South Platte River – 04/26/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 04/26/2019 Photo Album

I do not normally promote viewing my photo album, but to gain a sense of my enjoyable day in Eleven Mile Canyon, I suggest that you click on the above link and take a peek. Today was a very nice rebound from a mostly disappointing trip on 04/05/2019. The best aspect of the earlier visit to the South Platte River was the companionship of @rockymtnangler and the outstanding lunch, that he prepared on the tailgate of his new truck.

A fun trip to the Green River occupied my calendar during the week of April 15, and I felt the pre-runoff fishing season quickly slipping away. Blue winged olives were the object of my pursuit, and the Arkansas River served as an appetizer on Monday. A sparse hatch occurred; however, surface feeding was not part of the equation. I managed to land four trout on subsurface baetis nymph imitations, but the experience was not the frenzied surface feeding event, that I was seeking.

Historically the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon provided dependable blue winged olive hatches in April and early May, so I decided to make the trek, while the weather was cooperative. I departed my home in Denver at 7AM, and this enabled me to arrive next to the South Platte River by 9:30. The temperature on the Santa Fe dashboard registered forty-eight degrees, so I pulled on my heavy fleece that previously served as the liner on a ski parka. I strung my Sage four weight and ambled down the dirt road for .4 mile, at which point I found a steep rocky path to the edge of the river. I quickly scanned the river and noted that it was clear, and the flows were nearly ideal at 90 CFS.

Near the Start on Friday

I decided to begin my pursuit of South Platte River trout with a buoyant and visible tan pool toy, and I then dangled a beadhead hares ear nymph and emerald caddis pupa. During the first twenty minutes I moved at a rapid pace, as the water was not to my liking. It consisted of very deep narrow pools between steep-sided boulders. This type of structure is fine, when rising fish are visible but is not preferable for blind casting a dry/dropper configuration. I finally arrived at a short section that exhibited some nice runs of moderate depth, but I remained scoreless, so I exchanged the emerald caddis pupa for a classic RS2. The move paid dividends, when a feisty thirteen inch rainbow nipped the baetis nymph imitation in a narrow run between two huge exposed boulders. Shortly thereafter another rainbow attacked the RS2, and I my optimism surged.

First Landed Fish

Home of the Rainbow Was the Narrow Run Between the Large Boulders

At this point the river reverted to a series of narrow deep plunge pools and rapids, so I took advantage of the worn trail and circled around and then approached a gorgeous wide pool. I was dissatisfied with the hares ear, so I swapped the middle fly out for a sucker spawn egg cluster, while I kept the RS2 in its previous position. This combination enticed a brown trout to hit the RS2, and at this point I decided to take my lunch break. I relished the idea of resting on a large rock next to the attractive pool, so I could observe, while I consumed my lunch.

Premium Run and Riffle

After lunch I abandoned the sucker spawn fly and chose a bright green go2 sparkle caddis pupa for the upper nymph position. I also replaced the classic RS2 with a sparkle wing version, since I was in reconfigure mode. Between 12:15 and 2PM these three flies occupied my line, and they performed admirably. I bolstered the fish count from three to nine, and two rainbows grabbed the go2 sparkle caddis pupa, while a cutbow crushed the pool toy, and the other three nabbed the RS2. This period was my favorite phase of the day, as I prospected all the likely spots and maintained a nice rhythm.

The cutbow was a special story, as it rose and refused the pool toy once. I rested it, while I prospected other runs and landed a nice rainbow. After I photographed and released the rainbow, I lobbed another cast to the narrow slot that harbored the cutbow, and it surfaced and slurped the foam terrestrial. What a beast! I could only fit the head and midsection of the fish in my net, and my hand was too small to grip the husky fish for a one-handed photo.

20″ Cutbow

Long and Powerful

Just before 2PM the intensity of the blue winged olive emergence escalated. I was positioned next to the long smooth pool adjoining a high vertical rock wall, when the action accelerated. This was the place where @rockymtnangler enjoyed his success on April 5. I removed my dry/dropper alignment and knotted a size 14 CDC BWO to my line, and I began presenting the tiny tuft in downstream drifts to the active trout across and below me. I managed to dupe one aggressive feeder, but it escaped after a fifteen second display of thrashing and jumping. The wind kicked up, and I was laboring to create drag free drifts. Eventually after a heavy bout of fruitless casting I decided to abandon the educated risers, and I moved upstream eighty yards to the next pool.

Some Width on This Brown

This pool was very large and wide and shallow, but I decided to wade toward the midsection and observe. Initially it seemed dead, but upon focused inspection I noticed three or four fish feeding across from me. I began executing some nice across and down drifts, but the results were not what I expected. One fish rose and refused my CDC olive twice, and then it was totally ignored. The same outcome resulted, when I placed casts in front of several other steady feeders.

Shallow Smooth Pool Produced During the BWO Hatch

Perhaps my fly was too small? I clipped it off and replaced it with a size 22, but this fly did not even produce refusals. I reached in my bag of BWO tricks and tried a size 20 Klinkhammer style BWO. The four fish next to me by this time were jaded from all the casting, so I surveyed the area below. This section of the pool was even more shallow, but despite this several fish were working the surface regularly. I moved downstream a few steps and shot an angled cast to two o’clock. Much to my amazement a bulge materialized in front of a small bump, where the current flowed over a submerged rock, and I instinctively reacted with a sweeping hook set. I felt the throb of a fish and played a nice rainbow to my net.

A Dry Fly Chomper

I now took a position below the midsection of the pool, and a pod of fish continued to feed, where the main center current spread out. I began shooting casts above this group, and this required punching the forward stroke into the wind. After a few short casts, I fired one above the rises, and a second trout sipped the Klinkhammer fraud. At this point I thought I found my salvation, but that proved to be a false assumption. I moved to the top of the run and pool, but these fish decided that the Klinkhammer was not to their liking.

Lots of Risers in This Area

The next section was a lengthy stretch of pocket water, so I abandoned the Klinkhammer and reverted to the dry/dropper method. I copied my earlier lineup, but I substituted a yellow fat Albert for the pool toy. I covered a lot of ground and managed to net a fine brown trout that nipped the RS2 to bring the fish count to twelve. The last fifteen minutes featured several very attractive runs, above two anglers, but the trout were not cooperative, perhaps because the other gentlemen disturbed the area. My watch displayed 4PM, so I climbed a very steep path and crested the rim to arrive at the dirt road, and then I made the short journey back to the car.

Friday on the South Platte River was a very successful day. I was mildly disappointed with my inability to capitalize on the steady feeding during the hatch, but this momentary setback was more than offset by the steady action that resulted from my dry/dropper prospecting. I landed a twenty inch cutbow, and eighteen and sixteen inch rainbows. All twelve fish except for one dink were thirteen inches or longer. Three brown trout joined the mix, and they were also very respectable fish. The weather was pleasant, the hatch provoked active feeding, and my thoughts were immersed in the challenge of fooling trout. What could be better?

Fish Landed: 12

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