Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM
Location: Eleven Mile Canyon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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