Friday, October 25, 2013

When will Walker Ranch re-open?

Access still closed to Walker Ranch. Eldorado State Park is still closed as well.
With the continued nice weather staring in at me through my window yesterday I got antsy and decided to head up to Walker Ranch in the afternoon to see what the current status was. Walker  Ranch is a favorite of many in the fall, and having it closed is like bringing a kid to a candy store and just letting him look at the candy through the glass.

As I arrived at the upper trailhead I was immediately greeted by trail closed signs and ominous yellow tape. A Park Ranger vehicle was also parked there, ensuring I didn't get any daring ideas. I headed down to the Kayak Run trailhead and was met with the same scenario. With every access point clearly closed I headed back down towards Pinecliffe and had a very productive hour of fishing. More on that in a minute.

This morning I gave Boulder County Open Space a call to try to get the skinny on the closure. They said that much of the park has been restored through numerous volunteer days, but the closure is still in place at the request of the Boulder County Sheriff's office, to limit traffic into the mountains via Flagstaff road (I came in the back way through Hwy 72). A quick call to the Boulder County Transportation office garnered a little more information. They said Flagstaff was still under construction but that it wasn't one of their highest priority roads, so it would probably be December 1st at the earliest before access was restored. Even though S. Boulder in Walker Ranch is a tailwater, it's not looking good for the rest of the season...

Alright, back to Pinecliffe. I hiked into the national forest section near Pinecliffe and picked my way downstream, hitting every deep hole. Even though the water was a little lower than a couple of weeks ago, the fishing was still excellent. A dry dropper rig was perfect for being able to cover the deep part of the hole as well as the tailout.

I was getting more hits on my nymph than my dry fly, but my Chubby and a PMX definitely saw some action. Not bad for late October! Similar to Boulder Creek, a larger than normal mayfly nymph was picking up fish. Give a Tung Surveyor a try (hint hint) or a buggy nymph like a Brush Hog, Tombstone, or Iron Lotus and you should pick up fish.
Dry fly action in late October... Priceless!

A South Boulder Creek Double!

Towards the end of my session I came across what appeared to be an escapee from the Lincoln Hills fishing club, which is located about a mile upstream. It clearly was too big of a fish for the ecosystem it was planted into, and obviously didn't last long.

This 2' DEAD beast was clearly an escapee from Lincoln Hills (insert discussion about putting huge fish into ecosystems that can't support them here)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Boulder Creek still fishing well!

One of the areas 1/2 mile upstream of elephant buttress that had to be filled in to rebuild the road
On my way back up the canyon yesterday afternoon I took the opportunity to pull over and check out some of the areas at the mouth of the canyon that had been restored post-flood. My first stop was the library, and standing on the walking bridge I was immediately surprised at how clear the water has gotten over the last week. With only a slight stain, I was able to pick out numerous fish moving back and forth in the current.

I jumped back in the truck and made my next stop about a half-mile upstream from Elephant Buttress. With most of this section being completely overhauled over the last month I wasn't expecting much, but was happily surprised when I saw numerous fish taking residence behind new boulders along the banks and feeding in seams created by recently placed boulders in the current.

Lots of hits on the PMX

After just watching fish for a while I was getting the itch, so I headed up to the BFC memorial park area and broke out the rod just to "test the water." As expected, it is still fishing GREAT! I was using a shallow dry dropper rig and was picking up fish both on top and on the dropper. The fish had no problem fully committing to my size 16 PMX, which was a nice bonus!

Subsurface, I was using a fairly large (size 14) mayfly nymph pattern, and a lot of times it was getting hit immediately as it hit the water. Every likely looking pocket and seam seemed to be holding a fish. As for bugs, the air was actually pretty thick with some minute midges; good to see things are recovering and even thriving.

Another colorful little Brown!

Today and the rest of the week look to promise to be great examples of a Colorado indian summer, so get out while the gettin' is good!


Friday, October 18, 2013

A Friend in Need ... Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch

Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch has been a primary go-to fishing destination for Front Range Anglers for many years.

During the flood the the ranch lost everything in and around their complex.  The hub of the resort, the dining hall and reception area are gone, floating down the Big Thompson along with most of the cabins.

I received this note today from Kathy Willkomm for the Jessup family.

"As you may know, much of the Sylvan Dale Guest ranch was devastated by flooding last month.  While we still have a few activities available (fly fishing, horseback riding & lessons, hayrides and natural grass-fed beef for sale), all other events have been cancelled for the foreseeable future while clean up, recovery and rebuilding efforts take place.

We are humbled and deeply grateful for the offer of help from a local chapter of Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Flycasters (RMF), for a river cleanup effort in our Bass Ponds area.

This volunteer effort is this Saturday, October 19th from 10am to 4pm.  If you’d like to participate, please reply to this email AND include RMF Volunteer Coordinator, Dave Piske ( ) so he can send you more details.

We’re hopeful this will be a great beginning to a longer-term effort to recreate a prime trout fishery along the Big Thompson River corridor.

If you can’t make it this time, there will surely be more chances to volunteer.  You can also support the ranch in other ways, like enjoying the activities we do have available.  Contact me directly for fly fishing trips or lessons!  The river is not yet fishable, but we have several lakes full of trophy trout waiting for your flies, cameras and smiles!  And please visit our website to see all the ways you can help this treasured, historic dude ranch.

Colorado is rebuilding!  It’s the Rocky Mountain Way!"

If you have an interest in making a donation to the recovery effort,  click here


Forgive me for going on a rant here, but I feel strongly about an issue not usually talked about and I'm having a hard time biting my tongue.

Back in the early spring, I bared witness to the most disgusting moment of my fly fishing life. I came upon an obvious guide trip where the guide was generously spooning fish eggs out of a mason jar into the river just upstream of where his two anglers were simultaneously casting over a  large group of spawning Rainbows. I was disgusted that the guide not only felt it necessary to chum the water for his anglers, but also didn't consider it his job to educate his anglers on stream ethics. When I learned of pictures being posted by another fly shop that clearly showed browns being pulled from redds, it drew me to an equal level of nausea.

Look, we all want to catch big fish and we have all made that cast before, but as guides, or staff, or as pro anglers it's our job to promote catch and release, barbless hooks, rubber nets, and all other ways to preserve the resource that we all enjoy. A desire to protect the resource is generally what separates fly anglers from bait fisherman! Walking the line between catching large fish during spawning season and destroying the future generations is a line that many anglers come close to but try not to cross.

Interrupting spawning fish is just bad practice, and it's generally obvious when it happens. This seasons run of browns had bad news written all over it when the flows in the Dream Stream dropped to a mere 35cfs. This flow presents a real "fish in the barrel" situation where these large browns are forced to spawn in only inches of water.

Here's the first picture posted:
Nice fish, big brown, you should be proud of yourself. This female was obviously on a redd if she's firing eggs. It's one thing to interrupt her spawn but the additional stress of a photo shoot while she's losing eggs is ridiculous. Dipshit #1 here is giving us a visual abortion of our next generation.
Here's the next picture:
Same fish, caught in the exact same spot, different idiot. Dipshit #2 here continues to rape the resource. Nicely done guys, you should be proud, you are the new poster children for stream ethics. This is purely tasteless, disrespectful, and it reminds me of when I see pictures of people holding up large fish in their kitchen.

 If anyone has questions on the etiquette or ethics to which I have expressed, please email me and I would be happy to discuss this further. Ben AT

Respect your Catch,

Ben McGee
Front Range Anglers Guide Service

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Creek is Back Baby!

A guest post from FRA Guide Services Manager Ben McGee

All we could do was sit back and watch as Mother Nature put our city in a headlock last month. Panic and unrest prevailed as Boulder residents and our customers strained to hold on while valuables were being ruined and possessions were being lost. It's very unnerving when things that we care about are suddenly out of our control and destroyed before our very eyes. Some were directly affected, some not so much. Our hearts are with all. 

Throughout the event we were bombarded by emotions and information that was so foreign that it was difficult to process, so much so that it has taken weeks to digest. 

This event has given us a snapshot of our resilience and our fortitude, while we helped our friends and families pack up and pump out basements. Offerings of free beer and pizza for help were expected, but not necessary. 

Before this event, no one would have imagined that our peaceful town and creek could be so close to disaster. We were all surprised and seemingly caught off guard as if there were something we could have done to prepare for this. What's even more surprising is the toughness that we have buried deep within us to resolve hardship. 

Most of the traffic in the shop over the last few weeks has expressed similar concern over the future of what we value most. For decades, our Front Range streams have been a safe haven for us; providing stress relief, excitement, challenges, and most importantly peace, sometimes even worth calling in sick or playing hooky for. 

Fast forward to Sunday Oct. 6th at 5 p.m. when Boulder Canyon was finally opened back up to the public

It was like visiting a long lost friend that you care about and had gone through rough times. Nervous, not sure what to expect, driving the canyon yesterday was incredible on so many levels. The colossal power that we witnessed in town has moved earth and in some cases completely removed earth that once held landmarks for those that knew Boulder Canyon well. 

I drove up the entire canyon, rubber necking at 15 mph as so many others were doing. Pulling over at many of the places that were most memorable, taking in the shocking nature of what I saw and comparing it to memories and past experiences. I pulled over at Four Mile Creek and found myself so intrigued that I was running down the trail to the bridge ahead to visit the creek once again. An incredible sigh of relief exhausted as I quickly recognized the stream that I have loved. Water level was good, water clarity was good, and better yet a small Brown was out and actively feeding on a newly formed gravel bed. I could hardly contain myself. I began running back to the truck because I was so excited to see the rest of the canyon. From top to bottom, the canyon is in great condition!

On the way back down I was stuck behind a large, slow moving truck, so I decided to stop and fish. Incredible. Not only are there fish still in the canyon, the fishing is superb!

Arriving back to the busy fly shop, I was smiling ear to ear and jubilant with the news that our home water is alive and well. A gentleman in the shop was speaking to Wallace about fishing instruction and asked if we had any guides available in the next 24 hours for a trip... absolutely! I found myself not caring about obligations and playing hooky for the chance to guide Boulder Creek again. 

Jim may never know it but his trip was more memorable for me than I can ever express. Fishing was great, as it always is on Boulder Creek. I encourage all to go see for yourself soon. Our stream and our fish have shown an incredible resilience of their own.

Make sure to check out our Fishing Report for the latest and greatest on where to fish and what to use!