South Platte River – 04/10/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/10/2018 Photo Album

In fly fishing rarely does history repeat itself, and that was certainly true on Tuesday April 10. After an outstanding day on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on Thursday, April 5, I decided to make another trip to the quality tailwater below Eleven Mile Reservoir. The high temperature in Denver was forecast to reach the low seventies, and that translated to the low sixties in the canyon near Lake George. Unlike the Wednesday and Thursday weather prediction, the wind was projected to be moderate on Tuesday, so I leaped at the opportunity to take advantage of the favorable conditions.

I arrived at the pullout in the upper catch and release section by 10:15AM, and after I assembled my Sage One five weight and pulled on my fleece and light down, I was prepared for a day of fishing. The temperature at the start of my quest for South Platte River trout was in the mid-forties, but once the sun arced above the canyon walls, it warmed up nicely. My favorite pool below the second tunnel was occupied, so I hiked down the road for .4 mile. Another solo fisherman was just ahead of me, but he exited and descended the steep bank after .2 miles, and I continued toward the long shallow pool with a wide overlooking pullout, that I remembered from the drive into the canyon.

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Lovely Starting Point on the South Platte River

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Emerald Caddis Holds the Top Position on my Line

I found a manageable trail that included some rock scrambling and descended to the edge of the river. I began at the top of the long pool, and I rigged my line with a strike indicator, split shot, emerald caddis pupa and RS2. For the remainder of the morning I progressed upstream at a modest pace and probed all the runs and riffles that promised hungry trout, and my efforts produced four trout ranging in size from twelve to fourteen inches. Two of the net occupants were rainbows and two were brown trout. Two fish snatched the emerald caddis pupa, one grabbed a sparkle wing RS2, and another nabbed a beadhead hares ear nymph. I broke off the RS2 and replaced it with a sparkle wing, and I swapped the caddis pupa for a hares ear after another snag and lost flies.

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Strong Start

At noon I arrived at a very nice pool with a promising deep run that split the pool, before it fanned out into a long deep slow moving tail section. I could see another angler in a longer quality pool above me, so I shed my front pack and backpack and satisfied my hunger with a nice lunch. After lunch I began to probe all the sections of the neighboring pool with the hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2, but the underwater residents were oblivious to my offerings.

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This Became My Go To Pool on the Day

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A Brown Trout Checks Out My Net

The upstream angler blocked my path, so I ascended a path to the dirt road, and I hiked downstream to the long pool for a second time. Another car was parked in the wide parking area, so I restricted my search for trout to the upper section, although I never saw the owner of the blue pickup truck that was parked next to the road. I completed ten or more drifts through the narrow deep entering channel, and then I began to observe some very sporadic rises and the occasional blue winged olive. The sky remained relatively devoid of clouds, and I suspect this explained the sparse nature of the baetis hatch.

Although the surface activity was sporadic, I was bored with the indicator nymphing approach, so I removed the indicator and split shot and replaced the two flies with a size 22 CDC blue winged olive. I placed casts over the three or four spots, where fish revealed their positions through rises, and my fly was mainly ignored, although one interested diner elevated and created a bulge but turned away at the last minute.

I surrendered to the picky eaters in the deep pool next to me, and I pondered whether perhaps the hatch was more advanced in the quality pool where I ate lunch. I scrambled up the steep bank and retraced my steps along the edge of the road, until I was adjacent to the target pool. I found a relatively gentle path and arrived at my lunch spot near the midsection. I paused to observe the activity, and once again a few trout flashed to the surface to snatch emerging insects. I was fairly certain that blue winged olives were the preferred menu item, as quite a few small gray winged mayflies fluttered and tumbled above the river.

I attempted to make some downstream casts to the more aggressive feeders on the opposite side of the center current, but I was unsuccessful, so I moved to the shallow tail area and crossed to the west bank. I was hopeful that I could get better lighting and a better angle for executing downstream drifts. I began targeting  three or four trout that fed irregularly, and eventually one of the more aggressive brown trout chomped on the tiny fake bug. I was pleased to land number five and my first victim of a BWO dry fly.

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Pivoted for Better Light

After I released the hard earned brown trout, I continued probing the pool, but visible fish were refusing or totally ignoring the CDC BWO. I recalled my success on April 5 with the Klinkhammer blue winged olive, so I converted to the new ace in the hole. On this day and in this pool, however, the Klink BWO was not popular. I finally gave up on the lunch location and circled around the long pool and fisherman above me and resumed fishing a good distance beyond. I slowly walked along the edge of the river and scanned the water for surface feeding activity. It was not long, before I arrived at a nice long riffle of moderate depth, and after some careful observation, I detected some subtle dimples in the swirling current.

I noted at least three feeders, and after quite a few futile casts, I floated the emerger down a slot toward the tail, and a nice thirteen inch brown trout mistook my offering for a natural olive. A brief tussle followed, but I eventually guided the wild brown into my net. I remained in the area for another twenty minutes and floated the Klinkhammer over two additional snacking trout, but I was unable to interest them in my fly.

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Creating a Sag

Once again I opted to move on, and my next stop was the tunnel pool. The angler who occupied it, when I first arrived in the morning was just now departing and climbed the bank, so I quickly staked my claim to my favorite location in Eleven Mile Canyon. Alas, I was too late. A pair of fish dimpled in the slow moving tail section, but I was unable to deceive them. A blind cast in the center section elicited one refusal, but again I was unable to seal the deal. I paused and observed for three minutes, and the river surface was devoid of surface feeding. It was 3:30, the sky was clear and blue, and the hatch was essentially over; so I decided to devote the last thirty minutes to the dry/dropper method.

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End of Day Pool

I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line and suspended a beadhead hares ear and Craven soft hackle emerger below it. I began prospecting the west branch above the tunnel pool and covered some marginal shallow runs, until I reached the upstream tip of the island. I was now below another nice long pool with a huge vertical rock wall on the east side of the river. The current flowed fairly slowly over a boulder strewn bottom, and several fish revealed there presence with an occasional sipping rise. I decided to make one last ditch effort to fool these trout with a dry fly.

I removed the three fly system and attached a size 22 CDC BWO to my line and began fluttering the tiny mayfly imitation above the scene of rises. As I stared into the water, I could identify four or five trout lined up in feeding positions, and several elevated and refused my fly. What now? I stripped in my size 22 CDC BWO and replaced it with the Klinkhammer style, but the curved hook emerger simply served up additional frustration in the form of refusals.

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Very Nice Brown Trout Ate a Size 24 CDC BWO Dry Fly

I was about to quit, since it was getting late, but I decided to undertake one last ditch effort. I opened my MFC fly box and plucked a size 24 CDC olive from its slot and knotted it to my 5X tippet. I targeted a trout that was more than halfway across the river, and I shot a cast across and up from my position. Much to my amazement this fish elevated and slid under the fly and drifted downstream for a foot, and then it sucked in the tiny morsel. I lifted and connected, and after a brief battle I photographed and released fish number seven and my third catch on a dry fly.

Whew! What a difference from April 5. The hatch only lasted for an hour at most; whereas, it lingered for four hours the previous week. Cloud cover is definitely a huge factor, when it comes to blue winged olive hatches, and on Tuesday it was mostly lacking. On a positive note I managed to land four feisty wild river inhabitants on nymphs, and I developed a feel for the type of water structure, where this approach excelled. Over the course of a season not every outing can be euphoria inducing, and Tuesday was fun but never easy.

Fish Landed: 7

 

South Platte River – 04/05/2018

Tiime: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon near Tunnel 2

South Platte River 04/05/2018 Photo Album

Some days are just special. With moderately nice weather in the forecast for Thursday and Friday, April 5 – 6, I embarked on a short overnight fishing trip. Friday’s weather in Denver for the Rockies’ opener was projected to be rather adverse, but for some reason Salida dodged the cold front with a high in the upper fifties in the forecast. I decided to take advantage of this apparent Colorado weather conundrum, and I booked a room at the Woodland Motel for Thursday night, thus avoiding two redundant long drives.

My first stop was the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, and I pulled into the parking space just before Tunnel Number 2 at 10:30AM. The air temperature hovered at 45 degrees, so I wore my gray fleece and light down coat as well as my brimmed hat with earflaps. I was never too warm throughout the entire stay on the river.

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Pool Where I Began on Thursday, April 5

I rigged my Sage One five weight with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and sparkle wing RS2; and then I hiked downstream for 200 yards. Here I discovered a relatively gradual path down the steep bank, and I began casting to some quality runs and riffles among the boulder strewn river. The flows were seasonally low at 70 CFS, and this condition dictated long casts and stealthy approaches.

After thirty minutes of fruitless casting I exchanged the RS2 for an orange scud. I theorized that the rainbow trout were in spawning mode and hoped that the orange fly could serve double duty as an egg imitation or a freshwater shrimp. It did neither, and eventually I decided to change my approach to a deep nymphing set up. I could see quite a few nice trout in some deep holes, and I surmised that my dry/dropper was causing the nymphs to tumble too high in the water column.

Initially I tried a pink squirrel as the top fly with a pink San Juan worm on the bottom, but again my choices did not tempt the underwater residents. I swapped the worm for the sparkle wing RS2, and I thought I observed some follows but again no takes. Lacking success I once again reconfigured. I desired a greater distance between the two nymphs, so I replaced the pink squirrel with an emerald caddis pupa, and then I retained the sparkle wing RS2 as the offering at the end of my line.

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This Pool Entertained Me All Afternoon

I prospected with this combination for a short while, and then my watch told me that it was lunch time, so I skipped around a small segment and staked out a large flat boulder along the bank next to my favorite locale in the canyon. I quickly downed my lunch, while I observed eight fish in the tail of the pool. Several small trout hovered across from me and performed almost imperceptible sips in a sporadic manner. The quality water was located below the bottom tip of a small island, and the two braids merged at the midsection of the pool. A nice riffle of moderate depth carried the current from the western channel, and then the eastern channel joined to create a gorgeous deep smooth pool with a strong current running through the center.

As I grabbed a granola bar as my last lunch item, another angler appeared at the tip of the island. I suspect he asked permission to fish, as he spoke some words, but I could not comprehend over the rush of the stream, so I cupped one hand next to my ear to indicate a lack of understanding. He must have taken my gesture for approval, as he began to drift his nymphs in the run above the confluence. His casts seemed rather half-hearted, and once I pulled on my backpack and front pack and grabbed my rod, he vanished upstream from whence he came.

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Right After Lunch

I waded into the shallow left channel and lobbed casts to the slack water near where the invading angler stood. Miraculously on the third cast my indicator paused, so I raised the rod to nudge the nymphs into the current, and a fish grabbed the caddis pupa. A nice battle ensued, before I slid my net beneath a fourteen inch rainbow trout. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.

I photographed and released my prize and began drifting the nymphs through the left side of the nice riffle that ran across the entire west braid. This tactic failed to attract interest, so I moved upstream along the west branch to some marginal runs. At higher flows on previous visits this area was productive, but on this day they were shallow, and I shifted to the west side of the river. I drifted the nymphs through the wide riffle from the west bank with no appreciable increase in trout responsiveness.

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The Scene of My Entertainment

I began edging downstream a bit with the intent of swinging the nymphs along the front edge of a large submerged rock that deflected the merging currents. The spot screamed trout holding water, and my intuition was validated, when I momentarily pricked one while executing the swing ploy. As this was transpiring, an angler reappeared. It was the same guy, and he did not bother to ask permission this time. He assumed a position near my lunch rock and began splashing his nymphs and indicator upstream.

Fortunately as this scene unfolded quite a few steady rises commenced in the tail area on both sides of the center current. The uninvited guest angler spotted this activity as well, and we both raced to remove our nymph paraphernalia and converted to dry flies. I knotted a size 22 CDC olive to my line and began feeding downstream drifts along my side of the current seam. On the fifth such pass a mouth engulfed my tiny tuft of CDC, and I played and landed a fine thirteen inch brown trout.

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Decent

As I photographed and released the trout, fisherman number two arrived; however, he seemed more interested in photography, as he snapped several photos and kept his rod on the sidelines. It was not long before the friendly duo moved on and bequeathed the pool to the original owner.

The frequency of rises escalated, and I could now see blue winged olives, as they drifted along on the surface and tumbled in the breeze. Surely my size 22 CDC BWO would dupe these aggressive eaters, but alas that was not the case. I focused on several nice feeders across from me, and they clearly inspected and ignored my fly. I pondered my next move, and concluded that the natural olives were larger than a size 22. It is fairly common for the early broods to be the largest in the baetis emergence cycle. I replaced the 22 with the largest CDC blue winged olive in my fly box, and this move immediately fooled a twelve inch rainbow trout.

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Silvery Rainbow Rests

Perhaps my observation solved the riddle, but now the assemblage of trout in the pool adopted a shunning state of mind for this fly as well. What should I do? Trout were rising over the length of the pool, and my CDC versions were not in favor. I remembered tying the Klinkhammer emerger styles, but when I searched my box, they were absent. I scanned my memory banks and recalled, that they were in the boat box in the Santa Fe.

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Klinkhammer Style BWO Emerger Was the Hot Fly on Thursday

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Growing Into the Tail

My flies were not effective, and no anglers were in sight, so I ascended the steep bank and transferred four Klinkhammer emergers to my MFC fly box. I returned to my position on the west bank and resumed the downstream drifts to the ample population of feeding trout. It worked! The Klinkhammer blue winged olive enabled me to land sixteen additional trout before I quit at 3:30. I continued to endure numerous false looks and refusals and a few momentary pricks, but as the count suggests, it performed quite well.

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Perfect Rainbow Pose

My final tally on the day was nineteen beautiful trout, and all fell within the twelve to fifteen inch range. The mix was roughly 50/50 between rainbows and browns, but the rainbows were on average longer and heavier fish. The first fish fell for a cadds pupa, and all the others nabbed a dry fly. The hatch began at 12:30 and continued until 4:00PM, and fish continued to rise sporadically, as I hooked my fly in the guide and departed at 4:30.

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The View from Behind

What a day! 2018 is developing into a very memorable year for this avid fly fisherman.

Fish Landed: 19

South Platte River – 03/08/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

Location: Morning downstream from Whale Rock; Afternoon just below Deckers

South Platte River 03/08/2018 Photo Album

Highs of 65 degrees in Denver convinced me to make my maiden trip to a northern hemisphere trout stream on Thursday, March 8. Today was exactly one month after Jane and I returned from our exciting trip to New Zealand. I contemplated traveling  to the North Fork of the St. Vrain Creek or Boulder Creek, but I somehow convinced myself to give the South Platte River near Deckers another try.

I recalled that my last two season openers occurred on this same section of the South Platte River, and each resulted in a day of futile casting. These thoughts were a strong deterrent; but the flows were running at 180 cfs, and the tailwater in a wide open valley that absorbed an abundance of direct sunshine convinced me to make the drive.

I descended Nighthawk Hill and made a right turn at the T and continued downstream for another couple miles, until I reached a long parking lot along the dirt road. I named this area Whale Rock, since a huge long rounded boulder in the shape of a whale is perched between the road and river at the upstream edge of the parking lot. A car was parked near the entrance to the lot, and I could see the owner fishing in the nice slow moving bend pool adjacent to the parking area. I decided to make Whale Rock my first stop and planned to hike along the shoulder to position myself downstream of the angler who preceded me.

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Starting Point to 2018 in North America

I executed this plan and found myself perched on the edge of the river just above a steep whitewater chute, and I rigged my Sage four weight with a strike indicator, split shot, beadhead hares ear and salad spinner and began to prospect the deep runs and pockets. For the next half hour I continued this cast and move sequence, until I reached the bend previously occupied by the fisherman, that I observed upon my arrival. During this time I persisted with the hares ear and midge emerger, but the resident fish population, if there was one, eluded my efforts. In fact I never spotted a fish in spite of repeated attempts to pause and observe in a manner similar to my New Zealand sight fishing experience.

At 12:15 I reeled up my line and returned to the car and decided to execute a radical shift in plan. I drove upstream for twenty minutes until I reached a large dirt parking area on a bend just downstream from the village of Deckers. Three cars preceded me, but one angler was removing his waders in preparation for departure. I was astounded by the number of fishermen along the South Platte River on Thursday, March 8. It was a weekday, and each parking lot along the way was occupied with fishermen vehicles. Does anyone in Colorado actually work?

I quickly consumed my lunch and then clipped off the two flies and extended my leader. Insanity is continuing to fish the same way and expect different results, so I swapped the hares ear for a flesh colored San Juan worm, and then I added a size 16 beadhead pheasant tail as the end fly. The San Juan worm and pheasant tail nymph were stellar performers during the halcyon days of the 90’s on the South Platte River, so why not give them a test?

When I was set, I cut directly to the river twenty yards from the Santa Fe, and here I began to drift my subsurface offerings through some quality deep runs. Again my efforts were not rewarded, so I proceeded up along the right channel where the river split around a small narrow willow-covered island. At the top of the right braid two currents merged to create a gorgeous deep run, and my expectations soared, but alas only casting practice ensued.

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Junction Pool Looked Attractive, But No Success

At this point I crossed to the road side of the river and climbed a steep bank and returned to the car. The parking lot at the Deckers Store contained numerous SUV’s, and fishermen appeared everywhere. I continued downstream from the parking lot with the intent of fishing back from the first bridge, but as I approached, I spotted a fisherman along the bank changing flies or unraveling a tangle, so I reversed my direction and cut down to the river thirty yards above him. I began drifting the worm and nymph through some attractive deep runs, until I turned my attention to a small but deep pocket along the left bank just above my position. I paused to peer into the clear water and spotted a decent trout, as it held in the deepest section of the area behind an exposed boulder.

I debated switching to a dry/dropper in order to create less disturbance in the relatively thin water, but I planned to fish deep in the runs toward the center of the river, so I was reluctant to execute a change. I lobbed a couple casts to the pocket above me, and I thought I saw the target trout follow one of the drifts, but it never grabbed a fly. I reconsidered my approach and decided to switch to a dry/dropper system, since the flows remained relatively low, and I determined I could effectively cover the deeper areas without the aid of a split shot and indicator.

I removed the indicator and split shot and converted to a yellow fat Albert trailing an emerald caddis pupa and beadhead pheasant tail. On one of my earlier drifts the hook of one of the flies impaled a greenish blue caddis worm, and this prompted the emerald caddis choice. Once I was ready, I flipped five or six casts to the area where I spotted a fish earlier, but it was no longer visible and did not respond to my new menu. I turned my attention to some deep narrow runs across from my position, and began to drift the large visible foam imitation in the beckoning lanes. On the fifth cast the fat Albert darted sideways, and I instantly set the hook and felt the throbbing weight of a decent fish.

I quickly raised my rod, and the moving shape on the end of my line plowed upstream and then reversed and headed toward some heavier current. I began to carefully move downstream with the fish, but the connection did not feel normal. I applied some side pressure to bring the fish below me, and at this point the flies popped free and hurtled back toward me feet. I clearly sensed that the fish was foul hooked somewhere in the head but not the mouth, and thus was likely not as large, as I initially perceived.

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Fish Spotted in the Deep Trough in Center

I moved upstream after this momentary connection with a trout, and I once again spotted a decent trout hovering in the deepest trough of a slow moving pool. This time I was prepared with my preferred dry/dropper technique. I carefully executed some nice casts to the area three feet above the fish, but on each successive drift the fish showed no signs of recognizing my offerings. I paused and exchanged the pheasant tail for a size 22 RS2, but this did not capture the attention of the sighted trout.

Finally I conceded to the wise stream dweller and once again moved upstream to some upcoming attractive water. The river created a gorgeous long riffle of moderate depth, where it angled around the wide curve by the parking area, and I was certain that this would yield my first landed fish in North America in 2018. Unfortunately my instincts were misplaced, and after covering the area thoroughly I reeled up my line and returned to the car and called it a day.

The weather was spectacular for March 8, and I managed to spot two fish and connect temporarily with one, but the crowded conditions were very disappointing. Given the number of competing anglers, I suspect that the area I covered was disturbed repeatedly in the morning hours prior to my arrival. Based on my limited success on the Deckers stretch of the South Platte River, I continue to be baffled by its popularity.

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River – 10/08/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 3:00PM

Location: Waterton Canyon special regulation water

South Platte River 10/08/2017 Photo Album

It only takes one bad day, and I begin to doubt my ability to catch fish. Apparently I have a fragile fly fishing confidence level. My fears are totally illogical, as I amassed a fish count in excess of 1,000 in 2017, yet my body of work includes a fair number of fishless days. Sunday was one of those.

On Saturday Jane and I cycled up Waterton Canyon to Strontia Springs Dam and back, and the trail followed the South Platte River for nearly the entire route. My eyes were constantly drawn to the gorgeous water in the canyon below, so I decided to give the area a shot on Sunday. The high in Denver on Saturday poked into the eighties, and although Sunday was gorgeous, the temperature peaked in the low seventies. The weather could not have been nicer for a day of fishing.

The meteorologists were also projecting a winter storm beginning Sunday evening with measureable accumulations on Monday and an overnight low on October 9 of twenty-three degrees. This prompted Jane and I to winterize the sprinkler system on Sunday morning. In addition we transplanted some herbs to pots and brought them in the house for protection. These activities delayed my departure for fishing, but I assumed that the best part of the day was noon to three o’clock, and I targeted that time frame.

The Waterton Canyon parking lot was quite full, but I was fortunate to grab a spot after someone departed. By the time I stuffed a few remaining items in my backpack and unloaded my mountain bike, it was 11:30, and thirty minutes of pedaling delivered me to a location .5 mile above the Rattlesnake picnic pavilion. I consumed my lunch along the dirt road, and then I removed my gear from the backpack. After a few minutes I was attired in my waders, and I assembled my Sage four weight. I stashed my bike and backpack below the lip of the road and found the least risky path down a bank to the river. I emphasize least risky, because the steepness and loose granular soil presented a difficult challenge.

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Promising Pool

The water before me was fairly fast with deep slots and pockets. I was fairly certain that deep nymphing was the recommended approach, but I decided to test the dry/dropper method before going deep. I knotted a hopper Juan to my line and added a beadhead hares ear and ultra zug bug and began probing the likely holding lies. I persisted with this method for thirty minutes, but despite some expert drifts, no signs of trout revealed themselves to my anxious eyes.

I acquiesced to the conventional wisdom and arranged a deep nymphing system on my line. For this approach I tried an emerald caddis pupa as the top fly and added a RS2 beneath it. Once again I simply exercised my arm, and then I arrived at a section of fast rapids, where the current ripped along the bank. This forced me to battle through some scrub oaks and prickly bushes in order to arrive at a nice bend pool. I was about to resume casting, when I was startled to see another fisherman twenty yards above me. This forced a retreat up another steep bank, whereupon I circled around the deep pool using the road.

When I passed the rock outcropping between the road and the river, I descended a worn path to an area above the bend pool. Here I encountered a nice long deep section, and I began to lob some casts in the lower end. As I did this, two random rises appeared, and I paused to observe a couple tiny mayflies, as they skittered across the surface. I began to sense that this might represent my only opportunity to catch a fish, so I removed the dry/dropper system and tied a size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line. I proceeded to cover the bottom one-third of the pool with the tiny mayfly with some very delicate fluttering casts, but the river residents ignored my speck of fluff. I switched to a black parachute ant in case the sporadic rises related to terrestrials, but this move was equally ineffective. In fact I never spotted another rise in this area, and one additional surface ring farther up in the pool represented my total evidence of the presence of fish on the day.

I moved on to another section of fast pocket water, and the small dry fly approach seemed futile for this water type, so I reverted to the nymphing set up. In this phase I combined a beadhead hares ear with a copper john, but the fish were once again showing no interest. Eventually I found a couple longer pools, and the small olives reappeared, so I swapped the copper john for a juju baetis and WD40. I used a dead drift, swings, lifts and bad downstream mends; but none of these techniques initiated action from South Platte River trout.

I told Jane that I would quit by 3PM, so I decided to climb the bank to the road, and I returned to the pool where I spotted three rises earlier. I positioned myself at the tail and rested the water, while I once again removed the indicator, split shot and flies and then tied a CDC BWO back on the tippet. I probably stared at the water for five minutes, when I heard a voice high above me, and Jane announced her arrival. I told her I was giving the river one last chance for ten minutes, and then I would meet her at the Rattlesnake picnic pavilion.

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I Spotted a Few Rises in This Long Deep Pool

After another three minutes I lost my patience, and I fluttered ten casts to the smooth bottom end of the pool with the hope that blind prospecting might draw the interest of the fish that rose earlier. A glimmer of hope sparked, as I spotted several tiny olives that skittered across the surface in their attempt to become airborne. Alas the positive vibe was short lived, and the dry fly casts were as fruitless as my earlier efforts. In one final act of desperation I removed the CDC olive and attached a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. Five casts with vigorous plops did not arouse interest, so I hooked my fly to the guide, scrambled up the bank and walked my bike and backpack down the road to a rendezvous with Jane.

The weather was perfect, the leaves were glowing, and the bighorns were butting horns, but I was unable to connect with a single trout on October 8. The flows were 219 CFS, and that is higher than ideal for the narrow canyon below Strontia Springs. That is my excuse, and I am sticking with it. Flows above the diversion need to drop before I make a return trip.

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River – 10/05/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Locatoin: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/05/2017 Photo Album

An outstanding day of fishing on September 23 and nearly a week of waiting for the weather to improve had me anxious for an October fishing trip. Finally the prognosticators suggested high temperatures in the seventies for Thursday, October 5, and I concluded that this translated to pleasant weather on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon.

As the days grow shorter, the early morning temperatures linger in the forties, so I took my time and departed the house by 8:15 on Thursday morning. This enabled me to pull into a dirt parking lot along the South Platte River by 10:30, and after I gathered my gear and assembled my Sage four weight, I was on the water casting a dry/dropper configuration by 11AM. The flows were nearly ideal, as they tumbled along at 85 CFS. I adorned my line with a tan pool toy, beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug; and I lobbed the three flies in all the likely pockets and deep runs.

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Great Pocket Water Ahead

The section that served as my launch point was very much to my liking with numerous deep pockets and runs, and the fish appeared in the expected places. By the time I broke for lunch at 1PM, the fish counter climbed to eleven. Most of the morning and early afternoon fly eaters snatched the hairs ear, although a couple relished the ultra zug bug. Two of the trout that rested in my net were small rainbows, and the remainder represented the brown trout species. All were in the six to ten inch size range, and this was indicative of my day on the river.

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One of the Better Trout on the Day

Prior to lunch the thread on the hares ear unraveled behind the eye of the hook, and since I was forced to reconfigure my line, I inserted a salvation nymph as my end of line offering. Between 1PM and 2:30 I added five more trout to my count, but the catch rate slowed measurably, and the size of the fish remained in the small range cited earlier. Several periods of tiny blue winged olive emergence occurred, and during an early hatch I witnessed a handful of rises. This prompted me to remove the dry/dropper arrangement, and I knotted a size 24 CDC blue winged olive to my line. After a couple casts, the riser along the right bank ceased to feed, but another sporadic feeder along the left bank appeared. I positioned myself quite a distance downstream and false cast off to the side and then dropped a twenty-five foot cast above the point of the rise. The tiny olive slowly crept downstream, until it was in the vicinity of the fish that revealed itself, and then  a bulge appeared. I immediately reacted with a hook set, and I felt the weight of a fish for less than a second, before it slipped free. That was the extent of my success with the small dry fly.

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Best of the Day Was a Rainbow Trout

I moved up the river to another long smooth pool, but I could not locate rising fish. I climbed the bank and returned to the car and drove upstream for .5 mile, where I parked. For the remainder of the afternoon I explored some delicious deep runs and pocket water, where I enjoyed quite a bit of success catching decent rainbow trout on a previous visit. That would not be the case on Thursday. I reconfigured my line with a size 8 Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph; and I resumed the tactic of pocket hopping. One of my sixteen fish resulted from this period. The sky cleared, and the wind abated, and I enjoyed the nicest weather of the day; but apparently it was not favorable for the South Platte River underwater residents. Several waves of small blue winged olives appeared, and I tested a RS2 and soft hackle emerger behind the hares ear, but none of these ploys changed my fortunes.

During the last half hour I removed the dry/dropper flies and tied a cheech leech to my line. I stayed with my floating line, as I was too lazy to change out my reel for the sink tip in my backpack. I stripped, tumbled, and danced the orange and brown creation with dumbbell eyes through three or four delicious deep runs and pools, but I never observed a flash or follow. Fall and brown trout and streamers are supposed to go together, but I have yet to experience this phenomenon.

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Did Not Attract Fish However

For ten minutes before I returned to the car to quit, I flicked a Jake’s gulp beetle in some pockets along the bank and at the tail of a very attractive deep run, but once again I merely exercised my arm. The last hour of my day was rather unproductive.

After over a week of cool and wet weather, it was nice to get out in some sunshine on Thursday. Sixteen fish is respectable, but I never landed a fish in excess of eleven inches, and the action was disappointingly slow for the last couple hours. Winter seems to be advancing faster in 2017 than was the case in 2016, but last year was probably the exception. I will continue to look for pleasant days to create a few more memories in the 2017 season.

Fish Landed: 16

South Platte River – 09/23/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 09/23/2017 Photo Album

Outstanding September fly fishing continued on Saturday, September 23, as 2017 evolved into another banner year. One ingredient missing from my life over the last five years was the presence of my son, Dan, and daughter, Amy, as they lived in distant locations that necessitated infrequent visits. One half of this situation self corrected at the end of August, when my son and his girlfriend moved back to Colorado.

Shortly after Dan’s arrival in Denver, we scheduled a fly fishing weekend. The original plan consisted of two days of fly fishing and one night of camping on the weekend of September 23 and 24. As the long anticipated days approached, however, the weather forecast deteriorated. Rain was predicted to move into Colorado late on Saturday afternoon and then continue through the night and into Sunday morning. Making the scenario even more adverse was the forecast high of 51 degrees on Sunday. Dan and I conferred and decided to adjust our plan to a single day of fly fishing on Saturday. Cool temperatures and overcast skies on Saturday prior to the rain actually sounded very conducive to excellent fly fishing.

On Saturday morning at 11AM Dan and I found ourselves next to a beautiful section of the South Platte River. The temperature was in the upper fifties, but bright sunshine dominated large gray clouds for the first three hours of fishing. We were both prepared with an extra layer and rain gear in case the late afternoon showers became a reality. I selected my Sage four weight rod, and I began my day with a tan pool toy hopper and a beadhead hares ear nymph. Dan, meanwhile, waded to the eastern side of the river, and he began with the same lineup of flies.

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Dan Works the Left Bank

We fished in parallel for the first two hours, as we slowly migrated upstream, and we had a blast. I scooped fourteen trout into my net, before we took a break to eat our lunches. Dan’s catch rate was a bit lower, but he landed eight respectable fish including quite a few very nice rainbows in the thirteen inch range. Initially I fished with a single dropper, the hares ear, but after twenty minutes I added an ultra zug bug as the second dropper. During the first half of the period prior to lunch, the hares ear was the hot fly despite being in the less advantageous upper position. As the day progressed, however, the ultra zug bug seemed to produce more fish, and prior to lunch I replaced the hares ear with a salvation nymph and shifted the ultra zug bug to the top position.

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Low Level Foliage on Fire

This nymph combination was the mainstay of my lineup for most of the remainder of the day, although I experimented with an emerald caddis pupa and RS2 for short intervals. After lunch the salvation nymph went on a hot streak, as it tempted fish on dead drifts, and also as it began to swing at the end of long passes through attractive runs and slots. For the final fifteen minutes I removed the dry/dropper system and knotted a size 10 Jake’s gulp beetle to my line. The beetle continued to impress me with its late season effectiveness, as two brown trout slurped it, after I plopped the foam terrestrial in two relatively shallow slow moving pockets along the bank. The first beetle eater was a thirteen inch brown trout that may have been my best brown of the day. At one point during the afternoon I lost all three flies, when a hooked fish crossed lines with Dan’s. The necessity to rig anew caused me to replace the pool toy with a size 8 Chernboyl ant, and the foam attractor accounted for one medium sized fish.

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Picture Perfect

Dan stuck with his hopper/dropper setup throughout the day, and he enjoyed a solid streak of landed fish over the last hour. Although Dan’s fish count was somewhat below mine, he seemed to land larger fish on average as well as more rainbow trout. He began the day with a pool toy, but lost it to a rock or branch and replaced it with a size 8 Charlie boy hopper. The Charlie boy became saturated, and the deer hair wing was matted, so I gave him a yellow fat Albert. The bright color and improved buoyancy really seemed to elevate his fish catching game.

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Very Nice South Platte Brown Trout

Large clear smooth pools proved to be very challenging, as were deep holes. Our most dependable structures were runs, riffles and pockets of moderate depth. I was surprised to land quite a few relatively large brown trout from shallow pockets near the right bank. By the end of the day my fish count mounted to twenty-six, and it included five rainbow trout with the remainder identifiable as brown trout. Dan estimated his final tally at eighteen.

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Gorgeous Spot Pattern

At four o’clock light rain commenced so we quickly pulled on our raincoats and returned to the car. As predicted the rain intensified, and it was accompanied by thunder and lightning, and we were relieved to reach the car safely. The heavy rain and drop in temperature vindicated our decision to reduce the fishing trip from two days to one.

Saturday developed into perhaps my favorite day of 2017. The fish count and size of fish were a nice bonus, but being able to spend a day fishing with my newly returned son was the true reason for my satisfaction. We never encountered another fisherman, and we occupied a gorgeous remote setting. I treasure days like Saturday, and I hope that a few more are in my near term future.

Fish Landed: 26

South Platte River – 06/01/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/01/2017 Photo Album

After a successful day on South Boulder Creek I chose to visit the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on Thursday June 1. I invited my fishing friend John to join me, and we arrived next to the river to begin our day of fly fishing a bit before 11AM. The air temperature was in the middle sixties, and the sunshine made it feel more comfortable. A fishing shirt over a quick dry T-shirt served as my only upper body layers. The single most important factor that influenced my decision to fish the South Platte River was the favorable stream flows of 65 cfs, and as I waded into the river, I confirmed that conditions were in fact as documented.

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Attractive Section of the South Platte River

Between 11AM and 2PM I covered a significant amount of water and landed nine trout. None of the netted fish stood out, and all were in the eight to thirteen inch range. Three trout revealed themselves to be rainbows and cutbows, and the remainder were brown trout. Despite their lack of size, they all exhibited a feisty nature and battled heroically to evade the hook points of my flies.

Most of my success stemmed from the beadhead hares ear; however, the fat Albert, ultra zug bug and soft hackle emerger each accounted for a fish as well. During the first hour I utilized the dry/dropper method and featured the yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug. Midway through this period I swapped the ultra zug bug for a salvation nymph, but the fish demonstrated a distinct preference for the hares ear. Unlike previous trips to the Eleven Mile section of the South Platte River, the fish did not aggressively grab the hares ear, and success required a decent amount of movement and casting to likely pockets and runs.

Just before I broke for lunch at 12:30 I set the hook on some aquatic vegetation, and the force of my rod movement catapulted the flies into a pine branch twenty feet above me. I quickly determined that the flies were out of reach, so I grabbed the line with both hands with my rod tip pointed directly at the flies and applied slow steady pressure. Pop! The leader broke above the fat Albert, and all three flies dangled in a taunting position high above me.

I retooled with a size 10 Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear, and then I found a nice grassy spot on the bank to enjoy my midday repast. After lunch I continued with the Chernobyl and hares ear, but the smaller foam surface fly induced numerous refusals and momentary hookups. Clearly the relatively low flows had the South Platte River trout looking toward the surface, but what where they keying on?

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Cutbow Was the Best Fish on Thursday

Some dark clouds appeared in the southwest, so I pulled on my raincoat. The increased darkness provoked a very sparse blue winged olive hatch, but it also created a vexing glare. In an effort to counteract the visibility conundrum, I tied a medium olive bodied stimulator to my line, but this simply generated a couple refusals. I downsized to a size 14 gray caddis, but this also failed to generate interest. My friend John was experiencing some success with a parachute adams, so I scanned my fly box and settled on a size 18 CDC BWO. This fly lasted through a couple prime spots, but it was nearly impossible to follow in the dim light, glare and swirly water.

I was about to abandon the tiny CDC olive, when I spotted a solitary mayfly as it glided upward from the surface of the water. This natural was much larger than the minute olives, and I surmised it was an early pale morning dun. Could the fish be opportunistically feeding on these early season PMD’s? I knotted a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line and gave it a fair trial, but my theory collapsed with the resounding lack of interest from the resident trout.

In a last ditch effort to capitalize on the brief and sparse baetis hatch, I reverted to a yellow fat Albert along with the hares ear and a size 20 soft hackle emerger. Shortly after the change a rainbow trout snatched the soft hackle emerger from some riffles. Thoughts of hot action on BWO nymphs and emergers danced through my head, but the optimism was misplaced. I did manage to land a few more fish on the hares ear during this second dry/dropper application.

At 2 o’clock John and I decided to drive to a different section. We gave the river another decent opportunity to produce, and I exchanged the soft hackle emerger for an emerald caddis pupa. I hoped that the emerald color would capture the attention of the suddenly lockjawed trout. I did manage to land a small brown trout to increment the fish counter to nine, but that would be my last bit of action. As I was moving upstream at a rapid pace, a size 12 cream colored stonefly floated by, and this prompted me to try a yellow size 12 stimulator, but the fish were oblivious to my fluffy imitation. In the past a size 12 yellow Letort hopper has produced when golden stoneflies are present, so I tied one to my line along with a beadhead hares ear and the emerald caddis. Despite my theories and persistent fly changes, I could not coax any more action from the South Platte River.

At 3:45 I strolled back to meet John, and we agreed to call it quits. Although 65 cfs is preferable to raging run off and poor clarity, it was a bit below the ideal range. The bottom of the river is covered with a bright green algae, and the dropper nymphs constantly picked up scum. This compromised my favorite dry/dropper method of fishing. In addition many spots that normally yield fish were too low, and this reduced the prime fish holding locations to deeper runs and pockets.

John switched to a dry fly before I did, and he experienced decent success. By the time I made the transition, the dim light and glare became a factor, and I quickly lost confidence in my small dry fly offerings. Thursday was a fair day of fishing particularly for the run off time frame, but it was beneath my expectations for the stretch of the South Platte River that normally produces banner action. As always the scenery was spectacular, and I remain thankful for the opportunity to fish in beautiful Colorado.

Fish Landed: 9

 

South Platte River – 05/15/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/15/2017 Photo Album

South Boulder Creek exploded to 335 cfs, and the Big Thompson rocketed to 280 cfs and then settled back to 197 cfs. Boulder Creek climbed from the 60 cfs range to 176 cfs. What happened? Run off commenced on Colorado streams, and the options for stream fishing narrowed considerably. The closest remaining river with ideal flows was the South Platte River, so I made a trip to the stream that was tumbling along at a gentle rate of 75 cfs on Monday. A by product of this situation, of course is typically hordes of fishermen crowding into the few remaining bits of flowing water that remain at manageable levels.

I departed Denver at 6AM and arrived at a roadside parking spot by 8:15AM on Monday. The temperature was a surprisingly chilly forty degrees. I chose the adjective surprising because the high temperature was expected to rise into the seventies on May 15. I pulled on a fleece and my Adidas pullover and chose to wear my hat with ear flaps for the early morning session. Since wind is always a possibility on the relatively open water of the South Platte, I rigged my Sage four weight, as it possesses a stiff fast action for punching casts into the wind.

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Pocket Water Heaven

When I waded into the river, I tied a yellow fat Albert to my line, since shadows covered half the river, and I opted for maximum visibility. Below the fat Albert I added a beadhead hares ear and dark cahill wet fly. I moved upstream rapidly and began prospecting every attractive deep run and pocket, but my only reward in the first half hour was a pair of momentary hook ups and several refusals to the fat Albert. I attempted a correction by swapping the wet fly for a salad spinner, since I observed several midges buzzing over the stream.

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Morning Feeder

Eventually I managed to land a few brown trout on the hares ear, but the refusal rate continued at a relatively high rate, and I was unhappy about the diversion of attention from my trailing nymphs. I removed all the dry/dropper elements and knotted a size 14 gray stimulator to my line and supplemented the dry fly with a size 20 RS2 on a short dropper.

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Goodbye

The change in tactics paid dividends, and I landed a nice brown that charged the nymph as soon as it touched down on the water, and shortly thereafter another nice brown trout rose and crushed the stimulator. I presumed that I stumbled onto a productive combination, but a lull ensued, so I reverted to the dry/dropper. This time, however, I chose a size 10 Chernobyl ant along with the mainstay beadhead hares ear and RS2. I spotted a random rise along the left bank above the point where two current seams merged, so I lobbed the flies to that vicinity, and I was pleasantly surprised when a twelve inch rainbow emerged and crushed the foam attractor. I snapped one photo of the rainbow and then resumed my progress, but it was noon, and I was near my car, so I waded across the river and circled through some willows for lunch. Just prior to lunch I reverted to the gray stimulator, and near my crossing point I landed a small brown trout that sipped the heavily hackled attractor at the lip of a run on a downstream drift.

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During lunch I positioned myself next to the river below a high bank, and I observed a nice smooth pool, while I munched my sandwich and carrots. As I looked on, I spotted two fish rising on a very infrequent basis. When I returned to the stream minus my Adidas pullover and hat with ear flaps, I positioned myself below a large exposed boulder and fluttered some casts to the locations where I noted rises during lunch. During the early afternoon the wind became a significant factor, and my accuracy in the lunch pool was hindered significantly. After a short period of time while attempting to dupe the pool risers, I surrendered and moved upstream.

I persisted with the stimulator for another half hour, and during this time I landed another small brown trout on a downstream drift. The fish count rested at nine, and although the action was steady, success dictated covering a lot of water, frequent fly changes and an abundance of tough casting into a headwind. In short it was a decent but not an above average morning. I reached the upper border of the long segment of pocket water, and I punched several casts into the wind to a deep shelf pool tucked behind a large bank side boulder. The wind was affecting my accuracy, but on the fifth attempt I managed to flutter the fuzzy stimulator to my target area, and just as it began to move downstream with the current, a fine thirteen inch rainbow trout bolted from its hiding spot and smashed the fake fly.

This fish upheld the reputation of the rainbow species, as it dashed and streaked up and down the river until I finally lifted it toward the rim of my net. Alas, it made a last minute shrug and flipped off the hook and crashed back in the water at my feet. I counted it since it saved me the trouble of removing the fly, but not feeling its weight in my net was admittedly disappointing.

The blast of rushing air accelerated, as I rounded a bend next to the dirt road, and above the howl I heard voices. Sure enough, I gazed upstream and saw a group of three tubers negotiating a relatively shallow boulder field. The cool temperatures, high wind and relatively low water were not conditions that encouraged me to tube, but apparently the swimmers had a different opinion.

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Downstream View

I climbed the bank along the road and returned to the car and drove upstream for another .5 mile to a second section that features pocket water and faster currents. I wish I could report that this move yielded numerous hard fighting South Platte River trout, but that was not the case. I fished until 3PM among the enticing pockets and deep current seams, but I never felt the weight of a fish in my net. I once again converted to a dry/dropper approach, and I managed a couple long distance releases, but by and large the two hours from one until three PM were characterized by fruitless casting.

Monday presented a split personality, as steady effort and persistence delivered some success in the morning and very early afternoon, but the rest of the time on the river was quite frustrating. The sky was essentially clear blue for the entire day, and the wind vacillated between annoying and impossible, but I am uncertain what caused the severe case of lockjaw during the last two hours. I took solace in a double digit fish count day and some success with dry flies, and I enjoyed clear low flows and minimal crowds. I am uncertain how many stream fishing days remain, before all options are unavailable until late June and early July.

Fish Landed: 10

South Platte River – 05/05/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/05/2017 Photo Album

The flows on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon hovered in the 75 cfs range, and I was eager to make another trip to one of my favorite Colorado fishing destinations. The weather forecast anticipated high temperatures in the upper seventies in Denver, and this translated to a pleasant day in Eleven Mile Canyon. Jane’s calendar was open, so she agreed to join me on the two plus hour drive. The only negative was a gradually expanding sore throat that was draining my energy.

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Another Fishermen Below Me

We arrived at a parking space along the river at 11AM, and I quickly prepared for a day of fishing with my Sage four weight rod. I chose to begin my fishing adventure in the downstream portion of the canyon, since it was readily apparent that Friday was a popular day on the South Platte River for Colorado fly fishermen. In other words many pullouts were already occupied, and that condition would only worsen, as one proceeded toward the special regulation water and the dam. For several years now I harbored a contrarian belief that labeling a section of water special regulation actually attracts more crowds and improves the fishing in the water open to bait fishermen by reducing the pressure in the water open to all types of fishing. On Friday I planned to test my theory.

Friday in Eleven Mile Canyon did in fact prove to be a very pleasant day with temperatures climbing into the upper sixties. In addition the river tumbled along at 75 cfs, and it was extremely clear. The price for these nearly ideal conditions, of course, was the hordes of fishermen who were lured to the South Platte. While I busied myself preparing to fish, Jane embarked on a short hike to investigate the area upstream. Later in the afternoon she completed a bike ride to the dam and back, and she confirmed that heavy crowds were present in the special regulation section.

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A Nice Start to My Day

I began my quest for trout with a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph, and initially I covered some relatively shallow runs and riffles near the car. I spooked three of four fish before I climbed back up on the bank and circled around a slow moving pool. When I approached the river once again, I paused and observed quite a few fish in the pool, and I made some drifts with the dry/dropper combination to no avail.

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Better Lighting

Next I moved to the top of the pool, where faster water spilled over some rocks and then curled around an exposed boulder. Here I could see additional medium sized trout holding in the deep trough below the drop off. My flies were being ignored, and I spotted a solitary rise, so I removed the salvation and replaced it with a RS2. This did the trick, and I landed a twelve inch brown trout just below the exposed boulder, and then in the faster water that sluiced between some rocks at the head of the pool, the fat Albert dipped, and I connected with a fine thirteen inch rainbow and managed to guide it into my net. This beauty also inhaled the RS2.

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Jane returned from her hike at 12:15, so I returned to the car and grabbed my lunch bag, and then we sat on the grassy bank and munched our snacks. During lunch I spotted three fairly regular risers across from my perch on the grass, so after I retrieved my rod, I removed the dry/dropper set up and tied a size 20 CDC BWO to my line. I positioned myself downstream from the area of the three risers, and focused my attention on the lower fish first. This foray into dry fly fishing was futile, so I shifted my attention to the fish that rose fairly regularly next to an eddy along the far bank. This required some fairly long casts, but on the third effort, a bulge appeared on my fly, and I set the hook only to despair, when the tiny fly released after a momentary hook up.

I retreated to the bank along the road, and then I walked to the tail of the pool and crossed to the opposite bank. I planned to get above the sippers in the pool, so I could employ the downstream drift technique that served me well on a previous trip to Eleven Mile Canyon. The best I could accomplish with this ploy was a refusal by a trout right next to the bank on a twenty-five foot downstream drift. I finally surrendered to the educated fish in the slow pool, and I crossed again at the tail and advanced along the road to the point where I exited for lunch.

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Vivid Spots

For the remainder of the afternoon I reverted to the three fly dry/dropper approach featuring the yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and RS2. Toward the end of the day I exchanged the RS2 for a beadhead soft hackle emerger. The sky was mostly blue and sunny, but occasionally some large clouds blocked the sun’s warm rays, and this seemed to provoke a very sparse BWO emergence. I covered quite a bit of water in the afternoon, and I managed to add three additional brown trout to my fish count. Two browns were very nice wild fish in the thirteen inch range, and the last fish was a feisty ten incher. The nicest brown on the day snatched the hares ear as it tumbled through some riffles of moderate depth. In addition to the landed fish, I experienced temporary connections with three fish, but I snapped off two flies on one, and the others managed to shake free before I could bring them close to my net.

By three o’clock I lost my confidence and interest. Jane moved the car to a picnic area upstream from where we began, and I reached that point. I walked beyond the long smooth pool above the parking lot and prospected some faster moving glides and runs for another twenty minutes, and then I returned to the car and found Jane in her chair and ready to make the return trip.

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So Pretty

I was feeling a bit under the weather, and that affected my energy level and consequently my approach. I dwelled too long in the smooth pool across from our lunch position, and this period resulted in zero catches. On the plus side it was a perfect spring day, the surroundings were gorgeous, the leaves were budding out on the trees, and I shared the canyon environment with my lovely wife. The five fish I landed were all energetic wild fish, and I was outdoors in Colorado. Life could not be much better.

Fish Landed: 5

 

South Platte River – 04/19/2017

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/19/2017 Photo Album

Of course four letter words are common among fly fishermen particularly after losing a monster fish or after breaking off three flies on an overhanging tree branch. But another word that is relatively benign in common usage takes on the characteristics of the established four letter words in the broader English vernacular when applied to fly fishing. That word is wind, and wind was the overriding theme for our fly fishing adventure on Wednesday, April 19.

My friend Steve and I set out from Lone Tree at 7:30 on Wednesday morning with visions of a repeat of our successful trip the previous Thursday, when we fished from 12:30 until 4:00 to ravenously hungry trout on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. High clouds blocked the sun and created conditions conducive to a sustained baetis hatch on that date, and Steve and I took advantage of the feeding frenzy.

We arrived at the parking lot at the first bridge below the dam at 9:30, and we were in our waders and on the river fishing by ten o’clock. After I lathered up with sunscreen, I attempted to open the driver’s side door, but the gale force wind made me lower my shoulder and push with exceptional force to combat the gusts. This was an ominous harbinger of what was in our future. After I pulled on my waders, I assembled my Sage four weight rod, and I wandered across the dirt road along with Steve to inspect the wide but relatively shallow pool that entertained us for most of the afternoon on April 13.

The area upstream from the bridge was empty, so Steve took his position next to the prime water fifteen yards above the bridge, and I migrated a bit farther upstream to a nice deep run that passed along some large rocks on the opposite bank. It was too early for dry flies, so I rigged with a strike indicator, split shot, beadhead hares ear, and RS2; and I executed a large number of drifts through the very attractive deep run. After half an hour of this futile activity my only accomplishment was to remove a decent amount of moss from the river rocks, as it accumulated on my bottom dredging nymphs.

I turned the corner and discovered a quartet of fishermen spread over the next forty yards, so I reversed my direction and crossed the road and surveyed the river below the bridge. Since I was rigged with a nymphing configuration, I decided to probe the nice deep runs immediately below the four culverts that carried the river beneath the bridge, but once again my efforts to land a fish were stymied. I saw fish hovering and moving from side to side in a manner that normally indicates feeding, so I concluded that they were grabbing small nymphs or emergers from the drift. I cycled through a soft hackle emerger and salad spinner with no impact on my lagging fish count. Pat Dorsey indicated on an Instagram post that he was having luck with stoneflies, so I replaced the salad spinner with a size 12 peacock stonefly imitation, and finally I witnessed a deep dive in my indicator. I set the hook and immediately felt the power of a fat streaking fish, but eventually I fell back into a demoralized state, when I netted the beautiful sixteen inch rainbow trout and discovered that it was hooked in one of the fins.

It was now 11AM, and my confidence reached a new low, as I pondered my next move. I decided to cross the bridge and fish the opposite side and then explore the stretch of water downstream to the next bend. The area was strangely vacant, so it was a good opportunity to take advantage. Just below the fast moving runs and riffle below the bridge there was a large round depression with a light sand bottom, and these conditions made it easy to spot five large trout, as they held in the current and intercepted subsurface food morsels. I executed some dead drifts and swings through the deep hole, but the fish maintained their feeding rhythm with no apparent recognition of my offerings. My frustration mounted, as I shifted my attention downstream to a nice long section of relatively smooth slow moving water of moderate depth.

The clock ticked toward 11:30, and I noticed several sporadic rises twelve to eighteen inches out from the high bank on the other side of the river. At least now I saw some targets to pursue, and this renewed my focus after halfheartedly lobbing nymphs for the first 1.5 hours. I removed the nymphing paraphernalia and tied a size 18 CDC BWO to my line. During this entire morning period the wind continued to gust in an unrelenting manner, and as I evaluated the challenge ahead of me, it once again announced its strong presence. In order to tempt the bank feeders I needed to launch a relatively long cast across the current to within a foot of the bank, and then allow the tiny barely visible fly to drift downstream without drag, until it passed over the uppermost feeder. While doing this I needed to combat the strong wind that was rushing directly downstream.

For the next fifteen minutes I endeavored to conquer the difficult challenge, but I must report that I was not equal to the task. Reach casts and mends were thwarted by the blasts of chilly air. I may have completed one or two decent drifts over the sporadic feeders, but they were not fooled by my efforts. In a fit of frustration and despair I reeled up my line and returned to the car at 11:45. Along the way I checked in with Steve, and he reported landing three nice fish, two on a RS2 and one on a prince nymph. He was not ready for lunch, so I returned to the car and sought shelter from the ever present wind.  At least I now knew that catching South Platte fish on a blustery day was possible.

After lunch I pulled my raincoat over my light down coat to serve as a windbreaker. I considered resuming my position on the opposite side of the river from Steve similar to the previous Thursday afternoon, but when I stood on the bridge, I learned that a pair of fishermen were below Steve and another was pinching him from above. I surrendered the idea of fishing above the bridge and circled back to the car to consider other options. I remembered the bank feeders and decided to approach them from the high bank on the same side of the river as the parking lot. I made a short walk on a worn trail and then slid down a dirt path to the water. The bank feeders were no longer active, but as I gazed upstream I spotted a nice feeding fish in shallow water next to the point of an exposed rock anchored to the bank. As I watched the trout, it casually rose and sipped tiny morsels as they drifted overhead.

I was fearful that I would line the fish if I cast directly over it, so I sprayed some casts to other visible fish farther out in the river, but they were hovering beneath the surface and focused on emergers or nymphs in the underwater drift. As this was transpiring, Steve relinquished his pool to the upstream invaders, and he returned to the car to grab a quick lunch. I returned to the parking area to unlock the Santa Fe.  After lunch Steve pulled on a raincoat as a windbreaker, and then he crossed the bridge and approached the river from the opposite side. I was now upstream of the regular sipper, so I decided to attempt some downstream drifts. I persisted at this approach for twenty minutes, but the wily feeder avoided my fraud and continued to sip naturals in a carefree manner. This entire episode served to heighten my frustration, and I finally turned my attention to other large fish present in the area below the bridge. The distinct possibility of a skunking flooded my thoughts.

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A Roll Cast to Avoid the Brush

As I pivoted toward the center of the river, I once again spied the large trout hovering over the large round sand bottom depression. Perhaps they were more open to a surface fly now that the baetis emergence appeared to be in a more advanced state. I cast across and above these fish numerous times and attempted to offset wind drag with exaggerated mends and upstream reaches, but I never observed the slightest evidence that the fish looked at my surface fly. I checked off another blunted strategy and turned my attention once again to the twenty foot section of run and riffle directly below the bridge.

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Number One in the Net

As I paused to consider my approach, a brown trout rose and created a popping sound in the slow shelf pool no more that five feet above me. I watched it return to its feeding position, and then I dropped a cast upstream. The fly drifted no more than six inches, and the targeted brown trout bolted to the surface and inhaled the size 20 CDC BWO. What a thrill to suddenly tempt a trout with my dry fly! I lifted the rod tip and felt a deep bend, as I was connected to a healthy fourteen inch brown. I registered my first fish of the day and unleashed some trash talk to the scoffing wind, as it taunted me to overcome its adversity again.

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Just a Beauty

After releasing the prize first catch, I paused and once again surveyed the run. I thought I saw a dark shadow along the fast current seam fifteen feet above me, so I overpowered some forward casts to combat the head wind, and on the third such effort, the fly landed and was immediately engulfed by a fish. Was this a dream? This fish launched from the river and revealed itself to be a corpulent rainbow trout, and it executed the characteristic rapid runs and streaks that one would expect from the rainbow species. I expertly played the agile fish from my reel and allowed it to strip line several times, until I was able to lift its nose over the lip of my net. The fat sixteen inch rainbow was the best fish of the day, and I was very pleased.

Once again I released the fish and returned my attention to the the bridge riffle. I remembered spooking a fish from the shallow water next to the bank on April 13, so I scanned that area. Sure enough there was a decent rainbow facing downtream, but it seemed to be in a comatose state and not an active feeder. The shallow area bordered a small tight eddy, and a slight movement caught my attention. I focused my eyes on the swirling water, and as I stared another fish materialized. In fact as I peered attentively at the eddy, a second brown emerged from the green and brown rocky stream bed. Both were brown trout, and each darted to the surface and snatched food as I looked on. The riseform on the surface was extremely subtle and easily overlooked if not for the subsurface movement.

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I was now prepared, so I began dropping short casts to the eddy. The swirl and sucking action prevented me from following my fly for more than a few seconds, but on the fifth cast I noticed that the larger of the two fish elevated and shifted slightly to the left, so I lifted my rod in case my fly was the object of the brown trout’s affection. It was. My rod tip throbbed, and the brown slab thrashed, and then after a minute or two of battling I elevated the fish and slid my net beneath its broad body. What a thrill to catch a third above average size trout on the South Platte River in spite of the wind tunnel that surrounded me!

Unfortunately the remainder of the day was not very rewarding. The fishermen above the bridge abandoned our sweet spot, so we returned to our favorite haunt from the previous week. I resumed my position on the opposite side of the river next to the lane that leads to the campground. I repeated my strategy from April 13 with dapping downstream casts at the top of the riffles and long downstream drifts with stack mends through the midsection and lower area. None of my ploys produced. Steve had some sporadic success with an emerger dropper, so I converted to a dry/dropper set up with a fat Albert and RS2 and soft hackle emerger, but this tactic met with zero success. Unlike April 13 I never observed steady risers, but only sporadic random surface feeding, and this probably explains my inability to repeat success with downstream dry fly drifts. The wind was sweeping the tiny BWO’s from the surface before fish could react, so they compensated by nabbing rising emergers below the surface.

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By 3:30 we were both chilled to the bone and beaten down by the nagging windstorm. Our arms dangled limply from our sides after forcing repeated casts into the unrelenting headwind. We agreed to quit so we could begin the long return trip. It was a tough day on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, but I managed to land three gorgeous trout in the fourteen to sixteen inch range. Although the fish count was low, I remain quite proud of my ability to overcome the adversity of the four letter word, wind. I landed three quality fish, and for that I am very thankful.

Fish Landed: 3