Time: 11:30AM – 2:00PM
Location: Downstream of Nighthawk at Whale Rock
Fish Landed: 0
South Platte River 02/14/2015 Photo Album
I pulled my dark olive Columbia fishing shirt off the hanger and eagerly slipped my arms through the sleeves and buttoned the front. The high in Denver was projected to be 65 degrees, and I anxiously anticipated my first fishing outing of 2015. My Valentine, Jane, agreed to accompany me to the South Platte River near Nighthawk, but before we left, Jane observed that my fishing shirt was excessively wrinkled. I responded that I was not about to waste valuable fishing time to iron a fishing shirt. Jane replied that the fish care, and I was disadvantaging myself in the battle to land my first fish of the season.
Wrinkled Fishing Shirt
Off we went with a chair for Jane and our lunches packed, and in my case guarded optimism that I could land a fish to kick off my new season. I checked the flows in the South Platte River below Cheesman Reservoir, and they were at a low level of 116 cfs. The combination of low clear flows, bright blue skies, typical cold water temperatures of February and the lack of significant insect activity caused me to be cautious in my expectations.
Ready for First Fishing Outing of 2015
When we reached the South Platte River at the base of Nighthawk Hill my hopes were further eroded by the significant number of vehicles parked in all the designated pullouts along the river. Fishermen were everywhere, and I was headed to the less popular lower river. The prime catch and release water between Scraggy View and Deckers must have been like opening day back east with fishermen lining the river.
I tossed aside my concerns and assembled my new replacement Orvis Access four weight rod and then pulled my head through the loop of my new Fishpond front pack. My fleece pouch was sufficiently stocked with San Juan worms, eggs, and tiny nymphs so I set out on my quest for trout number one. As I slid down the path toward the river several fishermen ambled past me along the shoulder of the dirt road. I rarely saw fisherman below me in this spot on the South Platte, so the parade of fishermen did not bode well.
Wading into the South Platte River
I began casting a nymphing rig with a strike indicator, beadhead hares ear and zebra midge to the nice bend pool where I had much success in previous first time outings, but Valentine’s Day 2015 was not going to be one of those experiences. I did not add a split shot to my set up as the flows were quite low, and I determined that the two beadheads would sink the flies sufficiently. After striking out in my ace in the hole bend pool, I moved upstream and worked a solid deep run along the far bank. The sky was a disappointing slate gray and the air temperature hovered at 42 degrees. These were not the balmy premature spring conditions that caused me to schedule this mid-winter venture.
A Prospecting Cast
I moved on to a channel on the south side of an island and worked some deep riffles to no avail and then returned to find Jane bundled up in a chair across from the bend pool. We agreed to retreat to the car to pick up our lunches, and then returned to our spot across from the bend pool. As we munched our lunches, we watched two fishermen thirty yards below us futilely flail the river with numerous hopeful casts.
After lunch I crossed the river to the west bank and then hiked downstream through some tall grass and ponderosa pines, but as I began to cut back to the river, I spotted another fisherman wearing a red ball cap in the area just above the white water cascade. This was the area I was targeting, so I made a right turn and cut back to the river halfway between the red cap gentleman and the fishermen below Jane’s reading spot.
Headed for the Rock Jumble after Lunch
I swapped out the beadhead hares ear for a pink San Juan worm and worked the deep runs and side pools, but once again I was met with disappointment. By the time I reached the point where a fisherman covered the water during our lunch, he had departed, so I explored the area from the opposite side. I exchanged the zebra midge for a RS2, and in a deep side pool I finally observed a trout dashing for cover after my third or fourth cast failed to attract interest.
I was now feeling quite bored with the winter fishing and my lack of success, so I crossed the river and approached Jane. We decided to move to another spot farther up the river, so Jane drove the Santa Fe, and dropped me off along the dirt road just above the next parking area. She continued to the next pullout, and I promised to fish to her position, and then we would begin our return trip to Denver. I thoroughly worked the rocky stretch of river next to the road with my worm and RS2, and again my rod did not feel the throb of a resisting fish.
One of My Favorite Stretches Was Unproductive
When I reached the top of the deep run, a white pick up truck appeared on the road above me, and a DOW agent greeted me and asked to see my fishing license. I struggled to open the zippered pockets in my wader bib, but upon inspection, I could not find my Colorado fishing license. The gentleman was nice enough to transport me upstream to the parking area where Jane parked the Santa Fe, and I found her by the edge of the river reading. She threw the keys to me, and I found my drivers’ license and presented it to the DOW agent. He politely accepted it and told me he would radio one of his other agents who was in cell range, and then that person could use the on board computer to check the database for my license.
After a five minute wait I was relieved to hear that the chain of connections worked, and he determined that I was a licensed fisherman. Later when I returned home, I found my license in my fishing backpack in my fishing bag. I had it with me in the car, but I did not have it on the stream. This was the most exciting aspect of my Valentine’s Day fishing trip.
If you ask Jane, she will tell you that I was skunked because I did not iron my fishing shirt. I, on the other hand, attribute my lack of success to the density of fishermen combined with low clear water conditions. One certainty however remains. I will not stoop to ironing my fishing shirts.