Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM
Location: Eleven Mile Canyon
After a successful day on South Boulder Creek I chose to visit the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon on Thursday June 1. I invited my fishing friend John to join me, and we arrived next to the river to begin our day of fly fishing a bit before 11AM. The air temperature was in the middle sixties, and the sunshine made it feel more comfortable. A fishing shirt over a quick dry T-shirt served as my only upper body layers. The single most important factor that influenced my decision to fish the South Platte River was the favorable stream flows of 65 cfs, and as I waded into the river, I confirmed that conditions were in fact as documented.
Between 11AM and 2PM I covered a significant amount of water and landed nine trout. None of the netted fish stood out, and all were in the eight to thirteen inch range. Three trout revealed themselves to be rainbows and cutbows, and the remainder were brown trout. Despite their lack of size, they all exhibited a feisty nature and battled heroically to evade the hook points of my flies.
Most of my success stemmed from the beadhead hares ear; however, the fat Albert, ultra zug bug and soft hackle emerger each accounted for a fish as well. During the first hour I utilized the dry/dropper method and featured the yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and ultra zug bug. Midway through this period I swapped the ultra zug bug for a salvation nymph, but the fish demonstrated a distinct preference for the hares ear. Unlike previous trips to the Eleven Mile section of the South Platte River, the fish did not aggressively grab the hares ear, and success required a decent amount of movement and casting to likely pockets and runs.
Just before I broke for lunch at 12:30 I set the hook on some aquatic vegetation, and the force of my rod movement catapulted the flies into a pine branch twenty feet above me. I quickly determined that the flies were out of reach, so I grabbed the line with both hands with my rod tip pointed directly at the flies and applied slow steady pressure. Pop! The leader broke above the fat Albert, and all three flies dangled in a taunting position high above me.
I retooled with a size 10 Chernobyl ant and a beadhead hares ear, and then I found a nice grassy spot on the bank to enjoy my midday repast. After lunch I continued with the Chernobyl and hares ear, but the smaller foam surface fly induced numerous refusals and momentary hookups. Clearly the relatively low flows had the South Platte River trout looking toward the surface, but what where they keying on?
Some dark clouds appeared in the southwest, so I pulled on my raincoat. The increased darkness provoked a very sparse blue winged olive hatch, but it also created a vexing glare. In an effort to counteract the visibility conundrum, I tied a medium olive bodied stimulator to my line, but this simply generated a couple refusals. I downsized to a size 14 gray caddis, but this also failed to generate interest. My friend John was experiencing some success with a parachute adams, so I scanned my fly box and settled on a size 18 CDC BWO. This fly lasted through a couple prime spots, but it was nearly impossible to follow in the dim light, glare and swirly water.
I was about to abandon the tiny CDC olive, when I spotted a solitary mayfly as it glided upward from the surface of the water. This natural was much larger than the minute olives, and I surmised it was an early pale morning dun. Could the fish be opportunistically feeding on these early season PMD’s? I knotted a size 18 cinnamon comparadun to my line and gave it a fair trial, but my theory collapsed with the resounding lack of interest from the resident trout.
In a last ditch effort to capitalize on the brief and sparse baetis hatch, I reverted to a yellow fat Albert along with the hares ear and a size 20 soft hackle emerger. Shortly after the change a rainbow trout snatched the soft hackle emerger from some riffles. Thoughts of hot action on BWO nymphs and emergers danced through my head, but the optimism was misplaced. I did manage to land a few more fish on the hares ear during this second dry/dropper application.
At 2 o’clock John and I decided to drive to a different section. We gave the river another decent opportunity to produce, and I exchanged the soft hackle emerger for an emerald caddis pupa. I hoped that the emerald color would capture the attention of the suddenly lockjawed trout. I did manage to land a small brown trout to increment the fish counter to nine, but that would be my last bit of action. As I was moving upstream at a rapid pace, a size 12 cream colored stonefly floated by, and this prompted me to try a yellow size 12 stimulator, but the fish were oblivious to my fluffy imitation. In the past a size 12 yellow Letort hopper has produced when golden stoneflies are present, so I tied one to my line along with a beadhead hares ear and the emerald caddis. Despite my theories and persistent fly changes, I could not coax any more action from the South Platte River.
At 3:45 I strolled back to meet John, and we agreed to call it quits. Although 65 cfs is preferable to raging run off and poor clarity, it was a bit below the ideal range. The bottom of the river is covered with a bright green algae, and the dropper nymphs constantly picked up scum. This compromised my favorite dry/dropper method of fishing. In addition many spots that normally yield fish were too low, and this reduced the prime fish holding locations to deeper runs and pockets.
John switched to a dry fly before I did, and he experienced decent success. By the time I made the transition, the dim light and glare became a factor, and I quickly lost confidence in my small dry fly offerings. Thursday was a fair day of fishing particularly for the run off time frame, but it was beneath my expectations for the stretch of the South Platte River that normally produces banner action. As always the scenery was spectacular, and I remain thankful for the opportunity to fish in beautiful Colorado.
Fish Landed: 9