Time: 10:30AM – 3:00PM
Location: Elevenmile Canyon
Everything was set. The flows were nearly ideal at 80 cfs, and the high temperature was projected to reach the low fifties. I contacted my new friend @rockymtnangler, and he agreed to join me for a day in Eleven Mile Canyon on the South Platte River. The fly shop web sites indicated that we could expect midge hatches in the morning and blue winged olives in the afternoon.
Since @rockymtnangler (also known as Trevor) is the proud owner of a rod vault, he performed the driving duties, and I assembled my Sage four weight and slid it into one of his empty rod vault tubes, when he arrived to pick me up at 7:30AM. We departed Stapleton, and after negotiating some relatively heavy rush hour traffic in Denver, we arrived at the special regulation water of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon by 10AM.
I reaped the benefit of the rod vault when we arrived, and after I climbed into my waders, I was prepared to attack the beautiful crystal clear flows below the dirt road where we parked. Trevor and I carefully negotiated a steep path down a rocky bank next to Trevor’s car, and we found ourselves on the water ready to fish by 10:30. I walked downstream a bit to a nice pool, while Trevor took a position next to a gorgeous deep pool directly below the car.
In the first 1.5 hours Trevor and I each landed two decent trout. My first fish was a thirteen inch brown trout that snatched the beadhead hares ear in a riffle of moderate depth above a deep slow moving pool. Trevor netted a fine rainbow concurrent with my initial brown, and we celebrated our “double”. After photographing and releasing the brown, I carefully angled across the river and prospected a couple marginal pockets with the fat Albert trailing a beadhead hares ear and mercury black beauty. I exchanged a RS2 for the black beauty after an unproductive half hour trial period.
The second pocket was noteworthy for its mediocre appearance, but I tossed a couple casts to the top, and on the third drift I was shocked when a pulsing weight bent my rod tip, as I lifted to continue my upstream progress. The cause of my vibrating rod was a welcome twelve inch brown trout that displayed the tiny black beauty in the corner of its mouth.
I continued my progress to the opposite bank and moved to a position opposite Trevor in the gorgeous riffle, run and pool, where he initially staked out a spot. I was certain that the riffles of moderate depth at the top of the run would deliver a fish before lunch, but my expectations were misplaced. Trevor moved downstream toward the slower moving tail of the pool, and he reported a series of sporadic rises in the smooth deep area where the center current fanned out into a pool. I offered some drifts from my side of the river, but the pod of fish in the deepest section disregarded my flies. I observed quite a few nice fish below me, so I clipped off the three fly set up and converted to a single size 22 CDC BWO. In the remaining time before I climbed to the car to obtain my lunch, I managed to generate a few frustrating refusals, but mostly futile casts.
While I was stuffing my backpack with my lunch as well as Trevor’s, I heard him shout from the edge of the river below. I quickly pulled on my light down coat, as I was chilled while standing waist deep in the cold tailwater, and then I slowly slid down the angled gravel path and joined Trevor. Trevor was quite excited and announced that the hatch advanced in intensity, and the length of the pool was littered with rising fish. I decided to delay lunch and quickly crossed at the tail of the pool and claimed a position on the western bank. Trevor informed me that five or six fish were rising in the moderate riffles in front of me, but the glare of the sun made following my tiny size 22 CDC BWO very difficult. I shifted my focus to trout rising along the center current seam, but once again the tiny mayfly imitation was mostly ignored, with a couple refusals in the mix to heighten my frustration.
I queried Trevor, and he reported that the baetis where quite large and probably a size 16 or 18. This information prompted me to swap the size 22 for a size 18 with a fairly tall and bulky CDC wing. This move paid off, and I began to connect with South Platte River trout. Between 12:30 and 3:00 I landed ten additional trout, with three showing off the buttery yellow color that distinguishes a brown trout. Rainbow trout were the prevalent species, as seven striped beauties spent time in my net. All the afternoon fish sipped the size 18 CDC BWO, as the baetis adults emerged in waves over the 2.5 hour period. The heaviest emergence periods seemed to coincide with long periods of cloud cover. As the hatch intensified, the regularity of the rises increased, and my confidence surged. If I focused on a steady riser and made accurate downstream drifts, I could bank on a sipping rise, and in many cases I was rewarded. The rainbows measured in the twelve to fourteen inch range, and they did not slide into my net without a spirited tussle.
Trevor meanwhile was enjoying similar luck on his side of the river, as he tossed an assortment of size 16 and 18 flies such as a parachute adams and a CDC and deer hair comparadun. By 2PM we endured an extended lull, so I migrated downstream to the smaller pool, where I initiated my fishing day in the morning. I paused on the west bank and observed the entry riffle and deep pool for three minutes. As expected I spotted a nice active fish, as it hovered just below the surface and revealed sipping rises from time to time. I waded across a shallow intervening run and positioned myself five yards upstream of the sighted fish, and twenty-five feet across.
I stripped out a decent amount of line, and I fired a cast, so that it fluttered down ten feet above my targeted stream dweller. I was able to see my small fly on the surface, and I patiently waited, as the current carried the small mayfly downstream. When the small lint-like speck bobbed a few inches above the targeted fish, it slid six inches to the side and sipped the fraud. I could barely contain my excitement, as I gently lifted my rod tip and found myself connected to a spirited streaking rainbow trout. The annoyed feeder streaked back and forth a few times and gathered up my slack fly line. I shifted from stripping to playing the trout off the reel, and the watery foe made one more streaking dash that stripped additional line from the reel. After the last rush upstream I gained the upper hand and guided the colorful male into my net. Trevor waded into a position upstream of where I kneeled to release my prize, and he snapped some timely photos. Trevor was impressed with the hooked jaw of the vanquished rainbow in my net.
Eventually the lower pool remained quiet, so we returned to our previous positions in the large pool that occupied our efforts for most of the afternoon. Another wave of dense BWO emergence erupted during the last thirty minutes, and I managed to land number ten from the moderate riffle section at the top. This segment of the pool thwarted me for most of the day, but it finally delivered, when I executed downstream casts from the shallow riffles directly above.
Trevor suggested that we quit at 2:40, so we could leave with the memories of our last outstanding fish landed, but the pool was alive with rising fish. I waded downstream a bit and managed to land two more thirteen inch rainbow trout on downstream drifts along the edge of the center current seam. At three o’clock we decided to quit in order to get a jump on the long return drive; however, the pool remained alive with regular risers.
What a day! It has been quite awhile since I experienced a day, when I landed double digit trout on a dry fly. The duration of the blue winged olive hatch was impressive. I fought off the urge to switch to a dry/dropper approach with an RS2 and soft hackle emerger, and I was pleased with the results. Fishing a single dry fly to spotted rises is really the essence of fly fishing, and that approach defined my success on April 11. Trevor registered an equally enjoyable day on his maiden visit to Eleven Mile Canyon, and he repeatedly expressed his desire to return. He characterized Tuesday as his best ever day of stream fishing. Spring fly fishing in Colorado is heating up, and I am excited by that prospect.
Fish Landed: 12