Tiime: 11:00AM – 4:30PM
Location: Eleven Mile Canyon near Tunnel 2
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What a day! 2018 is developing into a very memorable year for this avid fly fisherman.
Fish Landed: 19