Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM
Location: Eleven Mile Canyon near twin tunnels and then across from a picnic area outside the special regulation water.
South Platte River 05/20/2016 Photo Album
Euphoria lingered as I sat down to craft this report of my fishing trip to the South Platte River on Friday May 20. The quantity of fish landed did not compare with my experience the previous Thursday and Friday, but the quality of fish is what caused my mind to dwell on a fun day.
Two of my fishing friends had rotator cuff surgery in 2016. Steve Supple had his operation performed on March 10, and his doctor informed him that he could resume fishing three months later. Steve is right handed and his right shoulder was repaired. Steve’s wife, Judy, emailed Jane on Tuesday to inform us that Steve was ready to make his first fishing trip.
It was a week since I enjoyed fast and steady action on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, and I yearned to return while flows remained in the ideal range. I suggested to Steve that we make Eleven Mile our destination, and after he checked the DWR stream flow data and determined that releases from Eleven Mile Reservoir continued to offer near ideal conditions at 75 cfs, we eagerly made plans to visit the South Platte River on Friday.
I arrived at Steve’s house in Lone Tree at 7:10, and we quickly transferred my gear to his Subaru, and we were on our way. An uneventful drive brought us to a pullout near the twin tunnels on the dirt road that borders the river at 10AM, and we waded into the river by 10:30. Steve chose to begin casting his nymphs in a gorgeous long run and pool just below a long slender island. The two channels merged at this point and created an inviting riffle and deep pool.
I meanwhile walked downstream for thirty yards to some faster water that contained numerous exposed boulders and deep pockets. This river structure was more to my liking, and I began with the usual fat Albert trailing a beadhead ultra zug bug and a beadhead hares ear. I tied ten fat Alberts this winter, and I continue to use the same one that served me during all my 2016 fishing trips since early March. I am sure it set some sort of record for hours of continuous service without breaking off or being sacrificed to a tree.
In addition to the flows being nearly ideal, the weather was similarly favorable. As we began fishing in the morning, the temperature was in the upper fifties, so I wore my fleece; but the bright sun amidst a deep blue sky quickly warmed the air until the mercury moved into the sixties. There were several periods of extensive cloud cover, but never any significant precipitation, and the gray skies enhanced the fishing conditions.
In the first half hour I methodically worked my way up the river and prospected some very appealing water without any positive results. When I reached Steve, he was on the side of the river below the road, so I approached the gorgeous deep run from the opposite bank. I made some nice drifts from the top of the run along the main center seam, and on the fifth such pass the fat Albert made a dive. I reacted with a hook set, and chaos ensued as an energized rainbow trout charged up and down the run. I maintained contact through several sudden streaks, but then the missile made an abrupt turn and shed the hook. It was fun to finally connect with a fish, but disappointment reigned with the loss of a substantial hook up.
A Nice Fat Rainbow
Just before this sequence of events Steve landed a very spunky fourteen inch rainbow from his side of the seam on a RS2, and I paused to snap some photographs before moving on. Steve remained at the junction pool while I migrated through the right channel around the long narrow island. Quite a few nice deep pockets and runs presented themselves, and I capitalized on the attractive water by landing five trout before returning to check in with Steve at approximately 11:30. Of the five fish that felt my net, three were brown trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and two were rainbows. One bow was a chunky fourteen inch fish and the second striped beauty was a fifteen inch beauty although not as wide as the first one.
Speckled Rainbow in My Net
When Steve informed me that he landed his fish on a RS2, I swapped my hares ear nymph for a soft hackle emerger, and three of the fish on the north channel nipped the emerger, and the other two grabbed the ultra zug bug. This brief morning session built my confidence that I could use my favorite dry/dropper technique to catch fish in Eleven Mile Canyon. I was impressed with the quality of the fish, and trout seemed to materialize in most of the locations where I expected to find them.
This Rainbow Was Long But Not As Chunky as Previous
When I joined up with Steve, I learned that he landed another fish. I informed Steve that I planned to continue upstream beyond the long slow pool below some high vertical rock walls, and I committed to return by noon for lunch. The plan played out as I envisioned, and I encountered some nice faster pockets and runs above the long pool. In the remaining half hour before lunch I landed three more healthy fish including two rainbows and a brown. One of the rainbows was another feisty thirteen inch well fed specimen. Just before noon I found a nice path that scaled the steep bank and brought me back to the road just west of the second tunnel.
Wow a Fatty
As I walked back toward the car, I met a trio of fishermen scaling the steep bank between the twin tunnels. The older of the three was struggling to climb the last ten feet as the loose gravel soil was absent of any toe holds. I offered the young gentleman on the road my wading staff, and he quickly accepted it and extended it to the struggling climber who grabbed the end. With the assistance of the young friend and the sturdy stick, the trailing fisherman finally crested the rim, and thank you’s were offered all around.
After lunch at the Subaru Steve and I decided to descend the same path that I used to return for lunch. Steve mentioned that he fished the water upstream of the second tunnel on previous trips, and he viewed it as an enjoyable area, although on many occasions it was occupied by guides and clients. We quickly gathered our rods and descended to the edge of the river, and we were pleased to see the absence of other fishermen. Steve found another juicy deep run and began to explore the depths with his indicator nymph rig.
Brilliant Stripe and Cheeks
Meanwhile I stayed with the dry/dropper combination and quickly found some very nice deep pockets, slots and runs where the river rushed around numerous exposed boulders. The river structure was similar to the right braid from the morning, and it matched my favorite type of fly fishing playground. In the first fifteen minutes I failed to generate any interest, and blue winged olives seemed to be absent, so I reverted to the beadhead hares ear. The hares ear was all I needed on Thursday and Friday May 12 and 13, so I was convinced that the trout in the upper section of Eleven Mile would relish it as well. In addition Steve and I observed two mayflies that were size sixteen, and I had a hunch that the larger hares ear might match the nymph stage of the larger mayflies that we saw.
I Love This Type of Water
My hunch was on target, and I began to land trout with increased regularity. Deep pockets and narrow troughs where currents merged were nearly sure things, and I grew quite confident that if I could find such places, I could extract a fish. Between lunch and 2PM I added six additional fish to my count, and nearly all were in the twelve to fifteen inch range. Rainbow trout predominated this fishing period, as they accounted for five of the six fish landed. Whereas most of the brown trout that I landed in Eleven Mile Canyon measured in the twelve to thirteen inch range, the rainbows on average were strong aggressive fish in the twelve to fifteen inch size slot. The two hours in the early afternoon of May 20 represented some of the best action of 2016. The beadhead hares ear was once again the star, as it enticed all but one of the early afternoon netted fish.
At two o’clock I wandered back to find Steve who reported slow action. He landed one trout in the initial run, but the river residents proved uncooperative after that. Since another fisherman was in view above my ending point, we decided to return to the car and then explore some water downstream outside the special regulation area. We were amazed at the number of fishermen that arrived while we were occupying prime locations near the twin tunnels, as nearly every available pullout contained one or two vehicles. After we passed Springer Gulch we drove for an additional couple miles until we reached a small picnic area on the right that contained a rest room facility. Steve parked here, and we crossed the road to examine the quality of the river. It appeared to be similar to the segments that we fished earlier in the day, so we agreed to give it another hour.
A Surprise Cutbow
Steve took a position halfway across the river below another nice run, and I walked down the road .1 mile and then dropped down a short bank and began fishing some deep pools and pockets around large rounded protruding boulders. I moved through some exceptionally deep pools without any success, but then I reached a section where the river widened a bit, and I was able to wade and reach some very attractive places in the middle and opposite side of the river. Finally my dry/dropper technique paid dividends, and over the last hour I landed three healthy trout that averaged twelve inches. One was a cutbow and two were wild brown trout with vivid red and black spots.
Brilliant Spots on This Wild Brown
It was just a superb day in the catch and release section of Eleven Mile Canyon. It was also certainly my best showing in the highly pressured tailwater, and I discovered that using the dry/dropper technique along with covering a lot of water yielded excellent results. I focused on faster pocket water sections because this type of structure worked well for me in the downstream areas of the South Platte the previous week. Also I continue to believe that most fishermen (fly, spinner and bait) avoid this type of water. The typical fisherman gravitates to long deep runs at the head of smooth pools. Fishing pocket water is hard work and necessitates careful wading while leaning into a forceful current. Rocks and sticks tend to grab flies and fly lines, and short drifts dictate frequent lifting and casting. All of these circumstances cause extreme fatigue on legs, elbows, shoulders and the back. Only a dedicated few attempt this style of fishing, thus this type of water is far less pressured.
I am already eager to make yet another trip to the South Platte River in the South Park area. As long as the water managers maintain flows in the 75 – 100 cfs range, exceptional fishing should continue. Stay tuned.
Fish Landed: 17