Creek. For me, early season fly fishing is very temperamental, and I anxiously look forward to warmer temperatures, increased insect activity and active fish. A large winter storm is on the horizon for Denver, so I will likely not be posting additional fishing reports for a bit.

Fish Landed: 0

Clear Creek – 03/10/2024

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: West of Golden, CO

Clear Creek 03/10/2024 Photo Album

My last fly fishing outing was on March 1, 2024, and I had a strong desire to revisit a local stream on March 10. The weather since March 1 was either too cold for my preference, or nice weather coincided with days, when I had other commitments. A high in the mid-60’s in Denver on March 10 convinced me to make the short drive to Clear Creek.

The canyon was packed with outdoor enthusiasts including dog walkers, runners, hikers, fishermen and rock climbers. The first two parking lots west of Golden along the Peak to Plains Trail were filled to capacity with Sunday visitors. I earmarked a section, where I experienced previous success, but when I arrived, the entire roadside pullout was filled with rock climber vehicles. I continued onward, until I finally found a wide pullout on the left side of the highway. One car preceded me, and of course the owner was fly fishing twenty yards downstream from my parking space. I decided to either hike a distance above him or to hike downstream and fish back upstream. I exited my new Telluride (nice wheels, by the way), and shouted to the angler as loud as I could and asked how far down he began. Surprisingly he heard me and answered, “around 100 yards”. I decided to hike downstream for .5 mile to get below where he disturbed the stream.

By this time it was 12:15, so I grabbed my lunch bag and carefully consumed my lunch and avoided dropping food in my new ride. Afterward I pulled on my fleece hoodie and strung my Loomis five weight two piece. As planned, I hiked along the narrow shoulder, as a steady stream of cars passed by, and I cut down to the creek after .5 mile. I paused at the edge of the creek and rigged with a yellow size 8 fat Albert, an olive mini leech, and a 20 incher. Ice shelves extended for three to four feet along the bank in many places,  but there was enough open water to allow casting to promising holes and runs.

I focused on the deep and slower moving spots for forty-five minutes, but I saw no signs of trout. Given my lack of action, I removed the leech, moved the 20 incher to the upper position and added a beadhead hares ear nymph to my lineup. Finally my luck reversed, and I landed a small brown trout on the hares ear and then a ten inch rainbow on the 20 incher. Both fish came from a long trough and current seam, and I was on the board with two landed fish within a fifteen minute window.

I continued on in a westward direction, and I managed to net one more rainbow on the hares ear along with a temporary hook up that resulted in an escapee. This time period involved a lot of casting and unproductive drifts. By 3:15 I reached the area bordering my car, so I exited and drove east on US 6 to the spot, where I originally envisioned spending my afternoon. Parking was available, so I grabbed my gear and hiked downstream fifty yards along the opposite bank. I fished back upstream, until I was next to the Telluride, and I was rewarded with two additional rainbow trout that snatched the hares ear nymph.

My watch registered 4:00PM, when I was across from the car, and my exit option was down to one steep climb up a rocky bank, so I took advantage and ended my day of fly fishing. Five trout in three hours was a below average catch rate, but I was pleased given the cold water temperatures and the lack of insect activity. Where are all the brown trout? Normally Clear Creek yields 80% browns and 20% rainbows, but in my two 2024 outings, I have landed nine rainbows and two browns. It is a perplexing question. Hopefully, as we move closer to the official start of spring, I will be able to unleash the new Telluride for a few more productive trips to area rivers and streams. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 5

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek – 03/01/2024

North Fork of St. Vrain Creek 03/01/2024 Photo Album

A projected high in the mid-60’s in Denver motivated me to plan a day of fly fishing on Friday, March 1, 2014. I debated between Clear Creek and the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, but a wind icon on Weather Underground for Idaho Springs prompted me to choose the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek. I recently underwent physical therapy for an annoying case of tennis elbow resulting from overly aggressive pickleball sessions, so I was cautiously interested in testing my elbow’s reaction to fly casting.

I arrived at the parking area for my chosen section of the creek, and the thermometer registered 51 degrees, so I pulled on my Columbia long-sleeved thermal undershirt, fleece cardigan and North Fork light down parka. A constant wind swirled through the parking lot, so I was pleased to have the layers, although I was concerned that I would overheat during my 1.5 mile hike.

My concern over being overdressed was somewhat valid; however, I was rather happy to have the layers for most of the day and especially while positioned in the shade of the canyon walls, when the wind was gusting. I began my quest for St. Vrain trout at 11:15AM with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, prince nymph and salvation nymph; however during the forty-five minutes before I broke for lunch, I managed to avoid landing any trout. Although I may have been deceived, I think two fish elevated to look at the fat Albert, but they were sightseers and not eaters.

I sat in a sunny location along the creek to consume my small lunch, and then I proceeded to advance up the creek at a steady pace, until I quit at 2:30PM. The wind was a significant nuisance, as it gusted regularly and pushed my casts backward or sideways. This circumstance affected my accuracy and forced me to make more casts than usual, and this in turn raised my fear of elbow strain.

During my three hours on the creek I managed to land two trout, and I connected temporarily with three others. All but one of the interactions with trout were surprisingly related to the fat Albert. The first landed fish was a respectable twelve inch brown trout, and the big fat Albert was prominently displayed in its lip. Number two was a small brown and also a fat Albert chomper in the eight inch range. Toward the end of my time on the water, another brown trout gobbled the fat Albert, but it managed to shake free after a short fight. My last stop was a gorgeous deep pool with wide riffles feeding into a deep run. After failing to interest trout in my dry/dropper arrangement, I broke out one of my recently completed Mickey Finn streamer flies. I fired at least twenty casts across the riffles and allowed the streamer to sink, before I stripped it back with varying cadences and twitches. It was fun to watch my new creation, but the trout demonstrated zero interest in my classic streamer offering.

Most of my success stemmed from the fat Albert, yet I persisted throughout the day with subsurface offerings. I began with the prince nymph and salvation nymph, and then I cycled through a 20 incher, emerald caddis pupa, juju baetis, and apricot egg. I was shocked over the lack of interest in the subsurface offerings. The flows were 25 CFS and very acceptable for March 1. I covered a significant amount of stream mileage, and I focused on areas with depth and moderate to slow current. The trout that rose to the fat Albert did so after quite a few drifts, and this was probably an indicator of the lethargic state of the fish due to the cold water temperatures. Two fish in three hours is definitely subpar, but March 1 is quite early in the season, and my expectations need to be moderated. Normally i would expect to spot more fish or spook fish while wading, and the absence of this sort of activity makes me question the fish density in the North Fork. I will avoid this destination for the remainder of the pre-runoff time period. I avoided the loss of flies, I did not get hurt, and I did not damage any equipment; so all was not lost on March 1, 2024.

Clear Creek – 02/20/2024

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: West of Golden, CO

Clear Creek 02/20/2024 Photo Album

A predicted high temperature of 64 degrees in Denver, CO on February 20 was a clear invitation for this devoted fly angler to visit a stream. The one drawback to this plan was the forecast of wind gusting to fifteen miles per hour, but I decided to risk the short drive to Clear Creek in spite of this projected adversity.

Near the Start

The dashboard temperature upon my arrival was 51 degrees, so I suited up with my Under Armour long sleeved thermal shirt and North Face light down coat along with my billed cap with earflaps. I pulled my rain shell over my light down to act as a windbreaker, and I assembled my Loomis two piece five weight. By 11:30AM I was perched along the stream and anxiously anticipated my first casts of the new year. The creek was mostly clear in the area that I chose to fish with small residual ice shelves along the banks; however, I was never forced to venture on to unstable undercut ice.

First Fish of 2024

I rigged my five weight with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, and beneath it I attached a black mini leech and size 18 crystal stone nymph. Between 11:30AM and 12:15PM, I prospected upstream and cherry-picked locations with slower current and depth. I managed to experience two temporary connections, before I paused for lunch in a sunny spot along the north bank. One of the trout that showed interest in my flies sipped the fat Albert, and I was shocked by this action, which may have contributed to my loss of the fish. At some point in the morning I swapped the crystal stone for a beadhead hares ear nymph.

Twenty Incher

After lunch I once again reconfigured my lineup, as I exchanged the mini leech for an emerald caddis pupa, and I moved the hares ear to the upper position on my dropper lines. This combination failed to interest the fish, so I paused once more, and in this instance I replaced the hares ear with a 20 incher in the top position. In a short amount of time I realized that I found a winning combination, as I landed four rainbow trout in a matter of thirty minutes. Three nabbed the 20 incher and one consumed the emerald caddis pupa. I deployed the 20 incher as a means to generate deeper drifts, and surprisingly it became the food of choice for some Clear Creek rainbow trout. The rainbows were likely holdover stockers, but I was quite pleased to land them and in so doing register my first fish on the 2024 fish counter. The largest was probably twelve inches, with the others in the ten to eleven inch range.

Largest on the Day

This sudden dose of success spurred me on, and my eagerness for more action allowed me to block out the numbness of my hands and the increasing loss of feeling in my feet. For the remainder of my time on the creek I covered quite a bit of territory, and I landed a small brown trout and a seven inch rainbow. The brown trout was a greedy little guy, as he ate the fat Albert, and the fly fell out of the rainbow’s mouth, so I was unable to determine the object of its hunger. During this time period I endured another pair of temporary connections.

A Brown Trout Joins the Catch List

By 3:00PM I approached a bridge, and this offered an easy exit, so I grabbed the opportunity to transform my feet from frozen stumps into feeling digits. Tuesday, February 20 was a respectable start to my 2024 fly fishing season. I landed six trout and interacted with four more in three hours of fishing. The wind gusted periodically, but I paused during the worst of it. The most productive water was the seams, where fast deep runs sliced through deep pools to create a shelf pool. The trout apparently rested in the relatively low velocity depths and picked off food items, as morsels tumbled by. Landing fish in February was a noteworthy event for this fair weather angler, and weather will dictate my next fly fishing outing.

Fish Landed: 6

Source of a Trout