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

 

South Platte River – 06/20/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 06/20/2018 Photo Album

My last three outings on the Yampa, Eagle and Arkansas River involved challenging wading; and I was yearning for some normal flows on Wednesday, June 20. I camped at Vallie Bridge along the Arkansas River, and my results on Tuesday were fair but not favorable enough to encourage another day on the large river below Salida. I considered my options and decided to make the drive to Eleven Mile Canyon and the dependable tailwater that calls the boulder strewn valley its home.

Hello There

When I checked the flows prior to my two day and one night road trip, the South Platte River in Eleven Mile was tumbling along at 108 CFS. This level was higher than that which I experienced on earlier trips, but the volume remained well within a comfortable range for June fly fishing. In fact the higher flows were welcome in light of the early June heat wave that settled over Colorado.

Looking Ahead

The eastern route that I chose followed the Arkansas River until just before Royal Gorge, where I turned on to CO 67 and headed to Florissant and an intersection with US 24. A short drive west delivered me to Lake George, CO, and after paying my senior day pass fee, I rumbled south on the dirt road that follows the South Platte River. I chose to fish near the midway point in the special regulation section.

The air temperature elevated quickly into the seventies, and by the time I quit at 3:30 the sun was overhead and provided enough radiant energy to cause a surge in the thermometer to eighty degrees. I assembled my Sage four weight rod and pulled on my waders, and then I descended a steep bank to the edge of the river. It was indeed very clear and tumbled along at the nearly ideal pace of 108 CFS. Another angler occupied one of my favorite pools fifty yards below me, so I crossed to a small narrow island and worked my way downstream to the north braid at a point, where I remained out of sight to the other fisherman.

On the Board with This Yellow Beauty

Short Wing and Red Body

I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line followed by an iron sally and salvation nymph, and I began to prospect the likely deep runs and pockets, as I progressed upstream. This approach allowed me to net two trout in the eleven inch range, before I encountered a beautiful long smooth pool next to a huge vertical rock wall. The dry/dropper method failed to entice sighted fish in the slow moving pool, and as I paused to consider my options, I began to notice some size 16 mayflies, as they slowly fluttered skyward from the river’s surface.

Two Risers Were Near the Bottom of the Large Rock

Stretched Out

I continued fishing the dry/dropper rig for another fifteen minutes with the naive hope that the rising trout would also snatch subsurface nymphs during their feeding binge. This idea was misdirected, and I wasted valuable hatch time, while fish continued to feed on the surface albeit at a fairly leisurely pace. When I observed two nice fish hovering a foot below the surface downstream and across from my position, I could no longer resist the urge to convert to a dry fly. I clipped off the three dry/dropper imitations and tied a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my 5X tippet. I spotted a decent fish eight feet above me and lobbed an exploratory cast to a spot above the sighted trout.

Imagine my surprise when the visible fish darted upward and snatched my cinnamon comparadun. I played the thirteen inch prize to my net and quickly dried the cinnamon dun imitation. I was now confident that I could dupe the two down and across feeders to my recently anointed hot fly. I made some excellent casts with slack that allowed the dry fly to drift over the position of the downstream feeders without drag. I managed to prick two fish during this pre-lunch time frame, but the more prevalent condition was total avoidance of my pale morning dun imitation. I switched to a light gray size 16 comparadun, but it was treated with similar disdain, so I sat down on a large flat rock and devoured my ham sandwich, carrots and yogurt.

The pale morning dun hatch lingered for an hour, and before I finished lunch it consisted of only a few lonely stragglers, and the fish returned to their normal safe holding positions. I moved upstream and searched for random rises, but the South Platte River trout were not revealing their positions, and continuing to cast the tiny size 18 seemed like a futile undertaking. I reverted to the dry/dropper rig that decorated my line in the morning; however, I replaced the iron sally with a beadhead hares ear nymph.

This Area Yielded Success

Phew. Slab.

I covered some nice water at the upper end of the vertical rock wall section and moved through a faster stretch with numerous pockets and runs of moderate depth. I carefully searched these areas and added two fine brown trout to my count, and then I encountered a group of three fishermen. I suspected it was a guide with two clients, as the one gentleman did not carry a fly rod. The assumed guide noticed my success and flashed me a double thumbs up each time he observed a bend in my rod. Both of the brown trout favored the hares ear nymph over the salvation.

Settle Down Brown

I exited the river and reentered thirty yards above the upper angler, and I found myself in a fifty yard section below another group of fishermen. The river in this area widened a bit, and the runs and pockets were shallower than I desired, but I decided to execute some searching casts. At some point during this phase of my day the salvation nymph broke off, as I battled a fish that attacked the upper hares ear, and I decided to replace it with a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail nymph. The pale morning duns that I observed earlier were on the small side and most likely emerged from a smaller nymph than the salvation, that previously occupied the point position on my line.

Over the Water

Lovely Pose

The scene that evolved over the next hour was remarkable. I cast the three flies to relatively shallow riffles and runs, and more often than expected the fat Albert stopped dead in its tracks. When this occurred I raised the rod and felt the pulsing throb of an irritated fish. I hooked and landed a fourteen inch rainbow and a fifteen inch brown trout, and these successes were accompanied by three or four temporary connections. One of the landed fish favored the hares ear nymph, and the other pounced on the pheasant tail. Had it not been for the group of fishermen above me, I would have skipped this section in favor of the more obvious deeper and faster runs above. I can only assume that other fishermen skipped the area as well, and thus the fish were less pressured which translated to more aggressive.

More Appealing Water

Fly fishing etiquette dictated that I remain a decent distance below the next group of anglers, so I climbed to the north bank and followed a path back downstream to the large pool that was occupied, when I first began. Here I searched the very attractive runs and riffles at the head of the gorgeous pool, and I was rewarded with another fourteen inch rainbow. In addition I foul hooked two crimson beauties and fought a very respectable brown trout for forty-five seconds, before it engineered an escape. I was disappointed with the foul hooked trout, but I was encouraged that nice fish were attracted to my flies.

A Favorite Pool

I crossed to the road side of the river and followed a worn path downstream for seventy-five yards, until I was once again a safe distance above another South Platte angler. For the remainder of my day I prospected the three fly dry/dropper rig, until I was back to a point just below the Santa Fe. I am pleased to report, that I landed another fourteen inch rainbow from a nice deep run, and the pink striped missile favored the pheasant tail. A ten inch brown trout successfully snapped up the pheasant tail in a slot between the bank and faster water to account for my tenth fish on the day.

Poised to Swim Away

Ten fish in four hours of fishing is not outstanding, but I was nevertheless pleased with my choice of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. The weather and flows were nearly perfect, and sight fishing and comfortable wading were a nice change of pace after four days of fighting swift currents. I learned that a pale morning dun hatch is in progress in Eleven Mile Canyon, and I suspect it will intensify in the coming weeks. Seven of the ten landed fish were in the thirteen to fifteen inch range, and these were strong muscular fighters. A pleasant day such as Wednesday is always a welcome occasion in my summer itinerary.

Fish Landed: 10

South Platte River – 05/17/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/17/2018 Photo Album

When I reviewed the flows on several rivers and streams on Monday prior to my visit to the North Fork of St. Vrain Creek, I noted that all the tailwater sections of the South Platte River remained at excellent flow rates. One of the advantages of this blog is the ability to check back on fishing trips and conditions in previous years. I did just that on Wednesday, when I read my post of 05/12/2016. I recalled a spectacular day, and I was curious to remember the date, weather and flows. The weather was cool with air temperatures peaking in the sixties and the flows were 64 CFS. May 17 was five days later, and the high temperature was forecast to reach the low seventies, while the flows registered in the 85 CFS range. I concluded that these factors were close enough to 5/12/2016 to justify another trip to the South Platte River in an attempt to capture even a fraction of the success bestowed upon me during that day.

83 CFS

I assembled my Sage four weight rod and waded into the South Platte River by 10AM on Thursday morning. The air temperature was in the mid-sixties and the flows were as displayed on the DWR graph. The sky was deep blue and totally devoid of any clouds, and this held true for 90% of my time on the river. I could not have asked for a more ideal scenario; as I knotted a yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear, and salvation nymph to my line. I began tossing the three fly searching combination to the likely deep pockets and runs, as I methodically moved upstream. Very little time elapsed, before I landed a few small brown trout, and after fifteen minutes I built the fish count to five.

Such a Pretty Sight

My expectations soared, but my confidence was tested in the next fifteen minutes, as trout began to elevate and refuse the fat Albert. I endured this frustration for a bit, and then I pulled in my flies and replaced the fat Albert with a size 10 Chernboyl ant. The Chernobyl proved to be less of a distraction, and I began to hook and land trout at a regular pace. By eleven o’clock the tally of fish that rested in my net mounted to ten, and the salvation nymph generated two fish for every one produced by the hares ear.

A Favorite Spot

Another hour elapsed, and I chose to eat my lunch on the east side of the river just below an island, where some large flat rocks served as reasonable replacements for tables and chairs. By this time the number of fish that slid into my net ballooned to twenty-one. In the process of landing two fish that favored the topmost fly, the salvation nymph broke off as a result of being dragged over an adjacent rock or stick. I was reluctant to deplete the supply of salvations in my fleece wallet, so after lunch I experimented with several alternatives.

Long and Lean

I prospected the smaller left side channel next to the island first, and I began with an amber March brown nymph below the hares ear nymph. Periodically I enjoy trying some of my legacy flies from my early days of fly tying and fishing in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately on May 17, the South Platte River trout ignored the classic, and I once again paused to exchange it for a nymph; that contained a glass bead, pheasant tail body and marabou tail. This fly performed slightly better, as it accounted for one fish, but during its stint on the line I also experienced two long distance releases. I sensed that my catch rate was slowing, so I once again stripped in my line and made another change. I swapped the glass bead nymph for an ultra zug bug; and the Chernboyl ant, hares ear, and ultra zug bug became my stalwarts for the remainder of the day.

One of the Better Fish on the Day

Seven additional trout materialized from the east channel next to the island. The flows in the left braid were only one fourth of the volume that churned down the right channel, so this condition necessitated stealth and long casts. When I reached the upstream tip of the island, I climbed the bank and circled back to the bottom point, and then I migrated up the larger and faster right branch. At the tip of the island I progressed through additional attractive pocket water that carried the full combined flows of the river, and I finally quit at 3:30. The two hours between 1:30 and 3:30 evolved into a fish catching spree, as I pushed the fish count from twenty-eight to forty-seven.

Oh Those Deep Pockets

The most productive water types were slow moving shelf pools next to faster currents. A cast to the seam was a solid bet. Across and downstream drifts along the bank also provoked aggressive grabs, if the water depth was sufficient. During the two hour period of fast action, I surprisingly extracted some decent brown trout from fairly shallow riffles. Two thirteen inch rainbow trout joined the mix in the afternoon, and they crushed the ultra zug bug from positions in faster currents. Three decent brown trout smashed the Chernobyl ant in another surprise afternoon development.

[

Fine Spots. Might Be Cutbow.

Nice Rainbow

Thursday evolved into another outstanding adventure on the South Platte River. It did not quite measure up to 05/12/2016, but that may have been a lifetime best event. While freestone rivers swelled and dams opened their valves, I fished in nearly ideal flows and thoroughly enjoyed my day in May.

Fish Landed: 47

 

South Platte River – 05/06/2018

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/06/2018 Photo Album

After having stitches removed from an incision on my leg on Friday, I was anxious to undertake a fishing trip that required more aggressive wading. A three day trip to the Frying Pan was on my schedule for May 8 – 10, and Monday was, therefore, reserved for packing. Sunday was the best and last date to sneak in a trip before my journey to the tailwater below Reudi Reservoir. I hoped to make a longer trip and considered the Eagle River, Arkansas River and South Platte River; but I ultimately selected the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. According to the DWR web site the flows were in the 88 CFS range, and a tailwater is much more dependable than large freestones near the early stages of snow melt. Relatively warm temperatures in Colorado on Sunday augmented my concern regarding early stage run off.

Delicious Section

I arrived at a wide parking spot along the dirt road that borders the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon by 9:45, and after pulling on my waders and assembling my Sage One five weight I was on the water by 10AM. I began my day with a size 10 Chernobyl ant trailing a beadhead hares ear nymph and sparkle wing RS2, but a half hour of aggressive fishing failed to yield positive results. One fish swirled at the Chernobyl, but that was the extent of action. I sighted several fish during this time, and they totally ignored my offerings, so I concluded that I needed to get deeper.

Sparkle Wing RS2 Performed Well

I removed the three fly dry/dropper configuration and replaced it with a strike indicator, split shot, and two nymphs. I replaced the hares ear with an emerald caddis pupa and retained the sparkle wing RS2. During the remainder of the morning I worked my way upstream and prospected the nymphs in runs with reasonable depth, and I landed three trout. Two of the netted fish were dull rainbows, which I suspected to be stockers, but one was a decent wild brown trout in the thirteen inch range. All the morning catches snatched the sparkle wing RS2.

On Display

First Fish Might Be a Stocker Rainbow

I expected the temperature to rise to comfortable levels, but a large layer of gray clouds blocked the sun’s rays in the late morning and early afternoon. As noon approached I moved within view of my car, so I exited the river and returned to the Santa Fe to add a layer and eat my sandwich, carrots and yogurt cup. After lunch I returned to my exit point and resumed my steady upstream migration. At some point I tangled my tip in a tree branch, as I walked on the bank, and in the process of unraveling the line I broke off the two nymphs. I used this as an opportunity to swap the emerald caddis pupa for an ultra zug bug.

Rainbow Sag

By 1:30 I began to observe a light blue winged olive hatch, but the emergence was very sparse and never sparked more than a few sporadic rises. I persisted with the deep nymphing approach and built the fish count from three to ten by 3:30. During one half hour period the trout seemed to escalate their aggressiveness, and I enjoyed my best run of catches on the day. The ultra zug bug accounted for three afternoon trout, and the remainder savored the RS2. The most reliable technique was an up and across cast followed by a drift along a current seam opposite my position. In runs with sufficient depth a trout frequently nabbed one of the nymphs, just as they began to lift or swing on the downstream portion of the drift. In addition to the landed fish I suffered at least five temporary hook ups. I attribute the worse than normal landing ratio to the diminished hooking capability of the small size 20 RS2.

Probably Best Fish of the Day

At 3:30 I climbed the bank and ambled back down the dirt road to a point just below a tunnel. On my way upstream I noted a very nice deep run and pool with a few sporadic risers, so I pledged to check the spot out on the return route. I paused along the road and surveyed the pool for a minute or two and noticed two dimples near the tail. I decided to abandon the dry/dropper and made one last attempt to dupe a trout with a dry fly. Actually I opted for two dry flies, as I tied a size 14 deer hair caddis to my line and then added a size 22 CDC BWO on an eighteen inch dropper.

Tunnel Pool

I made three or four casts, and a small fish refused the caddis twice. I did not bargain for late day frustration. I used the caddis as an indicator, so I could track the tiny BWO, but now the fish were distracted by the lead fly and ignored the main dish. I persisted with two more casts, and the second drift for some unexplained reason struck the fancy of a ten inch rainbow, as it aggressively darted to the surface and smashed the deer hair impostor. After I released the only dry fly victim of the day, I fired some additional casts to the faster run, but the flies were ignored, so I reeled up my line and returned to the car and prepared to drive back to Denver.

Sunday proved to be a comfortable day from a weather perspective, and I managed to avoid the crowds by fishing in the section of the river that is not managed as catch and release. I registered a double digit fish count, and had I converted a higher portion of hook ups, I could have posted a total in the high teens. The largest fish was thirteen inches, so size was a bit lacking, but given the sparse hatch I was pleased with my Sunday results.

Fish Landed: 11

 

South Platte River – 04/19/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/19/2018 Photo Album

I arrived next to the South Platte River on Thursday, April 19 eager to enjoy another fun day of fly fishing in Colorado. The air temperature was in the low forties, and a mild breeze kicked up from time to time to make it feel cooler. I wore my brimmed New Zealand hat with ear flaps and a fleece layer and light down on top. During my five hours on the water the sun appeared frequently, but high thin clouds prevented the air temperature from rising above the low fifties. The river was in spectacular condition, and the reported flows on the DWR web site were 62 CFS.

62 CFS

I anticipated a blue winged olive hatch, but it was a bit early for that at 11AM, so I defaulted to my favorite prospecting configuration. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line as a large visible surface attractor, and beneath the foam floater I added a beadhead hares ear. I cast this double to some very attractive deep runs and pockets, but after four such attempts to attract fish, I remained scoreless on the fish counter. This was very unusual for the stretch of water that I was stationed in, so I decided to add a second dropper to provide more length and weight. I chose an emerald caddis pupa for this chore. I reasoned that the bright emerald color would attract attention, and the size 14 fly with a bead would provide additional ballast for a faster sink rate.

Hovering Over the Water

Salivated Over the Run by the Large Rock

The tactic worked, and over the one hour time period between my start and lunch I landed four fine trout in the eleven to twelve inch range. One was a rainbow and the other three displayed the buttery gold color of brown trout. Number two smashed the fat Albert, and the other three snatched the beadhead hares ear nymph.

Pale Pink Stripe Rainbow

Although four fish per hour is a satisfying catch rate, I felt like I was casting to numerous productive spots without results. After lunch I continued and landed fish at a similar pace while covering a fair amount of real estate. In the early afternoon I spotted a few random blue winged olives, but their presence did not seem to provoke any surface feeding, so I exchanged the emerald caddis pupa for a size 20 RS2 with a tiny silver bead. I was very optimistic that the diminutive fly would interest stream residents, that were chasing active baetis nymphs, but that was not the case.

After a reasonable trial period I removed the RS2 and replaced it with an ultra zug bug. The zug bug produced one fish, while the hares ear remained the dominant offering, but I continued to sense that I was bypassing fish that were ignoring my flies. At two o’clock I hooked the three flies on a dead branch on a backcast and snapped them off at a leader knot above the fat Albert. I stared at the bare branches for five minutes before I finally spotted the dangling yellow fat Albert, and this enabled me to recover all three flies. As I reattached the flies, I decided to once again replace the bottom fly. I swapped the ultra zug bug for a salvation nymph.

Give Me a C

Hooked One Under the Foam, but It Escaped

Perhaps it was the fly change, or maybe the time of day, or perhaps the type of water; but suddenly the fishing action was torrid. I began to land trout at a feverish pace, and shallow riffles of moderate depth were the premier trout producers. Unlike past experiences later in the season the trout were not as spread out to locations such as short pockets, but longer deep pockets produced as well as slack water that bordered deep fast runs. The most dependable spots were the deep slots at the end of slow moving troughs, where two currents merged and formed a V.

Spotsylvania

Needless to say I had a blast. I employed my favorite technique of rapid fire casts to target areas, and in the rare instance where there was no response after three drifts, I moved on. I made long upstream casts to the top of moderate depth riffles, and frequently the fat Albert stopped dead in its tracks, whereupon I raised the rod tip and felt the throb of a nice twelve or thirteen inch brown trout. My confidence elevated, and I could almost predict each strike.

Torrid Action in the Afternoon

The fast paced action continued from two o’clock until four o’clock, as I boosted the fish count to thirty-one. It was simply a matter of finding the right type of water, and the fish took care of the rest. During the two hour afternoon window I estimate that 60% of the trout favored the salvation and the remainder chomped the hares ear. In fact the salvation nymph accounted for so many trout, that the thread was severed and began to unravel thus requiring a replacement.

Likely Spot

The anticipated baetis hatch never materialized, but it did not matter. I never complain when the fish prefer a larger fly with enhanced hooking capability. Thursday was my first thirty fish day of the new season, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Hopefully there are a few more in my future before the impact of run off becomes a factor.

Fish Landed: 31

 

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.

Lovely Starting Point on the South Platte River

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.

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.

This Became My Go To Pool on the Day

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.

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.

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.

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.

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