Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM
Location: Whale Rock below Nighthawk and then the area just below where the Nighthawk road meets the South Platte
Fish Landed: 3
With Thursday expected to be a nicer day than Wednesday, and being in wait mode at work until the office manager announced that the numbers were ready for February, I decided to undertake another fishing venture. I looked at the flows on the streams closer to Denver and settled on the South Platte River below Deckers. The flows out of Cheesman Reservoir were 97 cfs and they increased to 117 in the village of Trumbull. This is fairly low, but I’ve seen flows around 50, so I figured it wouldn’t be ridiculously low. I can reach the lower stretch of the South Platte in 1.5 hours so this played into my thouight process as well.
I took care of several chores and departed the house by 9:30 and traffic in Denver was light so I arrived at my destination and was in the water fishing by 11AM. I chose to park at the lot by Whale Rock a couple miles downstream from Nighthawk. The temperature was in the low 50’s when I began fishing so I wore one layer of fleece, and I was quite comfortable. Another fisherman was upstream in the area where the river divided around a small island and I wanted to fish the pool and eddy at the bend so rather than begin further downstream where the river shoots through some large boulders, I elected to begin at the bend pool.
I rigged with a strike indicator on my tapered leader and added a split shot then a beadhead RS2 and a zebra midge. I began at the lower end of the bend pool and began working my way up with casts directed to the seam between the current and the smooth pool on the opposite side. When I reached the midpoint of the seam, my indicator paused and I set the hook and felt the throbbing of a decent fish. The brown trout fought defiantly which surprised me as I expected a small 9-12 inch brown. When I finally netted and photographed my catch is stretched out to around 13 inches. I was quite pleased with this early outcome. When I cast to the very top of the seam I noticed another pause and hooked and landed another brown in the 11-12 inch range. I was feeling pretty confident as I’d now landed two fish in the first half hour.
I wasn’t able to coax anymore trout from the bend pool, so I decided to fish up stream a bit along the high bank where the main current ran. I was working the narrow slot between the current and bank but to no avail. Meanwhile the fisherman above me did in fact appear and began fishing the top of the run that I was headed toward. He must have seen me as he retreated fairly quickly, but I decided to return to the area below the bend to water that was totally undisturbed.
I hiked down a narrow path for 50 yards or so and moved into the river where it divided into a small side channel. I began working my way upstream covering a lot of water quickly. The depth was only three to four feet and extremely clear so I made long uptream casts on my side and three quarters casts toward the far side. Nothing was showing interest and in fact I was seeing only one or two small trout bolting for cover as I waded slowly upstream.
Finally I got to a nice deep run with a slower moving pocket on the inside. I was sure this would yield some action, but again I was disappointed. I spotted some nervous water next to the opposite bank, so I quartered a cast up and across. Sure enough as the flies began to swing away from the bank, a brown hammered one of the flies. I set the hook and the fish immediately cleared the water but the hook came flying back. I moved up a bit and in similar fashion the indicator stopped in a deeper trough and I set the hook so that a rainbow launched out of the water. Once again the excitement dissolved as the fly came flying back free of any grip on the fish.
When I reached the bend I decided to adjourn to the car to eat my lunch as it was close to noon. After lunch I walked up the road to the rocky area near the huge boulders. I fished this area thoroughly and carefully, but again no interest was shown if there were in fact fish present. A deep run above the large boulders and below the next parking lot provided another disppointment. I passed an elderly gentleman stooped over the river as he seined the water with his net and moved to another favorite stretch where the river flows next to the dirt road and over a very rocky streambed. I passed the lower portion as it typically fishes better with dry flies or dry/dropper rigs and moved up to the nice long deep run that feeds the rocky pool stretch.
I ran the nymphs through this attractive area quite thoroughly but once again I was surprised to see no evidence of fish. I was now losing confidence in my ability to land anymore fish under the bright blue sky with the relatively shallow flows and extremely clear water. I rounded the next bend and waded to two or three nice deeper areas where I’d enjoyed past success, but nothing was showing. Another fisherman was now above me in some riffles, so I walked back to the rocky area and clipped off my nymph apparatus and tied on a olive body caddis with a RS2 dropper. Surely this would entice some small browns from the rocky pool area. I methodically covered the bottom end and did notice two decent browns bolt under a large boulder next to the bank due to my wading upstream.
As I approached the best part of the pool, the elderly fisherman who had been seining the water appeared above me. He was at the very top of the pool and began making downstream casts. He kept a distance of around 20 yards, but he clearly was disturbing the top portion of the stretch that I had my eyes on. I fished out a nice pool/run 25 foot stretch where I’d landed fish previously and then climbed the bank and returned to the car.
I planned to fish for another hour so I decided to drive back to the area where the road from Sprucewood joined the road along the river. I parked where there used to be a pay phone and made some half hearted casts to some deep water behind protruding boulders, but again this proved fruitless. After the bend there was some nice water with rocky pockets next to the bank and I’d caught nice fish there in previous visits when I lived in Castle Rock. I crossed over and decided to at least try out one of my newly tied pool toys to see how they cast and float. I attached a tan body pool toy to my line and below the bend added a beadhead hares ear.
I began working upstream prospecting the likely pockets and seams along the northwest bank. I wasn’t catching fish but I was falling in love with the rythmn of casting and following the highly visible hopper imitation. It floated quite well although occasionally the poly indicator material became saturated so I gave it a quick dip in my dry shake. Next I moved up ten yards and reached an exceptionally juicy area where the river flowed along an angled log that protruded from the bank. Between me there was 15 feet of nice water with moderate depth with numerous submerged rocks on the river bottom. As I looked at the water, I spotted two trout nestled in a depression at the very tail of the pool by the point of the log. I began to drift my hopper and nymph over them and on perhaps the seventh drift, one of the fish actually moved from its position as my flies drifted overhead.
Since I wasn’t having much luck moving and prospecting I decided to focus on these fish and I clipped off the hares ear and replaced with a beadhead RS2. Again I thought I saw one of the fish wiggle its tail and move slightly when the nymph drifted by, but there was no take. I cast this combination for perhaps ten drifts and then reeled up and again switched the point fly. This time I tried a beadhead soft hackle emerger, and once again I began flicking casts above the position of the two fish. On the third of fourth drift I allowed the pool toy to drift further downstream than normal and as I lifted my rod to pick up the flies and recast, one of the browns angled up and grabbed the soft hackle emerger. After all this work I’d finally landed another 11 inch brown.
I released the small brown and worked upstream a bit further to a point where the main current runs along a long slate rock ledge. Dave Gaboury and I used to catch quite a few fish from this area and we called in Dave’s Run. At the very tail I spotted a couple fish dimpling the surface in a fairly regular pattern. I thought about transitioning to a CDC BWO, but thought perhaps I could drift the pool toy and soft hackle emerger and lift the trailing fly to elicit a strike. Mistake. The large indicator fly appartently spooked the feeding trout and the game was over. I belatedly clipped off the dry/dropper set up and tied on a CDC olive and then rested the water for five minutes or so, but the hunt was over and the fish discontinued their feeding.
It was now 3PM and I was quite tired and the fishing remained quite challenging so I elected to return to the car and ultimately to Denver. It was a gorgeous spring day to be outside, but very difficult conditions for fishing in the South Platte River.