Category Archives: South Platte River

South Platte River – 05/17/2022

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/17/2022 Photo Album

When I first moved to Colorado in the early nineties, a San Juan worm and a pheasant tail nymph were nearly certain producers on the South Platte River. Since that time I strayed from the San Juan worm. When I have a bad day, my wife insists it is because I eschew the trusty worm. Could a San Juan worm still be effective on the South Platte River or other Colorado systems?

My options for fishing in Colorado rivers and streams dwindled, as I reviewed the flows upon my return from a week in Kauai. Bear Creek, Boulder Creek, the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, and the Big Thompson remained viable, even though they were on the upper border of disappearing from my possible list. The South Platte River at Lake George was trending upward at 170 CFS, when I checked the DWR graphs on Monday evening, so I decided to give it a go on Tuesday.

190 CFS

The temperature was in the upper sixties, when I arrived at my chosen pullout along the river, and the high peaked in the low seventies with very few clouds in the sky during my time on the river. Tuesday was nearly perfect from a weather perspective from an angler viewpoint. When I crossed the road to stare at the river, it appeared to be higher than I anticipated, and this eventuality was accompanied by some murkiness. Upon my return to home, I checked the flows for Tuesday, and the chart reflected a gradual climb from 170 CFS to 200 CFS during my time on the river. The increase surely explained the color, although visibility remained reasonable, as the streambed could be seen in all but the deepest pools. In addition to the turbidity I observed an abundant quantity of floating debris, and lots of fly-grabbing sticks were wedged between the rocks. I also encountered a family of tubers, but they exited above me and never became a significant nuisance.

A Start

I began my day with a dry/dropper that included a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a beadhead hares ear nymph, and an emerald caddis pupa. In the early going I landed one tiny brown trout that was too small to count and then added a ten inch brown that consumed the hares ear. When I attempted to remove the fly and release the fish, I discovered a snelled hook from another angler in the fish’s mouth, and it was too deep to remove, so I released it in the same state, as I caught it. I felt bad about this, but the fish seemed to be surviving with a hook and leader in its mouth, and I concluded that any effort to dig deep would do more harm than good.

Decent for This Section of River

After a fifteen minute dry spell I exchanged the caddis pupa for a black, beaded mini leech. The leech generated no luck, so I made another switch to a pink San Juan worm in combination with the hares ear. Ka-ching! The San Juan worm clicked and remained on my line over the remainder of the day. By lunch at noon my fish count rested on five, with four brown trout grabbing the San Juan worm, and one brown favoring the hares ear, as explained earlier.

The Worm Was Desired

After lunch I made an overzealous cast and broke off all three flies that comprised the dry/dropper. The flies remained on an island two-thirds of the way across the river, and I was unable to wade into a position to recover them, so I made a mental note of the prominent characteristics of the island and planned to resume a search, once I crossed to the other side at a manageable crossing point.

I used the break off as an opportunity to experiment with a nymphing rig. Early afternoon was blue winged olive hatch time, so I constructed my offering with the pink San Juan worm and a sparkle wing RS2 along with a split shot and New Zealand strike indicator. The nymph set up remained in place for the remainder of my time on the water, and the fish count steadily climbed from five to twelve. During the course of the day the pink San Juan worm accounted for eight trout; the hares ear one, an orange scud fooled one; and a salvation nymph finished out the day with two. A baetis hatch never materialized, and the RS2 was ignored.

Different Lighting

When I reached the area just below Happy Meadows, I reversed direction and crossed the river just above the island, that I planned to search for my flies. I almost forgot and walked a short distance beyond, but then I remembered and descended to the river and crossed a small side channel to reach the small island. I paced fifteen steps to the downstream side and almost immediately spotted the yellow fat Albert and recovered all three flies.

On my way back to the car I stopped to fish some pocket water along the side of the river that bordered the road, and I snagged a large branch. I attempted to leverage the branch within my grasp, but my line broke, and I lost a pink San Juan worm and orange scud. You win some, and you lose some.

Another Respectable Brown

The lost fly incident caused me to retreat to the car, and I drove down the road for .5 mile and parked in a wide pullout next to a high bank above the river. I hiked down the road a short distance and then cut back to the river and worked my way back to the car while drifting a flesh colored San Juan worm and salvation nymph. The salvation fooled one brown trout, and a thirteen inch brown chomped the worm, as it dangled in the current at the bottom of a run,

At 3:30 I reached the upper end of the desirable water in this area, and I decided to quit for the day. I landed twelve decent brown trout on Tuesday, but the fly fishing could not be considered hot. My catch rate was just over two fish per hour, and I considered that average. Nevertheless, I was proud of my persistence and willingness to flex with the conditions to deep nymphing with a San Juan worm. Clearly the rising flows scoured the banks and propelled aquatic worms and earthworms into the river. Over twenty-five years after my love affair with the San Juan worm on the South Platte River, I experienced a revival, and I will not be reluctant to knot a worm to my line, should I once again encounter off-colored water.

Fish Landed: 12

South Platte River – 05/03/2022

Time: 11:15AM – 4:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/03/2022 Photo Album

I experienced an exceptional day of fishing last Wednesday, April 27, and I was anxious to make a return to the South Platte River, but I also had my eye on the Arkansas River. The caddis hatch began its progression up the canyon, and this suggested the possibility of a double dip with both blue winged olives and caddis on the menu. As a first step to make my destination decision, I checked the weather, and the wind velocity in Salida was forecast to strike speeds in excess of 20 MPH on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Eleven Mile Canyon was somewhat better with speeds of 14 – 16 MPH in the afternoon. I gambled that I could tolerate the wind in Eleven Mile; and, furthermore relatively heavy cloud cover was predicted from 3:00PM until the evening. Perhaps these conditions would spur another baetis hatch similar to that which entertained me on April 27. I decided to make the trip.

Although my day on the previous Wednesday was outstanding, there was a period just prior to the brief rain storm, when my CDC BWO was not effective. The trout seemed to favor very active naturals, as the wind tumbled the tiny mayflies across the surface of the river. This experience motivated me to tie five new flies on Monday afternoon in an effort to be prepared for high wind and picky trout. In addition to my normal recipe of a CDC comparadun style wing, microfibbet tails, and olive dubbed body and thorax; I added a very small dun hackle wound around the hook shank before and after the wing. I inserted all five of the new flies into my fly box on Monday evening in preparation for Tuesday’s trip. Did they work? Read on.

Perched on Hackles

I arrived at my chosen location high above the South Platte River by 11:00AM, and I immediately pulled on my North Face light down coat. The air temperature at the start was in the low fifties, but the high was projected to reach sixty, so I proceeded with one layer. I assembled my Sage One five weight with the expectation of above average fish and strong winds in the afternoon. I hiked along the dirt road for .4 mile and dropped into the canyon on a short steep trail in order to arrive at the first pool. I named this pool lunch pool, as I typically rest along side the short deep area to eat my lunch.

Tail of This Pool Produced a Brown Trout in the Early Going

Early Dry Fly Action

In my mind I was debating whether to rig with a strike indicator and nymphs or to deploy a dry/dropper, when several subtle rises at the very tail of the run aroused my curiosity. Could blue winged olives be hatching this early under clear bright blue skies? I decided to find out, and I knotted a size 20 CDC BWO to my 4X tippet. I was hesitant to extend the leader with 5X, in case I decided to return to the dry/dropper approach in short order. The move proved to be a winner, and I landed two trout in the first half hour on the CDC BWO. A brown trout sipped the BWO imitation from the very tail of the run, where it began to curl toward the shoreline to form an eddy. The second netted fish was a fourteen inch rainbow, and it darted to the surface from the deepest spot in the eddy to ingest the CDC BWO. I broke for lunch at 11:45AM with two nice trout notched on the fish counter. I observed the pool during lunch, and a few sporadic rises resumed in the tail and eddy, so I returned to the scene of my morning success. Alas, in spite of some focused fishing, I was unable to recreate the magic, and I decided to modify my approach.

CDC BWO Sipper

The upper section of the pool was characterized by a long faster moving riffle, and I was skeptical that the minute single dry fly would function as a prospecting weapon, so I reconfigured with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, beadhead sparkle wing RS2 and a non-beadhead soft hackle emerger. I created a fairly short dropper system, as I suspected that the fish were hovering just beneath the surface looking for active nymphs and emergers. My thought process was sound, but the dry/dropper approach was a huge dud, and I moved up the river to the next inviting pool. Two other anglers were present during my morning efforts, during lunch and during the short window thereafter; but as I approached the long smooth pool, I was pleased to discover that it was vacant. I immediately claimed the extreme upstream section, where the main current split around a large exposed rock, and I covered the entry runs thoroughly with the BWO nymph and wet fly. The trout ignored my offerings, and I concluded that my theories were not applicable on May 3.

The Big, Long Pool

As the trout taught me this lesson, I began to observe some sporadic rises through the center of the pool, where the twin currents merged and then fanned out to the slow moving tail. I removed my dry/dropper system and tied on another CDC BWO. The pace of rises never accelerated beyond sporadic in the bright sunshine, but when I noticed a rise and placed a drift over the feeding spot, I was able to hook and land three mid-sized brown trout.

Afternoon Catch

For the remainder of the afternoon I visited three additional pools and upped the fish count from five to fourteen. Wednesday’s fly fishing adventure was quite different from April 27, when I enjoyed dense hatches in waves that brought large numbers of ravenously feeding trout to the surface. On Tuesday, the wind would kick up, and this in turn sparked a very sparse hatch and sporadic rises. I made a huge quantity of casts and covered a ton of real estate to carve out a very satisfying day on the South Platte River.

Respectable

My next pool was the one below Steve’s pool, where the strong main current runs along the eastern bank and then deflects off a huge boulder with a vertical side. I managed to land two from this location on downstream drifts, and I replaced the soggy CDC BWO with one of my new hackled CDC BWO’s. It worked for one fish, before I hooked another that felt heavier than the previous catches, but this fish made a sudden turn and snapped off my new creation.

Riser Tight to the Rock

One angler occupied Steve’s pool, so I waded around the bend and passed the narrow island to investigate the slow and smooth pool along the left bank above the island. Another fisherman beat me to it, so I moved above him and spotted some nice feeders on my side of the river. I managed to land a nice brown trout and connected briefly with another pair, before I moved on. My next stop was another gorgeous pool that spread out around some exposed boulders and then made a wide smooth tail section. I headed immediately to the deep entering currents, and I paused to observe for awhile. The sun was out, and the air was relatively dead, but I was able to spot two very subtle dimples along a current seam, and these observations translated into two nice rainbow trout in the thirteen and fourteen inch range. I now achieved double digits, and I was pleased with my day regardless of what the future offered.

A Rainbow Was Off the point of the Rock on the Right

Another Hungry Rainbow

The next area consisted of pocket water, and I was seeking slow, smooth pools in order to pick off BWO surface feeders, so I reversed direction and returned to the scene of much success on April 19. This was also the area occupied by another angler earlier, as I approached from below. I carefully waded into position from the western bank and stood in relatively shallow water with a nice sandy bottom. As I suspected, trout were dimpling the surface throughout the twenty-five yard long pool. By now, as predicted, the cloud cover thickened, and the light diminished, and the wind kicked up. My feet were migrating into frozen stumps, and a slight chill invaded my body. I began lobbing casts to the feeding lanes, where trout revealed their positions via greedy rises, but my low riding CDC BWO was mostly ignored. After a large number of casts, I finally connected with a fine trout to move the fish count to eleven, but the number of feeding fish compared to my single success suggested that I had not solved the feeding riddle.

Deep Colors on This Beauty

I paused to assess and realized that these were the very conditions that I attempted to solve with my hackled CDC olives. I plucked one from my fly box and knotted it to my 5X tippet and resumed casting. Although I continued to experience my fair share of futility in the form of looks and refusals, I did hook and land three very nice fish on the hackled BWO. The hackles enabled the fly to ride higher on the surface of the river, and to my angler eye, it more closely resembled the natural baetis that tumbled and bounced along the surface in the face of the strong gusts of wind. In one instance, I twitched the fly with a jerky mend, and one of the landed trout responded with a quick eat.

Thick Brown Trout

Although Tuesday, May 3 yielded fewer trout, and the quality of the hatch was inferior to April 27, I still rated the day as excellent. Success required patience, persistence and keen observation. Downstream casting and mending skills were a necessity, and frequent drying and application of floatant were keys to success. The most gratifying aspect of the day was my ability to utilize my new hackled CDC BWO fly to fool and land three very fine trout in the last hour of the day. I will certainly tie more.

Fish Landed: 14

South Platte River – 04/27/2022

Time: 10:45AM – 4:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/27/2022 Photo Album

After catching seven tiny brown trout from Boulder Creek on Monday, I was itching for some more substantial quarry on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. I considered the Arkansas River, and the forecast temperatures were to my liking in the upper sixty degrees, but the wind velocity in the afternoon was projected over 20 MPH. The South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon was my second choice, and the wind speeds there were more tolerable in the low to mid teens, but the high temperature was expected to be in the low sixties. I have endured colder days than that in the canyon, so I made Eleven Mile my destination. The other weather factor that caught my attention was heavy clouds for most of the afternoon. In my mind this suggested blue winged olive mayflies.

I departed Denver at 7:35AM and arrived at my target pullout by 10:15AM. Initially I pulled on my fleece cardigan and North Face light down coat with the temperature at 50 degrees, but I felt too warm and shed the light down. I reasoned that I could always pull my raincoat out of my backpack for a windbreaker layer, if I got too cold. My rod of choice was my Sage One five weight. I hiked up the road for .3 mile, until I found a reasonably manageable path down the steep bank from the road to the river. My starting point consisted of a series of deep pockets around exposed boulders, and the flows were a nice 125 CFS. I rigged my five weight with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, ultra zug bug and RS2 and began prospecting all the slower moving but deep spots around the boulders. During this early time period I landed a very nice rainbow trout of approximately fourteen inches and a small brown trout. The rainbow snatched the RS2, and the brown grabbed the ultra zug bug.

Ready for Freedom

The rest of my day could be described as the tale of three pools. The next nice pool above the pocket water was my typical break point for lunch, but I arrived earlier than usual because of my 10:45 starting time. I worked my nymphs thoroughly through both sides of the deep run, but I was unable interest any residents in my offerings. This was abnormal, as I can usually count on a fish or two from the lunch pool area. I swapped the ultra zug bug for a beadhead black mini leech and replaced the RS2 with a sparkle wing version. The move failed to change my luck, and I progressed to the next pool, which is one of my favorites on the river. It is quite long, and the main current splits around a large exposed rock at the head of the pool, before it fans out in the center area. The bottom half is a wide and deep, smooth pool. I positioned myself next to the upper and middle section and sat down to consume my lunch. When I called my day the story of three pools, this one was number one.

Off the Point of That Rock Produced

As I ate my lunch , I spotted numerous rises around the head of the pool and continuing down to the midsection. My pace of chewing elevated, and I skipped my yogurt in my zeal to fool eagerly feeding trout. Just as I was beginning to cast a CDC BWO, an older couple arrived , and the man motioned to me asking for permission to fish the tail of the pool. I gave him a thumbs up, but I wondered why he could not find another spot given the relatively light presence of anglers on a Wednesday.

Lovely Markings

Initially the preponderance of rising trout ignored my CDC BWO, so I switched to a Klnkhammer emerger, and it clicked for three twelve inch brown trout, but the trout’s teeth cut the delicate parachute hackle on two flies, so I switched to a new CDC BWO with a thicker CDC wing than the first fly I tried. I was concerned that I would quickly deplete my supply of four Klinkhammer emergers. The CDC BWO with the thicker wing did the trick, and I landed seven more trout from the long pool, while Bruce and Sandy looked on.

Long and Sleek

Number ten was memorable, as I spotted several subtle rises off the point of the large exposed rock that split the incoming current. I dropped several casts off the point, and on the third attempt a fine fourteen inch brown trout slurped the CDC olive. The take was very visual and very gratifying after discerning the subtle rises.

The sun appeared and the frequency of rising trout waned, so I decided to abandon the long pool and seek other opportunities. I was interested to know whether the olives were emerging in other spots throughout the South Platte system in Eleven Mile. I walked back to Bruce and Sandy and relinquished the pool to them. I intended to inspect Steve’s pool, the pool on a ninety degree bend below the tunnel, but first I came to a smaller pool just below Steve’s with a large rock wall along the east side. I crossed the river below this point and paused to observe, while two anglers occupied Steve’s. Quite a few rises appeared throughout the length of the pool, so I decided to approach from the west side with across and downstream drifts. This was pool number two of my day of three pools.

Rises Tight to the Rock Wall

Feeding Trout Along the Opposite Bank

My approach paid dividends, as I landed five additional brown trout to boost the fish count to fifteen. In this pool my conversion rate suffered compared to that of pool one, as each fish landed required a far greater number of casts, but persistence paid off.  During this time the wind kicked up, and the sky darkened, and two of my takes occurred as I twitched the fly with a bad mend, or drag set in near the downstream extension of the drift. The mayflies by now were emerging in fairly dense quantities, but they tumbled and skipped along the surface as a result of the frequent gusts. My casting and disturbance of the water with thrashing fish eventually put down the pool residents except for some cagey veterans along the rocky shoreline on the opposite bank, so I waded up the river to Steve’s pool.

Hungry

In a stroke of good fortune the two occupants of Steve’s pool reeled up their flies and abandoned the gem of Eleven Mile, thus leaving it vacant for this eager angler. By now the sky darkened even more than previously, and the wind velocity accelerated, and my wet hands from releasing fish in pool two stung from the rapid evaporation. I moved to the riffles at the entry point to the pool, and the river came alive with rising fish. I could easily see twenty fish within my range, as they rapidly darted to the surface to snatch helpless blue winged olive victims. I made some nice downstream drifts and managed to land four trout during this time frame, but my success rate was actually rather poor given the feeding binge that transpired on my side of the pool. Looks and refusals far outnumbered takes, as my stagnant fly was one among the hundreds that blanketed the river. As this event unfolded, rain began to fall, so I had to retreat to the bank, where I removed my front pack, backpack and camera and pulled on my raincoat. The temperature dropped ten degrees, and I chastised myself for forsaking the North Face down coat.

Very Fine Fish

Eventually the electricity of the dense hatch subsided, the rain stopped and the dark cloud moved to the east. The nearby area that was a sea of frothing rises suddenly appeared to be vacant of trout with only a few very sporadic feeders through the long and wide pool. My feet were frozen stumps, my hands were gnarled and stinging, and a chill ran up and down my spine. I decided to call it quits and wandered to the tail of the pool to begin my crossing to the east side next to the road. Before I stepped in the river; however, I gazed across the extreme tail and spotted a pair of rises in fairly shallow water. Could I tease up one of these feeders?

On Display. Golden Coloring

Fat

I waded into the river a few feet and launched a relatively long cast toward a feeding lane near the opposite shoreline. I could see the silhouette of the feeder, and on the fifth drift, much to my amazement, the fish tipped up and sipped my CDC wing blue winged olive. I struck quickly and battled a fifteen inch brown trout to my net. I used my curled fingers to complete the wing drying process and once again placed a cast above a sighted fish, and again my target elevated and sipped in the fraud. This cycle repeated itself six times, before I eventually crossed the river and ended my day. What an ending! The last six trout of the day from the shallow tail area were the largest and hardest fighters. A chunky fourteen inch rainbow was among the six as well as two fifteen inch browns and three thirteen inch brown trout. Even now, a day later, I am in awe of my last hour of fishing.

Hefty

Wednesday was easily my best day of fly fishing in 2022. Twenty-five landed fish in 5.5 hours of fishing represents a better than average catch rate, and the surge of wild beauties in the last hour was icing on the cake. If one were to ask me to describe a perfect blue winged olive day, Wednesday, April 27 would be my model. Twenty-three of my catch sipped BWO dry fly imitations. and this made the day even more gratifying. The most challenging period occurred during the prelude to the storm, when mayflies appeared in blizzard quantities. During this time my ratio of casts to conversions was very high, so I still need to find a solution. Much of this frustration stems from the sheer number of naturals compared to my solitary offering, but I also think wind and motion are a factor. My fly dead drifts, while the surrounding naturals flutter and bounce and clumsily attempt to get airborne. I continue to believe that some size 20 or 22 flies with conventional hackles around the hook shank might portray motion better than my slender no hackles. Stay tuned, as I continue to unravel the mysteries of the BWO hatch.

Fish Landed 25

South Platte River – 04/19/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/19/2022 Photo Album

Dry flies and spring weather were in my plans for Tuesday, April 19, 2022. Was I able to achieve my goal? Stay tuned.

After a pleasant day of fly fishing on the Big Thompson River on Monday, I decided to undertake my first back to back of the 2022 season. For my second day of fishing I was open to a longer drive to either the Arkansas River or South Platte River, as I desired a shot at larger fish than the modest fish that occupied my net during recent trips to Clear Creek and the Big Thompson. As has been the case this spring, my decision hinged largely on weather; and, more specifically, the wind. The projected wind velocities for Lake George were in the low teens during the afternoon; whereas, wind speeds peaked in the upper teens on the Arkansas River near Salida. My last trip to Eleven Mile Canyon on April 8 was a disappointment with only one fish landed, but I convinced myself that warmer temperatures and the chance for some cloud cover translated to a higher probability of a stronger blue winged olive hatch. Would the anticipated hatch develop? One again, read on. This trip was also a solo venture, and this provided the latitude to choose my favorite haunts rather than compromising with the leanings of a fly fishing partner.

I managed to arrive at a wide pullout in the middle section of the special regulation water by 10:30AM, and this enabled me to position myself next to some nice pocket water in ready mode by 11:00AM. I wore a long sleeved thermal undershirt and my light down coat to start, and I never shed layers, although I was a bit warm several times, when the sun persisted for an extended time period. My Sage One five weight was the weapon of choice to combat the likelihood of high winds, and in case I tangled with a larger than average trout.

Lead Off Rainbow

Between 11AM and 1PM I prospected pockets and runs at the head of pools with a nymph rig that included a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug. During the first two hours I guided two fish to my net including a fourteen inch rainbow and a thirteen inch brown trout. After an unproductive twenty minutes I replaced the ultra zug bug with an RS2 and later a sparkle wing RS2, and the rainbow nabbed the RS2, while the brown trout fell for the sparkle wing. I also experimented with a size 14 prince nymph and a beadhead black mini leech during this time. The presence of other anglers forced me to circle around three prime pools, as I made my way up the river.

Not Sure How or When This Happened

By 1PM I advanced beyond the popular bend pool that I named Steve’s pool after my friend Steve Supple. I covered the right braid around a small narrow island, and I was drifting my nymphs through a deep pocket to no avail, when a spin fisherman twenty yards above me on the left bank signaled that I should move to his location. I gave him a thumbs up, and after he ascended the steep bank to the road, I cautiously waded to a spot in the middle of the river directly across from where he motioned me. My stealth was rewarded, as I observed numerous rising trout in a long section of slow moving smooth water twenty-five feet away from my position in the middle of the river. I observed for a short while, and then I removed my nymphing paraphernalia and knotted a size 20 CDC BWO to my line. My hands were shaking from anticipation, as I struggled to remove the single split shot that would not come undone.

Most of My Success Was Here

Finally the small comparadun style dry fly was in place and attached to an extension of 5X leader, and I began to toss casts to the nearest portion of the pool and above three rising trout. Smack! A fifteen inch rainbow sipped in the CDC BWO with confidence on the second drift, and I managed to thwart its escape efforts and scooped it into my net. For the next two hours I remained in this spot and hooked and landed an additional six trout ranging in size from twelve to fifteen inches. I covered the length of the thirty yard long pool, and I executed a significant number of casts. Many were fruitless, but enough duped trout to make the day my best of 2022 so far. The baetis were plentiful, and it seemed that the fish fed in waves. The most intense feeding seemed to follow gusts of wind, and I surmised that the air movement knocked the tiny mayflies to the surface thus spurring easy snacks for the resident trout.

BWO Eater

Nearly all my landed fish resulted from downstream drifts, as the flies passed over the feeding lane ahead of the leader. I repeated my routine of sopping moisture from the fly against my down coat sleeve, then dipping the fly in desiccant followed by vigorous shaking. The next step included some robust wing fluffing and then the application of a minimal amount of floatant to the body. On the few occasions when I skipped one of these steps, the fish seemed to ignore my offering! Pretty regimented, don’t you think?

Fine Ink Spot Brown Trout

Lovely Rainbow

By 2:45PM the number of rises became quite sporadic, so I advanced up the river through a narrow section with a high rock wall along the east bank. I remembered a nice long smooth pool above the narrow section, but as I approached, I spotted another angler. I reversed my direction and returned to my earlier focal point once again, but the number of rising fish shrank to a few, and they ignored my offering, so I moved to the Steve pool. By now the pool was vacated, so I paused and observed for an extended amount of time hoping to spot some rises to straggling blue winged olives. Finally after three or four minutes a fish showed in some nervous water near the center of the pool, and I dropped a few casts in the vicinity. On one of the drifts I noticed a subtle splash and set the hook, and this resulted in a split second connection with a small fish. After this brief exchange with action, the pool remained devoid of signs of fish, so I hooked my fly in the guide and scrambled up the steep bank to the road. The return hike was .6 mile.

Second Look

Tuesday was just what the doctor ordered. Nine fish landed with seven sipping the small blue winged olive imitation. Nearly all the fish were in the twelve to fifteen inch range, and catching  respectable trout on size 20 dry flies is always a challenge and very rewarding, if one can succeed. I have experienced more trout during a day of fishing, but the size and preference for dries is what set this day apart from the others so far. I will continue to look for overcast skies and another opportunity to make the trek to Eleven Mile Canyon before the snow melt elevates river levels.

Fish Landed: 9

South Platte River – 04/08/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/08/2022 Photo Album

After a rough day on the South Platte River on April 4, I decided to redeem myself with a trip to a different section of the same river on April 8, 2022. The flows in Eleven Mile Canyon were 115 CFS, and the high temperature was projected to be 59 degrees with single digit wind speeds. I learned to always check wind speeds when planning spring fly fishing trips.

I contacted my fishing friend, Steve, and I picked him up at 9AM and then continued the drive to the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. As we entered the canyon, we noted that the access fee was raised to $8. Much to our chagrin most of the pullouts were filled with cars, and this was particularly the case, when we arrived at the last .5 mile below  the dam. In spite of this crowding we found some open spaces in a dirt lot below the last bridge before the dam. We quickly climbed into our waders and prepared to fish. I wore my North Face light down coat and billed New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and I assembled my Sage One five weight to counteract wind and with the hope of tangling with larger than average fish.

Steve crossed the road and walked upstream along the left side of the river, while I strode along the gated dirt road that leads to a campground on the right side. I wandered to the large ninety degree bend, and five fishermen were spaced out strategically leaving me no space to begin my day. I retreated to the bridge and noticed that an angler had vacated the west bank below the bridge, so I ambled along a path for fifty yards and then dropped to the river.

After Lunch Section

The river was extremely clear and flowing along at 115 CFS, so I opted for a peacock hippie stomper, RS2 and zebra midge. I was seeking some sink, but I wanted to avoid a large plop such as that created by a large foam fly or large beadhead nymphs.

As I began casting, I easily spotted large fish, as they held their positions along the bottom particularly in deep troughs. I made long casts and drifted the flies through the lanes, but the trout totally ignored my offerings. I slowly migrated up the river along the left bank and executed long casts to gain natural drifts, but my caution and stealth were to no avail. I removed the zebra midge after a reasonable test period and replaced it with a soft hackle emerger, but the move caused no change in my fishless status. In another desperate move to fool trout I devoted twenty minutes to a configuration that included a gray scud, but, again the fish would not cooperate. The wind  gusted occasionally, and I failed to observe any insects other than a few random midges.

Steve Below the Bridge

By 12:30PM I arrived at the nice deep riffles just below the outflow from the large pipes that comprise the bridge. The faster water and deep seams elevated my optimism, and I began prospecting the likely fish lies, while I keenly observed the water. Suddenly a decent rainbow trout materialized in a two foot section of slack water no more than five feet in front of me. I began lobbing casts to the seam just below the left-most pipe, and this enabled the hippie stomper and baetis imitations to drift toward me and over the observed fish, as it held at an angle, where the current dumped sources of food. On the fifth drift I lifted the rod to make another cast, and I felt weight for a split second, but that was all. I stripped in my line and discovered that both subsurface flies were missing. I will never know if I hooked a fish that broke me off, or whether I snagged and broke off a bad knot on the lift.

Steve appeared on the bridge above me, so we ambled back to the car and ate our lunches from the tailgate. After lunch Steve returned to his favorite spot twenty yards above the bridge along the left side, but I decided to explore the area below the bridge. I followed a well worn path that led me through some shrubs, and I eventually cut directly to the river. A long section of river appeared to be vacant, so I made this my afternoon haunt. I replaced the broken off flies with a beadhead hares ear nymph trailing a sparkle wing RS2, and I began to search for signs of fish life. The river was wide and relatively shallow, so I waded upstream for a bit, until I found a delightful deep area, where the main current flowed around some large exposed rocks. I began covering the lower section with the dry/dropper, but as I did so, I became aware of some rises in the sweet spot, where the river troughed between the large rocks. I continued with my dry/dropper search, but after five minutes the rises became more frequent, so I decided to alter my approach. I removed the two nymphs and extended a 5X leader from the bend of the hippie stomper for eight inches, and then I tied on a size 20 CDC BWO. I also observed a few blue winged olive naturals, as the wind skittered them across the surface.

Nice Chunk

When I was properly rigged, I made some false casts and dropped the double dry fly combination to the right of the center cut deep area, and my optimism was met with a resounding thud. I decided to cut to the chase, and placed a second cast in the heart of the sweet spot, and after a one foot drift, a fish nosed up and inhaled the CDC BWO. Whoosh! I set the hook and felt the instant throb of a nice fish. Fortunately I had my five weight, and I quickly muscled the streamlined rainbow trout to my net and carefully stepped to the shoreline to capture a video and some photos. The fish in my possession was easily the largest that I landed in 2022. I kept it in the water for the entire camera session and then allowed it to zip away in apparent good health.

The sparse hatch continued for another thirty minutes, but I was unable to fool additional South Platte River trout. I tried adding a soft hackle emerger behind the CDC BWO, and then I replaced both flies with a Klinkhammer emerger. None of these ploys resulted in success, so I reverted to a different CDC BWO. The fish in the area resumed feeding in two or three waves, but the surface action never approached that of the initial period that caught my attention. It seemed that the fish resumed feeding, when the wind kicked up and knocked the tiny mayflies in the water. I was quite pleased to land the fine rainbow and eliminate my skunking, but I must admit disappointment with my inability to fool additional trout in the area. I suspect that at least five or six fish dimpled the surface at one time or the other, while I was present.

Heading to Shore

Finally I abandoned the prime area and moved upstream only to encounter another fisherman. I circled around him and once again rendezvoused with the river and found Steve in the area below the pipes. He was doing nothing, so I convinced him to return to the scene of my success, and within five minutes we were once again perched next to the deep runs that swirled around some exposed boulders. I suggested that Steve cast to the prime center section, while I waded downstream a bit to investigate additional real estate. My exploration was fruitless, and I slowly waded back to Steve’s position. Just as I approached him from below, I noticed a swirl at the lower section, and as I looked on, Steve placed a nice cast to the area, and before I could utter nice, he set the hook and his rod bowed. Needless to say my fishing partner was a happy camper, as he scooped a respectable South Platte rainbow trout into his net.

The blue winged olive hatch waned, and neither of us could entice additional trout to our nets. My watch registered 3PM, so I suggested we head back to the car to prepare for the return trip, and Steve eagerly agreed. Once again the South Platte River served up a difficult day. I was extremely thankful for my one robust trout, and I am now in a quandary over how to reignite the 2022 fishing season. During both my days on the South Platte River I endured bright sunshine and clear blue skies with fairly strong wind. I am currently considering a trip on a day with forecast cloud cover with the hope that a denser hatch of baetis would result in improved fishing success.

Fish Landed: 1

South Platte River – 04/04/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Below Deckers

South Platte River 04/04/2022 Photo Album

A skunking or tough day on the river builds character. If that is the case, my character was enhanced greatly by today’s 3.5 hours of fly fishing. I suspect that if I were to count my worst outings over the last ten years, a high percentage resulted from a trip to the South Platte River downstream from Deckers, CO. In spite of my lack of success, the density of fishermen remains above average, and I am continually baffled by this circumstance. Perhaps I choose the wrong times to fish there, or maybe I am prospecting in unproductive locations, but my results do not merit the hordes of anglers that frequent this popular destination.

Focused on a Straggler

With high winds in the forecast for Tuesday and a skiing trip on the schedule for Wednesday I decided to take advantage of a promising weather forecast on Monday, April 4, 2022. I left my house in Denver at 9:00AM, and this enabled me to arrive at my chosen dirt parking lot along the South Platte River by 10:40AM. I quickly pulled on my waders, donned my fleece cardigan, and assembled my Sage four weight; and I was ready for action. I hiked along the road for .2 miles and then dropped down a moderately steep path to begin my quest for trout. I rigged initially with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead black mini leech, and salvation nymph; and within the first thirty minutes I landed an eight inch rainbow trout and experienced a refusal that resulted in a temporary foul hook. My optimism soared with this early interaction with South Platte River trout.

My One and Only

Unfortunately this pretty much summed up my body of success on Monday. During the afternoon at approximately 1:00PM, I connected very briefly with another trout, but it quickly turned its head and slipped the hook thus prompting some phrases that should not be repeated here. That was the sum total of my action on Monday, April 4.

I fished a dry/dropper in the early going as described above, but before lunch I switched to a nymphing set up with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, beadhead salvation nymph and sparkle wing RS2. This approach was a reaction to my belief that I needed to get my flies deeper particularly in locations with deep pockets and seams. I carefully observed the places of moderate depth that I approached, as I attempted to sight fish, but I never spotted a target. This is what caused me to surmise that the trout were hugging bottom in deep troughs and seams.

Pretty Spot

After lunch I prospected the section of the river that sluiced through some massive boulders, and it was here that I generated a very brief temporary connection with a trout.  When I reached the next parking lot, I decided to return to the car, and I moved it upstream another .3 miles, and then I returned to a point just above my earlier exit. Another fisherman occupied my desired space, so I cut in fifty yards above him to fish a very attractive section of moderate depth and medium current velocity over a large boulder strewn bottom. I elevated my focus in anticipation of some action; but, alas, a barrage of futile casting was my unfortunate outcome. This section produced some fine brown trout and a nice blue winged olive hatch during a trip in May of 2021.  During Monday’s visit to to this favorite section of the South Platte I noticed a very sparse emergence of blue winged olives, but the total number of sighted mayflies was less than ten, and not enough to prompt any surface feeding. I was convinced that my RS2 would draw interest, but that never became a reality.

Switched Back to Dry/Dropper Here

For the last forty-five minutes I reverted to the fat Albert and my PM trailers were a beadhead hares ear nymph and a classic RS2. I tossed this combination for awhile, and eventually exchanged the hares ear for a size 12 prince with the hope of gaining more depth, but once again my fishing theories proved without merit. I lacked confidence and was quite bored by 2:30PM, and with the car parked only twenty yards away, I executed an exit strategy and called it a day.

During the course of the day I tested the yellow fat Albert, black mini leech, salvation nymph, sparkle wing RS2, ultra zug bug, hares ear nymph, flesh colored San Juan worm, prince nymph and classic RS2. Only the salvation nymph produced, the fat Albert induced a refusal, and I suspect the temporary hook up was attributed to the RS2.

The high temperature rose to the low sixties, and wind was essentially a nonfactor. It was a great day for humans but apparently not to the liking of the South Platte River finned residents. Of course, I built character and hopefully this will serve me well during future difficult outings in 2022.

Fish Landed: 1

 

South Platte River – 10/08/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Deckers

South Platte River 10/08/2021 Photo Album

If the readers of this blog believe that Wellerfish is immune to bad days, they are sadly mistaken. Friday is vivid proof of this reality.

A forecast of highs in the eighties in Denver motivated me to seek a fly fishing destination. I considered several options but ultimately chose the South Platte River below Deckers. I liked the idea of a tailwater with relatively constant temperatures, as night time air temperatures plunged, and reports announced the presence of blue winged olives. The drive to the South Platte was shorter than my trips on Monday and Wednesday, and that appealed to me as well.

I arrived at a parking space by 10:30AM, and I quickly moved through my preparation routine. As I began to apply sunscreen, my sunglasses slid between the passenger seat and the center console. If you are an automobile owner, you know what a hassle this can be. I probably spent fifteen minutes trying to recover the sunglasses, and eventually I discovered that the arm of the frames got hung up in the hardware under the seat. As I rejoiced in the recovery, I walked around the back of the car and banged my head against the corner of the partially raised tailgate. I spent another five minutes writhing on the ground in pain, as a knot formed on the right side of my forehead. With this inauspicious start to my day, I seriously considered returning to Denver for a sedentary afternoon on the couch.

290 CFS

The air temperature hovered in the low sixties, as I assembled my Sage One five weight. I bypassed extra layers and relied on my raincoat, in case wind and rain caused a temperature drop. Some dark clouds dominated the afternoon sky, and I pulled my raincoat on for warmth and in case of rain which never developed. The flows were around 219 CFS, and this was high compared to several spring visits in 2021.

As I began my tailwater adventure, I decided to use a deep nymphing technique. I attached a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, orange scud, and salvation nymph. The river was a bit murky, and periodic passing aquatic vegetation suggested the bottom had been stirred up. Scuds and worms seemed like obvious fish food options. Between 11AM and 1PM I progressed upstream with the nymphing rig and failed to attract a shred of interest in my flies. Along the way I experimented with a hares ear nymph, iron sally, RS2, and flesh-colored San Juan worm in addition to the scud and salvation nymph.

Love the Cattails

By 1PM I reached another parking lot, and given the lack of action on the nymphs, I decided to try a dry/dropper method. I knotted a tan pool toy hopper to my line and added a hares ear and RS2. I reasoned that this approach was ideal for the ten feet of water that bordered the bank, but I was certain that it was not effective in the 219 CFS flows through the middle of the river. I crossed a very wide and shallow section and bushwhacked downstream along the bank opposite the road, until I was just above another young angler. For the next 45 minutes I cast the dry/dropper to inviting pockets along the bank, and I managed to create two opportunities to land fish. In the first instance a fourteen inch rainbow rose and refused the hopper from a position underneath a pile of debris at the lip of the pocket. I reacted with a hook set and netted the fish with a trailing nymph embedded in the belly behind the gills. It was a “no counter”. Within the next fifteen minutes another smaller rainbow also refused the hopper, and once again I foul hooked the fish with a trailing nymph, but in this case the fish freed itself before feeling my net.

Wide Shallow Crossing Point

For the final hour I advanced up the river at a fairly rapid pace. I cherry-picked the bankside spots and looked for rises. Near the end of this exercise in water coverage, I flipped a cast to an eddy, and after a very brief pause the hopper disappeared. I set the hook, and a thirteen inch brown trout launched above the surface. In an instant the hook popped free, and a skunking avoidance slipped away. A stream of curses spewed from the angler’s mouth, but nothing could avert the fact that Friday was a fishless day for Wellerfish. I continued fishing for a few more minutes and then shuffled back to the car.

Foam Is Home

Although I was handed a blanking by the Deckers tailwater, I enjoyed my four hours on the river. My mind was constantly mulling over new strategies, and I managed three fish landing opportunities. I never saw another fisherman landing a fish, although my eyes were mainly glued to my flies and indicator. In retrospect I wish I had added a second split shot during the deep nymphing phase. I am certain the section contained fish, and deeper drifts with more weight may have been the proper response to flows of 219 CFS. San Juan worms and scuds should have worked!

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River – 05/26/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Downstream from Deckers

South Platte River 05/26/2021 Photo Album

I was encouraged by my visit to the South Platte River in the Deckers area on 05/17/2021 and anxious to schedule a reengagement. A cool day on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 with lots of cloud cover made a second trip to the South Platte River below Deckers a reality. Flows were a moderate 110 CFS, and an Instagram photo from someone I follow revealed some discoloration, although it was not enough to cancel my plans. I arrived at a sanctioned parking lot at 10:30AM, and after I set up my Sage four weight and walked along the road for a tenth of a mile, I was perched on the edge of the river prepared to fly fish. The flows were ideal from my perspective, and as shown on the Instagram photo, there was a slight stain, which was actually favorable for approaching trout.

Lunch View from the Tip of an Island

I debated whether to utilize an indicator system, but after careful consideration I adopted my standard dry/dropper configuration. I began with a tan pool toy hopper and trailed a salvation nymph and classic RS2. Between 11:00AM and noon I was unable to hook and land a fish, although I did experience a momentary connection to one of the nymphs and two swirls to the hopper. After lunch I removed my raincoat and stuffed it in my backpack, as the air temperature rose to comfortable levels, although the sun continued to be an intermittent presence.

Deep Water Beyond Gravel Bar Looks Encouraging

My slump continued for the thirty minutes after lunch, but then a fifteen inch brown trout assaulted the RS2, as I began to lift at the tail of a drift in front of a large exposed boulder. Earlier thoughts of a skunking penetrated my thought waves, so I was very pleased to tally a notch on the fish counter. After I photographed and released the much appreciated brown trout, I continued upriver in a renewed state of optimism; however. another hour elapsed with nothing to show for my diligent effort. I began changing the bottom fly and cycled through a hares ear nymph and orange scud. At one point I noticed two spaced out rises, so I shifted my approach to a double dry. I kept the pool toy hopper in place and added a soft hackle emerger without a bead. The soft hackle generated a refusal, but that was the extent of the double dry fly response.

Number One Was a Stunner

The absence of additional surface activity caused me to revert to the dry/dropper method; however, I replaced the pool toy hopper with a peacock hippie stomper and knotted a go2 bright green caddis pupa below it and followed the caddis pupa with a classic RS2. Surely the bright caddis would attract some afternoon interest. I was correct in this assumption, as a chunky thirteen inch rainbow smacked the go2 caddis around 1:30PM. The hard fighting rainbow might have been a stocked fish, but I was pleased with it nonetheless.

Decent Rainbow Trout on Go2 Caddis Pupa

Some large gray clouds moved into the area for most of the remainder of the afternoon, and I spotted the occasional blue winged olive, as they flitted up from the river. The fish count paused on two for a lengthy period of time, and I was fairly certain that I would return home and record that number on the analytics page of this blog.

I persisted, however, and I struggled to find some commonality with the type of river structure that provided success. Of course, it was difficult to ascertain a pattern, when only two trout succumbed to my search. By 2:30 the low light and wind seemed to induce some baetis activity, as the RS2 became popular. In a large pocket along the right bank, a relatively slow current flowed over moderate depth, and three brown trout less than twelve inches nabbed the RS2. In each case I made an upstream cast, and the hippie stomper paused briefly, before I lifted the rod tip and realized I was attached to a spunky fish. During this time frame I also experienced three or four temporary connections, and these instances seemed to result from a lift or strip near the end of the drift.

Lots of Spots

By 3PM I had covered quite a bit of South Platte real estate, and I was approaching a pullout occupied by several vehicles, so I crossed the river and climbed a short, steep bank and hiked back to the car. When I reached the Santa Fe, I thought about the fish that I hooked near the beginning of my day and the two refusals, and I decided to revisit the same spot. I remembered that the river reflected off a long rock along the far bank, and the current cut a deep trough, as it gouged gravel with the accelerating flow. I quickly found the spot and waded into position, so that I could execute an across stream cast such that the hippie stomper and two nymphs drifted through the natural funnel along the rock.

Point of Attack Was Next to Exposed Rock Along the Bank

On the third drift, as the hippie stomper neared the downstream end of the long rock, I spotted a dip and reacted with a swift hook set. Wow! I felt heavy vibrating weight, as the live object on the end of my line executed several headshaking dives. I gained some line with a couple strips, but then the fighter raced downstream below an exposed rock, and I released at least ten feet of line, before the aquatic warrior stopped. Once again I stripped line and gained the upper hand on a sixteen inch brown trout, which I scooped into my net, while my heart rate elevated to excitement levels. The lanky trout was not happy, and it squirmed and splashed in an effort to free itself from the rubber net. I took a video and snapped a few photos and then gently released the river resident to live on to fight another day.

Wide Body

I decided to end on a positive note, so I hooked my fly in the rod guide and returned to the nearby car. My day was punctuated by the first and last fish with a few small wild fish in between and accompanied by a ton of fruitless casting. Seven fish in four hours was certainly a below average catch rate, but the ability to fish in a river on May 26, when run off predominates most of Colorado, was much appreciated.  I suspect that I will return if the flows remain in the fifty to two hundred cfs range for the foreseeable future.

Fish Landed: 7

South Platte River – 05/22/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/22/2021 Photo Album

Fishing with my son, Dan, is an event that I truly value. Unfortunately we only found one occasion to experience a stream visit together in 2020, and that evening outing on the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek was not very productive. It took place in late June, when Dan was trying to enjoy all his favorite activities, while the hours of daylight were abundant. As I recall, the flows remained on the high side, and that made fly fishing a bit challenging. The birth of my grandson, Theo, dramatically reduced Dan’s availability for fishing outings in 2021, but we finally scheduled a trip to the South Platte River for Saturday, May 22, 2021. My wife and Dan’s mother, Jane, volunteered to babysit for Theo on Saturday, thus liberating Dan for a fishing trip with his father.

Starting Point

We drove to a favorite stretch of the South Platte River on Saturday morning, and we were positioned on opposite sides of the waterway by 11:00AM. The temperature was in the low sixties, and the wind gusted in the fourteen to sixteen mile per hour range for much of our time on the river. The South Platte was flowing at 55 CFS in the section that we chose to explore, and this made the act of fooling trout more difficult than normal at higher flow rates.

Dan Begins His Day

Dan crossed the river to prospect the left (east) bank, while I embarked on wading along the west side. Dan began with a size 8 fat Albert and beadhead hares ear nymph, and I elected to tempt the river residents with a pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph. Dan retained the same two workhorse flies throughout the late morning and afternoon, while I swapped out the salvation for a classic RS2 and emerald caddis pupa. We moved up the river in parallel, and by the end of the day we each managed to net seven fish, all brown trout.

Congratulations, Dan

A Small Gem

Our results were subpar compared to most visits to this stretch of the South Platte River, but we were both satisfied with a pleasant experience in a spectacular outdoor setting. I always admire the huge red sandstone rock formations, the spaced-out ponderosa pines, and the sparse vegetation consisting of yuccas, cacti and short tufts of grass. The scent of the evergreens and smell of the tumbling river simply supplement the special nature of the South Platte River environment.

Dan on a Roll

The trout were on the small side compared to my memory of previous visits, but by the afternoon we registered a few spunky fighters in the twelve inch range. We quickly learned in the morning session, that marginal pockets no more than three feet deep failed to produce, so we covered a significant amount of water and skipped shallow sections. Deep runs and seams near large exposed boulders were definitely the most productive types of structure, and we sought out these holding lies. Most of my landed brown trout grabbed the hares ear nymph; however, one crushed the pool toy hopper, and another nabbed the salvation nymph. In addition, I connected temporarily with a few aggressive fish, and I was haunted by four solid boils to the hopper that failed to connect.

The most rewarding aspect of my day on the South Platte was the rare one on one time with my son. We caught up on all aspects of our lives. Hopefully we will not face another lengthy interval, before we can repeat a fun day of fly fishing.

Fish Landed: 7

South Platte River – 05/17/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Deckers

South Platte River 05/17/2021 Photo Album

The cycle of bad weather early in the week and nice weather late in the week repeated itself once again for the week beginning on May 17. I reviewed the forecasts for various fishing locations and concluded that Monday was a slightly better option than Tuesday. Monday morning projected highs in the upper fifties with the chance of afternoon thunderstorms, while Tuesday predicted rain for most of the day. I decided to designate Monday as my fishing day.

Choosing a destination was my next task. As is my custom, I reviewed all the stream flows for potential day trip options. All the Front Range freestones and most of the tailwaters were already blown out except for South Boulder Creek, and even that small tailwater was rushing through the canyon below Gross Reservoir at 177 CFS. Originally, I harbored thoughts of squeezing in a trip to the Eagle River prior to run off, but flows on that west slope river elevated significantly over the last couple days, so I was reluctant to undertake the two plus hour drive with the risk of murky conditions.

The Arkansas River was up 50 – 100 CFS, depending on the section, and I was intrigued to try the upper river near Leadville, until I checked the temperatures. Leadville is two miles high, and this translated to high temperatures in the upper forties. The middle section weather was more tolerable, but I was reluctant to make the 2.5-hour drive having just endured that journey on Friday.

Looking Back to My Starting Point

My thoughts turned to the South Platte River, where the water managers were holding back releases to fill the various reservoirs for later in the summer. The Lake George area was flowing along at a steady 55 CFS, and I knew from prior trips, that this represented solid conditions. As I pondered yet another trip to Eleven Mile, the idea of testing the Deckers area crossed my mind. The Heyman fire ruined the Deckers fishery twenty years ago, and I could not recall any successful results during my infrequent visits over the intervening years. My friend, Steve, reported some solid results recently, and a young angler on Instagram also cited some decent catches. I decided to make the trip on Monday to see if, in fact, the river had recovered to a semblance of its previous glory. The DWR water chart displayed flows of 90 CFS at Trumbull, a small town several miles down river from Deckers. Temperatures in Deckers were also milder than some of my other options.

I arrived at my chosen spot by 9:30AM, and I quickly assembled my Sage four weight. The sky was gray, as thick clouds dominated the southwestern horizon. I elected to wear my fleece cardigan and raincoat and snugged on my New Zealand billed hat with ear flaps. The temperature was fifty degrees, and an intermittent breeze made it seem even chillier.

I hiked down the road for .4 mile and then dropped down a steep angled rock to the river, where I outfitted my line with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a salvation nymph and hares ear nymph. A prime spot existed adjacent to my starting position, but after ten to fifteen drifts, I abandoned it with no sign of a fish.

Three Hooked and Two Landed in This Narrow Pool

Another Display

I moved to the next attractive section in a narrow but deep run on the west braid around a tiny island. On the first cast a rainbow trout aggressively grabbed the salvation, and after I photographed and released it, I placed a second cast in the same deep channel. Much to my amazement a twelve-inch brown trout copied the actions of the rainbow, and my fish count climbed to two in a short amount of time. I released the brown, and I was surprised to momentarily connect with a third fish, but it quickly jettisoned the hook and escaped a photo session.

Second View

I wish I could report that the rest of my day evolved in similar fashion, but it did not. I stuck with the dry/dropper until 2:30PM, and the fish counter climbed to eight. After numerous disappointing sessions on the Deckers section of the South Platte, I was ecstatic over these results, even though the catch rate was average at best.

In the morning session I added another rainbow on the salvation, before I arrived at an interesting eddy near the parking lot. This location produced some positive results on previous visits, so I was optimistic that fish were present, and this was quickly confirmed by several sipping rises in the foam of the back eddy. I made the commitment to a double dry configuration and removed the dry/dropper and switched to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle with a Klinkhammer BWO as the trailer. The current between me and the foam patch grabbed my fly and created drag, so I moved to the top of the run and executed some reach casts to counter the drag on the line. Downstream drifts with the reach cast created some drag free floats, but the trout ceased feeding, and I surrendered to the pool.

Some thunder announced the onset of some stormy weather, and the sky darkened considerably, so I adjourned to the Santa Fe to eat my lunch. My return to the car afforded me an opportunity to brace for rain and foul weather, so I added my Northface down coat and topped off all the layers with my rain jacket.

Proud of This One

I returned to a beautiful wide riffle of moderate depth thirty yards upstream from the eddy, and I noticed a few sporadic rises. I considered the combination of dark overcast skies and rises and concluded that baetis activity might be commencing, so I exchanged the hares ear nymph for a classic RS2. This proved to be a prescient move, as a fourteen-inch brown trout nabbed the RS2, as I applied an exaggerated mend, while the flies glided along a high bank on the opposite side of the river. Needless to say, I was very pleased with this turn of events.

Powerful Fish

A bit farther upstream I lobbed an obligatory cast to a marginal and narrow slack area next to a fast current, and a fifteen-inch brown trout snatched the RS2. This trout dove deep and exhibited a strong effort to escape, before I guided it into my net. Things were getting interesting in the Deckers section of the South Platte River, and I was a believer in the reports from my friend, Steve. The fish count was perched at six including two robust wild brown trout, and I already exceeded my low expectations.

Rock Garden Yielded the Rainbow

I continued upstream to an area characterized by several deep runs and pockets among some huge sandstone boulders. My arrival at this locale coincided with a five-minute downpour, but I was more than prepared with my rain jacket and hood in place, so I continued fishing through the brief weather event.

Chunky Rainbow after a Long Lull

Between the end of the storm and 2:30PM I prospected upriver through various runs, pockets and pools, and this focused effort yielded an eight-inch rainbow trout and a muscular thirteen-inch rainbow. Both rainbows favored the salvation nymph, and the larger of the two came from a forty-yard section of rocky structure that contained numerous deep pockets and runs that swirled around submerged and exposed boulders.

Above the rocky section I encountered a long riffle area with a depth of three to four feet, and once again some sporadic rises announced the presence of several trout. In fact, some clouds darkened the sky, and the wind escalated, and the number of rising trout multiplied to six or seven. A cluster dominated the slow-moving shelf pool on the left side, and the rest rose more sporadically in the faster moving riffle directly above me.

Lots of Rising Trout in This Section

In an effort to capitalize on the windfall feeding activity, I swapped the orange scud for the classic RS2, but it was obvious that the fish were not tuned into food at the bottom or midlevel of the river. Next, I reverted to a double dry method with a hippie stomper as the indicator fly and a Klinkhammer BWO emerger as the trailer. Again, fish rose within inches of my offerings, and I resigned myself to yet another change. I snipped the Klinkhammer off, and replaced it with a beadless soft hackle emerger.

It required a ridiculous quantity of casts, but eventually another fourteen-inch brown trout latched on to the trailing soft hackle emerger, and I was proudly in possession of another quality wild trout, and this was my first of the day on a dry fly. A wide smile occupied my face, as I snapped off a few photos and released fish number nine.

Took a Soft Hackle Emerger

The next thirty minutes were pure frustration. The sky darkened once again, and the breeze kicked up, and I could now clearly discern a flotilla of tiny mayflies with upright wings in the glare on the surface of the slow-moving water of the shelf pool. The aquatic insect sailboats seemed to be slowly circling back upstream toward the shoreline, and trout were aggressively dimpling the area. My adrenalin activated, and I fired cast after cast to the area, but my fly was rudely ignored. In an act of desperation, I switched the soft hackle emerger for a size 24 CDC BWO, and the tiny tuft provided a similar silhouette with an upright wing, but the trout were having none of it. As a last-ditch gambit, I removed the hippie stomper and cast the CDC BWO solo, but, alas, this was yet another failed human intervention in a natural process.

Finally, the sun peaked out briefly and halted the feeding frenzy, so I hooked the CDC BWO to my rod guide and scrambled up the steep bank. I saluted the cluster of South Platte River baetis feeders and marched back to the car. Some dark clouds were in the southern sky, so in all likelihood another wave of feeding was around the corner, but my arm and mind were fried. I already surpassed my meager expectations for the day, so I returned to the car and prepared for the return drive. The South Platte River at Deckers is back on my radar as a fly-fishing destination.

Fish Landed: 9