Time: 6:00PM – 8:30PM
Location: Eleven Mile Canyon
As I mentioned in my 06/11/2019 post on Bear Creek, I made a list of possible tailwater destinations in Colorado, since the above average snow pack was exacting a toll on freestone options in June 2019. One of these alternatives was the South Platte River system, and I was anxious to make a trip, before it too succumbed to the inevitable deluge of water sourced from melting snow.
I decided to do an overnight trip to South Park to allow an earlier start to fishing on Friday. When I originally conceived the idea, I checked the DWR web site and noted that the flows held at 80 CFS. Within the same time frame, however, a guide that I follow on Instagram, reported that the water management office indicated that flows would increase gradually in the near future. Sure enough, when I checked the graph on Thursday morning, flows moved from 80 CFS to 126 CFS with no leveling off in sight. I successfully fished at 180 CFS previously, so I assumed that the slope of the line would be gradual, and I went ahead with my plans.
Before departing I called the Pike National Forest South Park ranger station and confirmed that Happy Meadows and Round Mountain campgrounds were open for the 2019 season. I planned to check Happy Meadows first and use Round Mountain as a fall back, since only seven sites exist at Happy Meadows.
After I packed my camping and fly fishing gear on Thursday morning, I departed Denver by 1:30. An uneventful drive delivered me to Happy Meadows Campground by 3:45, and I discovered that all the sites were reserved or occupied. I also learned that the summer tubing season was already in progress.
Following my back up plan I drove west on US 24 for five miles, until I reached Round Mountain. I cruised the single loop and determined that all the sites were reserved for Fathers’ Day weekend, but quite a few were open for Thursday night. This was perfect for my needs, and I quickly selected number 16 and visited the pay station to secure my spot. I quickly set up the two person tent, and then I made a quick dinner and cleaned up the dishes. By now it was 5:30, and I had at least two hours of daylight to wet a line in the nearby South Platte River.
I drove back to the Happy Meadows area, since I did not wish to pay the fee required to enter Eleven Mile Canyon. The tubing activity was winding down, so I drove downstream a bit and rigged my Sage four weight. The flows were at 126 CFS based on a quick check from the rest stop in Woodland Park, and the river carried a dark olive hue, although clarity improved in the faster sections. The air temperature remained in the seventies at 6PM, and this probably explained the outbreak of tubing activity.
I began my effort to land a fish with a yellow fat Albert, iron sally and salvation nymph. Shortly after my start I landed an eleven inch rainbow on the salvation at the nice run on the bend across from where I parked. I continued to work my way upstream, but I failed to generate additional action, so I exchanged the salvation for a beadhead hares ear nymph, and the hares ear yielded a ten inch brown trout.
I remained at two for quite a while, and then on a drift through some slack water along the opposite bank I thought I saw a take and set the hook. I never felt weight, but when I stripped in the line, I noticed all three flies were missing. I was not sure, if I had a bad knot or an abrasion on the connection to the fat Albert. I rigged again with a new fat Albert, but I opted for the hares ear as the top fly and the salvation on the bottom. The hares ear was intended to imitate a caddis pupa and the salvation was expected to match a pale morning dun nymph. I observed a few size 16 mayflies buzzing about along with some dapping caddis and a few very small yellow sallies.
The new combination paid off, as I landed a pair of brown trout on the salvation nymph; but I covered a decent amount of water, made many casts, and failed to catch fish in quality locations. In short I was not satisfied with the effectiveness of my flies.
It was getting close to 8PM, and I was about to close the book on a fair but not exceptional two hours of fishing, when I approached a nice smooth side pool next to a small island. This area was productive on previous trips, and I paused to observe for rises. Sure enough, as I scanned the area, a couple fish revealed their presence. I removed the dry/dropper flies and tied a size 16 gray deer hair caddis to my line. On the first cast to the tail of the pool a rainbow trout streaked to the surface and inhaled the fake caddis. Perhaps I was on to something.
Unfortunately sporadic rises continued, but the gray caddis was ignored. Perhaps I had the correct size and color, but the wrong shape? Earlier I observed a few mayfly spinners above the riffles. Could the trout prefer spinners, in which case they were seeking a different shape? I extracted a size 16 gray comparadun with a crushed wing from my fly box, and I pressed the deer hairs more, so they protruded outward from the body of the fly.
What a move! During the waning hour of daylight, this modified comparadun delivered four additional trout to my net including a fourteen inch rainbow and three respectable brown trout. All this action occurred between 7:45 and 8:30. What a fun evening of fishing in June!
Fish Landed: 9