South Platte River – 05/26/2015

Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Cheesman Canyon from Jamboree Pool upstream

Fish Landed: 3

South Platte River 05/26/2015 Photo Album

While Jane and I were enjoying gorgeous spring weather in the Carolinas; rain, snow and cold continued to be the norm in Colorado. I did not even bother to check stream flows or fishing reports for the first six days after we returned, but then I received a text message from my new fishing pal, Danny Ryan. Danny informed me that the South Platte River in Cheesman Canyon was reputedly fishing very well with San Juan worms, scuds, eggs and leeches. These are the typical high performing flies when flows increase dramatically, and that was the case in Cheesman Canyon.

I checked the stream flows and discovered they were at 1,160 cfs. Another fishing report stated that the above normal rain filled Cheesman Dam, and water was spilling over the top. Despite these leading indicators of difficult fishing, I agreed to a trip with Danny on Tuesday, May 26. We managed an early start and arrived at the Gill Trailhead parking lot by 9AM. As we drove along the South Platte River between Nighthawk and Deckers, I was disheartened to see very high flows and brown murky water conditions. Above the town of Deckers and Horse Creek, the water color improved to pea green.

The small stream that flows from the parking lot into the South Platte near the Wigwam Club was swollen to twenty times its normal size, and it also was carrying a significant amount of silt. Danny and I set off on our thirty minute hike to the canyon, and as we crested the rim, we gazed down upon the river below. Clearly the flows were high, but the clarity of the river was much improved over what we observed near Deckers above Horse Creek, We were both encouraged by this revelation, but I remained somewhat concerned about our ability to land some fish from the abundance of water.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Normally a Placid Pool” type=”image” alt=”P5250022.JPG” ]

We continued hiking along the river for quite a distance until we arrived at the pool that spreads out below some huge boulders that are positioned in the middle of the river. On this day of flows in excess of 1,000 cfs, the pool was more akin to a deep run with a large shelf eddy on our side of the river. I began my fishing experiment with a conehead pine squirrel leech and a bright pink San Juan worm and began to drift these morsels through the deep slow moving eddies and sloughs created by current breaks.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Looking Across” type=”image” alt=”P5250025.JPG” ]

I endured thirty minutes of fruitless casting until I reached the eddy above the huge boulder described above. Here I actually cast downstream and allowed the subsurface offerings to drift back toward me in a large eddy, and on the fifth such pass, the indicator dipped and I set the hook. It did not take me long to strip a small nine inch rainbow in to my net. It wasn’t a very exciting catch, but I at least eliminated the possibility of a skunking.

We moved on along the north bank of the river and played leap frog between ourselves as well as with another personable fishermen who joined the fray in our area. We skipped the water between Cow Crossing and re-entered at Rainbow Bend. When I rejoined Danny, I discovered that he had some fantastic success as he landed two large rainbows near our starting point on one of his red San Juan worms.

With this news I replaced the pink worm with a red version, but eventually I broke off both the leech and worm on an underwater snag despite using 3X and 4X tippet sections. By 11:45 I was feeling quite hungry, so I found a nice rock to rest on while I ate my lunch. Danny continued to cast relentlessly as I watched him from my perch.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Danny Makes Some Drifts” type=”image” alt=”P5260026.JPG” ]

After lunch I decided to change things up a bit, and I knotted a Cathy’s super bugger to the top position, and then below that I tied on a red San Juan worm. I picked up the pace and began moving more frequently until we encountered the gentlemen that unofficially became part of our leap frogging progression. We exchanged information, and he revealed that he landed a nice brown trout on a green scud. I did not have many light olive or green scuds in my fleece pocket, but I did have five orange scuds, and many years ago these performed quite well during the high water of May. I decided to give one a try. In addition I swapped the woolly bugger for an egg sucking leech with a hot orange bead head.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”A 17-18 Inch Ranbow” type=”image” alt=”P5260027.JPG” ]

This move proved to be quite fortuitous, and in short order I hooked a medium sized rainbow at the tail of a long deep run next to the bank. Unfortunately the feisty fish managed to elude my hook after a brief battle. I took a few steps up along the bank and fished the middle portion, and once again a fish tugged my thingamabobber below the surface. A swift hook set ensued, and once again I found myself connected to a fish; however this time it proved to be a large combatant. The fish thrashed near the surface and revealed itself to be a large rainbow, and after several powerful runs, I applied side pressure and maneuvered it to a spot along the bank where Danny swooped his long handled net beneath. This fine pink-sided fish deserved more attention, and I snapped a few photos while Danny steadied it in his net.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”U-Turn When It Spotted Me” type=”image” alt=”P5260032.JPG” ]

Two fish grabbed the orange scud in a short amount of time, so I was now convinced I stumbled into an effective fly for high water conditions in late May on the South Platte River. With renewed enthusiasm I forged ahead and worked my nymphs in all the likely slow pockets and eddies that I could reach. I continued to move more quickly than the morning, and this approach brought me to a short eddy behind a large exposed boulder. I was skeptical that this spot would produce a fish, but I decided to allocate three casts to the area. The first two were fruitless as the indicator hovered in a dead spot in the middle of the eddy behind the rock, but I allowed the third cast to drift back upstream toward the rock. When I became concerned that the flies were getting snagged under the rock, I gave my rod a lift and instantly felt throbbing weight on the other end.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Out of the Net” type=”image” alt=”P5260030.JPG” ]

Another fish put up a spirited battle, but this one decided to dive and shake in the manner of a brown trout. Sure enough when I raised my rod and leveraged the fighter to my net, I gazed at a wild fourteen inch brown trout that also savored the orange scud. I found Danny and gave him one of the orange scuds, and then we continued to move along the Gill Trail toward the upper sections of the South Platte River.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”One Final Attempt” type=”image” alt=”P5260035.JPG” ] [pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Danny Displays His Catch” type=”image” alt=”P5260039.JPG” ]

Unfortunately, the hot streak of orange scud feeders ended, and Danny and I continued for another hour with no activity. We realized that we were approaching the end of the trail, and consequently we faced a lengthy return hike, so we decided to make our exit. As we hiked back along the trail, we returned to a nice long deep run where Danny foul hooked a brown trout during the early afternoon. He decided to give it another try, so we paused and he added a pink San Juan worm to his line. On the seventh drift through this attractive stretch of water, his indicator paused, and he set the hook. His six weight rod throbbed but after a tough battle, he landed a handsome fourteen inch brown with thick shoulders. This was a fitting end to our day in Cheesman.


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