Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM
Location: Downstream from Deckers
I was encouraged by my visit to the South Platte River in the Deckers area on 05/17/2021 and anxious to schedule a reengagement. A cool day on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 with lots of cloud cover made a second trip to the South Platte River below Deckers a reality. Flows were a moderate 110 CFS, and an Instagram photo from someone I follow revealed some discoloration, although it was not enough to cancel my plans. I arrived at a sanctioned parking lot at 10:30AM, and after I set up my Sage four weight and walked along the road for a tenth of a mile, I was perched on the edge of the river prepared to fly fish. The flows were ideal from my perspective, and as shown on the Instagram photo, there was a slight stain, which was actually favorable for approaching trout.
I debated whether to utilize an indicator system, but after careful consideration I adopted my standard dry/dropper configuration. I began with a tan pool toy hopper and trailed a salvation nymph and classic RS2. Between 11:00AM and noon I was unable to hook and land a fish, although I did experience a momentary connection to one of the nymphs and two swirls to the hopper. After lunch I removed my raincoat and stuffed it in my backpack, as the air temperature rose to comfortable levels, although the sun continued to be an intermittent presence.
My slump continued for the thirty minutes after lunch, but then a fifteen inch brown trout assaulted the RS2, as I began to lift at the tail of a drift in front of a large exposed boulder. Earlier thoughts of a skunking penetrated my thought waves, so I was very pleased to tally a notch on the fish counter. After I photographed and released the much appreciated brown trout, I continued upriver in a renewed state of optimism; however. another hour elapsed with nothing to show for my diligent effort. I began changing the bottom fly and cycled through a hares ear nymph and orange scud. At one point I noticed two spaced out rises, so I shifted my approach to a double dry. I kept the pool toy hopper in place and added a soft hackle emerger without a bead. The soft hackle generated a refusal, but that was the extent of the double dry fly response.
The absence of additional surface activity caused me to revert to the dry/dropper method; however, I replaced the pool toy hopper with a peacock hippie stomper and knotted a go2 bright green caddis pupa below it and followed the caddis pupa with a classic RS2. Surely the bright caddis would attract some afternoon interest. I was correct in this assumption, as a chunky thirteen inch rainbow smacked the go2 caddis around 1:30PM. The hard fighting rainbow might have been a stocked fish, but I was pleased with it nonetheless.
Some large gray clouds moved into the area for most of the remainder of the afternoon, and I spotted the occasional blue winged olive, as they flitted up from the river. The fish count paused on two for a lengthy period of time, and I was fairly certain that I would return home and record that number on the analytics page of this blog.
I persisted, however, and I struggled to find some commonality with the type of river structure that provided success. Of course, it was difficult to ascertain a pattern, when only two trout succumbed to my search. By 2:30 the low light and wind seemed to induce some baetis activity, as the RS2 became popular. In a large pocket along the right bank, a relatively slow current flowed over moderate depth, and three brown trout less than twelve inches nabbed the RS2. In each case I made an upstream cast, and the hippie stomper paused briefly, before I lifted the rod tip and realized I was attached to a spunky fish. During this time frame I also experienced three or four temporary connections, and these instances seemed to result from a lift or strip near the end of the drift.
By 3PM I had covered quite a bit of South Platte real estate, and I was approaching a pullout occupied by several vehicles, so I crossed the river and climbed a short, steep bank and hiked back to the car. When I reached the Santa Fe, I thought about the fish that I hooked near the beginning of my day and the two refusals, and I decided to revisit the same spot. I remembered that the river reflected off a long rock along the far bank, and the current cut a deep trough, as it gouged gravel with the accelerating flow. I quickly found the spot and waded into position, so that I could execute an across stream cast such that the hippie stomper and two nymphs drifted through the natural funnel along the rock.
On the third drift, as the hippie stomper neared the downstream end of the long rock, I spotted a dip and reacted with a swift hook set. Wow! I felt heavy vibrating weight, as the live object on the end of my line executed several headshaking dives. I gained some line with a couple strips, but then the fighter raced downstream below an exposed rock, and I released at least ten feet of line, before the aquatic warrior stopped. Once again I stripped line and gained the upper hand on a sixteen inch brown trout, which I scooped into my net, while my heart rate elevated to excitement levels. The lanky trout was not happy, and it squirmed and splashed in an effort to free itself from the rubber net. I took a video and snapped a few photos and then gently released the river resident to live on to fight another day.
I decided to end on a positive note, so I hooked my fly in the rod guide and returned to the nearby car. My day was punctuated by the first and last fish with a few small wild fish in between and accompanied by a ton of fruitless casting. Seven fish in four hours was certainly a below average catch rate, but the ability to fish in a river on May 26, when run off predominates most of Colorado, was much appreciated. I suspect that I will return if the flows remain in the fifty to two hundred cfs range for the foreseeable future.
Fish Landed: 7