Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout

Photo of the Month: Backcountry Brook Trout
Showing posts with label South Boulder Creek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Boulder Creek. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Silver Ribbons and Red Stripes

As my last day in Colorado rapidly approaches, I was wondering if I could squeeze one last day of fishing in.  A short hike combined with fishing seemed ideal.  South Boulder Creek (SBC) just below Gross Reservoir is the perfect place for this type of trip so off we headed for another adventure.  The stream was still running ice free thanks to the recent warmer weather.  The winds that brought the warmer temperatures had me concerned but were forecast to die down in the afternoon.

Reaching the parking lot and seeing only two other cars, I quickly rigged up with a small caddis pupa and a Zebra Midge.  A small pinch-on indicator above seemed appropriate and then we hit the trail down.  As the stream came into view, I was amazed out how much ice had melted since my trip last Wednesday.  Of course, the first section you see gets a lot of sun exposure so that explained the lack of ice.

Staying high above the creek, we turned downstream. I was heading for a section of nice pools that should hold plenty of fish in the winter.  Looking back upstream, I paused to take in the beauty.  The stream looked like silver ribbons running down over the rocks as the afternoon sun through light across the bottom of the canyon.


Eager to fish, I quickly continued downstream.  The pool where I had caught several fish last week already had another angler in it, but the pool just below didn't.  After several drifts with only one small rainbow striking and missing the hook, I decided to continue downstream.

The next pool was another favorite.  Last fall I spotted a 16 inch brown spawning in the back of it so I suspected that there were good fish somewhere nearby.  The fish were holding tight to structure and under the fastest water in the deep holes so my luck was not the best...yet.  As I fished, my girlfriend had fun with her camera.  I'm fishing somewhere here...

Photo by Catherine McGrath

I really like how this stream shot came out that she took. Notice that in this more shaded section the ice was still holding on along the edges.

Photo by Catherine McGrath

As I fished up around the bend, a nice slow pool looked like the perfect hiding spot for a trout in the winter.  I tossed the flies and indicator in and then crouched behind a boulder to keep from spooking the fish.  The indicator swirled around a couple of times before being pulled under.  I set the hook and was happy to discover that I had finally hooked a fish!  The rainbows here are incredibly beautiful.  They all have these magnificent red stripes down their sides, even the little guys.  It can be hard to believe that some of the stocked specimens I have caught in my life are even in the same family as these wild rainbows.


With that first fish out of the way, I now wanted to catch one or two more before calling it a day.  The next pool upstream seemed like just the place to do that.  As I fished, I had lost track of where my girlfriend had gone with her camera.  It turns out she was getting some more cool shots that I can't get on my own.

Photo by Catherine McGrath

Right after this shot, on the next cast, I tossed my fly over next to the boulder against the far bank.  There just had to be a trout under that rock.  Sure enough, the indicator dove and I quickly realized that the fish I was now fighting was in a different class from the first trout.  As the fish ran around the small pool, I just let it run and tire itself against the spring of the rod.  I didn't have a net and was taking no last second chances on losing this beautiful trout.

After a couple of pictures, I released my new personal best rainbow from SBC.  Even on a day when the flows are low, a few fish can be caught and a good time had.

Photo by Catherine McGrath

This fish was the perfect way to end my last fishing excursion here in Colorado for this trip.  I was thankful for the two fish that had graced the end of my line.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Colorado Outing


Even though I've moved back to Tennessee, I still love fishing in Colorado.  Yesterday I made it out to the stream to battle the wind and hopefully find a few fish.  Initially I was thinking of hitting Boulder Creek, but at the last second I decided to make a run over the mountain so to speak and fish South Boulder Creek instead.  I'm glad I did.

When I arrived at the trailhead, I could see glimpses of the stream below and the most obvious feature was a distinct lack of snow and ice on the pools.  Looking good so far!  When I got down to the water after a short walk, I tied on a streamer to bounce around a couple of pools.  When absolutely nothing seemed interested, I quickly changed over to a two fly rig consisting of a mysis shrimp pattern and a small midge.  A little stick on indicator a couple of feet up completed the rig, and I got back to casting again.  It only took 3-4 casts before the indicator hesitated.  When I set, I saw a flash but missed the connection.  Thankful that the fish were at least interested, I worked the pool a bit more before heading on downstream to some new water.  

I came to a favorite pool that reminds me a LOT of a pool in the Smokies on Lynn Camp Prong.  The water flows through both holes in an almost identical fashion and it just so happens that it makes for some very tough drifts.  I was fishing in hiking boots so repositioning across the creek wasn't an option.  Thankfully, since it is winter, several fish were stacked in a slow back eddy on my side of the pool.  Several drifts around that eddy and 3 fish later, I was pretty happy about how things were going.




The wind was becoming increasingly annoying however.  It was blowing straight down the canyon in fits and bursts that made casting frustrating from time to time.  After another pool and another trout, I decided that it wasn't worth fighting any longer and headed back towards town.  


Stopping by Boulder Creek, I made a few half hearted casts with a streamer for old time's sake but there was very little open water.  That should be changing in the next few days thankfully with highs forecast to be in the 50s and even 60s for the next week or so.  I'm hoping to get another chance to wet a line while I'm here in Colorado, but the big news is that all my paperwork is back to the NPS for my Commercial Use permit to guide in the Great Smoky Mountains.  I'm predicting that late next week into next weekend will see some fantastic fishing in the Park.  More on that over at the fishing report on Trout Zone Anglers.  

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Cool Down

As November gave way to December, there were still some great fishing opportunities to be had locally.  Then it cooled off just a little.  From highs in the 50s and even 60s, we are now going to be lucky to get to 10 or so above zero.  The low temperatures last night were well below zero.  As you can imagine, open water is going to be closing quickly now.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I made a trip over to El Dorado Canyon to find some solitude.  A recent snowstorm had both coated the stream banks and chased away other anglers.  I'm just fine with that.  If it takes a cool down to get some water to myself so be it.  Rocks were already gaining ice caps, and this was before our recent plunge into the deep freeze.


The snow on the plains had barely been a couple of inches.  In the canyon it had piled higher though, up to 5 or 6 inches.  Scrambling up and down the steep stream banks was an adventure but I just took things slow and made sure to not take any serious falls.  This included NOT wearing waders, but instead just wearing hiking boots.  Long ago, it became obvious that wading boots encourage me to take risks that I shouldn't even be considering.  My solution now is to just stay out of the water.  Yes, there is less water I can reach, but it also forces me to creatively improve my casting as well as try new methods.  I tend to fish streamers a lot more when I'm stuck on the bank which isn't too bad of a trade off if you ask me.


Anyway, as I walked up the access road and stared almost straight down to the stream, the thought of scrambling down was a bit frightening.  Eventually, I was almost to the top of the steepest stretch before I found a decent path down to the water.  Here, the danger factor was in the "broken leg" range if I fell instead of "likely death."  Oh well, surely I could drag myself with my hands out of the canyon.  I'm glad I snuck down where I did.  The browns were small but willing.  Getting around the banks was a bit tricky, but I navigated enough stream to feel that the scramble down had been worth it.


When I discovered the road was now much easier to get to, I decided to jump out and head back down the canyon.  Eventually I found myself fishing a hole near the car as the sun started to sink below the horizon.  Already shaded by the clouds and canyon walls, the stream was becoming even darker.  Finally, as the temperature was rapidly dropping, one last nice brown was eager to eat.  A quick picture, and the fish was back in the water, and I was headed to the warmth of my car.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Getting Drenched

I was there when the floods started.  At the time it was not clear that floods were on the way.  Where I was fishing, I got a firsthand look at what a Colorado cloudburst could do, not in the same way that we would see destruction over the next few days of course but still pretty impressive.  The forecast called for a chance of rain, but as the day wore on the clouds thinned.  As a good fisherman I hoped that the clouds would return.  When I arrived at South Boulder Creek at Walker Ranch, the sky was again starting to lower.  Off to the south it was darker and more threatening.  Perfect fishing weather.  It was Tuesday evening, September 10, 2013.

On the creek, I was surprised when streamers did not give me any results.  We are quickly approaching fall and the brown trout should be aggressive now or soon.  Fish were rising though.  It started to drizzle.  Quickly I changed leaders and added some 6x tippet. BWO weather.  I dug out my box of dries and scrounged around in the one compartment where I keep my small patterns.  A few #20 BWO Sparkle Duns were there from my tying spree last fall that came as a result of a fantastic experience fishing the little dries on Clear Creek.  By now the drizzle was falling harder.  Adding floatant was a challenge.  I leaned forward to protect the dry fly with my hat brim and body as I rubbed the Aquel into the body of the little fly.  Pulling out a bottle of Frogs Fanny, I put it conveniently into my pocket.  I would need a lot to keep that fly afloat.

Finding one of the best pools empty, I quickly moved in.  Rain was steady and my camera bag was getting wet.  Looking around, I noticed a small boulder with an overhang under a bush.  I shoved the camera bag underneath the overhang and hoped it would stay dry enough.  Fish were almost causing the water to boil with rises by now.  Every once in a while a larger mayfly would make an appearance as it labored upstream just above the water, all the while getting pelted with raindrops...or was it dodging them?

I settled into a nice rhythm. Cast, cast, set, land fish, release, repeat.  Some nicer rainbows started mixing into the catch.  The little rainbows looked a lot like the little 'bows I used to catch in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  It was raining, making it feel even more like home.  I could get used to this.

A gully washer moved in, pelting the water so hard that every 3 or 4 casts I was applying Frogs Fanny with the same procedure as the original floatant.  Still the fish were eating.  A guy from somewhere back east came down the canyon as he headed for the bridge and a quick hike out.  We chatted in the pouring rain and then he continued on his soggy way.  Even with my rain coat on I was getting drenched.  What a day to wet wade.  Yet another wallet drying experience loomed in my immediate future.  I checked under the rock to see how my camera was doing.  The bag was pretty damp.  Maybe it's time to hike out.  Fish were still rising though so I kept fishing.

The runoff hit the stream pretty hard just a couple of fish later.  I noticed the murky torrent along the edge of the clear water.  With the dam just upstream, I felt fairly safe from flash floods.  The road was another story though.  I've been bogged down in mud before and didn't want a repeat performance.  Hiking upstream, the real mud hit. I had left at just the right time.  The fish were still biting but the clarity would have changed that inside of 2 minutes.

Despite the wet conditions, the rain nearly stopped as I hiked out.  I was still soaking in the experience, literally and figuratively I might add.  The fishing experience was one of the best I've had since moving to Colorado, and it had been too wet to photograph any of it.  Apparently leaving your camera safely under a rock to keep dry is as good as leaving it at home to guarantee a great time of fishing.

That night, I reflected on the amazing trip I had just had.  With growing concern I noted that the rain was continuing and forecast to become heavy the next day.  I still had no idea what that would actually mean though.

Now I have no clue when I'll fish some of my favorite streams here on the Front Range.  Thus, it seems fitting that my last and best memory might just be of getting drenched...

Friday, September 06, 2013

New Water

Having lived here in Colorado for more than a year now, I'm still exploring new water.  Some places are obviously way out of the way such as high alpine lakes.  Others are quite accessible, I just haven't tried them out yet.  South Boulder Creek was one such destination.  Close to Boulder, the tailwater section receives a lot of pressure.  Finding open water can be challenging.  The hatches are worth it though.

I arrived right in the middle of the day.  Sleeping in is always attractive on my days off so I had a leisurely morning.  By the time I arrived, I considered myself fortunate to grab the last open parking space.  Armed with my favorite 5 weight and ready to do combat with the anticipated crowds, I started walking downstream.

Whenever I fish tailwaters, be it here in the west or back east, I always notice people standing right in the middle of the better runs.  This day was no different.  Some of the best holes had people right on top of where they should be fishing.  So much for stealth.  Meandering down the river, I found some nice spots, but each time I was nearly ready to jump in, I would notice another angler already working the water.

A rough canyon stretch that was better left to the wild critters was finally free of any other fisher folk.  Carefully working my way down a boulder field, I pushed through the tangle of willows lining the stream only to discover that I wouldn't be wading far.  The water was deep and swift.


Very carefully I worked the edges.  Then I waded as far out as I dared and worked the far current seam.  Sure enough, tight to the boulder providing a break in the current, my first fish rose energetically.



After a few more casts, I noticed the water just upstream had been vacated.  Hating to fish used water but preferring it over swimming, I somehow slithered and stumbled my way upstream over rocks, through willows....and found a paradise.


The section I was now gazing over was a bit wider meaning I could wade all the way across if I was careful.  By this time, drakes, PMDs, rusty spinners, caddis, and a few stoneflies were all making an appearance.  I love fishing big dries and dug out a big Parachute Adams that was close in size to the drakes I was seeing.  Fish started to hammer the big dry as soon as I tossed it out.

Working the closer water first, I slowly started fanning out with my casting to cover the water meticulously.  On just the other side of the main current, I noticed a couple of rises.  Casting over, a better fish took the fly and promptly headed for fast water.  For a couple of minutes it was touch and go.  Then the fish went over the rapids below, and I just knew I had lost it.  Incredibly, the 5x tippet held, and slowly I regained control.  It wasn't until I slipped the net under the fish that I looked up and noticed several spectators giving me the thumps up.  Glad I landed that fish!



By now the hatch was getting heavier and fish were rising everywhere.  Proceeding slowly upstream, I caught fish after fish, missing as many or more than I was landing.  Most were small to medium sized rainbows and browns although every once in a while a better fish would eat.


Taking time to look at the scenery, I noticed signs of fall on the far bank and took time to take pictures. The heat is still holding on here on the plains, but it will be no time at all before the nights are cool and crisp and the browns and brookies are spawning.  The elk are already bugling up in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The best time of year has arrived!!!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pocket Water

Some of my favorite water to fish is pocket water.  On small streams that may be 90% of the water on the whole stream.  On larger classic trout water, larger pools and runs may predominate but the pockets behind in-stream obstructions are still some of the best water in the river.  High stick nymphing is my method of choice although streamers and even dry flies have their place at times.  While on a hike this past weekend, I came across an ideal pocket behind a large boulder.  Unfortunately I did not have a fly rod with me but I will return!  Just imagine what must live behind this boulder...