Category Archives: South Platte River

South Platte River – 06/04/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/04/2020 Photo Album

Three unproductive trips to lakes reinforced my desire to visit some flowing water, but the nagging question was where? Based on my review of the stream flow data on the DWR web site, it was clear that tailwaters offered the only viable option, as the Colorado freestones climbed toward their peaks. I contemplated the South Platte River for my trip on May 29, but the idea of a solo excursion of that length within eight weeks of heart surgery discouraged me, and I opted for nearby Bear Creek. Friday was a fun comeback outing, but I yearned for the possibility of tangling with trout of greater size.

The weather forecast for the week of June 3 projected highs in the upper 80’s and low 90’s. At the start of the week I suggested to Jane a trip to the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, and she agreed. Jane could share the driving and track my well being, as I logged some sorely needed stream time. I checked the flows on Thursday morning, and 83 CFS was the current reading, and I knew from history that this level was nearly ideal. I was, however, bothered by the slope of the line, as it rose from 60 to 83 over the last few days.

I packed most of my gear on Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning we threw Jane’s bicycle and folding chair in the Santa Fe, and we hit the road by 8AM. This departure time enabled us to pull into a wide parking space by 10:00AM, and my wading boots were wet by 10:30AM. I elected to utilize my Sage four weight in case of wind, and after contemplating wet wading I opted to wear my waders. Ironically I am a fisherman, who does not particularly like to get wet.

As Good a Place as Any to Start

Quite a few competing fishermen were in the canyon, as the South Platte River represents one of a limited number of tailwaters that provide manageable flows during the run off time period. In spite of the greater than normal population of anglers, I found a nice starting spot at the bottom of a lengthy section of pocket water. Jane departed on a two hour hike, while I extended my leader and tied on a size 6 yellow fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph. I decided to rely on the historically top producing flies from my fly box. I began lobbing casts upstream, and I allowed the three fly configuration to drift through some very attractive deep riffles and runs. After ten such passes I was surprised with a lack of action, but then just as the fat Albert entered a deep hole in front of a large submerged rock, it dipped, and I set the hook on a nice twelve inch brown. This was my largest post-operative fish, and I enjoyed a brief celebration. The much appreciated brown trout nipped the salvation nymph.

On the Board

I moved on through some additional juicy pockets, but the local trout were ignoring my three fly offering. A few caddis buzzed about along with a rare size 20 mayfly, but then I spotted a pair of size 12 or 14 golden stoneflies. I reacted to this observation by swapping the salvation nymph for an iron sally. The move paid dividends, when I landed three additional brown trout in the 12 -13 inch range shortly before noon. All three trout came from a narrow but deep ribbon of water that flowed between a large exposed boulder and the fast main current. I probed many more attractive places during the morning with no response, but I was nevertheless pleased by this sudden reversal of fortunes. All three of the hungry brown trout gobbled the tumbling iron sally, and this circumstance vindicated my switch.

Iron Sally Got It Done

A Fine Fish

I crossed the river and returned to Jane’s shady retreat along the dirt road, just after she returned from her hike. I grabbed my lunch and stool, and we relaxed and chatted for twenty minutes, before I resumed my quest for trout. I hiked back along the shoulder of the road, and while Jane looked on, I carefully lowered myself down a steep bank and crossed the river, until I was positioned just above my exit point. Between 12:30PM and 2:00 PM I continued my upstream progression at a steady rate, and I prospected all the likely runs and pockets. I was pleased to have the entire river to myself until the last thirty minutes, when a solo angler appeared above and below me.

After Lunch Rainbow

Deep Riffles in Front of Large Boulder Produced the Rainbow

For the first twenty minutes after lunch I failed to discover any signs of trout in spite of passing through quality water, so I made another modification to my lineup. I replaced the unproductive hares ear with an emerald caddis pupa, but maintained the trailing iron sally. Shortly after this adjustment the fat Albert dipped in a deep riffle near the opposite side of the river, and I quickly lifted the rod tip and found myself attached to a rambunctious rainbow trout. The silver bullet streaked up and down the river, until I eventually leveraged it into my net. The pink striped tout displayed an emerald caddis pupa in its mouth, and it extended to fourteen inches; the best fish of the day.

Pretty Typical for Thursday

For the remainder of the afternoon I worked my way upstream and methodically cast to all the likely trout lies while adding three more brown trout to the count. All were in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and one feasted on the emerald caddis pupa, one crushed the fat Albert, and the other grabbed the iron sally. Some clouds moved in and blocked the sky for a short while, and a flurry of raindrops descended but not enough to force a retrieval of my raincoat. Between 2:30 and 3:00PM I approached a young angler above me, and I looked back on another single fishermen in the water that I just covered. I gently released my eighth fish and waded across the river and then returned to the car.

Another Deep Trough

In 3.5 hours of fly fishing I landed eight trout, and all were twelve inches or greater. This was my best outing by far since my surgery, I was was quite pleased with the outcome. Quite a few promising spots failed to deliver, and the larger, slow moving pools were not productive. I focused my efforts in long deep runs next to current seams, and riffles of moderate depth or large deep pockets were also favorite trout lairs. Afternoon cloud cover probably kept the high temperature in the upper seventies, and the scenery was exceedingly spectacular. I love the large boulders and spaced out pines that characterize the South Platte drainage. Jane had a great time as well, so hopefully I can convince her to make another trip in the near future. I noticed that the flows have gradually elevated to 93 as of June 5.

Fish Landed: 8

South Platte River – 04/08/2020

Time: 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/08/2020 Photo Album

My fishing outing on Wednesday, April 8 was an example of quality over quantity. In an ideal world I enjoy both, but sometimes my fortunes follow an either/or scenario. On Tuesday I learned that the surgery that was scheduled originally for March 16 and then cancelled was rescheduled for April 16. Because of the corona virus pandemic, I was surprised to learn of the resumption of elective surgery this soon, but I made the decision to go with it. Hopefully the surgery will progress to completion this time, and I can recover to reasonable fishing shape by the time the rivers and streams recede to fishable levels in late June or early July.

With the advent of the scheduling change I decided to take advantage of another fine spring day to visit a Colorado river, and I chose the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon for my Wednesday adventure. The high temperature was forecast to reach the upper fifties, and the stream flows were tumbling through the canyon at 80 CFS. I knew from this blog and previous experience that these levels are very conducive to fishing. The fly shop reports touted dry fly action on midges and blue winged olives.

Quite a few vehicles were parked along the nine mile access road, but I was fortunate enough to claim a spot just before the first of the twin tunnels. A surprising amount of snow remained on the north and western facing canyon walls, but the open areas that received plentiful sunlight were clear. When I arrived, the thermometer was stuck on 41 degrees, so I pulled on my North Face light down coat and assembled my Sage four weight rod. I hiked down the dirt road a short distance, until I found a reasonably manageable path down the steep bank to the river. Once I reached the shoreline of the river, I continued downstream for another .2 miles, until I reached a nice pool.

Lunch Pool

I began my search for South Platte River trout with a yellow fat Albert, 20 incher, and super nova baetis; but when I paused for lunch at 11:45, the fish count was locked on zero. Needless to say it was a frustrating morning. I did detect two very brief nips, but never felt the weight of the fish. Just before lunch I prospected a very attractive run and pool, where I normally add a fish or two to my count, but I was disappointed by a lack of success despite covering the water very thoroughly. I experimented with a few fly changes and switched the super nova for a sucker spawn fly and my recently tied partridge and orange, but luck was not my friend. In a last ditch effort to turn my fortunes around I substituted a sparkle wing RS2 for the partridge and orange.

The Area Beyond the Fast Water Delivered

As I sampled my lunch goodies, I observed the pool and spotted two very separate rises in the shelf pool on the right side of the fast center run. This observation prompted me to wade to the opposite bank to approach the area of rising fish from a different angle. Unfortunately the rises never repeated, so I shifted my attention to the riffle on the opposite side of the run, that I covered quite exhaustively prior to lunch. Amazingly on the third cast the fat Albert dipped, and I set the hook quickly, and a very nice trout with a bright pink stripe announced that it was not happy with the hook prick. I fought the battler up and down the run a few times, before I managed to thump it into my net. My first fish of Wednesday was a beauty that created a significant sag. It probably measured in the sixteen inch range, but it displayed an ample amount of poundage coming out of the winter. I was also interested to learn, that it grabbed the 20 incher, although I was certain that the RS2 would be the productive fly.

Plenty of Width

Once I photographed and released my highly sought after prize, I resumed casting to the riffle on the opposite side of the fast current. I allowed some casts to float deeper in the run below me, and on one of these longer floats I felt a grab, as I began to lift the flies to make another cast. Although this rainbow did not approach the size of the first one, it may have been stronger pound for pound, as it put up a spirited fight, before I slid it into my net. The muscular rainbow approximated thirteen inches, and my optimism spiked considerably compared to the morning session.

A Second Fine Rainbow

Having disturbed the lunch run and pool considerably, I pressed on in an upstream direction. While eating lunch I noticed another angler in the appealing pool above me, but as I prospected some deep pockets in between, I was pleased to see that the pool was vacant. I lobbed three to five cast to three promising pockets with no results, and then I quickly claimed one of the better pools in the canyon. Two nice deep runs fed the wide smooth area, and since I was rigged with a dry/dropper arrangement, I skipped immediately to the top. I carefully covered both entering runs with my three fly offering, but I was disappointed to discover that the trout did not savor my menu choices.

A Favorite Spot

As this scenario unfolded, I began to observe rising fish where the larger of the two entry runs fanned out into the wide, smooth pool. I abandoned the dry/dropper approach and quickly knotted a CDC blue winged olive to my 5X tippet. The timing of the rises was relatively spaced, but clearly several trout were attuned to the small mayflies that now began to dance and flutter on the surface. It took me quite a few casts and a few position changes, but eventually I lobbed a cast directly across and accompanied it with an upstream midair mend. The small speck of fluff imitating a blue wing olive was smacked aggressively, and I swooped a very fine thirteen inch brown trout into my net. I anticipated the blue winged olive hatch, and now I notched my first dry fly success of the day.

Pleased With This One

The hatch at this stage in the early afternoon was relatively sparse and developed in small waves. A cloud would block the sun, and this created a breeze, and BWO’s appeared. They were blown by the wind and tumbled across the surface, and a series of feeding fish would respond. After a short frenzy the sun reappeared, I basked in the sun, and the surface action abruptly ended. During one of the extended calm, sunny periods I decided to move on to sample another segment of Eleven Mile Canyon.

A man and woman arrived in the section characterized by a series of deep pockets just above the pool, so I circled around them and re-entered the river thirty yards upstream. I converted back to the dry/dropper technique for the faster pocket water; however, this time I featured a size 8 black Chernobyl ant, bright green caddis pupa, and sparkle wing RS2. The pockets were not productive, nor was the nice long pool downstream from my favorite bend pool on the entire river.

Bend Pool Beckons

I was actually astonished to see the bend pool just down from the first tunnel vacant of fishermen, as this sight is a rarity. The river braids around a small narrow island with one channel feeding the bend pool from the south and the larger branch feeding water from the west. I was on the northwest side of the pool, so I advanced to the section at the top where a wide riffle enters. The dry/dropper remained on my line, so I opted to take advantage of the set up in the faster water of medium depth while observing the lower pool for rising activity. I could see a cluster of quite nice trout spaced throughout the riffle, but despite some very focused prospecting, I was unable to tempt any of them to nab the drifting caddis or RS2. Meanwhile the middle and lower sections of the pool were alive with actively feeding fish.

I once again went through the re-rigging process, and I began with a CDC BWO. The next hour was the most frustrating segment of my day, as I cycled through two sizes of CDC olives, a Klinkhammer style BWO, and a Craven soft hackle emerger; but none of these options appealed to the selective feeders in front of me. I cast to the middle area, the current seam, the eddy between two exposed boulders and the slow moving tail section. They all contained actively feeding fish, but I failed to guide any into my net. I pricked two fish, and I attribute the quick escapes to very tentative takes. My flies were clearly missing a key triggering characteristic compared to the naturals. During windy conditions I always assume that movement is the missing element.

Downstream from the Afternoon Pool

Deming’s quote, “Insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results” looped through my brain, and I cut my losses and moved upstream. I gravitated to the western channel and fired some casts to several likely fish holding areas, but the the tiny olive was not a solid searching fly, so I moved on fairly quickly to the next favorite pool. This spot with slow moving water is directly below the tunnel and features a tall vertical rock wall on the east bank. Half the river was shrouded in shadows by the time I arrived, but I circled around a huge boulder and positioned myself in front of it while looking across to the shaded portion. I was immediately pleased to see some regular rises twenty-five feet across and down from my position, but how was I to follow my tiny tuft of CDC in these unfavorable lighting conditions? I decided to give it a try and simply lift, when I saw a rise, where I approximated my fly to be. It worked on the third drift, I raised the rod tip and felt decent weight, as a fish sent vibrations through my four weight. Unfortunately the joy of hooking a fish in challenging conditions was short lived, as the attached live body quickly slipped free of the tiny size 24 hook.

Smallest Fish of the Day

I paused to blot and dry my fly, and luckily the feeding fish resumed their afternoon routine. Once again I executed a straight across cast and immediately flicked an upstream mend. This time a fish rose five feet downstream from the previous one, and I once again elevated the rod tip and felt a connection. Unlike the previous episode, however, I remained in touch with an eleven inch brown trout and quickly slipped it into my net. When I resumed casting, the wind died back, and the sun broke through the clouds, and the calm sunny break halted the ravenous feeding. Some sporadic activity remained, and I attempted my blind cast and set method for a bit, but then rising futility drove me onward.

My Late Afternoon Spot

I investigated the very attractive faster run at the top of the pool, but I was armed with a tiny dry fly, and the trout were not revealing their presence. I quickly waded through the wide shallow connector section and approached a vast wide pool. The lower half of the pool was only a few feet deep and extremely clear. I deemed this another recipe for frustration and immediately waded to the midsection, where I could reach the upper and middle portion of the pond-like section. I paused to observe, and several larger than average trout hovered below the surface and sipped olives in a rather leisurely manner. Could I fool these discerning eaters? I began making long casts to the area, and I managed to elicit several nose to fly inspections, but something did not conform to the standards of my potential eaters. I gave up on these middle of the pool snobs, and waded toward the feeder lanes in the top third. I once again stopped to observe, and I spotted a couple rises in a moderately faster current close to the boulder strewn west bank.

I began flinging casts across the current with an upstream reach and tracked my tiny fly through the area between the bank and a large exposed boulder to my right. It took ten drifts, and I was about to surrender, when a fourteen inch brown trout smacked the olive, just as the fly began to drag at the end of the float. This brown trout fought more like a rainbow, as It made several long streaking runs upstream, but I maintained a tight line and swept my net underneath another wild prize. I was actually contemplating quitting, but this burst of success refocused my attention.

Aggressive Brown Trout

What next? I moved back toward the east bank and looked once again at the midsection, where I failed to fool some nice trout earlier. They were now rested, and they resumed their finicky feeding. The hatch at this point was more advanced, and although not very dense, quite a few airborne mayflies were visible. Should I try for the center stage trout a second time? Why not? I began to toss casts above the sporadic feeders with an air mend and allowed the fly to drift downstream to their position. Shockingly, after six fruitless casts I saw a nose tip up, and my fly disappeared. I executed a swift lift, and chaos ensued. A fifteen inch rainbow rocketed upstream and then reversed direction several times, while I maintained constant upward and then side pressure. In this instance the fly fishing gods favored me, and I dipped my net beneath a gorgeous, fat rainbow trout. A sub par day was morphing into a quality day after all.

Pleased to Land This Ultra Selective Trout

After my heart rate subsided, I sopped the moisture from my fly, dipped it in desiccant and fluffed the wing. I peered across the pool and noted several fish rising at the base of the current seam that earlier produced a brown trout twenty yards upstream. I targeted these fish, but they were ignoring my tiny olive. My peripheral vision revealed several active fish at the extreme tail of the pool, just before where the water tumbled over a wide flat submerged rock. I examined the flies on the water, and I noticed that they were in a state of constant motion, as they fluttered in their attempt to break free of the surface film. My CDC olive by comparison looked very rigid and inert. I pondered the matter and wondered whether one of my soft hackle emergers might imitate a cripple, and whether the soft hackle and fluoro fiber might create a greater illusion of motion?

I gave it a try. I replaced the CDC olive with a size 22 soft hackle emerger with no bead and applied floatant to the body and wing. I moved downstream toward the shallow tail, and flicked a cast above the scene of the feeders. On the third drift a fish aggressively smacked the wet fly, and I paused a fraction of a second, before I set the hook, and once again a tussle developed. Similar to the first brown trout from the pool, this fish battled hard, but I once again held the upper hand. Again my net sagged under the weight of a robust fourteen inch brown with a vivid black spot pattern over a light silvery body. Needless to say I was on a cloud.

Black Spots on Light Background

The sun reappeared, and the hatch waned, and a glance at my watch revealed that it was nearing 4:30PM. I did not wish to advance farther upstream, and I was averse to waiting out the lull in the hatch, so I clipped my hook to the rod guide and sought a reasonable path up the very steep bank to the road. I barely succeeded in cresting the lip of the bank and returned through the tunnels to my waiting Santa Fe.

What a day! Of course, seven fish in six hours of fishing is a below average catch rate, but the quality of the fish was outstanding. All but one landed fish were thirteen inches or greater, and several exhibited exceptional heft. Five of my netted fish were on dry flies, and I always favor surface action over subsurface. Getting skunked in the tunnel pool was a huge disappointment, but how was I to know? If this is my last outing before surgery, I will fondly remember the day.

Fish Landed: 7

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