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


4 thoughts on “St. Vrain Creek – 08/23/2023

  1. Mike Gioielli

    Dave, as a newcomer to the Front Range and to fly fishing and to retirement, your posts about the local streams are incredibly helpful and enjoyable reading. Would love to connect with you offline sometime. I’m trying to hone my skills on these same streams so your stories are a great help.

    Be well, fish on!

    Mike G.
    Lafayette, Co

    1. wellerfish Post author

      Hi Mike. Welcome to the Front Range and thank you for reading my blog. Best of luck as you explore Colorado fly fishing. Dave

  2. Ralph E Burns

    Hello Dave (& thanks!) – Maybe it’s obvious, but I’m confused about which St. Vrain drainage you are fishing? South St. Vrain, no? Not Ceran St. Vrain? North St. Vrain? Trailhead? Above or below Ralph Price?

    1. wellerfish Post author

      Hi Ralph. Thanks for reading my blog. I was purposely vague about the exact location on the St. Vrain system. Dave

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