South Platte River – 11/20/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 11/20/2019 Photo Album

A forecast of 68 degrees in Denver had me anxiously anticipating another day of fishing in 2019. Fly tying is a pleasant winter diversion, but being out on the stream is a far better option. November 19 is late in the season for this avid fair weather fly fisherman, and a lot depended on my chosen destination for what could possibly represent my last day in 2019.

My day on Friday on the Cache la Poudre River was nice, but it confirmed that rainbows were more willing eaters than spawning brown trout at this time of year. What streams offered the highest ratio of rainbow trout to brown trout? The Big Thompson River, South Boulder Creek and the South Platte River immediately came to mind. I quickly ruled out the Big Thompson under the assumption, that 68 degrees in Denver translated to fairly chilly temperatures at the higher elevations near Estes Park. South Boulder Creek was interesting, as the flows returned to 89 CFS, but I was concerned that the narrow canyon walls would shield the warming impact of the sun, and snow and ice might remain from storms during the prior week.

More Snow Than I Expected

The projected high temperature in Lake George near Eleven Mile Canyon was 60 degrees, and the releases from Eleven Mile dam registered flows of 99 CFS. These two factors weighed heavily in my decision, and I made the two plus hour drive to Eleven Mile Canyon on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately as I advanced along the dirt road that provides access to Eleven Mile, I was disappointed to discover significant remaining accumulations of snow throughout the canyon. Apparently the factor that ruled out South Boulder Creek was an equal negative in Eleven Mile, although fly fishing in this area did not require an extensive hike in a manner similar to that of South Boulder Creek.

Icy Perch

I found a plowed pullout along the road and prepared for a day of fishing. The temperature on the dashboard display was in the upper thirties, so I pulled on my Under Armour undershirt, a fleece, and my North Face light down in addition to my New Zealand billed cap with ear flaps. I added some fingerless woolen gloves to my array of winter attire, and I never regretted the multi-layer approach during my 3.5 hours of fishing. I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked toward the dam a short distance. I faced a new challenge; the task of getting down the steep bank that separates the access road from the South Platte River.

The Path to the River

After a short walk I encountered three “paths” that enabled me to descend to the river’s edge. I placed paths in quotation marks, because they were simply large sunken footprints in deep snow. I elected to maneuver down the set closest to the dam and carefully stepped down backwards to avoid a face first fall. The ploy worked, and I reached a nice pool unharmed.

With flows at 99 CFS and relatively deep snow lining the banks, I decided to deploy a deep nymphing rig. I looped a thingamabobber to my line and added a split shot, orange scud and beadhead size 20 RS2. I prospected some attractive deep runs between 11:30 and noon, but I encountered no evidence of the presence of trout. A layer of clouds blocked the sun’s warming rays, and the air temperature lagged my expectations, so I found a large rock that was devoid of snow and consumed my small lunch. At this point in my day I was not optimistic that a trout would grace my net, even though I only fished for thirty minutes.

A Splash of Color in November

After lunch I migrated upstream to a very attractive pool, and I prospected the tail and midsection with an abundant number of casts, but again the trout were uncooperative. I allotted many more drifts to each prime location than was my normal summer practice, but patient persistence was not translating to success. Finally I arrived at the gorgeous deep trough that ran along the main current seam near the top of the pool, and much to my amazement the indicator paused on the first cast, as the flies tumbled out of the whitewater froth and into the deep slower moving slot. I reacted with a hook set, and the torpedo streaked downstream, and within seconds my line was limp, and the first connection of the day slid into the long distance release column. I persisted in the same area, and once again the indicator paused, and again I hooked a strong trout that chose a downstream escape route and managed to shed my fly. Given my misgivings over my ability to land a fish on the cold November day, you can imagine my state of mind after two consecutive escape episodes. The twin incidents did, however, elevate my confidence and prodded me to persist in my pursuit of South Platte River trout. Gaining knowledge of which fly duped the trout would have been welcome, but the releases pointed to the small classic RS2 with a small hook gap.

I once again progressed upstream along the river and carefully avoided ice patches and packed snow, until I arrived at another large quality pool. Earlier I spotted another angler in the area, but he was absent by the time I arrived, so I covered the large pool very thoroughly. I was certain that the large prime hole would produce fish, but it did not. I decided to exchange the orange scud for a 20 incher, since it was weighted and when combined with the split shot would provide deeper drifts.

The next section of the river was comprised of faster chutes and short pockets, and I made some cursory casts, but when results were not forthcoming, I continued on to the gorgeous pool below the first tunnel. This pool entertained me and friends on numerous occasions, and I was somewhat optimistic that it might erase my skunking on November 19.

The Area That Produced

I moved immediately to the nice riffles that spanned the river at the top of the pool, and I sprayed casts across the entire area, but my hopes sank, as the flies only collected moss and aquatic debris. I took three steps downstream and once again executed casts starting within eight feet of my position and then extending outward. In the blink of an eye the indicator dipped, I set the hook and a spirited rainbow trout thrashed near the surface. The pink striped fighter performed some acrobatic maneuvers, but eventually I guided the fish into my net and observed the 20 incher in its lip. The skunking was avoided, and I silently congratulated myself for persistence and a hard earned reward.

A Welcome Catch

I continued probing the upper section of the pool, and on a subsequent cast I felt a jolt, as the flies began to swing at the downstream end of the drift. Again a rambunctious rainbow trout appeared, but once again I maintained tension and eventually slid my net beneath its swirling body. The second trout of the day was a mirror image of number one, but this specimen displayed the RS2 in its lip.

I worked my way down the pool for another ten minutes, and then I resumed my upstream progress. Just above the top of the pool a small relatively shallow shelf pool appeared, and although I judged it to be relatively marginal, I flicked a cast to the top. Imagine my amazement, when after a short drift I lifted to make sure that the flies were not hung up, and I found myself attached to a nine inch brown trout that gobbled the 20 incher.

Happy for Any Size

I continued onward for another hour, and I thoroughly fished two additional first-class locations, but I was unable to recreate the magic of the tunnel pool. The sun broke through for a few short time periods, but for the most part a thin layer of clouds prevented significant warming. I suspect the temperature topped out in the fifty degree range, and my feet and fingers reminded me of the chilly circumstances. By 3PM my confidence once again plummeted, and this mental state when combined with my gnarled fingers and numb feet prompted me to return to the car to call it a day.

Last Hour Spent in This Area

My return hike necessitated two river crossings, and I utilized the same packed footsteps that aided my descent to climb to the road. Tuesday was a challenging day, but I am proud to report that I landed three trout and connected with two others. In retrospect I underestimated the impact of the narrow canyon and the temperature differential between Lake George and Eleven Mile Canyon. I enjoyed a day outside in the middle of November, and I avoided an injury in spite of the dangerous snow and ice conditions. I consider Tuesday, November 19, 2019 a success.

Fish Landed: 3

Fingerless Wool Gloves Were Effective

South Platte River – 10/16/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon; outside special regulation area

South Platte River 10/16/2019 Photo Album

After my near skunking on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on 10/01/2019, I desperately wanted another shot at redemption. I scheduled a return visit for 10/04/2019, but my fall on the Big Thompson River on 10/03/2019 scuttled that plan. Finally the weather and a day without commitments enabled me to visit the tailwater in South Park on 10/16/2019.

The temperature at the start of my fly fishing adventure was around fifty degrees, but sunshine and the lack of clouds allowed the air to warm up quickly, and it reached a high of around seventy degrees in the afternoon. In short, Wednesday developed into a glorious autumn day in Colorado.

Cutbow Before Lunch

I decided to fish outside the special regulation area, as historically I enjoyed excellent results there. I suspect that fly fishermen are drawn to the catch and release water and ignore the open stretches under the assumption that the bait fishermen harvest the best fish. As a devoted contrarian I suspect that the spin casters bypass very productive sections of harder to fish pocket water, and these stretches are tailored to my style of fishing.

Relatively Low Flows

Flows were 66 CFS on Wednesday, and the water was extremely clear. These conditions were more challenging than usual for the South Platte River, and the skittish behavior of the fish attested to the demanding circumstances.

Pool Toy Hopper Fan

I began with a tan pool toy hopper, and beneath it I tied a salvation nymph and beadhead soft hackle emerger. The salvation was intended to be an attractor nymph, and the soft hackle emerger anticipated a blue winged olive emergence. The hopper and salvation were consistent members of my lineup throughout the day; however, the soft hackle emerger was exchanged for a beadhead hares ear nymph in the early going. A slow period after lunch prompted me to swap the hares ear for a 20 incher. In both cases I sensed that my flies were not getting deep enough, and increasing the size and weight of one of the nymphs was a response to this concern. Over the course of the day the pool toy hopper duped five trout, and the salvation nymph accounted for the remainder. The hares ear nymph and 20 incher simply served the role of a split shot. Nevertheless I was certain that the addition of a heaver fly was key to my level of success.

Overhead View

By the end of the day I managed to land twenty trout, but achieving this total was a test of my persistence and ability to make adjustments. I spooked untold numbers of trout in the slower moving pools, and I debated moving to a small single dry at times but never pulled the trigger. Instead I elevated my stealth and skipped around most of the smooth areas, where the river residents were on high alert and were extremely particular about their choice of a meal.

The Type of Water That Produced

I also monitored the type of water that yielded the most success and devoted my energies to places with matching structure. Medium velocity riffles of moderate depth were the ticket, and several spots that matched this description produced multiple trout. The hopper paused or stopped on occasion after an upstream cast and dead drift, but more often a hungry trout attacked the salvation during a swing at the end of a drift, or when I lifted the flies to execute another cast.

Large Black Spots

Of the twenty fish that visited my net, two were rainbows, and the rest were brown trout. I spotted two sets of trout in the spawning act, and I suspect this activity curtailed feeding by the larger, mature browns. The largest brown trout landed were likely in the eleven to twelve inch range, and this size range was small compared to my usual experience on this stretch of the river.

In summary I managed to land twenty fish on a gorgeous fall day in October. I demonstrated flexibility and adjusted to the tougher than normal conditions. I modified the weight of my offerings, exercised caution, analyzed the water type and applied that knowledge to my prospecting strategy. Hopefully periods of mild weather will enable me to extend the season for another month.

Fish Landed: 20

 

South Platte River – 10/01/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/01/2019 Photo Album

Tuesday, October 1, 2019 was a great day for kite flying and sailing. Unfortunately I was not participating in either of those activities. Instead I visited the South Platte River along with my friend, Steve, for a day of fly fishing. We were eager for an encore after our fun outing on 09/25/2019, as we envisioned masses of hungry fish gorging on a dense trico spinner fall. In advance of the scheduled trip I pulled out my canister of trico imitations and counted seven size 24 CDC versions, and I judged this to be a sufficient quantity for a day on the tailwater. In addition I moved three weighted trico spinners to my fleece wallet, in case I decided to experiment with a subsurface approach. The same canister that stored the size 24 trico spinners contained five size 24 midge emergers, and I speculated that these could also serve as trico emergers or crippled spinners. I deemed myself prepared and dreamed of a more successful day than that which entertained us on September 25.

I met Steve at his house in Lone Tree, CO; and I transferred my gear to his Subaru. Our early departure enabled us to arrive at the first bridge below Eleven Mile Dam by 9:40AM, and we quickly pulled on our waders and assembled our rods. I chose my Sage four weight, as it offered a stiffer spine and more length to battle the wind and in case of larger coldwater foes. The air temperature was in the mid-forties, and the wind gusted steadily, so I pulled on my light down coat, and I was quite pleased with the decision.

Several fishermen occupied the area just below the earthen bridge, so Steve and I quickly claimed some real estate on the upriver side. Steve grabbed one of his favorite positions on the left bank, and I ambled up the Spillway Campground Road on the right side, until I reached the shallow weir that spans the waterway. I noted very little surface activity in the early going, but I knotted a size 24 CDC BWO to my line, in case trico duns were making an appearance.

Some downstream drifts along the current seams below the weir produced a temporary hook up with a sub-six inch fish, but that was the extent of my success in the early going. After I thoroughly covered the faster water, I climbed the bank and moved upstream to an area just below a large bend. Some large rocks along the right bank created space for my backcasts, and some nice deep channels suggested the presence of large South Platte River trout. After a short period of observation I spotted several nice river residents, but they ignored my small blue winged olive dun. With the lack of obvious mayfly activity and the gusting wind, I concluded that terrestrials might be in demand, so I replaced the CDC olive with a size 18 black parachute ant. The ant actually generated a few interested looks, but eventually it was treated with the same disdain that was shown toward the BWO imitation.

Around the Bend

During this late morning time period the wind gusted relentlessly down the canyon, and I was very thankful for the retainer that was clipped to my hat. I was forced to reposition it five times, when the blasts of air directed it to Kansas. I paused my casting and turned my back to the wind on numerous occasions, and I was convinced that the tiny tricos would delay their mating ritual until calmer atmospheric conditions prevailed.

My confidence was quite low, when I decided to test a subsurface approach. Surely the underwater space was a sanctuary from the adverse weather above, and the trout were consuming abundant quantities of nymphs, emergers and drowned terrestrials. I knotted a size 14 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and trailed a sparkle wing RS2 and sunken trico below it. My optimism elevated slightly, but after thirty casts and a couple refusals to the beetle, my mental state returned to despair.

Another Shot

In a state of renewed frustration I retreated to the weir area. I speculated that the dry/dropper approach might be more appropriate for the deep seams and channels at the top of the riffles, and I began to lob casts to the frothy water created by the small dam. On the eighth drift the beetle sank, and I raised my rod tip and found myself attached to a very respectable fourteen inch rainbow trout. We battled back and forth, before I gained the upper hand and slid the sleek ‘bow into my net. A skunking was averted, and I was quite pleased with my dry/dropper change over.

After another five minutes of probing the fast water I decided to check out the water on the downstream side of the bridge. This was the section that Steve and I fished relatively successfully on September 25. As I stood on the bridge, I discovered a young bearded fisherman flicking long casts with a spinning rod. Steve remained above the bridge, and I did not want to infringe on the young man’s domain, so I waited for ten minutes and rested with my back to the wind.

Our Space After Lunch

Eventually the downstream angler migrated away from the bridge far enough, that I felt I could claim the upper right corner. I hunched down and parted the willows and gained a position twenty yards below the bridge next to a large flat exposed rock, and I began to toss the beetle and nymph combo to the nice runs above me. Once again the beetle exacted a couple looks and refusals, and a very subtle pause may have indicated a very brief connection with one of the nymphs, but the bottom line results were disappointing.

At approximately twelve o’clock I noticed increased surface activity, as quite a few trout went into a steady feeding rhythm. I saw little evidence of food on the surface of the water, but I was able to observe a few small blue winged olives, so I resurrected the size 24 CDC BWO. Surely this fly would reverse my fortunes and yield some action on the South Platte River. I am sad to report that the finicky fish of the popular tailwater were immune to all my best efforts to fool them. I cycled through several CDC olives, a Klinkhammer emerger, a Craven soft hackle emerger that was fished as a dry fly, an ant, a hippie stomper, and a midge emerger. The net result of my efforts after lunch was intense casting practice and extensive arm exercise. Knot tying was another element of the skill development session.

Below Us

Steve was greeted with similar results. In a last ditch effort to rebuild my confidence I reverted to one of my mainstay approaches. I tied a tan pool toy hopper to my line along with a beadhead hares ear nymph and soft hackle emerger, and I flicked repeated casts to the seams and narrow channels that parted the aquatic vegetation. Surely an opportunistic trout would snatch one of the dead drifting morsels for an easy meal. Alas, my thinking was off base, and none of my changes of approaches or flies could tempt the South Platte River trout on September 25.

By 3PM Steve and I were bored, and our confidence reached new depths, so we agreed to surrender to the wind and adverse conditions. Sourdough specials and a Red Bull occupied my thoughts, and I was anxious to forget the humiliation handed to me by the Eleven Mile Canyon coldwater trout.

Fish Landed: 1

 

South Platte River – 09/25/2019

Time: 9:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 09/25/2019 Photo Album

My last eight outings consisted of trips to high elevation headwater streams, and I landed a few trout in the fifteen inch range, but I hungered for the opportunity to tangle with some larger fish, as the night temperatures of late September heralded the onset of autumn. I checked the flows on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, and I was pleased to learn that the popular tailwater was tumbling through the canyon at 77 CFS. During a trip on September 6, 2018 my friend, Steve, and I encountered a spectacular trico hatch, but our attempts to land trout on the minuscule mayfly spinners was largely stifled. I concluded that my size 22 imitations were too large, so I devoted several tying sessions to producing new size 24 patterns, and I yearned for a return engagement with the Eleven Mile residents. I contacted Steve, and he agreed to accompany me on Wednesday, September 25.

I arrived at Steve’s house in Lone Tree by 7AM, and after transferring his gear, we departed and arrived near the dam in Eleven Mile Canyon by 9:15AM. We were a bit surprised by the number of fishermen that occupied prime parking spaces in the special regulation area, and we were forced to park at a picnic area downstream from the first bridge below the dam. The dashboard thermometer displayed a crisp 44 degrees, and this prompted me to dig out my light down coat from the bottom of my Fishpond fishing bag. I rigged my Sage four weight, and Steve selected his Orvis Helios five weight, and we ambled up the road to the bridge in search of a vacant spot to begin our day of fly fishing.

Our Piece of Real Estate on a Busy Day

During past visits we favored the section upstream from the bridge to a sharp bend in the river, but two anglers occupied this territory, and when we hiked through the willows to investigate the section around the bend, we met two additional fishermen. This short scouting trip forced us to retreat, and we were about to cut across the brush to a position downstream, when the two anglers below the bridge invited us to jump into thirty yards of vacant water below the culverts. Steve and I thanked them for their kindness, and I carefully made my way to the right bank facing upstream and Steve occupied the left.

The young men below us suggested that fish were rising below the bridge, but I surveyed the area for a few minutes and saw one sporadic rise. I considered my options and settled on a peacock hippie stomper and a size 22 RS2, and I began to spray casts upstream, across and down. Two trout rose to inspect the hippie stomper, but they immediately dropped back to their holding positions near the stream bottom. Steve informed me that he spotted occasional trico spinners, so I extracted a sunken trico and positioned it below the RS2, but the three fly arrangement was as ineffective as the two fly approach. Finally after twenty minutes of futility, I concluded that the dry/dropper method was not popular on Wednesday, September 25.

Yikes, Stripes

I stripped in my flies and removed them and resorted to a size 24 CDC BWO. Blue winged olives were not present, but I surmised that the tiny mayfly would do double duty as a trico dun imitation. The theory proved somewhat accurate, when I landed a small eight inch rainbow and then a gorgeous rainbow trout that confidently sipped the dun imitation on a downstream drift through the center of the pool. Just as I was feeling new confidence with the CDC olive, the feeding pattern shifted to spinners. The number of rising fish increased, and I continued with the olive for another fifteen minutes with no response, before I paused to consider my options.

Stretched Out

I was unable to see spent spinners on the surface of the river, but by 10:30AM small sparse mating swarms of tiny mayflies began to form over the riffles, and Steve insisted that he noticed the presence of spinners in the film. I conceded to the obvious and dug out one of the CDC trico spinners, that I tied over the winter. The fly was extremely simple with a pair of split microfibbet tails, a black thread abdomen and thorax, and a tuft of CDC tied in at the thorax in a spent wing position. I began spraying casts to the various sites of rising fish, and after an enormous number of drifts, a very fine fourteen inch cutbow sipped the fake spinner. The miniscule fly pierced the corner of the cutbow’s mouth, and I struggled to remove it while keeping the precious trout in the water. After several attempts, the line broke at the eye of the hook, and the teeny trico remained in the hard lip of the fish. Every time I gripped the strong river resident, it squirmed and splashed and showered me with water droplets, but eventually I utilized my hemostats to grip the fly and plucked it free. I was pleased to recover my productive trico spinner, and I allowed the cutbow to return to its watery home.

Cutbow Rests

I was certain that the new CDC trico would be a hit with the South Platte trout, but as the intensity of the spinner fall increased, the CDC fraud was ignored. The process of removing the fly from the cutbow soaked the CDC wings, and I was unable to dry them to a fluffy state, and consequently I struggled to track the spinner especially in the swirling currents, where the deep runs curled into smooth water to my left. Continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, so I swapped the saturated trico spinner for a fresh version. The wing on the second model was slightly more dense than the first, and apparently this was a turn off for the trout in my vicinity. By noon the fish count plateaued at three, and the trout displayed their gluttony on the dense supply of naturals that blanketed the river. What was a frustrated fly fisherman to do?

Fine South Platte Catch

I decided to deploy a contrarian strategy and knotted a size 18 black parachute ant to my line. The frequency of rises declined during a lull in the hatch, and the wind kicked up a bit, so I flicked the ant to some feeding lanes above me. In the next twenty minutes two muscular thirteen inch rainbows streaked from two feet away to inhale the ant. Needless to say this was a pleasant surprise, and my confidence surged, as I photographed and released the two ant eaters.

Thick Cloud of Tricos on the Left

Alas, the tenure of the ant feeding fad was brief, and I sprayed casts around the area to other likely feeders with no response. Another wave of rapid fire feeding ensued, and I returned to the original albeit somewhat mangled trico spinner. The workhorse fly once again proved its worth, as I landed three additional trout before we broke for lunch at 1PM. All three fish were respectable rainbows, and a fourteen inch fighter leaped three feet above the surface of the river in an attempt to gain its freedom prematurely. In addition to the three netted ‘bows, I temporarily hooked up with two other battlers, but they shed the hook before I could gain control.

Love the Cheek

After lunch Steve returned to the same area fished during the morning, while I waded along the left bank just above the earthen bridge. Within minutes of resuming my quest for fish, a brief flurry of feeding commenced in the center of the pool. I tempted one trout to refuse the trico twice, but otherwise the morsel was ignored. Toward the end of this brief bit of action I observed a couple small blue winged olives, so I quickly replaced the trico with a size 24 CDC olive. Unfortunately as I began to lob the olive into the area, the feeding party ended, and my casts were fruitless.

So Pretty

Since a breeze continued to whistle down the river, I once again switched to the parachute ant, but the terrestrial failed to have an impact. The top of the pool presented a shallow riffle, so I transformed my line into a dry/dropper rig with the peacock hippie stomper on top followed by a beadhead pheasant tail and RS2. I ran the nymphs through the riffles and feeding lanes at the top of the pool, but the ploy was ignored. My confidence sank, but I circled back to the downstream side of the bridge to Steve’s position, and I prospected the faster channels and seams just below the culverts with the three fly set up, but again the fish were wise to my ruse and ignored my flies. At 2:50PM I created a nasty tangle with the three flies that ultimately resulted in an annoying wind knot, so I clipped them off, and Steve and I returned to the car and called it a day.

Steve Focused

Eight trout may not seem like a highlight, but it surpassed the two fish day that resulted from our September 6, 2018 visit. Including long distance releases, I had the opportunity to enjoy a double digit day, so I was pleased with my results. My fly was competing with thousands of naturals, so a low catch rate was not totally unexpected. The size of the fish was excellent, as all except the first were in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. My new CDC trico duped four trout, and it was gratifying to create an effective pattern. All eight trout sipped a dry fly, and seeing the surface take is always my preferred method of fooling fish.

Fish Landed: 8

 

South Platte River – 06/24/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Between Nighthawk and Scaggy View

South Platte River 06/24/2019 Photo Album

Skunked is a term used to describe a day of fishing, when zero fish are caught. I endured my second consecutive skunking today on the South Platte River. I fear the extended run off of 2019 is about to test my patience, as it relates to fly fishing.

On Saturday Jane and I drove to the South Platte River and hiked into Cheesman Canyon on the Gill Trail. On our return a brief thunderstorm stalled our progress, but otherwise we experienced a very enjoyable hike in one of the most beautiful canyons of Colorado. The hike into the canyon also served as a scouting expedition, and I was surprised with the clarity of the South Platte River at this stage of the run off season. The flows were obviously elevated, but sheltered spots along the bank suggested that fly fishing was an option.

Our route to and from Cheesman Canyon followed the South Platte River between Deckers and Nighthawk, and the conditions on this segment of the river appeared to be similar to Cheesman Canyon, with clarity a bit more compromised by the flows from Horse Creek. Originally I planned to visit another lake in Colorado on Monday, but the advanced scouting expedition on Saturday convinced me to modify my plan, and I made the drive to the South Platte River.

586 CFS but Still Gorgeous

I left the house in Denver by 9:10, and I arrived at the parking lot at the bottom of Nighthawk Hill by 10:30AM. By the time I pulled on my brand new Hodgman waders and rigged my Sage five weight, I began to cast at 11AM. I started fifty yards below the Nighthawk parking lot and worked my way upstream, until I was fifty yards above the Santa Fe. I began fishing with a deep nymphing rig that included a thingamabobber, split shot, flesh colored San Juan worm and copper john. I moved at a fairly rapid clip, and the only fish I saw was a three inch brown trout that escaped my hook, just before I lifted it for a quick release. I focused my casting to the slower moving water along the bank, and I cycled through a series of fly changes that included a salvation nymph, go2 sparkle pupa, hares ear nymph, and orange scud. None of these options resulted in a hint of interest from the resident fish population.

It is rare that I fish in a waterway without seeing evidence of fish in the form of refusals, looks, or foul hooked fish; but that was the case on Monday. I never even saw a fish dart for safety, as I waded along the edge of the river.

At noon I reversed my direction and returned to the parking lot and drove to a new location farther upstream. I was amazed by the number of fishermen on the lower portion of the South Platte River on a Monday, and the lack of space in designated parking areas forced me to drive farther than I originally intended. Eventually, however, I found a small spot large enough for only one vehicle, and I snagged it. I crossed the road and munched my lunch, as I observed the water. A smattering of size 16 caddis dapped the surface next to some willows, and they represented the only insect activity on the river.

Left Bank Looks Attractive

After lunch I walked down the road for .2 mile, and then I dropped down the bank and continued my search for a single landed trout. After another stretch of fruitless casting and drifting, I noticed a small trout, as it elevated to inspect my orange thingamabobber. What was I to make of this? I reasoned that perhaps the fish was attracted to bright colors, so I removed the indicator, split shot, and nymphs; and I switched to a hippie stomper with a red body. I tossed the buoyant attractor to the spot, where the fish elevated, but the stomper went unmolested during ten solid drifts.

Now that I was in single dry fly mode, I decided to experiment with some different offerings, and I swapped the hippie stomper for a size 16 gray deer hair caddis. This was a close match to the natural caddis buzzing about above the river. It was a great attempt at hatch matching, but the trout apparently did not agree. I recalled days in the past, when I experienced success with a yellow Letort hopper and beadhead pheasant tail nymph. I leveraged this memory to replace the caddis with a size 10 yellow Letort hopper, and again fruitless casting was my reward.

I finally abandoned the indicator inspector and moved upstream along the willow lined left bank. Sighting one fish spurred my thoughts, and I paused to consider the clues of the day so far. The deep nymphing technique yielded a three inch brown trout in 2.5 hours of fishing, and a single trout rose to inspect an orange indicator. Perhaps the fish were looking upward, and this explained the total avoidance of my nymphs.

I decided to test the tried and true dry/dropper method. I knotted a tan pool toy to my line and dangled a beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph beneath it. These flies and the dry/dropper method were far and away my most productive method during all seasons, so it deserved a trial on the South Platte River. I cast the trio of flies to some spectacular soft edges and moderate riffles along the left bank for the next 45 minutes, but again the fish were not interested. Of course this assumes that fish were present, and I began to wonder if perhaps that was a bad assumption.

By three o’clock I was totally frustrated and burned out on fly fishing in high water, so I stripped in my flies and hooked them to the rod guide. I was hot and tired and ready to accept a second skunking within the last seven days. I actually contemplated returning to the South Platte River in Cheesman Canyon on Tuesday, but my Monday outing convinced me to consider other options.

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River – 06/14/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Locatoin: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/14/2019 Photo Album

I dipped my toes, actually my wading boots, in the water at 10AM on Friday, June 14. The river that I entered was the South Platte River below Eleven Mile Reservoir, and the flows were around 140 CFS, and the clarity was off colored. The pools exhibited a dense olive murkiness; however, more visibility was evident in the faster sections. This fact gave me hope that Friday could be a decent day. The air temperature was around sixty degrees, as I embarked on another fishing adventure.

Although the flows were higher, than what I was accustomed to on this section of the South Platte, I decided to persist with my tried and true dry/dropper approach. A deep nymphing rig may have been more appropriate, but the South Platte contains an ample amount of aquatic weeds and moss, and constantly picking scum from my flies is not my idea of fun. Even with the dry/dropper technique I performed this ritual more than I cared to.

Great Looking Slack Water Area

My choice of flies was not very creative. I varied my large foam top fly from a fat Albert to a tan pool toy, but the subsurface offerings were a beadhead hares ear nymph and a salvation nymph. I persevered with these flies through the first hour, and landed two medium size trout on the salvation, but I was very disappointed with my success rate. I began to doubt my stream choice, and my thoughts turned to lake options. I was convinced that the elevating flows and off colored conditions were impacting my fishing success.

Wild Brown Trout

By eleven o’clock I began to experiment with different fly options. The elevated releases from the dam were kicking up significant quantities of aquatic debris, and on one occasion while picking it off my fly, I discovered an olive scud. Why did I not think of this earlier? Surely massive quantities of scuds were being dislodged, and the trout were chowing down on this windfall. I replaced the salvation nymph (the only fly that produced so far) with an orange scud. Why orange? I had an abundant quantity of orange in my fleece wallet, but only a couple gray and olive. The scud did account for one trout after a lengthy trial period, but it was not the answer to my slow catch rate, that I hypothesized it would be.

Hello Mr. Brown Trout

During a brief effort on Thursday night I noted quite a few caddis buzzing about. Perhaps a go2 sparkle pupa with a bright green body would be more to the trout’s liking. It worked quite well on a May trip to Eleven Mile, so perhaps it could jump start my day on Friday. I removed the scud and replaced it with a bright green go2 pupa. This move seemed to be the catalyst to improved results.

Confluence of Braids

The fish count steadily moved to eight, as I arrived at the downstream tip of a very long narrow island, and all the landed fish snatched the cadds pupa, particularly at the end of the drift or on a swing away from the bank. I chose to explore the smaller left braid around the island first, but my plan was to circle back and progress up the right side later, if the quality of fishing merited such a move.

A Nice Brown Crushed the Pool Toy in the V Below the Small Island

At the very bottom of the left channel I flipped a cast to a slack water V just above the merger of two currents, and I was astonished, when a thirteen inch brown crushed the pool toy. This brown trout was deeply colored with deep yellow and orange sides, and I was very excited to snap some photos.

Amazing Color on This Brown Trout

Upon the release of this highlight catch, I progressed along the left branch of the river to the tip of the island. Along the way I paused for lunch, and the fish count rested at thirteen. As I sat on a grassy beach by the river, some dark clouds rolled in, and a few drops of rain spurred me to withdraw my raincoat from the backpack. I performed this act in haste, and it was a prudent move, as a very brief shower ensued.

After I reached to tip of the island, I climbed the east bank and hiked back through some trees and bushes, until I returned to the downstream end. For the remainder of the day I progressed upstream along the right braid, and then I continued for a decent distance through the full combined flow of the river. During this time I raised the fish count from thirteen at lunch to twenty-eight by the end of the day.

Handsome

Between 1PM and 3PM the fly fishing transformed from excellent to exceptional. During this time I noticed a sparse number of size 16 mayflies in addition to the ever present caddis. The fishing gods must have been looking out for me, as I made a cast and noticed that only the pool toy remained on my line. Before I threw my usual tantrum for stupid moves, I decided to scan the willows along the bank behind me, and I was pleasantly shocked to see the g02 caddis dangling from a branch. I eagerly retrieved the two snapped off flies, and at this point I decided to make a small alteration to my fly lineup. The hares ear was simply providing extra weight, and it rarely resulted in a landed fish, so I tied a salvation nymph to the top nymph position and then retained the go2 sparkle pupa on the end.

Typical for the Day

What a prescient move this turned out to be! I suspect the size 16 mayflies were early pale morning duns, and the salvation has historically proven to be an effective imitation of the PMD nymph. The fish certainly found the dark reddish brown nymph to be a tasty treat. The go2 caddis occasionally fooled a coldwater finned eater, but suddenly the salvation was the favored delectable morsel. After I landed three in succession, I switched the position of the two flies and lengthened the leader a bit. The move was timely, as the trout began to crush the salvation at a torrid rate. There was a period, when it seemed I hooked and landed a fish on nearly every cast. I even landed a very nice brown that grabbed the salvation, as it dangled behind me, while I waded upstream to a new position. Another indicator of hot action was the almost instantaneous grab of the nymph, as it entered the water. This phenomenon never ceases to amaze me.

By three o’clock the action slowed significantly, and I was not certain whether this signified the end of the nymphal activity or whether it was attributable to the type of water I encountered. The two braids around the island contained lots of pockets and deep runs; whereas, the full river could be described as more of a riffle and pool structure.

Pool Toy Worked Again

The slowing action was an excuse to call it a day, so I could depart early and make the Friday afternoon drive back to Denver in time for dinner with Jane. Once again the South Platte River delivered an exceptional day for this fisherman. A few of the trout extended to thirteen inches, but twelve inches was the norm. Only two were rainbows, but the brown trout were in excellent condition with bright coloring and vivid spots. Hot action such as that enjoyed during the early afternoon is a rarity, and I was very thankful for the opportunity. I was about to write off the day to experience at noon, so persistence and confidence in my methods paid huge dividends.

Fish Landed: 28

South Platte River – 06/13/2019

Time: 6:00PM – 8:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/13/2019 Photo Album

As I mentioned in my 06/11/2019 post on Bear Creek, I made a list of possible tailwater destinations in Colorado, since the above average snow pack was exacting a toll on freestone options in June 2019. One of these alternatives was the South Platte River system, and I was anxious to make a trip, before it too succumbed to the inevitable deluge of water sourced from melting snow.

I decided to do an overnight trip to South Park to allow an earlier start to fishing on Friday. When I originally conceived the idea, I checked the DWR web site and noted that the flows held at 80 CFS. Within the same time frame, however, a guide that I follow on Instagram, reported that the water management office indicated that flows would increase gradually in the near future. Sure enough, when I checked the graph on Thursday morning, flows moved from 80 CFS to 126 CFS with no leveling off in sight. I successfully fished at 180 CFS previously, so I assumed that the slope of the line would be gradual, and I went ahead with my plans.

Before departing I called the Pike National Forest South Park ranger station and confirmed that Happy Meadows and Round Mountain campgrounds were open for the 2019 season. I planned to check Happy Meadows first and use Round Mountain as a fall back, since only seven sites exist at Happy Meadows.

After I packed my camping and fly fishing gear on Thursday morning, I departed Denver by 1:30. An uneventful drive delivered me to Happy Meadows Campground by 3:45, and I discovered that all the sites were reserved or occupied. I also learned that the summer tubing season was already in progress.

No. 16 at Round Mountain Campground

Following my back up plan I drove west on US 24 for five miles, until I reached Round Mountain. I cruised the single loop and determined that all the sites were reserved for Fathers’ Day weekend, but quite a few were open for Thursday night. This was perfect for my needs, and I quickly selected number 16 and visited the pay station to secure my spot. I quickly set up the two person tent, and then I made a quick dinner and cleaned up the dishes. By now it was 5:30, and I had at least two hours of daylight to wet a line in the nearby South Platte River.

I drove back to the Happy Meadows area, since I did not wish to pay the fee required to enter Eleven Mile Canyon. The tubing activity was winding down, so I drove downstream a bit and rigged my Sage four weight. The flows were at 126 CFS based on a quick check from the rest stop in Woodland Park, and the river carried a dark olive hue, although clarity improved in the faster sections. The air temperature remained in the seventies at 6PM, and this probably explained the outbreak of tubing activity.

Number One on Thursday Evening

I began my effort to land a fish with a yellow fat Albert, iron sally and salvation nymph. Shortly after my start I landed an eleven inch rainbow on the salvation at the nice run on the bend across from where I parked. I continued to work my way upstream, but I failed to generate additional action, so I exchanged the salvation for a beadhead hares ear nymph, and the hares ear yielded a ten inch brown trout.

A Brown Trout Visits My Net

I remained at two for quite a while, and then on a drift through some slack water along the opposite bank I thought I saw a take and set the hook. I never felt weight, but when I stripped in the line, I noticed all three flies were missing. I was not sure, if I had a bad knot or an abrasion on the connection to the fat Albert. I rigged again with a new fat Albert, but I opted for the hares ear as the top fly and the salvation on the bottom. The hares ear was intended to imitate a caddis pupa and the salvation was expected to match a pale morning dun nymph. I observed a few size 16 mayflies buzzing about along with some dapping caddis and a few very small yellow sallies.

The new combination paid off, as I landed a pair of brown trout on the salvation nymph; but I covered a decent amount of water, made many casts, and failed to catch fish in quality locations. In short I was not satisfied with the effectiveness of my flies.

This Pool Delivered at Dusk

It was getting close to 8PM, and I was about to close the book on a fair but not exceptional two hours of fishing, when I approached a nice smooth side pool next to a small island. This area was productive on previous trips, and I paused to observe for rises. Sure enough, as I scanned the area, a couple fish revealed their presence. I removed the dry/dropper flies and tied a size 16 gray deer hair caddis to my line. On the first cast to the tail of the pool a rainbow trout streaked to the surface and inhaled the fake caddis. Perhaps I was on to something.

Mashed Comparadun Worked

Unfortunately sporadic rises continued, but the gray caddis was ignored. Perhaps I had the correct size and color, but the wrong shape? Earlier I observed a few mayfly spinners above the riffles. Could the trout prefer spinners, in which case they were seeking a different shape? I extracted a size 16 gray comparadun with a crushed wing from my fly box, and I pressed the deer hairs more, so they protruded outward from the body of the fly.

Glowing in Dim Light

A Final Brown Trout to End the Evening

What a move! During the waning hour of daylight, this modified comparadun delivered four additional trout to my net including a fourteen inch rainbow and three respectable brown trout. All this action occurred between 7:45 and 8:30. What a fun evening of fishing in June!

Fish Landed: 9

 

South Platte River – 05/16/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/16/2019 Photo Album

The story line on Thursday, May 16 paralleled that of Tuesday, May 14 on the Arkansas River, as persistence proved to be a significant contributor to success. Warmer temperatures accelerated snow melt, and this reduced the number of freestone options in Colorado. I was forced to narrow my choice of fishing destinations to tailwaters, and the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon was an obvious choice. The flows held at a steady 93 CFS, and the meteorologists projected a high of 69 degrees with clouds all day in Lake George. I signed up for another trip to Eleven Mile Canyon.

Lunch Pool

When I paid my day use fee at the entrance gate to Eleven Mile, I asked the attendant if a lot of cars preceded me. She nodded in the affirmative and informed me that I was the the twenty-third. I counted cars, as I drove to my favorite spot, and I tallied twenty-two, before I parked next to a silver pickup truck at my favorite pullout on the east side of the road. The temperature at 10:30AM was 51 degrees, and high gray clouds blocked most of the sun’s warming rays. I climbed into my waders and wore my long sleeved Columbia undershirt and a light fleece, and then I pulled on my raincoat as a windbreaker. I assembled my Sage four weight and promptly embarked on a short hike along the dirt road to my favorite angled trail. I descended quickly and then ambled along the fisherman path, until I was next to an attractive pool just above a series of narrow deep plunge pools. This was my intended starting point, and I was surprised that I did not encounter other anglers given the number of parked vehicles along the road.

RS2 Worked Before the Hatch

An Early Catch on RS2

I quickly surveyed the water and failed to observe any insect activity, so I decided to prospect the faster seams, pockets and runs with a dry/dropper method. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and then added an ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear nymph. I covered some attractive pockets and runs with no response, so I stripped in my line and replaced the ultra zug bug with a classic RS2. This move proved advantageous, when I hooked and landed a fine rainbow trout and a brown trout. Both of the feisty trout were thirteen inches or greater, and they confidently snatched the RS2, as it drifted behind the fat Albert. I actually landed another rainbow first, but the fly was embedded along the side of the head, and not in the mouth, and my rules dictated that it was not part of the fish count.

Pleased

As the first hour elapsed, I passed by an attractive pool, and with noon approaching I spotted two fishermen in the faster water below the pool. It was lunch time, so I chose to retreat to the edge of the pool in order to claim it, before the downstream anglers arrived. The ploy worked nicely; as I munched my sandwich, carrots and yogurt and observed the pool, while the unknowing intruders trudged up the path to the road high above. By 12:15 a series of surface disturbances caught my attention, and the cadence of rises accelerated. This circumstance in turn caused me to consume my lunch rapidly, and my heart rate elevated a few notches in anticipation of some dry fly action.

I snipped off the dry/dropper paraphernalia and knotted a single CDC blue winged olive to my line. By now I could see quite a few little olives floating on the surface, and the number of feeding fish approximated five. The main current on my side of the river ran along an exposed boulder and then flowed downstream for ten feet, before it curled toward the bank and eddied back to the large rock. The fish were spread out across the area, where the current began to curl, and several were spaced on the downstream edge of the eddy circle. I cautiously navigated along the bank, until I was below the eddy and positioned myself to drop casts to the area of the rises.

The hatch continued for an hour, as some dark clouds blocked the sun and the wind periodically gusted. I cast the CDC BWO and a Klinkhammer BWO to the rising fish during this period, and I am embarrassed to report, that I flunked the dry fly fishing exam. I was unable to encourage a sip from any of the steady feeders within twenty feet of my position. As the emergence waned at one o’clock, I surrendered to the nervous river residents and moved on. The wind and glare made it very difficult to track the small CDC tuft, and consequently drag was probably present more than I realized. Compounding the difficulty was the eddy and the related irregular currents that impacted the drift.

When I finally moved on, I was quite disappointed with the lack of dry fly success, but I consoled myself with the thought that cloudy conditions would prevail in the afternoon, and this would likely spur additional waves of blue winged olives. In the meantime the sun peeked out sporadically, and the hatch ended, so I reverted to the dry/dropper technique. I once again chose the yellow fat Albert and continued with the hares ear and a sparkle wing RS2. I reasoned that baetis nymphs were still prevalent in the drift and likely active with additional emergences expected.

A Second Quality Brown Trout

The thinking was somewhat accurate, as a very healthy brown trout stopped the fat Albert, when it nabbed the RS2 in a narrow ribbon of slow water along the left bank. I was surprised and quite pleased with this good fortune, but then a significant amount of time elapsed with no action in spite of casting to some quality spots. I stripped in my flies and made another change. I flipped open my fleece wallet and scanned the contents and elected to try a bright green go2 sparkle pupa. I speculated that the green flashy body might attract the attention of the rainbow trout. I retained the hares ear as the top fly and continued prospecting to pockets, riffles  and pools of moderate depth.

Go2 Sparkle Pupa Was Very Productive

Amazingly the bright green caddis became a desired commodity. The catch rate was not torrid, but it was more than satisfactory, as the fish counter climbed from three to nine by the time I quit at 4PM. At 2PM clouds once again rolled in, and a sparse baetis hatch made an encore. This prompted me to replace the hares ear with a sparkle pupa, and I stayed with this combination for a fair amount of time. The caddis pupa continued to fool a fish or two, but the RS2 was ignored, and it seemed that some very appealing areas failed to deliver. I concluded that the caddis pupa worked better when combined with a larger heavier nymph, so I matched it with an ultra zug bug for the last hour.

Wide Body with Abundant Spots

Back Home

I encountered four anglers during the afternoon upstream migration, but these gentlemen focused on pools, and I was more interested in the pockets and runs among the many exposed boulders. My preference was very complementary with the other fishermen, and I enjoyed the steady prospecting and the surprise created when a trout suddenly intercepted the caddis pupa, which generated an intuitive hook set. My approach required an abundant amount of wading over slimy rocks and repetitive casting, but the quality of the fish justified the energy sapping method. As I stated at the outset of this narrative, persistence was the main key to my success.

The Catch of the Day

In summary I landed nine quality trout on Thursday, May 16 in Eleven Mile Canyon. Four were muscular brown trout and four were streaking rainbow trout. The ninth and best fish of the day was a husky seventeen inch cutbow, and it served as the exclamation point on a superlative day of fly fishing. Every one of the nine fish that rested in my net were thirteen inches or greater. I suspect that I will revisit the South Platte River again, as run off prevails on Colorado freestone rivers.

Fish Landed: 9

South Platte River – 05/07/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/07/2019 Photo Album

Wow! That single word sums up my day on the South Platte River yesterday in Eleven Mile Canyon, as the fishing experience evolved into perhaps my favorite of 2019. During the weekend my friend, @rockymtnangler (Trevor), informed me that he was contemplating a trip to the South Platte River on Tuesday. I quickly volunteered to accompany him; however, some scheduling complications prevented us from traveling together. Instead we drove separately and overlapped on the river for a couple hours. Prior to being contacted by Trevor, I ruled out Eleven Mile Canyon based on a fairly adverse weather forecast, but the opportunity to fish with Trevor spurred me to overlook weather concerns. By the end of the day on Tuesday, contrary to my original belief, I discovered that inclement weather was a major positive factor that contributed to my success.

I departed Denver by 7AM and arrived at my favorite pullout high above the South Platte River by 9:30AM on Tuesday morning. During my drive I encountered fog, drizzle and cold temperatures; so I was surprised by the dry roads and warmer temperatures in the canyon. I parked next to Trevor’s pickup truck, and I immediately spotted his figure standing on a large rock next to our favorite pool in Eleven Mile Canyon. I quickly jumped into my waders and rigged my Sage four weight. The air temperature was forty-eight degrees, which was better than Woodland Park and Divide, but still cool, so I slipped into my North Face down coat, which is actually the liner from my ski parka.

Early Catch

I carefully slid down the steep angled path to the river and greeted Trevor, who informed me, that he was enjoying success in Old Faithful pool with dry flies. He offered, that initially the fish were likely rising to midges, but recently he landed several fish that sipped his blue winged olive imitation. I crossed the river at the downstream tail of the pool and took a position along the opposite shoreline just above the midsection. I knotted a size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line and began dropping downstream casts in a manner that allowed a drag free drift over the rising trout. This continued for fifteen minutes with no response to my fly, at which point I switched to a size 22 CDC BWO. Finally I focused on a fish that sipped a tiny morsel ten feet across from me, and because of the close proximity I could more easily track my fly. On the third cast a mouth emerged, and I chunky fourteen inch rainbow trout became my first landed fish on the day.

Lowering Number One to Freedom

My expectations surged a bit, but the hatch waned, and the frequency of surface feeding trout moderated to a sporadic pattern. Trevor meandered upstream to the nice long pool that borders a tall vertical rock wall, and after a few minutes I abandoned the pool and advanced up the west braid around a tiny island. I observed a nice riffle of moderate depth for a bit, but I was unable to discern any surface activity, so I converted to a three fly dry/dropper system that featured a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and RS2. I thoroughly prospect the riffles and nice deep eddy above them, and I managed to hook a small rainbow trout on the RS2 in a narrow ribbon of slower water along the left bank. As this venture into nymph fishing evolved, Trevor returned and announced that he landed a very nice brown trout from the long smooth pool just above my position.

We returned to Old Faithful pool, and I covered the fast runs and riffles at the top of the pool with my dry/dropper configuration, but the effort was not rewarded with success. I did observe three fish, as they elevated to peek at the fat Albert. By now my watch displayed 11:30AM, and Trevor needed to be on his way, so I waded across the river and trailed him on a steep ascent up the loose gravel path to the road. I lingered, as Trevor removed his waders and stashed his gear, and then I began to walk down the road to resume my fishing adventure, as he began his return trip to his home north of Denver.

Lunch Pool Came Alive with BWO Hatch

I intended to drop back down to the river at the first nice wide pool above the narrow canyon plunge pools, but I spotted two fishermen in  that area, so I adjusted my plan and slid down a different steep path to the next large wide pool above the pair of anglers. I spent twenty minutes prospecting the attractive deep runs and riffles at the head of the pool, but again the fish were not cooperating. As noon approached, and a hatch was not in progress, I decided to take a lunch break. The sun was out momentarily, and I soaked it in along with the beauty of my location, as I quickly munched the goodies in my backpack.

Another View of the Lunch Pool

Klinkhammer BWO Produced in Lunch Pool

The timing proved to be perfect, as small dimples began to appear in the pool, as I slid my arms into my backpack and clipped on the frontpack. Some dark clouds rolled across the sky, and the wind kicked up a bit, and blue winged olives performed an encore right on cue. I quickly clipped off the dry/dropper elements and added the size 22 CDC BWO to my tippet. By now fish were rising throughout the forty yard long pool, but I concentrated on the midsection, where the faster runs fanned out to the smooth lower portion. I peppered the area with an array of across and downstream casts, but several visible fish rejected the tiny olive mayfly imitation with an upright wing. I decided to modify my approach and replaced the CDC BWO with a Klinkhammer emerger style. This alternative fly was also rejected intermittently, but it was close enough to the natural food to fool four very nice trout between 12:15 and 12:45. All the fish landed during this second hatch fell within the thirteen to fourteen inch size range. The fish count rested at six, and I was very pleased to enjoy two decent hatches on May 7.

A Natural BWO

Gorgeous Brown Trout

At 12:45PM the sun broke through the clouds, and this welcome blast of warmth caused the baetis to cease their emergence. Weather that is pleasant for humans is not conducive to blue winged olive hatches. I pondered the option of converting to the dry/dropper again, as I progressed upstream through a section of faster water and pockets, but ultimately I decided to walk the stream and look for subtle rises. The strategy paid off, when I hooked and landed a thirteen inch brown trout from a relatively marginal pocket along the left bank.

A Brown Trout Took a Klinkhammer Olive

After the white water area I encountered a nice deep pool just below Old Faithful, and here I paused for a few minutes to look for rises. The sun remained bright, and the hatch was largely over, but I hoped to discover some random activity to stragglers. Sure enough, I detected two above the deep section, where two moderate currents merged. I circled around a very large rock and positioned myself to drop some casts in the area of the surface disturbances. On the fifth cast a dimple appeared under my fly, and I quickly lifted the rod tip and felt some weight pass through the rod, but then the fish was quickly off. I was pleased with my approach and cast but was nevertheless disappointed with the escape act.

Very Productive Pool in the PM

Another angler occupied Old Faithful pool, so I skirted around it and proceeded to the long smooth pool with the vertical rock wall. This pool seems to continually offer rising fish, and on this day I was not disappointed. I spent twenty minutes shooting casts to some surface sippers near the tail, but these targets were far too educated. I finally surrendered and exited the river and moved to a bank position above another very large boulder. Once again the sky darkened, and a breeze kicked up, and the quantity of small mayflies in the air surrounding me intensified. This combination of events coincided with a flurry of rising fish, and I responded with a series of downstream casts. Unfortunately the Klinkhammer style of blue winged olive was not getting it done, so I reverted to the size 22 CDC BWO.

Another Representative Catch in the Afternoon

Between 2:30 and 3:30 a third wave of baetis made an appearance. This surge of mayfly activity was by far the longest and most intense. I was totally immersed in the challenge of fooling the pool feeders, and I experienced my greatest success of the day. The fish count escalated from seven to fourteen, and the CDC BWO accounted for all of them. Perhaps I was overly analytical, but it seemed that applying a dab of floatant to the body after each trip to the dry shake canister was a critical step. I concluded that the liquid floatant was absorbed by the body of the fly and created a dark olive color more to the liking of the fish than the light green that resulted from a dry shake dunking. In the past I attempted to wipe off the white powder on the body, but my efforts were not as effective at darkening the abdomen as applying the liquid water repellent.

Admiring

At any rate my method seemed to work, and I succeeded in landing seven very nice trout during the third hatch in the long smooth pool next to the high vertical rock wall. Downstream drifts were the name of the game, and several picky eaters responded to a slight twitch as the fly floated over their holding position. Five of the eight were brown trout, and I was particularly pleased to fool these typically discerning eaters.

End of Day Rainbow from Old Faithful Pool

Once again the sun appeared at 3:30PM, so I retraced my steps and returned to the large pool that was our starting point in the morning. Surprisingly it was vacant, so I observed the ever-present dimpling on the surface. The rises were very sporadic, but I decided to dedicate the last thirty minutes of my day to the selective trout in the pool. Quite a few futile casts ensued, but at 3:50PM a rainbow trout attacked the CDC olive, and then it put on an impressive aerial display with four jumps that cleared the surface by at least a foot. Number fifteen found a temporary home in my net, and I smiled as it swam off. That smile remained on my face until I returned to Denver later that evening.

Crocus Like Flower

Thankfully Trevor convinced me to overlook the marginal weather forecast. The mostly cloudy conditions stimulated three surges of baetis hatches, and I benefited from these events. I landed fifteen trout, and all except one succumbed to a dry fly. All the trout except one were in the respectable twelve to fifteen inch range. Hopefully I can repeat this success in the near future.

Fish Landed: 15

South Platte River – 04/26/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/26/2019 Photo Album

I do not normally promote viewing my photo album, but to gain a sense of my enjoyable day in Eleven Mile Canyon, I suggest that you click on the above link and take a peek. Today was a very nice rebound from a mostly disappointing trip on 04/05/2019. The best aspect of the earlier visit to the South Platte River was the companionship of @rockymtnangler and the outstanding lunch, that he prepared on the tailgate of his new truck.

A fun trip to the Green River occupied my calendar during the week of April 15, and I felt the pre-runoff fishing season quickly slipping away. Blue winged olives were the object of my pursuit, and the Arkansas River served as an appetizer on Monday. A sparse hatch occurred; however, surface feeding was not part of the equation. I managed to land four trout on subsurface baetis nymph imitations, but the experience was not the frenzied surface feeding event, that I was seeking.

Historically the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon provided dependable blue winged olive hatches in April and early May, so I decided to make the trek, while the weather was cooperative. I departed my home in Denver at 7AM, and this enabled me to arrive next to the South Platte River by 9:30. The temperature on the Santa Fe dashboard registered forty-eight degrees, so I pulled on my heavy fleece that previously served as the liner on a ski parka. I strung my Sage four weight and ambled down the dirt road for .4 mile, at which point I found a steep rocky path to the edge of the river. I quickly scanned the river and noted that it was clear, and the flows were nearly ideal at 90 CFS.

Near the Start on Friday

I decided to begin my pursuit of South Platte River trout with a buoyant and visible tan pool toy, and I then dangled a beadhead hares ear nymph and emerald caddis pupa. During the first twenty minutes I moved at a rapid pace, as the water was not to my liking. It consisted of very deep narrow pools between steep-sided boulders. This type of structure is fine, when rising fish are visible but is not preferable for blind casting a dry/dropper configuration. I finally arrived at a short section that exhibited some nice runs of moderate depth, but I remained scoreless, so I exchanged the emerald caddis pupa for a classic RS2. The move paid dividends, when a feisty thirteen inch rainbow nipped the baetis nymph imitation in a narrow run between two huge exposed boulders. Shortly thereafter another rainbow attacked the RS2, and I my optimism surged.

First Landed Fish

Home of the Rainbow Was the Narrow Run Between the Large Boulders

At this point the river reverted to a series of narrow deep plunge pools and rapids, so I took advantage of the worn trail and circled around and then approached a gorgeous wide pool. I was dissatisfied with the hares ear, so I swapped the middle fly out for a sucker spawn egg cluster, while I kept the RS2 in its previous position. This combination enticed a brown trout to hit the RS2, and at this point I decided to take my lunch break. I relished the idea of resting on a large rock next to the attractive pool, so I could observe, while I consumed my lunch.

Premium Run and Riffle

After lunch I abandoned the sucker spawn fly and chose a bright green go2 sparkle caddis pupa for the upper nymph position. I also replaced the classic RS2 with a sparkle wing version, since I was in reconfigure mode. Between 12:15 and 2PM these three flies occupied my line, and they performed admirably. I bolstered the fish count from three to nine, and two rainbows grabbed the go2 sparkle caddis pupa, while a cutbow crushed the pool toy, and the other three nabbed the RS2. This period was my favorite phase of the day, as I prospected all the likely spots and maintained a nice rhythm.

The cutbow was a special story, as it rose and refused the pool toy once. I rested it, while I prospected other runs and landed a nice rainbow. After I photographed and released the rainbow, I lobbed another cast to the narrow slot that harbored the cutbow, and it surfaced and slurped the foam terrestrial. What a beast! I could only fit the head and midsection of the fish in my net, and my hand was too small to grip the husky fish for a one-handed photo.

20″ Cutbow

Long and Powerful

Just before 2PM the intensity of the blue winged olive emergence escalated. I was positioned next to the long smooth pool adjoining a high vertical rock wall, when the action accelerated. This was the place where @rockymtnangler enjoyed his success on April 5. I removed my dry/dropper alignment and knotted a size 14 CDC BWO to my line, and I began presenting the tiny tuft in downstream drifts to the active trout across and below me. I managed to dupe one aggressive feeder, but it escaped after a fifteen second display of thrashing and jumping. The wind kicked up, and I was laboring to create drag free drifts. Eventually after a heavy bout of fruitless casting I decided to abandon the educated risers, and I moved upstream eighty yards to the next pool.

Some Width on This Brown

This pool was very large and wide and shallow, but I decided to wade toward the midsection and observe. Initially it seemed dead, but upon focused inspection I noticed three or four fish feeding across from me. I began executing some nice across and down drifts, but the results were not what I expected. One fish rose and refused my CDC olive twice, and then it was totally ignored. The same outcome resulted, when I placed casts in front of several other steady feeders.

Shallow Smooth Pool Produced During the BWO Hatch

Perhaps my fly was too small? I clipped it off and replaced it with a size 22, but this fly did not even produce refusals. I reached in my bag of BWO tricks and tried a size 20 Klinkhammer style BWO. The four fish next to me by this time were jaded from all the casting, so I surveyed the area below. This section of the pool was even more shallow, but despite this several fish were working the surface regularly. I moved downstream a few steps and shot an angled cast to two o’clock. Much to my amazement a bulge materialized in front of a small bump, where the current flowed over a submerged rock, and I instinctively reacted with a sweeping hook set. I felt the throb of a fish and played a nice rainbow to my net.

A Dry Fly Chomper

I now took a position below the midsection of the pool, and a pod of fish continued to feed, where the main center current spread out. I began shooting casts above this group, and this required punching the forward stroke into the wind. After a few short casts, I fired one above the rises, and a second trout sipped the Klinkhammer fraud. At this point I thought I found my salvation, but that proved to be a false assumption. I moved to the top of the run and pool, but these fish decided that the Klinkhammer was not to their liking.

Lots of Risers in This Area

The next section was a lengthy stretch of pocket water, so I abandoned the Klinkhammer and reverted to the dry/dropper method. I copied my earlier lineup, but I substituted a yellow fat Albert for the pool toy. I covered a lot of ground and managed to net a fine brown trout that nipped the RS2 to bring the fish count to twelve. The last fifteen minutes featured several very attractive runs, above two anglers, but the trout were not cooperative, perhaps because the other gentlemen disturbed the area. My watch displayed 4PM, so I climbed a very steep path and crested the rim to arrive at the dirt road, and then I made the short journey back to the car.

Friday on the South Platte River was a very successful day. I was mildly disappointed with my inability to capitalize on the steady feeding during the hatch, but this momentary setback was more than offset by the steady action that resulted from my dry/dropper prospecting. I landed a twenty inch cutbow, and eighteen and sixteen inch rainbows. All twelve fish except for one dink were thirteen inches or longer. Three brown trout joined the mix, and they were also very respectable fish. The weather was pleasant, the hatch provoked active feeding, and my thoughts were immersed in the challenge of fooling trout. What could be better?

Fish Landed: 12