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.


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


South Platte River – 04/05/2018

Tiime: 11:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon near Tunnel 2

South Platte River 04/05/2018 Photo Album

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

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

Pool Where I Began on Thursday, April 5

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

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

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

This Pool Entertained Me All Afternoon

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

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

Right After Lunch

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

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

The Scene of My Entertainment

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

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


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

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

Silvery Rainbow Rests

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

Klinkhammer Style BWO Emerger Was the Hot Fly on Thursday

Growing Into the Tail

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

Perfect Rainbow Pose

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

The View from Behind

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

Fish Landed: 19

South Platte River – 03/08/2018

Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM

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

South Platte River 03/08/2018 Photo Album

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

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

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

Starting Point to 2018 in North America

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

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

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

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

Junction Pool Looked Attractive, But No Success

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

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

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

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

Fish Spotted in the Deep Trough in Center

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

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

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

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River – 10/08/2017

Time: 12:30PM – 3:00PM

Location: Waterton Canyon special regulation water

South Platte River 10/08/2017 Photo Album

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

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

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

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

Promising Pool

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

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

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

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

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

I Spotted a Few Rises in This Long Deep Pool

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

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

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River – 10/05/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Locatoin: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 10/05/2017 Photo Album

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

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

Great Pocket Water Ahead

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

One of the Better Trout on the Day

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

Best of the Day Was a Rainbow Trout

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

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

Did Not Attract Fish However

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

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

Fish Landed: 16

South Platte River – 09/23/2017

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 09/23/2017 Photo Album

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

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

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

Dan Works the Left Bank

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

Low Level Foliage on Fire

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

Picture Perfect

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

Very Nice South Platte Brown Trout

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

Gorgeous Spot Pattern

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

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

Fish Landed: 26