South Platte River – 06/14/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Locatoin: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/14/2019 Photo Album

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

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

Great Looking Slack Water Area

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

Wild Brown Trout

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

Hello Mr. Brown Trout

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

Confluence of Braids

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

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

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

Amazing Color on This Brown Trout

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

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

Handsome

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

Typical for the Day

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

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

Pool Toy Worked Again

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

Fish Landed: 28

South Platte River – 06/13/2019

Time: 6:00PM – 8:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/13/2019 Photo Album

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

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

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

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

No. 16 at Round Mountain Campground

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

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

Number One on Thursday Evening

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

A Brown Trout Visits My Net

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

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

This Pool Delivered at Dusk

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

Mashed Comparadun Worked

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

Glowing in Dim Light

A Final Brown Trout to End the Evening

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

Fish Landed: 9

 

South Platte River – 05/16/2019

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/16/2019 Photo Album

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

Lunch Pool

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

RS2 Worked Before the Hatch

An Early Catch on RS2

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

Pleased

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

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

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

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

A Second Quality Brown Trout

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

Go2 Sparkle Pupa Was Very Productive

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

Wide Body with Abundant Spots

Back Home

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

The Catch of the Day

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

Fish Landed: 9

South Platte River – 05/07/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/07/2019 Photo Album

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

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

Early Catch

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

Lowering Number One to Freedom

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

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

Lunch Pool Came Alive with BWO Hatch

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

Another View of the Lunch Pool

Klinkhammer BWO Produced in Lunch Pool

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

A Natural BWO

Gorgeous Brown Trout

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

A Brown Trout Took a Klinkhammer Olive

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

Very Productive Pool in the PM

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

Another Representative Catch in the Afternoon

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

Admiring

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

End of Day Rainbow from Old Faithful Pool

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

Crocus Like Flower

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

Fish Landed: 15

South Platte River – 04/26/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/26/2019 Photo Album

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

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

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

Near the Start on Friday

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

First Landed Fish

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

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

Premium Run and Riffle

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

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

20″ Cutbow

Long and Powerful

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

Some Width on This Brown

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

Shallow Smooth Pool Produced During the BWO Hatch

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

A Dry Fly Chomper

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

Lots of Risers in This Area

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

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

Fish Landed: 12

South Platte River – 04/05/2019

Time: 9:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/05/2019 Photo Album

On April 5, 2018 I enjoyed a fantastic day on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. A dense blue winged olive hatch commenced at 12:30PM, and it endured until I left the river at 4:30PM. I took advantage of this good fortune and landed nineteen trout, and many were in the fourteen to sixteen inch size range.

The weather forecast for April 5, 2019 was very favorable, and @rockymtnangler and I exchanged messages to determine whether we had mutual interest in making the trip to the South Platte. Trevor (@rockymtnangler) accompanied me on a venture on 04/11/2017, and we experienced a fantastic outing in the vicinity of my successful visit on 04/05/2018. Common interest was quickly determined, and we scheduled a day in Eleven Mile Canyon.

Trevor drove his new pickup truck outfitted with a double rod vault, and he picked me up at 6:30 on Friday morning. My rod was in an assembled state, so he slid it in to one of the rod vault tubes, and after we transferred the remainder of my gear, we were on our way. The early departure enabled us to reach our desired destination along the South Platte River by 9AM, and we quickly donned our waders and descended a steep slick path to the river. The air temperature was in the low thirties, and the footing was very precarious, as the surface consisted of frozen mud and ice. We somehow managed to survive the ordeal and arrived next to the river intact but mentally unnerved by the incident.

A Fair Amount of Snow Remains

Trevor spotted some huge pike from the road high above the river, so he migrated to that area first. I meanwhile waded across one of the channels that split around a small island, and I positioned myself to fish in the west braid. The flows were in the 55 CFS range, and this allowed relatively easy wading but necessitated fairly stealthy approaches. I began my quest for South Platte River trout with a size 8 Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear nymph and a classic RS2. I thoroughly covered the deep runs and a couple pools in the west branch and then followed a footpath on the opposite shoreline, until I reached the spectacular pool below the island.

Rockymtnangler Inspects a Pool

My body and head were in a tolerable state of warmth, but the wind and low temperature caused my hands to sting for the first 1.5 hours. I fanned some nice casts across the wide riffle at the head of the pool with no response, and I imparted movement at the end of the drifts frequently to imitate the rapid movement of baetis nymphs. After I made casts that spanned the riffle section, I walked downstream to the next smaller pool. While these actions transpired, Trevor arrived and occupied a nice long boulder on the road side of the pool.

Interesting Loop

I grew frustrated with the unresponsive trout, so I decided to assess the effectiveness of other flies. The South Platte River was where I first observed spawning suckers, and this motivated me to tie sucker spawn flies over the winter. I plucked one from my fleece wallet and replaced the RS2. I spent ten minutes prospecting the pool that bordered a huge rock with a vertical wall, that deflected the current, and then I migrated downstream to the next section that contained some nice short deep runs that bounced off of some large midstream exposed boulders. In spite of some very focused fly fishing and expert drifts, none of these efforts yielded a fish to my waiting net.

I returned to the large attractive pool that was the center of our attention and rested a bit to warm my stinging hands. After they returned to a reasonable state of feeling, I perched on a large rock next to the bank and began to lob casts to the riffle section once again. I presented a hares ear and sucker spawn, and finally on the tenth drift along a gentle current seam fifteen feet across from me, the Chernobyl dove, and I quickly connected with a spirited fish. Not wishing to lose my first hooked trout of the day, I quickly gained the upper hand and slid my net beneath a shimmering fourteen inch rainbow trout. Initially I sensed that the trout gulped the sucker spawn, but upon final close inspection it was clear that the hares ear was the food that duped fish number one on Friday.

I Love the Evergreens and Large Boulders

This small bit of success elevated the optimism of Trevor and myself, and we resumed casting to the large pool next to us. The next hour was maddening, as we could see a fairly abundant array of fish, many of above average size, but they were not the least bit interested in our offerings. Adding to our feelings of futility were infrequent sporadic surface rises, but neither of us could spot the food source that provoked these periodic trips to the upper layer of water. Some very tiny tan midges buzzed about, so perhaps they explained the activity.

Trevor and I were trapped in an uncomfortable quandary. We wanted to guard our positions in the prime pool, but this desire was predicated on the belief, that it would come alive with a blue winged olive hatch that would induce steady feeding. But what if it never materialized? If that eventuality played out, we preferred the alternative of walking downstream and then prospecting promising lies with a dry/dropper configuration. The frequency of rising fish elevated a bit in the one o’clock time frame, but the action was a fraction of the heavy feeding that greeted us in 2017. We both switched to single dry flies, and I managed some looks; and although trout could be seen feeding in the upper third of the water column, they were not interested in our flies.

Trevor decided to climb back to the truck to prepare lunch. He packed a small gas grill along with some hot dogs and rolls, and he was anxious to rest the fish and divert his attention to another matter. We decided that I would hold the pool and then join him after twenty minutes, if the hatch did not intensify. If the bugs cooperated and began to pop in greater numbers, I would remain, and Trevor would bring lunch streamside.

As you may expect, the scene at the pool remained unchanged, and I carefully ascended the torturous path and joined Trevor for lunch. The lunch spot was rather spectacular with franks grilling on the tailgate and a splendid view of the river and canyon below us. We both inhaled two frankfurters and drained Odell craft beers, and then our thoughts returned to fly fishing. From our post next to the dirt road, Trevor identified a steadily sipping trout in the long smooth pool directly below us. This was the same section that contained six huge pike that resembled logs with pointy snouts.

Normally Productive Pool Was Tough on April 5

We decided to return to the main pool that dominated our strategy for the day, and if the hatch was not improved from earlier, we planned to advance to the next large pool to stalk the steady riser. When we arrived at the money pool, the feeding had indeed escalated, and I began dropping downstream casts near the midpoint. I cycled through a size 22 CDC olive, a size 22 Klinkhammer BWO, and a soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film; and although these flies provoked several looks and refusals, they never clinched a hookup. I desperately wished to feel the throb of a fighting trout, so I reverted to a size 24 CDC BWO. This finally turned the tide, and a rainbow that could have been a twin of the first fish landed, sipped the tiny CDC tuft. I raised the rod and set the hook, and then I quickly battled the finned thrasher into my net and snapped a few photos.

One of Two on Friday

A Fine Rainbow

After I released the hard earned prize, I resumed casting, while Trevor adjourned to the pike pool upstream. After another ten minutes of futile casting to fish that continued to feed infrequently, I decided to vacate to explore the west braid and the pool beyond.

I ambled along the path on the west side of the river, but rising fish were absent, so I arrived at the long pool. Trevor was fifteen yards farther upstream, and he was positioned to stalk the steady feeder, that we observed above a wide exposed midstream boulder. On the third cast his rod arced, and he felt a throb, but then he surmised that the fish wrapped him around a submerged obstacle. He continued to feel the steady throb of a live attachment, but pressure from the rod failed to elicit any substantial movement to open water. He took a few steps upstream, and then the adversary made a sudden move and escaped additional harassment. Needless to say Trevor was disappointed with this turn of events, since he spotted the fish from our lunch spot and then cautiously approached and carefully developed his plan of attack. His cast was accurate, and he expertly set the hook, but the trout had the last move and capitalized on it.

Several fish continued to rise farther upstream in the pool, and Trevor approached the pod next the high vertical rock wall on the left, while I carefully moved into position for a shot at two sippers in slower water twenty yards above. Fortunately Trevor managed to land a nice rainbow and brown from the area along the left bank, but my attempts were less productive. Both of the steady risers ceased their feeding, so I climbed the bank and circled around to the faster entry run near the head of the pool. I waited next to a large rock and observed, until finally a few sporadic dimples materialized along the rock wall on the far side of the fast run. I made some downstream drifts with the Klinkhammer emerger and managed one refusal. I then swapped the Klinkhammer for the size 24 CDC BWO, but repeated drifts over the scene of a few rises failed to elicit a response.

By now my watch displayed 3PM, and Trevor was anxious to embark on our return trip, so I retreated down river and then scaled the bank once again. By now the warmer temperatures converted the frozen path to a mud slick, and I scraped my finger attempting to arrest a slide within eight feet of the road. I adjusted my path to zig and zag using small exposed rocks as foot holds and crested the shoulder. Whew! What an unwanted adrenaline boost to end my day on the South Platte River.

In conclusion Trevor and I each landed two trout on Friday, April 5. Obviously this outcome was not what we expected, but we enjoyed the beauty of our location, good conversation and the relative lack of competition from other anglers. We theorized that the spring of 2019 was colder than the previous two years; and, therefore, the baetis hatch was lagging. We agreed that the fairly decent emergence between two and three o’clock was a harbinger of better things to come. We were on the leading edge of the peak emergence, and the fish were not totally tuned in yet. Perhaps another trip will be forthcoming in the next week or two when the main hatch peaks on the South Platte River.

Fish Landed: 2

South Platte River – 10/03/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/03/2018 Photo Album

My euphoria from a splendid day of fly fishing with my son on Sunday barely subsided, when I found myself consumed by the same exhilaration on Thursday, October 4. My elevated state of bliss resulted from a day of fly fishing on the South Platte River, and it was not entirely attributable to fishing results.

The fishing trip actually began on Tuesday, when my lovely wife joined me for a drive to Woodland Park, CO. Along the way we stopped at Colorado Mountain Brewing for a tasty craft beer and a wonderful dinner, while we watched the first three innings of the Rockies vs Cubs National League Wildcard game. The Rockies jumped out to a 1 – 0 lead in the first inning.

The game progressed to the fifth inning by the time we checked into the Country Lodge in Woodland Park. Once we settled into our room, Jane and I were glued to the television until 11:30PM, when the Colorado Rockies scored a second run and advanced to the NLDS. What a game! The Rockies demonstrated a high degree of grit before a national television audience, and it will be interesting to follow their Rocktober adventure.

Glowing Scene

On Wednesday morning after breakfast Jane and I continued to the South Platte River. The morning temperature was already in the upper fifties, and that was pleasant for an October morning at high elevation near Lake George. The thermometer elevated from there, until it peaked in the low seventies, and the warm rays of the sun combined with the glowing yellow leaves on the aspen trees to create outdoor perfection. The Rockies’ win, the fall foliage, the warm temperatures and the companionship of my wife were enough to create a memorable day on October 3; and the fly fishing had not yet begun.

I donned my waders and rigged my Orvis Access four weight (still pampering my elbow), while Jane organized her blanket, stadium seat, and reading materials. Finally I was ready to plunge into the South Platte River. The flows were nearly ideal at 106 CFS, and this level enabled comfortable wading, yet was high enough to allow reasonably close approaches without spooking trout. The weather and near optimal flows raised my optimism, as I began casting at 10:30AM.

I began my search for hungry fish with a tan pool toy hopper, beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug; and in a short amount of time I landed three small brown trout. All three chowed down on the ultra zug bug, and I remained optimistic, although several nice long runs of moderate depth failed to produce trout. The catch rate continued at a steady rate for the remainder of the morning, although after thirty minutes with no action on the hares ear, I moved the ultra zug bug to the top position and added a salvation nymph on the point. The change seemed to improve the performance of my fly lineup, and the salvation produced one out of every four fish landed.

Bathed in Sunshine

One of the nicest fish of the day crushed the pool toy in a swirly small pocket, and that was a pleasant surprise. Initially I devoted a fair amount of time to seams along deep runs, but eventually I concluded that the type of water that yielded abundant quantities of fish in the spring was not productive in the fall. Pockets and riffles of moderate depth provided reliable action during the two hour period between 10:30AM and my lunch break at 12:30, as the fish counter mounted to eighteen. Aside from the twelve inch pool toy crusher, most of the fish averaged in the nine to eleven inch range. Wednesday was a day of quantity over quality.

I continued with the same lineup of flies that delivered success before lunch in the early afternoon, and these offerings allowed me to increment the fish tally to twenty-two. The pace of action seemed to slow a bit; however, and I spotted quite a few very small blue winged olives, so I exchanged the salvation nymph for a sparkle wing RS2. I speculated that the fish were now selective to active baetis nymphs and emergers.

A Decent Brown Trout

My reasoning was sound, but the results never substantiated my hypothesis. I landed a few opportunistic feeders that nabbed the ultra zug bug, and during one of these net and release episodes, the sparkle wing RS2 broke off. I stubbornly clung to my belief that blue winged olive nymphs would be a hot food item, and I replaced the sparkle wing with a Craven soft hackle emerger. This swap paid off somewhat, when a pair of eleven inch brown trout grabbed the trailing emerger in some relatively shallow riffle sections. I could now claim that my small nymph strategy was affirmed, but I continued to sense that I was passing over numerous quality lies that contained quantities of fish that ignored my offerings.

During this time another factor entered my thinking. Perhaps the additional weight of the larger and heavier salvation enabled the nymphs to drift lower and slower in the water column, and this in turn made them more available to the trout. At 1:30PM I reverted to the salvation nymph, and for the remainder of the afternoon I chucked the pool toy, ultra zug bug, and salvation. The three fly lineup delivered in a big way, and the fish count zoomed to forty-two by the time I hooked the salvation to the rod guide and returned to meet Jane at her base camp location.

Spectacular Day

During the last hour I experienced the type of action that fuels my passion for the sport of fly fishing. I reached a location where the river split around a very long island, and I chose to prospect the right braid. The flow in the right channel was twice that of the left, and most of the attractive water bordered the right bank next to a fisherman path. A series of long riffle sections that spanned fifteen feet in width presented themselves, and I approached each from the side and maintained a twenty foot distance. I executed short casts and held my rod high to keep the fly line off the water and allowed the three fly set up to drift through the gut of the riffle. In many cases an aggressive brown trout latched on to one of the nymphs in the mid-section, and quite often an aggressive feeder snatched one of the flies, as they began to swing and lift at the tail. Fishing in this way was great fun, as I was confident that fish held in each of these water types, but their size and ambush point were always surprises. I estimate that fifteen of my daily catch originated during this time frame and in the right braid next to the island.

Hot fishing, glorious scenery, balmy weather and the companionship of my lovely wife elevated Wednesday to a memorable day in 2018. A Rockies’ win was icing on the cake.

Fish Landed: 42

 

South Platte River – 09/06/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon within a mile of the dam

South Platte River 09/06/2018 Photo Album

If fishing success is measured by long hatches and copious quantities of ravenously feeding fish, then Thursday ranked high on the scale. On the other hand if success depends of feeling the weight of an abundant quantity of fish in one’s net, then September 6, 2018 was a disappointment. A three hour spinner fall and abundant pods of eagerly feeding trout caused me to place my outing on the South Platte River in the positive column. The variables were present for a banner day in Eleven Mile Canyon, but this fisherman could not deliver the desired flies or the necessary presentation.

Leaves Begin to Change

I met my friend, Steve, at 7:30 in Lone Tree, and we departed for the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. An uneventful drive enabled us to pull into a circular parking spot at the first bridge below the dam by 10AM, and we quickly donned our waders and rigged our rods. I anticipated some larger than average fish, so I opted for my Sage four weight, although I realized that the nine foot length would likely apply additional stress to my ailing elbow.

A Huge Mat of Aquatic Weeds

We crossed the dirt access road and met the river above the bridge. A long moderately deep run was next to our position, and this is one of Steve’s favorites, so I elected to retreat back to the bridge. The water just above the bridge was reasonably deep and flowed at a moderate pace, but a thick mat of long aquatic vegetation flourished across the entire width of the river. No fish revealed themselves, and it was impossible to spot targets among the long green waving growth.

I tied a Jake’s gulp beetle to my line and trailed a RS2, in case the trout were on the alert for trico nymphs, but after ten futile casts I moved on. I decided to explore the right bank and walked up the Spillway Campground access road, until I was across from and slightly above Steve. I began to flick the light two fly dry/dropper to gaps in the weed growth as well as the faster moving riffles at the top of the pool. The fish were ignoring my offerings, and while this scenario transpired, a few sporadic rises appeared along the current seam near Steve.

I surmised that perhaps the surface action was attributable to emerging tricos, so I snipped off the two flies and replaced them with a size 24 CDC blue winged olive. This was the closest thing I had to a trico dun. I executed some nice across and downstream drifts and managed to connect with two fish for a split second, but then the trout began to shun my tiny speck of a fly. Either they wised up to my fake, or they shifted to a new menu item.

I abandoned the area across from Steve and moved upstream along the right bank a short distance to a quality deep pool next to and below the main current, after it flowed around a sharp bend. Another angler was present just beyond the bend on the opposite side of the river, but I concluded there was plenty of space. I paused and observed, and I was very pleased to notice a quality rainbow in a deep depression next to the bank no more than eight feet from where I stood on some large jagged rocks. As I cautiously observed, the pink striped trout casually finned to the surface and sipped a tiny morsel of food on a fairly regular basis. I cast my CDC olive over the subtle riser several times, but it totally ignored the fluffy dry fly and focused on other specks of food.

This pattern of frustration continued for ten minutes, and then the river came alive with more sipping fish. Five trout in a short pool fifteen feet below me revealed their presence, as they engaged in the feeding ritual, and then after another ten minutes the deep pool above me revealed another pod of active surface sippers. A glance at my watch revealed that it was eleven o’clock, and the preponderance of sipping trout could only mean one thing…the trico spinner fall was in progress.

A few tricos fluttered by occasionally, and I determined that they were extremely small, so I opened my fly box and scanned my supply of trico spinners. The row of foam contained eight sunken trico imitations and six poly wing spinners constructed to fish in the surface film. I plucked a size 22 poly wing version from its slot and knotted it to my line, and I began to drop casts and drifts among the many feeders surrounding me. Initially I targeted the rainbow near the bank, but after a severe lack of interest, I shifted my focus to the risers downstream. Twenty minutes of unproductive casting forced me to shift my attention back to the area above my position, and an active pod of risers entertained me for another frustrating period of time.

The rainbow continued to feed nearby, and it was joined by a larger brown trout that moved from side to side and rhythmically floated to the surface to sip on a regular basis. My heart rate elevated at the thought of tangling with one of the two nearby prizes. I struggled to follow the minute trico spinner on the longer upstream and downstream casts, so I decided to focus my efforts on the close by feeders. The brown trout seemed wise to my fraud, but finally the rainbow threw caution to the wind and sucked in my trico! I raised the rod and set the hook, and this had an effect comparable to lighting a firecracker. The silver missile instantly streaked downstream, and before I could utter “rainbow trout”, my line went limp. I stripped in the leader to inspect the end, and I discovered that the spurting fish parted the line at a surgeon’s knot connection.

I dipped into the fly box and removed another size 22 trico spinner; however, this fly got snapped off while casting in my zeal to pepper the river with repeated drifts. I was depleting my supply of trico spinners, and the spinner fall showed no signs of abating. The young man that was initially around the corner had by now moved to a position within view, and he was generating more success than Steve or I.

I sorted through my remaining supply of spinners and found one that was probably a size 24, and I determined that it was my one and only of the smallest size. An angler that I follow on Instagram suggested that I tie some size 24’s with only a black thread body and a small tuft of CDC for a wing. He raved about the performance of this simple and quick to tie trico imitation in Eleven Mile Canyon, and now I rued my decision to delay my response to his recommendation.

Fat Stub

I renewed my vigorous casting regimen and directed my attention to the pod of active feeders fifteen feet above my rocky platform. I was rarely able to track the tiny poly winged speck, but finally I saw a rise in the area, where I surmised my fly to be. I quickly lifted the rod tip and felt a solid connection with a writhing form. Could this be real? It was, as I quickly stripped up slack and then battled my first fish, while I cautiously negotiated a few steps, until I was standing in the edge of the river. My net scooped the fish, and I was amazed to discover an eleven inch brown trout; however, this was the fattest eleven inch trout that I ever witnessed. The shape of this cold water fish was akin to a bluegill or sunfish! I was not complaining, however, as I finally tallied a landed fish after more than an hour of futile casting and several fly changes.

Another Fly Change

At some point in the midst of this frantic casting I pricked the back of the prize brown trout, that I described earlier in this report, so the two nearby targets presumably moved their chowing act to another part of the river. I refreshed my size 24 trico and renewed my quest for South Platte River trout. Again I directed my casts to the area upstream, and again after a substantial quantity of unproductive drifts, I saw a rise in the vicinity of where I estimated my fly to be. I swept the rod tip upward, and a wild rainbow trout leaped into the air. Once it crashed back in the river, an adrenaline rush caused repeated surges and spurts, but I concentrated on the fight and managed to slide it into my net. The silver sided river resident measured fourteen inches, and I snapped a few photos, before it bolted back into its natural environment.

Purple Stripe

Another period of futile casting followed my second catch and release, and I began to ponder the effectiveness of a sunken dropper. Some of the visible fish rarely rose, and I suspected that they were snatching sunken tidbits below the surface. I removed the trico spinner and replaced it with a Jake’s gulp beetle and a sunken spinner on a 2.5 foot dropper. I allocated ten minutes to this tactic, but both flies were ignored so I contemplated another change.

I liked the visibility of the beetle with the orange foam indicator, so I kept it in place and replaced the sunken trico with an unweighted version. The move proved somewhat effective, as two fish grabbed the trailer and caused the beetle to dart. Unfortunately I should have used a shorter tippet, because the lag from when I saw the beetle move, until I set the hook was excessive, and both fish escaped after a brief hook prick.

I persisted with the double dry for an extended time after my brief dose of success, but for some reason the fish grew wise to the ruse. The number of rising fish began to dwindle, as I returned to a single size 22 trico spinner, so I glanced at my watch, and I was dumbfounded to learn that it was 1:30PM. Was it possible that I fished to a trico spinner fall for 2.5 hours? Did time really fly by that fast? I decided to surrender to the by now jaded trout surrounding me, and I circled back down the road and crossed the bridge and joined Steve.

We both expressed hunger, so we returned to Steve’s Subaru and consumed our lunch. After lunch I asked Steve about the river downstream from the bridge, and he suggested that we check it out. We traveled along a well worn path and intersected with the river, where it was wide and smooth with a deep channel flowing along the opposite bank. Steve moved upstream to fish a deep run next to some large bank side boulders, and I directed my attention to the area across from where I was standing. I looked up and down the river, and after a bit I observed a single rise ten yards downstream. I moved along the shoreline a bit and began to fire casts to the area of the rogue rise.

Steve Moves Upstream

The fish did not respond, but I noticed a pair of rises farther upstream, so I migrated to a position across from the fresh evidence of feeding. I repeated the across stream casts, but again my efforts were thwarted by the failure of South Platte River fish to respond. My confidence sank to new depths, when I noted another rise downstream somewhat above the ring that initially caught my attention. I held very low expectations, but nonetheless I lofted a cast above the point of the rise and fed out line to allow a drag free downstream drift. Wham! A near miracle occurred, as a fish crushed the slowly drifting trico spinner. I quickly set the hook and felt two heavy throbs, and then the surprise responder to my cast slipped free. Needless to say I was quite disappointed to lose the unexpected feeder.

When Steve and I reached the run and riffles below the bridge, we adjourned to the car and drove downstream to the parking space on the north side of the twin tunnels. We slid down the steep bank, and Steve prospected the quality pool, while I explored the two channels that split around a narrow island just above Steve’s pool. I converted to a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and RS2; but despite some focused fly fishing, I was unable to summon interest from the river residents. When I reached the quality riffles stretch above Steve and the deep pool, I swapped the RS2 for a salvation nymph, but the change was met with similar disinterest.

Some dark clouds rolled in from the southwest, and they were accompanied by some streaks of lightening and the sound of thunder. Given our lack of action and the threat of an electrical storm, we hooked our flies to the rod guides and scaled the steep bank and departed for Lone Tree and eventually Stapleton Denver.

Two and a half hours of intense feeding is a rare experience, and I was thankful to participate. I only managed to land two trout, both quality fish, but I can only blame myself for not having better imitations. Conditions were perfect for landing more and larger trout, and I failed to capitalize.

Fish Landed: 2

South Platte River – 08/12/2018

Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 08/12/2018 Photo Album

I made plans to spend a day with my son, Dan, and his friend from Emerson Electric, Beth, on Sunday, August 12, 2018. Beth came to Colorado on a business trip and arranged to arrive on the weekend prior to her meetings, and this provided an opportunity for a day of outdoor activity. She expressed an interest in trying fly fishing, and that was the impetus for our planned trip to the South Platte River.

I met Dan at 6:50AM at the Arapahoe Park & Ride, and I transferred my gear to his car. Dan subsequently drove to Woodland Park, where we met Beth, and she made a similar transfer of her necessary outdoor accessories to Dan’s vehicle. We back tracked a short distance to the Peak Fly Shop, and Beth rented waders and wading boots for the day. We now proceeded to the river, and we were in a position to begin fishing at 11:30AM. Since this was Beth’s first fly fishing experience, I provided casting instructions for fifteen minutes, and then given the proximity to noon, we ate our lunches.

Dan Demonstrates High Sticking

By the time we put on our waders and strung our rods and hiked downstream to our starting point, it was 12:30PM. I began with a yellow fat Albert and beadhead hares ear, and after I moved through four quality spots with no action, I connected with a pair of medium sized brown trout. Dan and Beth, meanwhile, began their fly fishing adventure forty yards upstream. My catch rate was lagging my expectations, so I added a salvation nymph below the hares ear, and the fish count climbed to five. At this juncture the salvation and hares ear somehow broke off, and I used this pause in action to substitute a bright green caddis pupa for the hares ear, as I observed a smattering of small down wing insects buzzing about.

Nice Early Brown Trout

The sun was bright and high overhead with nary a cloud in the sky, and I wilted in the eighty degree heat. The fish seemed to vanish, but I somehow managed to hook and land a small brown on the salvation. I was stuck on six fish for quite a while, and it seemed that the only productive spots were deep runs below oxygenated sections and next to large rocks providing desirable shade and cover.

93 CFS

In one of these places the fat Albert paused, and I set the hook and felt momentary weight, before my line went limp. As I gazed at the water, I could see the fat Albert six inches below the surface, and then it disappeared, as the fish that grabbed a trailing nymph swam away to safety. I lost a fish, a fat Albert, an iron sally, and a salvation nymph in this unfortunate exchange. I once again paused and undertook the laborious process of reconfiguring the three fly dry/dropper arrangement. This time I deployed a tan pool toy, salvation nymph and RS2. A very sparse emergence of blue winged olives prompted the RS2 selection.

Dan Nets a Nice One

Over the remainder of the afternoon I upped the fish count from six to twelve, as two small browns grabbed the salvation nymph, and four trout nailed the RS2. The observation of small mayflies paid off with the move to the RS2, which imitated the baetis nymph.

So Pretty

The last fish of the day was a thirteen inch rainbow that snatched the RS2 in a deep pocket at the top of a pool on our way back to our original arrival point. The best fish of the day attacked the RS2 and moved the pool toy six inches in a diagonal direction. Dan and Beth alternated casting as they progressed upstream along the left bank, and unfortunately Beth was unable to experience the satisfaction of hooking and landing a trout on a fly. Dan related several episodes, where a fish approached her fly, but it refused at the last minute, or Beth’s hook set was a bit tardy. Dan managed to hook and net one respectable brown trout.

A Rainbow to End the Day

All in all it was perhaps the most challenging day, that I ever experienced on this section of the South Platte River, and it unfortunately coincided with Beth’s maiden exposure to fly fishing. Despite the lack of success, I noted that her casting was very adequate for a first time fly angler. Her rod movement was efficient, and she quickly grasped the importance of a consistent casting rhythm. Hopefully she follows up with additional near term fly fishing outings to reinforce her newly acquired skill. Beth was effusive in her praise of the Colorado outdoors and the spectacular setting that surrounded our fly fishing adventure, and I am certain that her comments were genuine. Sunday was about being outdoors, learning a new skill, and the camaraderie of a backcountry endeavor.

Fish Landed: 12

 

 

South Platte River – 08/07/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 08/07/2018 Photo Album

I felt a strong urge to visit a river that could potentially yield larger fish, yet I was apprehensive about placing additional strain on my gradually improving tennis elbow. Larger water and bigger fish generally dictate a heavier and longer rod, and ever since I began physical therapy, I relied exclusively on my Orvis Access four weight.

After physical therapy sessions on Friday and Monday and four straight days of no casting, I decided to put my elbow to the test and made the drive to the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. Tuesday was cool and cloudy in the morning; however, by the time I strung my Sage four weight and pulled on my waders, the temperature elevated into the upper seventies. I was actually chilled while standing in the shade of the canyon wall next to the Santa Fe, and I considered wearing my raincoat, but once I strolled down the dirt road and dropped down an angled path that descended a steep bank to the river, I was comfortable. Flows of the canyon tailwater were 107 CFS, and this level was actually higher than what I experienced during my spring trips earlier in the 2018 season. I was actually pleased that the water regulators were releasing water in excess of 100 CFS, as higher flows buffer the hot summer temperatures and allow fishing without the risk of stressing the coldwater residents.

Deep Pockets Next to Boulders Were the Ticket

I stopped next to a long deep pool that rolled along a vertical rock wall, and I paused to observe, before I addressed the choice of flies for my line. Within minutes I noticed two brown trout, as they hovered a couple feet below the surface, and they periodically swam upward and snatched some form of food. A pair of rises appeared in the current seam two-thirds of the way across the river, and a few tiny bugs fluttered about. I assumed that the minuscule insects were tricos, so I knotted a size 22 black body and poly wing version to my line. Ten casts later I acknowledged that my fly was probably too large, as each of the risers refused my downstream presentation, and the trout nearer to me totally ignored the surface offering.

I pondered the situation and realized that the trico spinner that I drifted through the pool was the smallest imitation in my box. Rather than continue to fuel my frustration, I decided to try another approach. Several times in the past I experimented with a sunken trico with some success, so I decided to follow that route on Tuesday. A size 10 Chernobyl ant assumed the top position in my lineup, and below it I tied a size 22 RS2 and a size 22 sunken trico. The trico contained tiny plastic wings, and they were wrapped around the body in a haphazard manner, just as one would see on a trico after it swirled through tumbling whitewater.

Another Representative Brown Trout

For the next 1.5 hour until I took my lunch break, I tossed the three fly dry/dropper alignment to likely trout holding locations, and I succeeded in landing five representative South Platte River trout. All except one were brown trout, and the feisty morning inhabitants of my net were in the twelve to thirteen inch size range. The other catch was a small rainbow trout. I discovered that the most productive places were deep slots next to large boulders. I suspect that the trout favored the hidden positions afforded by the large rocks, and the deep holes next to fast current provided perfect launch points to grab food items, as they drifted by.

After lunch I noticed fewer tricos, and instead occasional pale morning duns made an appearance. Simultaneously a decent hatch of small blue winged olives appeared, and I responded to the new insect dynamics with another fly change. I exchanged the sunken trico for a salvation nymph and reversed the positions of the nymphs, so that the salvation was the top fly, and the RS2 was on the bottom. The move was somewhat effective as I added two more trout to the fish counter in the after lunch time period.

Predator Ate a Chernobyl Ant

One of these two netted fish was the highlight of the day. I backhanded a toss to a marginal narrow slot just upstream of an exposed angled boulder, and a fish confidently chomped on the Chernobyl ant. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a hook jawed brown trout with bright orange and yellow coloration on my line, after I executed a swift hook set. When the thrashing prize settled down, I estimated that it measured fifteen inches, and I was quite pleased with my good fortune.

In addition to the two fish landed in the one hour after lunch, I experienced quite a few temporary connections. The blue winged olive hatch was more dense than I expected on August 7, and the fish seemed to tune into the small trailing RS2. During this time frame the heads of  relatively shallow pockets provided fairly consistent grabs, but I failed to maintain contact in many cases.

Inviting Run and Pool

As the afternoon progressed, the clouds disappeared, and the warm rays of the sun had their impact on the air and stream temperatures. Yellow sallies made an appearance and outnumbered the pale morning duns, so I swapped the salvation nymph for a size 16 iron sally. From 1PM until I quit at 3PM I covered a significant amount of water and added two additional trout to the fish count. A brown trout and small rainbow spent time in my net, and both nabbed the RS2, as it swept along exposed rocks.

Two anglers occupied one of my favorite pools on the river, below where the car was parked, so I circled around them and fished the two channels that split around a narrow island. The west channel presented a gorgeous deep shelf pool on the side of the main current away from me, and I could see two very nice trout facing into the eddy. They frequently moved a foot or two to nab underwater food items, and the larger of the two elevated infrequently to sip something from the surface. My dry/dropper rig was totally ignored, so I made the difficult decision to convert to a dry fly. I removed the three flies and placed a cinnamon comparadun on my line. Nothing happened, not even a look. I segued the comparadun with a size 22 blue winged olive, and I was quite optimistic that the tiny match for the prevalent naturals would seduce the pool dwellers. Once again they snubbed my artificial food offering. I remembered the presence of yellow sallies and knotted a size 14 yellow stimulator to my line. The yellow stimmy duped many trout in the early part of the season, but today it was not effective. In a last ditch effort to find a surface fly that would appeal to the eddy trophies, I snatched a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle from the fly box. Another rousing round of futile casting ensued, so I saluted the selective residents and moved upstream.

Aiming Home

The beetle failed as a solution to the puzzle, so I reverted to the three fly dry/dropper approach. I switched from the Chernobyl ant to a tan pool toy hopper, and below the large buoyant top fly I presented the iron sally and RS2. As I mentioned previously, this set up enabled me to add two fish to the tally to reach nine on the day.

As three o’clock rapidly approached, I was mired in a mild slump. In truth my confidence was low, and I was very warm and weary, as the bright sun beat down on the canyon. I approached a nice wide run, and I spotted a location that fit the recipe for success, that I described earlier. A narrow deep run deflected off a large exposed boulder and created a V-shaped band of slow water. I lobbed the three flies above the boulder, and as it swept by the upstream side of the rock, I caught a glimpse of a fish, as it turned perpendicular to the current. The movement was several feet to the right of the pool toy, and I suspected it grabbed one of the nymphs, so I swept the rod sideways and upstream. The hook penetrated the mouth of the feeder, and a heavy fish shot upstream, and then I angled it ten feet toward me. The brown trout was not happy, and it streaked perpendicular to the current, until it reached the faster water just beyond the site of the hook set.

Next to Large Boulders on Left Worth Some Casts

Boing! The line rebounded toward me and went limp, and I instantly went into grieving mode. I suspected that perhaps the fish was foul hooked, but when I reeled up the line, I discovered that it snapped off all three flies. A telltale curly end on my line suggested that I tied a faulty knot on the line to pool toy connection. Needless to say I beat myself up for a bit, and then in a fit of disgust I found a path and scrambled up the steep bank to the car. It was close to 3PM, and I was not about to endure the task of knotting three more flies to my line.

Fish Landed: 9