South Platte River – 05/15/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 05/15/2017 Photo Album

South Boulder Creek exploded to 335 cfs, and the Big Thompson rocketed to 280 cfs and then settled back to 197 cfs. Boulder Creek climbed from the 60 cfs range to 176 cfs. What happened? Run off commenced on Colorado streams, and the options for stream fishing narrowed considerably. The closest remaining river with ideal flows was the South Platte River, so I made a trip to the stream that was tumbling along at a gentle rate of 75 cfs on Monday. A by product of this situation, of course is typically hordes of fishermen crowding into the few remaining bits of flowing water that remain at manageable levels.

I departed Denver at 6AM and arrived at a roadside parking spot by 8:15AM on Monday. The temperature was a surprisingly chilly forty degrees. I chose the adjective surprising because the high temperature was expected to rise into the seventies on May 15. I pulled on a fleece and my Adidas pullover and chose to wear my hat with ear flaps for the early morning session. Since wind is always a possibility on the relatively open water of the South Platte, I rigged my Sage four weight, as it possesses a stiff fast action for punching casts into the wind.

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Pocket Water Heaven

When I waded into the river, I tied a yellow fat Albert to my line, since shadows covered half the river, and I opted for maximum visibility. Below the fat Albert I added a beadhead hares ear and dark cahill wet fly. I moved upstream rapidly and began prospecting every attractive deep run and pocket, but my only reward in the first half hour was a pair of momentary hook ups and several refusals to the fat Albert. I attempted a correction by swapping the wet fly for a salad spinner, since I observed several midges buzzing over the stream.

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Morning Feeder

Eventually I managed to land a few brown trout on the hares ear, but the refusal rate continued at a relatively high rate, and I was unhappy about the diversion of attention from my trailing nymphs. I removed all the dry/dropper elements and knotted a size 14 gray stimulator to my line and supplemented the dry fly with a size 20 RS2 on a short dropper.

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Goodbye

The change in tactics paid dividends, and I landed a nice brown that charged the nymph as soon as it touched down on the water, and shortly thereafter another nice brown trout rose and crushed the stimulator. I presumed that I stumbled onto a productive combination, but a lull ensued, so I reverted to the dry/dropper. This time, however, I chose a size 10 Chernobyl ant along with the mainstay beadhead hares ear and RS2. I spotted a random rise along the left bank above the point where two current seams merged, so I lobbed the flies to that vicinity, and I was pleasantly surprised when a twelve inch rainbow emerged and crushed the foam attractor. I snapped one photo of the rainbow and then resumed my progress, but it was noon, and I was near my car, so I waded across the river and circled through some willows for lunch. Just prior to lunch I reverted to the gray stimulator, and near my crossing point I landed a small brown trout that sipped the heavily hackled attractor at the lip of a run on a downstream drift.

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During lunch I positioned myself next to the river below a high bank, and I observed a nice smooth pool, while I munched my sandwich and carrots. As I looked on, I spotted two fish rising on a very infrequent basis. When I returned to the stream minus my Adidas pullover and hat with ear flaps, I positioned myself below a large exposed boulder and fluttered some casts to the locations where I noted rises during lunch. During the early afternoon the wind became a significant factor, and my accuracy in the lunch pool was hindered significantly. After a short period of time while attempting to dupe the pool risers, I surrendered and moved upstream.

I persisted with the stimulator for another half hour, and during this time I landed another small brown trout on a downstream drift. The fish count rested at nine, and although the action was steady, success dictated covering a lot of water, frequent fly changes and an abundance of tough casting into a headwind. In short it was a decent but not an above average morning. I reached the upper border of the long segment of pocket water, and I punched several casts into the wind to a deep shelf pool tucked behind a large bank side boulder. The wind was affecting my accuracy, but on the fifth attempt I managed to flutter the fuzzy stimulator to my target area, and just as it began to move downstream with the current, a fine thirteen inch rainbow trout bolted from its hiding spot and smashed the fake fly.

This fish upheld the reputation of the rainbow species, as it dashed and streaked up and down the river until I finally lifted it toward the rim of my net. Alas, it made a last minute shrug and flipped off the hook and crashed back in the water at my feet. I counted it since it saved me the trouble of removing the fly, but not feeling its weight in my net was admittedly disappointing.

The blast of rushing air accelerated, as I rounded a bend next to the dirt road, and above the howl I heard voices. Sure enough, I gazed upstream and saw a group of three tubers negotiating a relatively shallow boulder field. The cool temperatures, high wind and relatively low water were not conditions that encouraged me to tube, but apparently the swimmers had a different opinion.

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Downstream View

I climbed the bank along the road and returned to the car and drove upstream for another .5 mile to a second section that features pocket water and faster currents. I wish I could report that this move yielded numerous hard fighting South Platte River trout, but that was not the case. I fished until 3PM among the enticing pockets and deep current seams, but I never felt the weight of a fish in my net. I once again converted to a dry/dropper approach, and I managed a couple long distance releases, but by and large the two hours from one until three PM were characterized by fruitless casting.

Monday presented a split personality, as steady effort and persistence delivered some success in the morning and very early afternoon, but the rest of the time on the river was quite frustrating. The sky was essentially clear blue for the entire day, and the wind vacillated between annoying and impossible, but I am uncertain what caused the severe case of lockjaw during the last two hours. I took solace in a double digit fish count day and some success with dry flies, and I enjoyed clear low flows and minimal crowds. I am uncertain how many stream fishing days remain, before all options are unavailable until late June and early July.

Fish Landed: 10

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