South Platte River – 04/17/2017

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/17/2017 Photo Album

It was a beautiful day with the high temperature in the sixties and overcast skies for much of the day, although gusts of wind were a significant negative. The flows were up a bit at 90 cfs compared to my two previous trips to the South Platte, but the river remained nearly perfect for late April. I departed Denver at 7AM, and this enabled me to reach a parking space along the South Platte River by 9:30, and I was in the river fishing by 10AM.


My Starting Point Along the Dirt Road

I walked down the road and entered at a point that was farther downstream than I ever previously fished in this segment of the Eleven Mile Canyon area. I began fishing with a yellow fat Albert and trailed a beadhead hares ear nymph and an ultra zug bug, but I switched out the ultra zug bug for a mercury black beauty after twenty minutes with no action. In the early going I experienced a refusal to the yellow fat Albert and two momentary hookups, and I suspected the temporary connections were a function of the tiny size 22 midge larva.


Zoomed a Bit Closer

Between 10:00 and 11:30 I covered a significant amount of water and managed to land five trout, four browns and one rainbow. All the morning fish were in the twelve inch size range, and I was pleased with the steady action. Halfway through the morning I swapped the mercury black beauty for a salad spinner, and the move paid off, when a brown and rainbow snatched the small midge imitation in a deep narrow slot, just before I returned to the car for lunch.


More Rocks Equals More Pockets

After lunch I endured thirty minutes without any action, and I spotted a couple blue winged olives, so I removed the salad spinner and replaced it with a soft hackle emerger. Unfortunately the BWO emerger was not what the fish desired, so I reverted to the salad spinner, and that change rewarded me with some great action, as the fish count increased from five to eleven. I estimate that five of the eleven landed fish consumed the salad spinner, and the others crushed the beadhead hares ear nymph.



One again I endured a lull, as I moved through several attractive pockets, so I snipped off the salad spinner and replaced it with a beadhead pheasant tail. The size 18 pheasant tail produced one nice brown trout from a deep seam, but for some reason the fat Albert suddenly became a more desired commodity. During the afternoon time frame four trout crushed the fat Albert, and all seemed to materialize from slow moving slack water along the bank. The hares ear continued to provide steady production, and between 2:30 and 4 the sky clouded up, and I noticed a few more small BWO’s in the air. During this overcast period I exchanged the pheasant tail for a size 22 RS2, and three brown trout attacked the small baetis nymph imitation, as it began to lift and swing at the end of long drifts.


Yummy Deep Run Ahead

By 4PM I was quite weary, so I decided to call it a day. I landed twenty-three trout in 5.5 hours of fishing. The largest trout measured twelve inches, and only two of my catches were rainbows. Despite the relatively small size of the South Platte trout, I enjoyed the day, as I covered a large amount of stream mileage, and I moved quickly from pocket to pocket. The hares ear was my most productive fly; but the fat Albert, salad spinner and RS2 also earned their time on my line. After a couple hours on the river I learned that the most productive locations were long pockets and runs through moderate riffles. The fish seemed to relish places, where they could spread out in water with moderate depth and moderate current velocity. Large deep holes and slow moving pools did not produce, and I learned to skip over these sections of the river.

Fish Landed: 23

South Platte River – 04/13/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/13/2017 Photo Album

Based on my many years of fly fishing, I can attest to the fact that history rarely repeats itself, but Thursday was mostly an exception to that rule. I made plans to return to the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on April 13 with my North Platte River fishing companion Steve. We met at 8AM at his home in Lone Tree, and after a two hour and fifteen minute drive to the tailwater below Eleven Mile Dam, we arrived at a small parking lot next to the river.

One major deviation from my experience on Tuesday aside from a different fishing buddy, was our location, since we drove the length of the canyon, until we were two hundred yards below the dam. As was the case on Tuesday the flows remained at 80 CFS; however, the sky was clear blue for the entire day, and the high temperature peaked in the upper sixties.


Starting Point Below the Bridge

I assembled my Sage four weight and then ambled to the bank just downstream of the bridge, while Steve chose to explore the river on the upstream side. I hesitate to call the structure a bridge, since it was an earthen embankment with four large culverts carrying the cold volume of water under the road. The upper river where we fished on Thursday was wider and shallower than the stretch that Trevor and I covered on Tuesday. Before I chose my approach, I paused and observed the deep run and pool in front of me. Immediately I spotted five or six fish in the two depressions downstream from the riffle and run, where the river poured through the pipes.

The low clear water dictated that I avoid a strike indicator and split shot, and I also concluded that the plunk of my revered size 8 fat Albert would create too much disturbance. I pulled a size 12 olive stimulator from my fly box and knotted it to my line along with a size 20 soft hackle emerger and a mercury black beauty. I sprayed casts over the depression near my position and then covered another one directly across, but the large trout continued to hug the stream bed, as they were unimpressed with my three fly offering. I exchanged the black beauty for a size 20 RS2, but that failed to reverse my fortunes.

After twenty minutes of futile casting I advanced to the nice deep runs just below the bridge. The water was faster in this area, and I could observe some decent fish hovering in the depths next to the heavier current. I executed an abundant quantity of drifts over the elusive trout before me, but once again the fish treated my flies like inert flotsam. How could I interest these fish in my offerings? I conjectured that my flies were not getting deep enough given the position of the trout on the stream bottom, so I swapped the RS2 for a heavier beadhead hares ear nymph. My minor attempt at change was also soundly rejected. During this entire episode I witnessed only one or two surface rises, and I concluded that any potential baetis hatch was not yet in progress. I was puzzled however by the lack of interest in my blue winged olive nymph imitations, since they generally provide some action in the hours before an emergence.

I glanced at my watch and noted it was 11:30, so I decided to check out Steve’s results on the west side of the bridge. He reported that he landed one nice brown trout on a blue winged olive emerger. The water on the upstream side of the bridge was slower, and a series of quasi rock dams created some deeper troughs in the middle. Steve was positioned below the widest concentration of rock structures, and once again I could see an abundance of nice fish spread throughout the area. As I observed and chatted with Steve, several active fish slowly rose to the surface and sipped a tiny morsel of food from the film. Several fishermen were above Steve, and we were unwilling to abandon his location, so we decided to eat lunch in shifts. I took the first time slot and returned to the car and ate my lunch quickly, while I sat next to the river where I fished during the morning.


Another Fisherman in Some Nice Water Above Us

When I returned, I noticed another fishermen between Steve and the bridge, so I claimed the position vacated by Steve, and he retreated to the car to grab a quick bite. During Steve’s absence I removed the three fly dry/dropper arrangement and tied a size 18 CDC blue winged olive to my line. Based on my experience on Tuesday I tied five new size 18’s and three new 20’s in anticipation of the Thursday return to Eleven Mile Canyon, and one of the 18’s found a home on my line. I began making reach casts across the current lanes, and then allowed the flies to drift downstream. These drifts floated my fly over numerous prospects, but the only response was a pair of refusals by a small brown trout eight feet below me.

Steve returned quickly, and I allowed him to reclaim his spot. I actually preferred fishing from the opposite side, where I could employ long downstream drifts similar to my approach on Tuesday, so I announced my intention to Steve and then crossed the bridge and walked along the dirt road that led to a campground. The northwest side of the river would become my home for the remaining 2.5 hours of fishing on April 13. From my vantage point at the top of the riffles I could see an abundant quantity of sizable fish spread throughout the deep riffles, the downstream pool, and the smooth flats next to the bank.


In the Water


Pleased With This Catch

The hatch intensified a bit by 12:30, but it never achieved the intensity of Tuesday, nor did it last as long. The clear blue sky, warmer temperatures and intermittent wind probably explain the inferior baetis hatch, but there was enough mayfly activity to interest the residents of the South Platte River. The fly fishing was more challenging than Tuesday, but I managed to land ten fish over the course of the afternoon. All the netted fish responded to my newly tied CDC BWO, as seven sipped the size 18, and the last three fell for the size 20. More impressive than the number of fish was the size and variety. My net felt the weight of two trout in the fifteen inch range with most of the remainder occupying the 12 – 14 inch slot. I was quite pleased to land two absolutely magnificent cutthroat trout that displayed a deep copper-gold body color and vivid fine spots. A fourteen inch cutbow exhibited the stripe of a rainbow and the prototypical slash of a cutthroat. Three rainbows were among my fish count, and four brown trout rounded out the day. One of the rainbows and a cutthroat stretched the measuring tape to fifteen inches.


All my landed fish responded to a downstream presentation. I stood at the very top of the riffles above the cluster of large rocks, and I made casts directly downstream. I checked my cast high and allowed a substantial amount of slack fly line to pile in the current, and then I executed stack mends and wiggled my rod tip to allow a long drift. I recall several cases where a fish bulged and inhaled my fly fifty to seventy feet below me. Needless to say the surge of excitement that resulted from landing sizable fish on dry flies presented with long downstream drifts was exhilarating.


Stretched Out

Meanwhile nearly all of Steve’s success resulted from upstream casts to the faster water with a three fly set up that included two dries and an emerger. All of Steve’s landed fish crushed the emerger, and this made me puzzle over this circumstance. Perhaps the fish in the fast runs and riffles were keyed on emergers, while the fish in the slower areas spread out and sipped duns? I vowed to test this theory in a future visit.


A Better Grip

In summary it was another banner dry fly day on the South Platte River. I landed ten gorgeous cold water fish, and all sipped a CDC BWO that was presented on a downstream drift. The day was not total perfection, as I experienced a large number of surface refusals and underwater snubs, and my arm ached from the huge quantity of casts, but the superior size and variety of fish made the trip worthwhile. Prime time in Colorado is commencing.

Fish Landed: 10


South Platte River – 04/11/2017

Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Elevenmile Canyon

South Platte River 04/11/2017 Photo Album

Everything was set. The flows were nearly ideal at 80 cfs, and the high temperature was projected to reach the low fifties. I contacted my new friend @rockymtnangler, and he agreed to join me for a day in Eleven Mile Canyon on the South Platte River. The fly shop web sites indicated that we could expect midge hatches in the morning and blue winged olives in the afternoon.

Since @rockymtnangler (also known as Trevor) is the proud owner of a rod vault, he performed the driving duties, and I assembled my Sage four weight and slid it into one of his empty rod vault tubes, when he arrived to pick me up at 7:30AM. We departed Stapleton, and after negotiating some relatively heavy rush hour traffic in Denver, we arrived at the special regulation water of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon by 10AM.

I reaped the benefit of the rod vault when we arrived, and after I climbed into my waders, I was prepared to attack the beautiful crystal clear flows below the dirt road where we parked. Trevor and I carefully negotiated a steep path down a rocky bank next to Trevor’s car, and we found ourselves on the water ready to fish by 10:30. I walked downstream a bit to a nice pool, while Trevor took a position next to a gorgeous deep pool directly below the car.


End of the Drift

In the first 1.5 hours Trevor and I each landed two decent trout. My first fish was a thirteen inch brown trout that snatched the beadhead hares ear in a riffle of moderate depth above a deep slow moving pool. Trevor netted a fine rainbow concurrent with my initial brown, and we celebrated our “double”. After photographing and releasing the brown, I carefully angled across the river and prospected a couple marginal pockets with the fat Albert trailing a beadhead hares ear and mercury black beauty. I exchanged a RS2 for the black beauty after an unproductive half hour trial period.


Very Nice Beginning

The second pocket was noteworthy for its mediocre appearance, but I tossed a couple casts to the top, and on the third drift I was shocked when a pulsing weight bent my rod tip, as I lifted to continue my upstream progress. The cause of my vibrating rod was a welcome twelve inch brown trout that displayed the tiny black beauty in the corner of its mouth.


Looking for Rises

I continued my progress to the opposite bank and moved to a position opposite Trevor in the gorgeous riffle, run and pool, where he initially staked out a spot. I was certain that the riffles of moderate depth at the top of the run would deliver a fish before lunch, but my expectations were misplaced. Trevor moved downstream toward the slower moving tail of the pool, and he reported a series of sporadic rises in the smooth deep area where the center current fanned out into a pool. I offered some drifts from my side of the river, but the pod of fish in the deepest section disregarded my flies. I observed quite a few nice fish below me, so I clipped off the three fly set up and converted to a single size 22 CDC BWO. In the remaining time before I climbed to the car to obtain my lunch, I managed to generate a few frustrating refusals, but mostly futile casts.

While I was stuffing my backpack with my lunch as well as Trevor’s, I heard him shout from the edge of the river below. I quickly pulled on my light down coat, as I was chilled while standing waist deep in the cold tailwater, and then I slowly slid down the angled gravel path and joined Trevor. Trevor was quite excited and announced that the hatch advanced in intensity, and the length of the pool was littered with rising fish. I decided to delay lunch and quickly crossed at the tail of the pool and claimed a position on the western bank. Trevor informed me that five or six fish were rising in the moderate riffles in front of me, but the glare of the sun made following my tiny size 22 CDC BWO very difficult. I shifted my focus to trout rising along the center current seam, but once again the tiny mayfly imitation was mostly ignored, with a couple refusals in the mix to heighten my frustration.


Dave Is Pleased

I queried Trevor, and he reported that the baetis where quite large and probably a size 16 or 18. This information prompted me to swap the size 22 for a size 18 with a fairly tall and bulky CDC wing. This move paid off, and I began to connect with South Platte River trout. Between 12:30 and 3:00 I landed ten additional trout, with three showing off the buttery yellow color that distinguishes a brown trout. Rainbow trout were the prevalent species, as seven striped beauties spent time in my net. All the afternoon fish sipped the size 18 CDC BWO, as the baetis adults emerged in waves over the 2.5 hour period. The heaviest emergence periods seemed to coincide with long periods of cloud cover. As the hatch intensified, the regularity of the rises increased, and my confidence surged. If I focused on a steady riser and made accurate downstream drifts, I could bank on a sipping rise, and in many cases I was rewarded. The rainbows measured in the twelve to fourteen inch range, and they did not slide into my net without a spirited tussle.


One of My Better Brown Trout

Trevor meanwhile was enjoying similar luck on his side of the river, as he tossed an assortment of size 16 and 18 flies such as a parachute adams and a CDC and deer hair comparadun. By 2PM we endured an extended lull, so I migrated downstream to the smaller pool, where I initiated my fishing day in the morning. I paused on the west bank and observed the entry riffle and deep pool for three minutes. As expected I spotted a nice active fish, as it hovered just below the surface and revealed sipping rises from time to time. I waded across a shallow intervening run and positioned myself five yards upstream of the sighted fish, and twenty-five feet across.


Gorgeous Colors

I stripped out a decent amount of line, and I fired a cast, so that it fluttered down ten feet above my targeted stream dweller. I was able to see my small fly on the surface, and I patiently waited, as the current carried the small mayfly downstream. When the small lint-like speck bobbed a few inches above the targeted fish, it slid six inches to the side and sipped the fraud. I could barely contain my excitement, as I gently lifted my rod tip and found myself connected to a spirited streaking rainbow trout. The annoyed feeder streaked back and forth a few times and gathered up my slack fly line. I shifted from stripping to playing the trout off the reel, and the watery foe made one more streaking dash that stripped additional line from the reel. After the last rush upstream I gained the upper hand and guided the colorful male into my net. Trevor waded into a position upstream of where I kneeled to release my prize, and he snapped some timely photos. Trevor was impressed with the hooked jaw of the vanquished rainbow in my net.


The Release

Eventually the lower pool remained quiet, so we returned to our previous positions in the large pool that occupied our efforts for most of the afternoon. Another wave of dense BWO emergence erupted during the last thirty minutes, and I managed to land number ten from the moderate riffle section at the top. This segment of the pool thwarted me for most of the day, but it finally delivered, when I executed downstream casts from the shallow riffles directly above.


Mauled CDC BWO Accounted for Ten Trout on Tuesday

Trevor suggested that we quit at 2:40, so we could leave with the memories of our last outstanding fish landed, but the pool was alive with rising fish. I waded downstream a bit and managed to land two more thirteen inch rainbow trout on downstream drifts along the edge of the center current seam. At three o’clock we decided to quit in order to get a jump on the long return drive; however, the pool remained alive with regular risers.

What a day! It has been quite awhile since I experienced a day, when I landed double digit trout on a dry fly. The duration of the blue winged olive hatch was impressive. I fought off the urge to switch to a dry/dropper approach with an RS2 and soft hackle emerger, and I was pleased with the results. Fishing a single dry fly to spotted rises is really the essence of fly fishing, and that approach defined my success on April 11. Trevor registered an equally enjoyable day on his maiden visit to Eleven Mile Canyon, and he repeatedly expressed his desire to return. He characterized Tuesday as his best ever day of stream fishing. Spring fly fishing in Colorado is heating up, and I am excited by that prospect.

Fish Landed: 12

South Platte River – 02/16/2017

Time: 9:30AM – 11:30AM

Location: Waterton Canyon

South Platte River 02/16/2017 Photo Album

My friend Danny Ryan convinced me to get out of the house and fish. The high temperature in Denver was forecast to spike in the mid-seventies, and I needed to focus my mind on something other than the injury I sustained while skiing at Breckenridge on February 6. I slapped an elastic knee brace on my left knee and packed the new Santa Fe and departed for southwest Denver and Waterton Canyon.

In anticipation of my second fishing outing of 2017 I spent Wednesday afternoon transferring my flies from my old streamer wallet to a new one, that I received as a Christmas gift. I pruned quite a few ancient flies from my collection and vastly improved the organization of my streamer and nymph container. I should probably devote an afternoon to this every year prior to fishing early in the season.


Done. New Streamer Wallet Populated.

When I arrived in the parking lot near the lower end of Waterton Canyon, the temperature was hovering around fifty degrees, so I wore my light REI down jacket. This proved to be a mistake. My first order of business was to find Danny, so I embarked on a crude path along the southeast side of the river, but after fifteen minutes of whacking through brush, he was no where to be found. I reversed my direction and crossed the road at the bridge, and then I continued on a twisting fisherman path for another twenty minutes. I passed two older fishermen near the bridge, and then I wandered a long distance without meeting another person. Where could he be? I noticed his truck was parked in the lot when I arrived, so he had to be in the vicinity.

Once again I reversed my direction and increased my pace until I returned to the bridge. By now the air temperature warmed into the upper fifties, and the extensive hiking kindled my body temperature to an overheated range. I checked the parking lot, and Danny’s truck was still in place, so I reconsidered my search options. I concluded that he must have waded downstream, so I crossed the bridge and then followed a faint path to an area where the river widened quite a bit. Two spin fishermen occupied the bank in this area, but there was no sign of Danny.


Between the Bridge and Lake

I reversed my course one final time, and as I approached the bridge, I spotted a fisherman who resembled Danny in stature. Sure enough it was him, so I shouted, and he returned a greeting. Once we connected, we progressed upstream toward the bridge and then beyond. Much to our amazement the popular deep run above the bridge was vacant, so we paused to prospect our nymph rigs in the clear deep run and pool. I spotted some movement toward the upper end of the pool, so I dropped my pine squirrel leech and salad spinner in the entry riffle. On the second drift near the heart of the pool, the small clear thingamabobber paused, and I executed a sudden hook set. For a split second I felt weight and observed the flash of a rainbow trout, but then the elusive prize escaped, and I was left to continue my pursuit of the first fish of 2017.


Attractive Hole

After some additional half-hearted casts to the pool, Danny and I abandoned the prime location and migrated farther upstream. In short order we encountered another nice deep run, so we paused and made some additional prospecting drifts, but this area was not productive. Again we reeled up our lines and continued our upstream progress to an area with an abundance of brush and fallen logs next to a deep narrow pool. Four fishermen were above us, and we did not spot any fish near our approach, so we began to circle around the other fishermen on a nice defined trail. After five minutes of walking, however, Danny decided that he needed to call it quits in order to return to work by a reasonable time.

We turned around and hiked back to the parking lot, where we said our goodbyes and promised to meet again in the near future. I enjoyed my time outdoors in the mild February weather, but the fishing was extremely slow. The low water translated to very few deep holding spots, and the fish seemed to be in scarce supply. At least I experienced my first connection of the new year.

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River – 01/30/2017

Time: 11:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Deckers, CO

South Platte River 01/30/2017 Photo Album

A streak of unseasonably warm weather in January 2017 infected me with the fly fishing bug, so I responded with a trip to the South Platte River below Deckers, CO. I chose Deckers, as it is a tailwater, and therefore less subject to ice over, and the river there flows through a relatively wide valley. Steep walled canyon drainages are not likely candidates for January fishing in Colorado.


Attractive Piece of Water

I convinced Jane to join me, and we departed Denver by 9:40, and this enabled us to pull into a dirt parking area at the first ninety degree bend downstream from Deckers by 11:15. I was surprised by the number of fishermen present on a Monday in January, but I suppose the dose of warm weather affected others in a manner similar to my response. The river was fairly low at 80 CFS, but it was mainly open with occasional ice shelves along the bank. When we first encountered the river at Nighthawk, I was concerned about my ability to fish, as only a narrow ribbon of flowing water was visible, and many small icebergs tumbled through the slower moving open sections. The air temperature was 45 degrees as I prepared to fish, so I pulled on my down vest and New Zealand brimmed hat with ear flaps. Since this was my first outing of 2017, I tested my warranty replacement waders and the studded soles on my Korkers, that I received as a Christmas present.


My Starting Point on Monday

The new equipment performed quite well, and I cannot understand why I did not buy studded wading boots sooner. The South Platte River at 80 CFS is not difficult to wade, but I clearly felt the benefit of the improved traction from the studded vibram soles. The weather gradually warmed until I was fishing in 55 degrees, and I removed the ear flaps and swapped my head gear for a wide brimmed hat.

I wish I could report the same level of success with my fishing on January 30, but I am unable to do so. I began my quest for the first fish of the year just above the first bridge below Deckers, and I configured my line with a strike indicator, split shot, flesh colored San Juan worm, and salad spinner midge imitation. I probed all the deep holes and pockets between the bridge and the run across from the car, before I broke for lunch. Halfway through this effort I swapped the San Juan worm for an orange scud, and then I traded the salad spinner for a size 18 mercury flashback black beauty. I was certain that the flashy midge imitation would produce, but it did not.


Mercury Black Beauty Joins the Ice Shelf

Before lunch Jane took a long walk in both directions and reported hordes of fishermen above the Deckers bridge as well as full pullouts downstream from our position. I considered my options, and I decided to drive back downstream, until we were outside the special regulation water. Many times the title “catch and release” and “special regulations” attracts crowds, and especially on warm days in January. We traveled downstream until we were roughly halfway between Scraggy View and Nighthawk. I grabbed my rod and cut to the river directly across from the car, and here I encountered a wide shallow riffle. I carefully negotiated over some shelf ice until I approached a nice section below a ninety degree bend where two currents merged after splitting around a small island. The river was deep and relatively slow moving at the junction of the currents, and I was certain that this structure would deliver my first fish.


Deep Trough Next to Ice Shelf Fished After Lunch



My Only Catch

Unfortunately it was not to be. I fished for an hour with the orange scud and black beauty, but the only reward for my efforts was a six inch cube of ice that became embedded with my orange scud. I dutifully photographed my inanimate catch, and then I reeled up my line and found Jane basking in the sun next to the river by the Santa Fe. The wind kicked up a bit, so she was eager to begin the drive back to Denver. When we arrived in Stapleton, we noted that the temperature was 62 degrees. Despite my inability to catch fish on January 30, I still enjoyed a gorgeous day in a beautiful environment, and I tested out some new equipment, so it was a success in many ways.

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River – 10/03/2016

Time: 9:30AM – 2:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/03/2016 Photo Album

Monday October 3, 2016 qualifies as one of my worst days of fly fishing since I adopted this addictive pastime over thirty years ago. The source of my discontent is a four letter word. The four letter word is wind.

I arrived at the parking area along the South Platte River at nine o’clock, and when I attempted to get out of the car, the wind repeatedly forced the hinged door back to a closed position. Only after applying my full body weight and both hands was I able to swing the door to a fully open position. I should have accepted this as nature’s way of warning me to change my plans, but I foolishly pursued my scheduled day of fishing.

The air temperature on the dashboard was 53 degrees, and I knew from past experience that this was very tolerable if dressed appropriately. I swapped my high tech short sleeve shirt for an Under Armour long sleeve undershirt, that I wear while skiing. Over this base layer I added my fishing shirt and an insulating fleece cardigan. I elected to wear my brimmed New Zealand hat with ear flaps for additional comfort. I felt reasonably warm as I assembled my Sage four weight rod and then ambled to the edge of the river downstream from my parking spot.

I tied a beige pool toy hopper to my line, and beneath the foam imitation I added a hares ear nymph. The area in front of me contained numerous attractive deep runs and pockets, but it was enveloped by shadows, and this made following even the large foam attractor difficult. I persisted and stationed myself in a manner that enabled me to get the best lighting, so I could follow the drift. After ten minutes of prospecting with the two flies and no signs of trout, I added a salvation nymph as the third bottom fly.

I am embarrassed to report that after an hour of empty casting, I landed my first fish, a small brown trout. I was wading across the river to a new position closer to the far bank, and as the flies dangled behind me, the aggressive brown trout latched on to the salvation nymph. Who was I to reject this good fortune?


Zoomed and Better Lighting

By 11:30 I moved around the bend and slightly above the Santa Fe, so I decided to return to the car for an early lunch. During the morning session the wind continued to howl, and this made casting a very difficult endeavor. Sporadic side gusts played havoc with my accuracy, and I executed numerous casts to obtain the desired drift, when normally I can place my flies very close to the target on the first attempt. Head winds were the worst, and I cannot even remember how often my cast was blown back to my feet. I reacted to the strong wind by overpowering the forward cast, and the rod tip actually touched the surface of the river on many occasions.

After lunch the wind velocity actually increased. I prospected a couple juicy runs, and then I approached a deep pocket, and I spotted three or four decent fish clustered in the deepest section near the tail. As I looked on, the fish demonstrated no reaction to my flies, and I concluded that the dry/dropper method was ineffective because my flies were not drifting along the bottom. I clipped off the pool toy and nymphs and converted to a strike indicator nymphing set up. I began with a beadhead hares ear and a soft hackle emerger, and this approach was moderately successful.


Best Fish of the Day

Between noon and two o’clock I landed three additional small brown trout. In addition I experienced several temporary hook ups, so the change in tactics seemed to pay off. Unfortunately the wind continued to gust, and I actually endured numerous periods when I was unable to cast. In fact I could barely hold my stance in an upright position, as the wind attempted to undermine my balance. Even with the splt shot and strike indicator adding weight to my line, casting continued to be a difficult chore, and the only way I could combat the head wind was to cast toward two o’clock. The angled cast allowed me to shoot line, but mending upstream was very challenging and drag was impossible to prevent.


Productive Pool

Several two minute periods elapsed when I was forced to turn my back to the wind, and the most forceful gusts lifted spray from the surface of the river and hurled it toward my face. By two o’clock I was sufficiently frustrated to call it quits. I hoped for a blue winged olive hatch, but such a fortuitous occurrence would have been wasted, since the tiny mayflies would have been whisked toward land before the trout were even aware of their presence. The wind showed no signs of abating, and I decided to save my arm and back muscles for more advantageous conditions. Hopefully this is a day that will quickly fade from my memory.

Fish Landed: 4



South Platte River – 09/06/2016

Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 09/06/2016 Photo Album

After a rough day on Clear Creek I was anxious to test my theory that tailwaters are the answer during the doldrum period that typically lasts from the middle of August through the first week of September. My watch displayed 11AM as I dipped my wading boots in the South Platte River, and although the dashboard registered a chilly 50 degrees during my drive, the sun warmed the air nicely, as I now ventured into the cold tailwater. The afternoon was a different story, as an abundance of clouds blocked the sun and prevented the temperature from getting beyond the seventies. The gray clouds never yielded rain, but strong gusts of wind made casting a challenge between 3 and 4:30.

The other variable of concern to a fisherman was the stream flow. Prior to my trip I checked the DWR web site, and the graph depicted a horizontal line holding steady at 182 cfs. I was concerned that this was a bit high, but when I approached the river, it was obvious that the level was quite manageable. I was easily able to move around, although I remained along the bank that bordered the fisherman path for the entire day. The fish seemed to love the cold moderately high flows, as they could spread out, but they also benefited from the protection associated with additional depth. I likewise appreciated the additional volume of water, as it allowed me to approach my target areas closer than is typical for low end of summer conditions.


182 CFS Looks Great

I began my quest for fish with a Charlie boy hopper and a beadhead hares ear, and these offerings failed to interest any fish in the first couple juicy pockets. I began to fear a slow day, so I quickly adjusted and added a salvation nymph below the hares ear. In addition I exchanged the Charlie boy for a pool toy to provide the additional buoyancy necessary to support two size 16 beadhead nymphs. The move paid off, and as the dry/dropper drifted in a deep slot next to a large boulder, the hopper dipped, and I executed a swift hook set.

The hook point penetrated the lip of a hungry fish, and it immediately streaked away from me into heavier current, as I allowed line to rip from my reel. Unbeknownst to me, however, the fly line wrapped around the butt of my rod, and I observed the sickening sight of my line drifting in the current, as the escape artist dove into the main current with my salvation nymph in its mouth.


An Early Rainbow or Cutbow Trout

After some healthy grieving I hooked a second fish, but it eluded my fly as well. Finally number three was a charm, and I landed a ten inch brown to initiate my fish count for the day, and it continued to climb until I broke for lunch with thirteen fish in the netted column. The water covered in the morning session was outstanding with plenty of pockets, deep runs and narrow slots. The fish loved this structure, and I reaped the benefits. Four fish found my net from one particularly productive area, and this included two thirteen inch rainbows. These would ultimately be two of the best fish landed on Tuesday, September 6.


Ready to Release



Lunch View

After lunch I lost a second salvation nymph when I was in the process of releasing a fish that was attached to the upper fly, the hares ear nymph. Not wishing to deplete my salvation supply further, I replaced it with a copper john, and the fish did not seem to mind the change. I did observe, however, that the fish favored the hares ear more in the afternoon, than was the case in the morning session.


Beautiful Pattern

At another juncture in the afternoon I broke off the copper john, and since I spotted a sparse emergence of blue winged olives, I decided to test a soft hackle emerger in place of the copper john. It was a decent idea, but I discovered that all my catches, while the soft hackle was on my line, emanated from the pool toy or hares ear. This observation caused me to remove the soft hackle emerger, and I replaced it with a salvation nymph; but rather than risk one that I tied in a size 16, I knotted on a size 14 that I purchased at the Conejos River Angler. The trout seemed to relish the larger size.


Spots Galore

Perhaps because of the gusty wind, the pool toy hopper produced more fish in the afternoon than was the case in the morning. I estimated that the pool toy accounted for five of the forty fish landed, but I also had quite a few long distance releases on fish that chomped the top fly.


My Kind of Water



Thirsty Deer

It was another amazing day on the South Platte River. I skipped the large pools and searched for the sections that offered pockets, slots, deep runs and moderate riffles; and these areas did not let me down. I love fishing dry/dropper in this manner, when I can approach fairly close and make quick short casts to likely spots and move at a rapid pace. It seemed that nearly every location that looked promising delivered a fish, and I reveled in the fast action and the electric anticipation of responsive fish. Of the forty fish landed, 32 were browns, and the remainder were rainbows with perhaps a cutbow or two in that mix. Based on my success on September 6, I suspect another 2016 trip may be on the calendar.

Fish Landed: 40

South Platte River – 08/17/2016

Time: 10:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: First .5 mile below Scraggy View where the road makes a 90 degree bend, and then the Oxbow area in the special regulation section.

South Platte River 08/17/2016 Photo Album

I avoided breaking my rod or falling in the river. Those are the two positives I can cite regarding my fly fishing trip to the South Platte River below Deckers on Wednesday August 17.

My sister and brother-in-law were in Colorado Springs at a bed and breakfast celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary, and Jane made plans to golf, so I had an unexpected day to myself. I checked out the local options, and given my shift in focus to tailwaters, the South Platte River at Deckers flowing at 300 cfs attracted my attention. The reports on the local web sites seemed encouraging with tricos, pale morning duns and blue winged olives in the picture, so I took the plunge and made the one and a half hour drive. Nearly all my trips to the Deckers area since the Heyman Fire were disappointing, but I was hopeful that the fishery recovered, and I expected reduced fishing pressure on a Wednesday.

The weather was gorgeous for human beings with the morning temperature in the low seventies and a clear bluebird sky. Unfortunately these conditions are typically not popular with cold water fish. When I departed the stream at 2:30, the thermometer reading on the dashboard registered 84 degrees. It would have been a great day to wet wade, but the pockets on my fishing shirt were not large enough to contain my fly box, and I had no alternative places to stash the flies besides the bib pocket on my waders.


Starting Point on the South Platte River

My first stop was approximately one half mile below the Scraggy View picnic area, where the river made a ninety degree bend and flowed below a small narrow island. I began fishing with a tan pool toy and a salvation nymph and beadhead hares ear, but after fifteen minutes and no interest, I made a change. I removed the hares ear and replaced it with a size 22 sunken trico. Given the warm temperatures I assumed that the trico hatch and spinner fall occurred early in the morning, but I speculated that some laggards remained in the drift. As I was configuring my line, a young tuber appeared at the bend, and then she paused across and slightly above my position. I was surprised to encounter a tuber at 11AM on a Wednesday, and I suspected that she was waiting for friends before continuing.


Upside Down Pool Toy

As this observation was taking place, I saw my hopper disappear, and I quickly reacted with a lift. My rod bent and the inertia of my hook set brought a thrashing brown trout to the surface, but just as suddenly it escaped and returned to the deep run. Given the brevity of the hookup, I assumed that it grabbed the tiny sunken trico.

I was now anxious to move up to the deep juicy run where the currents merged below the small island at the bend, but as I took my first step, three more tubers appeared from the left braid. Two teenage girls were balanced on the one tube, and they towed a second flotation device. Twenty yards behind them was a lucky young boy, and he splashed and floated right over the deep run that I anxiously planned to probe in pursuit of his cute friends.


The Channel Away from the Road

The tubers gathered across from me and went on their way, as I waded along the bank and approached the area below the island. I was not deterred by the disturbance and spent ten minutes covering the deep seam, but the fish apparently were affected, and my casts went unheeded. Since the swimmers floated along the left channel, I elected to work my way up the right braid, although it was shallower and much less enticing to this fly fisherman. I made long casts to the deeper areas next to the bank, which contained tall grasses with the expectation that some brown trout might lurk intending to ambush wayward terrestrials. My premise was solid, but the vision never materialized on August 17.

By 12:15 I reached a wide shallow section of the river that was unappealing as a fish holding area, so I crossed and climbed a steep bank and returned to the car. I decided to move to another location farther upstream, and the choice resulted in pulling into a roadside parking space next to the oxbow section of the river. The river at this juncture makes a large loop away from the road and then returns below a campground. I ate my lunch in the shade of some ponderosa pines, and then I gathered my fishing gear and hiked along the top of the knoll that causes the river to make a large double bend.


Oxbow Area

I began fishing on the northeast side of the loop, but once again the river seemed to be devoid of hungry fish. I moved up a bit and swapped the sunken trico for a RS2, and finally in a relatively shallow run behind an exposed rock a small brown trout slurped the surface fly. Or at least that is what I thought, until I played the fish and discovered that the trailing fly hooked the fish in the cheek. A second opportunity to move the fish counter was squandered.

The next segment of the river at the tip of the oxbow was very attractive, as the main current of the river ran against the far bank and created a huge deep run and shelf pool. I waded to the eastern side and began working my way through this stretch with renewed optimism. I made long casts and fixed my gaze on the hopper, as it bobbed along the current seam and through ideal trout holding areas. Finally I spotted a sudden dip and set the hook, and I was connected with a decent fish. I played it cautiously as it streaked back and forth several times, and then as I applied side pressure to bring it closer to me, the fly hurtled from the mouth of the finned resistance and crashed against the rock ledge wall behind me. Needless to say I was disappointed and discouraged simultaneously. My one brief glimpse suggested that the fighting fish was a thirteen or fourteen inch rainbow.


Soft Hackle Emerger

I moved on and fished the remainder of the juicy shelf pool, but my casts proved fruitless. A significant amount of loose aquatic vegetation floated by me, and this suggested that scuds were knocked loose and floated in the drift. I reacted to this theory by knotting an orange scud to my line, but it also was completely ignored. In a last ditch effort to solve the South Platte puzzle I replaced the orange scud with a size 20 soft hackle emerger, but this only served to temporarily boost my optimism.

The next area was marginal and characterized by a wide shallow streambed, so I quickly skipped around it until I stumbled across four fishermen. This group appeared to be two guides with their clients, and after greeting them with a hello, I circled around them. I was now back where the river flowed along the road, so I crossed and climbed the steep bank and returned to the Santa Fe. It was quite warm, and the adverse fishing weather seemed permanent, so I cut my losses and quit.

It has been quite a while since I was skunked, but Wednesday was one of those days. I had a few opportunities to land a fish, but three trout engagements in three and a half hours of fishing is a testament to difficult fishing conditions. The scenery was a positive, and I experimented with my new camera a bit. but overall Wednesday was not one of my better experiences. The August doldrums are clearly the new order.

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River – 06/13/2016

Time: 9:30AM – 3:30PM

Location: Downstream from Eleven Mile Canyon.

South Platte River 06/13/2016 Photo Album

Upon my return from Pennsylvania and Vermont, I was too busy catching up to consider fishing. The second week of June usually offers few options, as the rivers and streams of Colorado are usually swollen with high muddy run off, and given the average snow pack of the past winter, I had no reason to believe 2016 would be any different. By Sunday, however, I made solid headway on my list of backlogged “to do’s”, so I decided to take a peek at the DWR streamflow data.

As I expected, most flowing water options were not in play, but I was surprised to see that the South Platte River near Lake George displayed flows in the seventies. Two other tailwaters that stood out as possibilities for a fishing trip were the Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir and the Taylor River, but these destinations required longer trips and possibly an overnight stay. I made plans to visit the South Platte River once again on Monday, June 13. This represented my fifth trip to the Park County river, and the previous four were quite successful.


Rocks and Pockets

I arrived at the river by 9AM and quickly assembled my Sage four weight rod. I took some time to review my fly box since I put a major dent in my fat Alberts in Pennsylvania. My boat box, which I transport in the car on every fishing trip, did not contain additional fat Alberts, so I filled some open slots with pool toys and Charlie boy hoppers. By 9:30 I was ready to attack the river, and I began with a tan pool toy as my top fly, and beneath that I dangled a salvation nymph and beadhead hares ear. In the first half hour I managed to land a small rainbow and slightly larger brown trout on the hares ear, but some huge dark clouds appeared on the western horizon, and they were accompanied by the distant rumble of thunder.

By 10AM some rain began to fall from the sky and the thunder was closer, so I quickly found a place to wade to shore and climbed a bank to the Santa Fe. Just as I arrived the clouds opened, and I removed my gear and climbed into the drivers’ seat, where I watched sheets of rain descend for ten minutes. Once the precipitation dwindled to a light sprinkle, I prepared to resume my quest for trout by exchanging the pool toy for a fat Albert with a green floss body. The fat Albert is a very buoyant fly, and I wanted a top fly that could support two size 16 beadhead nymphs. I also removed the salvation nymph and replaced it with an emerald caddis pupa. Believe it or not, I found a small size 16 natural caddis with a gray body inside the car while I was waiting out the rain, and I seemed to recall that an emerald pupa sometimes matures into an adult with a gray body.


Nice Fish Landed in the Morning

I returned to my point of exit prior to the storm and began working my way upstream Suddenly the sky turned blue and the sun reappeared, and fish began to attack my nymphs. By noon I registered ten fish landed including the two prior to the storm, and all but two hammered the hares ear while the others favored the emerald caddis pupa. I approached the river with the same fast paced wade and cast strategy that worked in previous South Platte visits. The fish were smaller on average, but several of the first ten were husky twelve inch specimens.


Deep Coloration on This Brown Trout

After lunch I once again resumed my upstream migration, and this period was the most interesting phase of my day. Again some clouds blocked the sun, and this low light triggered several types of mayflies to emerge. I noticed small blue winged olives as well as a few that could be imitated by size sixteen flies. I was also delighted to view a smattering of pale morning duns. Generally PMD’s appear in decent numbers in the Deckers section of the South Platte in the middle of June, so I was quite pleased to see these size sixteen mayflies in the Lake George area on June 13.


Indian Paintbrush

The PMD observance caused me to rethink my fly alignment, and I swapped the emerald caddis pupa for a juju emerger. I conjectured that this medium olive creation would cover the larger BWO and the pale morning duns. In fact, I did land a couple trout that snatched the juju on the swing, but the hares ear continued to outproduce the second subsurface option. As I continued moving, the number of pale morning duns began to exceed BWO’s, so I once again made a swap and added a hare nation in place of the juju emerger. The hare nation is intended to copy the nymph stage of pale morning duns, and it did chip in with a few takers, but clearly the hares ear was preferred.

As these mayflies preoccupied my thoughts, the sky once again grew extremely dark and the sounds of thunder echoed across the valley. The deep reverberations were louder than the morning percussion, so I did not delay and quickly made my way back to the car as sheets of rain began to descend. I decided to use this break in fishing to move the car upstream closer to where I expected to end my day, and by the time I parked and turned off the windshield wipers, it was nearly over. The second storm sounded worse than number one, but it was much briefer and delivered less of a wallop.


Tail Wagging Rainbow Trout

The remainder of the afternoon continued in a manner similar to the morning and early afternoon, as I prospected all the likely pockets and runs with the three fly assemblage. At some point the hare nation seemed to be unproductive, and the very small BWO’s were still present, so I exchanged for a soft hackle emerger. This move landed me a fish or two, but the consistently favored fly was the hares ear nymph. By 3:30 I covered most of the attractive water, and once again some dark clouds appeared, although the threat of another storm was not imminent. Nevertheless I was weary from a day of aggressive wading and constant casting, so I called it quits with the fish counter resting on thirty.


Head Shot

During the afternoon I spotted several golden stonefly adults fluttering over the water, and I was curious if the fish might react to a dry fly. Over the last twenty minutes I fished a size ten Letort hopper with a light yellow body to see if I could attract any interest from the fish, but apparently the presence of these large insects on the water is not frequent enough for the fish to be tuned in at this early stage of the season. It was worth a try for future reference.

In conclusion I enjoyed a thirty fish day near the middle of June. I must admit that the predominant size of the fish was 6-9 inches, but I estimate that at least ten were in the eleven to twelve inch range, and that is not disappointing. I assumed that I would be fishing stillwater and managed to salvage one more decent outing on flowing water. I am thankful for the opportunity.

Fish Landed: 30

South Platte River – 05/23/2016

Time: 10:15AM – 7:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon just below Springer Gulch and special regulation water

South Platte River 05/23/2016 Photo Album

My love affair with the South Platte River encountered a small rough patch on Monday. It was another solid day, but I was spoiled by the three previous visits that yielded bountiful quantities of fish and above average size.

I contacted my young friend Danny Ryan to determine whether he was available to join me, and of course I touted the phenomenal days that left me in a state of euphoria on May 12, 13 and 20. Very little arm twisting was required, and Danny texted me that he cleared his calendar and planned to join me on a trip to Eleven Mile Canyon.

I arrived at Danny’s apartment at 7:15, and this enabled us to pass through the entrance gate for Eleven Mile Recreation Area by 9:30. We were about to discover one of the factors that made Monday more challenging and less enjoyable than my previous visits. We slowly drove on the dirt road that snakes along the nine mile length of the river, and once we passed Springer Gulch, the boundary with the catch and release section, every pullout was occupied with one or two vehicles. How could this many fishermen be on the river on a Monday? Does anyone still work in this nation? I speculated with Danny that the South Platte River in South Park is the only river relatively close to Denver that is not affected by early run off, and this explained the hordes of fly fishermen swarming along the upper reaches of the river. The other explanation was that too many people are reading my blog, but I suspect that reason is not likely.

We executed a U-Turn at the parking lot below the dam and returned along the dusty dirt road toward the entrance gate. After two miles we passed the border of the special regulation water, and we continued for another .5 mile. Here we noticed that the gradient increased, and the river passed through a narrows section with huge round boulders and deep plunge pools. This lasted for a short distance, and then the stream bed opened up a bit, and we decided to park and test our skills in this more moderate canyon section.

When I opened the car door, I met a chilly blast of wind, and this weather condition would be a constant irritant over the course of the entire day except for the evening period after 4PM. I elected to wear my Adidas pullover along with my raincoat as a second layer windbreaker. There were a few brief windows of sunshine, but overcast skies and a chilly breeze predominated for most of the day. I never experienced much success fishing after a cold front moved through an area, and Monday’s weather seemed to be one of those days. Certainly the atmosphere was cooler and drier than what Steve and I faced on Friday May 20. I blame the slower action and smaller fish on the combination of more adverse weather and crowds of fishermen forcing us to accept a secondary stream section.

Nevertheless Danny and I persisted. Experimenting with fishing the unregulated portion of Eleven Mile Canyon was actually an idea I pondered on Friday, but I was reluctant to suggest it to Steve when the highly desirable segment of the catch and release was open and unoccupied. I did well in the Happy Meadows area, another section open to bait fishermen, so I was convinced that I could catch fish in the section of Eleven Mile where standard regulations applied. The crowded circumstances of Monday forced me to test my theory.


Beautiful Brown Trout

Danny and I both began fishing with dry/dropper configurations. In my case I tied a fat Albert, ultra zug bug, and beadhead hares ear to my line; and I began to prospect all the usual locations that could harbor trout that evaded the bait and spin fishermen over the weekend. It took twenty minutes, but eventually I was on the board with a nice twelve inch brown trout. At eleven o’clock I spotted a few blue winged olives hovering over the stream, so I swapped the hares ear for a soft hackle emerger. Between our starting time of 10:15 and our lunch break at noon, I landed six trout, and all were brown trout. Three of my catch chose the soft hackle emerger as their food source, and the other three were attracted to the ultra zug bug.


Danny Prospects a Promising Run

After lunch Danny and I continued our progress upstream, and we actually passed under the bridge at Springer Gulch and fished the very bottom section of the special regulation area up until 3PM. At this time we bumped into another fishermen, so we reversed and returned to the car. During the early afternoon session, I abandoned the soft hackle emerger, as it ceased to deliver results, and instead I reverted to the beadhead hares ear. My lineup therefore consisted of the fat Albert indicator and the ultra zug bug and beadhead hares ear. The fish counter ratcheted up to ten during this time period, and my netted fish included a husky fifteen inch rainbow. Hooking and landing this fish was clearly the highlight of my day. I angled a short cast around a huge boulder to a narrow deep slot, and after a very brief drift I lifted to make another cast. This action apparently looked like escaping food to the rainbow, and it struck the beadhead hares ear.


Dave's Best on the Day

Once we returned to the car, we decided to make another move toward the gate, and this time we found a small pullout next to the river just southeast of the single tunnel. Once again we applied our dry/dropper technique to water that was similar to the section fished earlier. I managed to add five additional fish to my tally, but these fish were smaller on average, with one or two reaching the twelve inch measurement. Since Danny works long hours, he wished to take advantage of a rare fishing day, and this motivated us to continue fishing until 7:30.


Beadhead Hares Ear Performed

Over the last hour I endured several refusals to the fat Albert, so I theorized that the fish were focusing their attention of surface food. In conjunction with this logic I decided to experiment with some dry flies that were more natural in appearance. I cast a light gray size 16 deer hair caddis in a nice pool with no response, and then I switched to a light olive size 12 stimulator. Neither of these options generated any interest, so apparently my hypothesis was off base. Danny meanwhile persisted with the dry/dropper arrangement and managed to net a few small fish on the hares ear and salad spinner.

In conclusion I ended my day with fifteen landed fish, and that sounds fairly decent. Consider however that I fished for nearly eight hours, and this translates to a catch rate of two fish per hour, and that is fairly average. In addition the size of the fish was beneath my experience on each of the three previous trips to the South Platte River. On a positive note I managed double digit fish on May 23, which is a decent accomplishment for a stream, when most of Colorado is in the early stages of run off. Also I spent my day in a beautiful canyon with my friend Danny who I had not fished with since March. Danny also achieved a double digit fish count day, so in retrospect it was a fun and productive day.

Trout Landed: 15